Longboarding has won over many skaters for its ease to pick up and learn.
Not only is it fun, but it is an awesome and convenient mode of transportation. But, once you’re comfortable riding on flat surfaces, you may be craving some more speed.
Downhill longboarding is an extreme sport that can be attempted only by those willing to face their fears head-on.
These skaters can reach speeds of anywhere from 30 to 65 miles per hour! Learn tips and techniques for safely practicing this discipline, which type of board you should ride, and must-have safety gear.
Types of Boards for Downhill Longboarding
Not every longboard is great for downhill skating.
A stiff deck is essential to maintaining control at high speeds; a bit of concave enables you to keep your feet in place; just the right length keeps you stable, agile, and ready for turns (aim for between 37 inches and 42 inches). The best deck for downhill skating is largely debated—learn about each so you can decide for yourself.
Learn more about the different types of longboards here.
A top mount deck and truck is the simplest mounting style. Decks with this construction have a board on top of trucks, similar to most standard decks.
Skaters love that they can place their weight and feet directly on top of the trucks and wheels, giving them higher control. Their high grip capability makes them popular for downhill skating and performing slides.
The main reason you may prefer a different mount for downhill skating is that top mounts are higher off the ground than others, making them relatively less stable in nature.
Dropped, also known as drop-down, truck mountings place the riding platform below the trucks.
This construction helps the rider maintain a lower center of gravity, which increases stability.
Another benefit of this construction is it makes it easier to achieve longer slides. This board is a great in-between, as it offers advantages from both a top mount and drop through.
Similar to a dropped mounting, a drop-through mounting structure aims to lower the height of the skater.
The way it does this is different from a drop down—the trucks mount the deck from the top of the board.
It also differs because the hanger is separate from the base plate.
A pro of this style is they are typically symmetrical, enabling easy switch stances. This construction is often most recommended for beginners as it makes them feel safe. As you progress, you might want to move onto a drop-down for more agility.
Dangers and Must-Have Gear
Before we jump into tips and techniques, it’s important to chat about how you can safely perform the sport.
The high speeds you can reach are extremely dangerous. It’s important to be prepared to wipe out, to always be alert to avoid riding into traffic, and make sure you are avoiding any cracks or rocks.
Set yourself up for the safest ride possible by inspecting the hill on foot before you bomb it. This will help you spot and avoid potential obstacles. Ensure you’re finding a route with a safe exit that is flat to slow you down and won’t have any traffic.
Another potential risk is equipment failure.
Just as you should inspect the area you’re skating beforehand, take a close look at your board and make sure everything is in place and in decent condition.
You can reduce the risk of injury significantly by wearing protective gear. Never attempt downhill longboarding without the following safety equipment:
- A helmet. If you’re focused on moderate hills, a simple pro skate helmet will suffice; if you’re after advanced hills and serious speed, go for a full-face, CPSC-certified helmet.
- Gloves. Sturdy slide gloves are non-negotiable for protecting your hands.
- Knee Pads. Often, if you’re falling on your hands, you’re also falling on your knees. Sturdy heavy-duty knee pads are recommended at all times.
- Optional: A full leather suit. If you’re serious about testing all limits in downhill longboarding on the biggest hills around town, a leather suit to protect your full body is an entirely worthwhile investment.
Tips and Techniques for Downhill Skating
Get privy to the most important techniques to master for downhill skating.
Warm Up and Stretch
Before you set foot on your skateboard, it’s important to warm up.
Take a few laps on your board so you can warm up your body and the muscles you will use to skate.
You should also do some dynamic stretches for about 5 to 10 minutes before taking on the hill, which will prepare your body to quickly and comfortably get into the right positions when needed.
Examples of great stretches to do include lunges and leg swings.
This is an important technique to practice before downhill skating because it is going to be your go-to for slowing down.
A benefit of mastering this is you’ll gain confidence to go fast by increasing your confidence in your ability to slow down.
To perform a normal foot brake, stand on your board and push your back foot out and slowly to the ground. This technique is great for when you’re moving at relatively slow speeds.
When you progress to the big leagues of high speeds, you’ll want to leverage the swiss foot brake. This entails crouching down on your skateboard, grabbing the front of the deck with your hand, and putting your back foot on the ground. This technique is great because it slows you down quickly and won’t interfere with your stability at fast speeds if performed correctly.
Don’t Ride Too Tight Trucks
You may think that the tighter the trucks, the more stability, and therefore the better for downhill skating.
However, too tight of trucks will greatly limit the performance of your trucks and your ability to turn.
Shoot for a tightness right in the middle, not too loose or tight.
This technique is one you’re probably used to seeing if you’ve watched downhill skaters.
To do it, you’ll crouch and tuck your body as closely as possible to become small, reduce resistance, and reach your highest speed. It’ll take some practice to master.
Practice by assuming the following position:
- Front foot over the front truck, pointing forward with your toes.
- Back foot behind the front, standing on your toes at a slight angle, close to the rail.
- Bend your knees to reach about a 90-degree angle.
- Tuck your back knee against your front calf.
- Lean forward with your upper body .
- Tuck your chest to rest on your front thigh.
- Hold your arms behind your back.
This skill is essential to controlling your speed when riding down a hill and avoiding speed wobbles.
A downhill carve is performed in the same way it is on flat ground, by alternating turning between the toeside and heelside of your board.
High-speed cornering is a technique that describes how you will complete sharp turns at high speeds. It’s a very important prerequisite for downhill skating.
When optimally performed, you will be able to turn without falling off your board or compromising your speed. This may seem simple, but it’ll take some serious practice to master. Follow these steps to practice:
- Enter a corner from the outer edge of the road.
- Turn by leaning heavily to the apex as you can.
- Exit by moving toward the outside.
The last fundamental technique of downhill riding is high-speed sliding.
Sliding is a technique used to control your speed and trajectory by entering a turn at high speeds.
The best way to slide is to crouch down and place a hand on the ground for stability—hence the importance of high-quality skate gloves.