Take the Mystery out of Learning to Push and Carve
If you’re having trouble learning to carve lines on your longboard, or even struggling just getting going, don’t stress about it. Riding a longboard is unlike anything else we do in life. We learn to walk and run as toddlers, but standing sideways on a rolling platform is completely unsettling at first. Also, everybody learns at different rates. You can ride a longboard for the rest of your life if you want to, so you’ve got time. Just take it slowly, and try using the following tips.
How to Push
Unless you’re riding downhill exclusively, you must learn to push on your board. Pushing gets you rolling when you’re riding on a flat surface. It sets you up to carve and do more complicated moves while rolling. Simply put, if you can’t push, you can’t ride a longboard. Not to worry, though. Learning to push will also teach you balance, which you will need in abundance as you learn to ride.
Because we stand sideways on the board, there are only two ways to ride. You may be either regular-footed or goofy-footed. Your dominant foot – the one you kick a ball with – should go toward the back of the board as you coast. Right-footed skaters are regular, and left-footed people are goofy-footed. It is perfectly okay to be goofy. Many of the best pros to ever skate were goofy-footed.
When you push, you should do so with your dominant foot. The other foot should be on the skateboard deck while you push. Doing it the other way, pushing with the non-dominant foot, is called pushing “mongo”. Being a goofy-footer doesn’t make you look goofy, but pushing mongo does. Do not push mongo.
As you stand on your board preparing to push, place your dominant foot on the pavement to the side of your board. Face forward, with your shoulders and hips perpendicular to the line on which your board will roll. Place your non-dominant foot directly on top of or just behind the front truck bolts, but keep most of your weight on your dominant foot.
Notice how you could easily push your board away from you down the line with just a kick of your front (non-dominant) foot? When you’re set to push, make that motion – of kicking your board forward – as you push off with your dominant foot. Keep your weight over the deck and step up onto the board. Either place your foot on the tail or near the back truck bolts. As you step up, turn your front foot sideways. You should now be standing with your shoulders and hips parallel to the line you are traveling on.
Learn to balance
Learning to push once and coast is important, but you won’t get anywhere like that. To get going faster, push several times before placing the back foot on the deck. This trick of balance requires a repeating weight shift from the foot pushing off the pavement to the foot on the deck – or from the back foot to the front foot.
It takes time to learn to push and balance with just the non-dominant foot on the board. The key is to keep the front toes pointing forward as you push repeatedly, only turning your lead foot sideways when the dominant foot steps onto the deck. Keep working on it until you no longer notice your front foot turning as you step onto the board.
How to Carve
Once you can push and coast at a pretty good speed, you will soon notice that turning is a necessity. Steering the board will get you around obstacles with ease, and it is required for fast riding. However, turning soon becomes fun in itself. Turning and cutting sharp lines is called carving, and it is the soul of all board sports.
Before you start working on carving out lines on your board, you should ensure that your trucks are adjusted properly. If they are too tight, the trucks will not let you turn sharply enough to avoid danger. Conversely, trucks that are too loose may allow the wheels to rub on the underside of the board while rolling. That rubbing is called wheel bite. It will stop a longboard cold and send its rider flying to a crash.
Adjust the truck’s tightness by turning the 9/16-inch nut on the kingpin bolt, which runs vertically through the middle of the hanger and baseplate. Tightening the bolt limits the turning radius, while loosening allows for sharper turns. Make slight adjustments, and check each one by standing on the deck and forcing the board to tilt. Ensure that the front and back trucks are equally tight.
Master the lean
The deck must tilt on its axis to turn while rolling. This tilting causes the truck hanger to tilt at its pivot points. You will veer toward whatever side you lean. To turn heelside (right for a regular-footer), press down on the balls of your feet. When doing so, you will have to lean your body weight inside the arc your board is making. The faster you go, the farther you must lean. Otherwise, centrifugal force will push your body outside the arc. To turn toeside (left for a regular-footer), press down on your heels.
The foot placement for carving does not differ much from that of simply cruising and coasting. However, depending on the width of the deck, you may need or want to make slight adjustments to where your feet are on the board. Moving slightly left or right on the deck can help you get more weight toward the edges. Placing your foot in the spoon of the tail – where the flat part of the deck meets the tail – will help get more weight to the rear for sharper carves and slashes. Only some longboards have tails, though.
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When learning to push and to carve, it is always best to ride on a flat, smooth, paved surface. Concrete and asphalt work best. An open parking lot is a great choice if you don’t have a concrete driveway at home. Try to choose a location that is free of debris, such as pebbles and glass, which can cause your wheels to bite and send you crashing. Also, the lighter the through traffic, the better.
Pushing and carving are the most basic things you can do on a longboard, but that does not make them easy. No matter how long it takes you to learn these skills, it took someone less time and someone else more time. Learn at your own pace, and never get in a rush. You’ve got all the time in the world.