Surfing the Streets II: The Longboarding "How To"
You may have read about the joys of longboarding last week, and if you did, I think I owe you an apology – if you didn’t read it I’ll just offer you one anyway. I’m sorry. It was plain rude. I told you all the joys and advantages the activity has to offer, but I never told you how you could join the fold for yourself. I opened you up to an empty hole in your life and then left you to lick your own wound.
To be honest, I hate myself for it. Okay, that isn’t honest at all. I’m more unsatisfied if anything. But, today we fill your need. Today, I’ll not only inspire but guide you. Today (or perhaps in the near future), you'll see what longboarding is for yourself. There’s no hurry here. Just chill.
I’d love to tell you what board to try, but you ought to go with whatever you can get your hands on first. Not only will you see what riding one feels like, you’ll know better what you want from a board after you’ve had a little experience. You’ll start to nail down the things you do or don’t like, and seek a board that caters to what you enjoy.
So, ask around for one you can borrow. These longboarding folk are usually more than willing to let you give it a shot, and they’re full of advice from their own escapades. If you don’t know anyone who has one, just look for an open parking lot/parking garage and bide your time. They’ll come.
To save a sliver of your pride, we’ll go over some tips to get you started:
- Find something to hold onto. You’re not going to be a pro at first, accept it. To avoid falling the first time you get on, grab onto a sturdy object like a light pole, car, or sturdy friend (you may need to make a friend for this part as well, so it’s time to be a social butterfly). Hold on tight, so that even if you lose the board out from under you, you won’t fall on your boom boom. Also, try to keep a wide foot stance for stability.
- Try moving back and forth. While still holding on, try sliding back and forth a bit. When you’re ready, gently push off the object/friend.
- Push with the feet. Don’t worry too much about which foot you push off with or which foot you stand with in front, just do what feels natural. It helps to have the foot you keep planted on the board facing directly forward and centered width-wise, and it may help to have the foot also centered length-wise at first.
- Find a good stance. If you’re doing a lot of pushing or “kicking,” I find it helpful to leave the one foot facing forward, even if the stance is a bit awkward. However, as soon as I plan on coasting, I make sure to have both feet wide-set and pointing out to the side.
- Trying to stop. A longboarding pro will be able to slide the board out sideways to reduce their speed (or to inspire awe). But let’s be honest, most of us can’t, so don’t depend on that to slow you down. Carving back and forth will reduce your speed a little and give you more stability going down a hill. If you can ride off into a patch of grass, that can be a good option, but brace yourself for it. If your only option is to jump off, I recommend pushing the board back as you jump off to slow it down and running as you hit the pavement, lessening your pace. Kicking the board back helps to keep it in one spot, so you won’t have to run after it.
Those are the basics. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some knee/elbow pads and a helmet. Not only will they give you confidence when you aren’t afraid of falling, but they make you look ridiculous. Also, it's probably smart to stick to terrain you can handle - at least in the beginning.
Picking Your Ride
This is tricky. With all the options out there, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out what you want. For your first board, it might be a good idea to buy something on the economical side. A pre-assembled “complete” made for cruising might be the way to go. Something that carves in a satisfying way will do nicely. One example of such would be the Sector 9 brand board (in the mid $100 range). But, be warned, you won’t get much street cred among the longboarding crowd riding a Sector 9: They’re a little more commercial than other brands. Commercial = not cool.
However, if you’re looking to splurge a little bit, the trucks make the most difference in the turning and stability of the board, and they are the first area I would suggest to upgrade. For more advice on picking out the right board, the “Buyer’s Guide” at Muirskate.com does a fine job of explaining the intricacies of picking a board and all its components.
I hope I’ve redeemed myself. Now, get your board and have the adventure you’ve been aching for.