Updated: Jan 26, 2018
Longboarding is more than just a great way to stay active, though it is certainly that. The sport is growing in popularity every year because it is just plain fun. There are few activities a person can pursue that are as exhilarating as longboarding, especially when bombing hills is involved. Much of the thrill lies in the inherent dangers. There are some things we can do to make longboarding safer, though. Keep these tips in mind, and ensure that you come home in roughly the same condition in which you left.
Do Wear Skate Shoes
Few things strike fear in the heart of a longboarder like the specter of road rash. Flesh and pavement simply do not play well together. Concrete is a bully, and you cannot win in a fight against it. Crashes can be eye-opening, but busting up your feet because you aren’t wearing proper shoes is just silliness.
The absolute worst thing any longboarder can do is to skate in open-toed shoes (or, gasp, barefoot). 😬😬😬😬😬
Invest in a quality pair of shoes designed for skateboarding. The outsoles will provide the best-available traction on grip tape, and manufacturers design these shoes with reinforcement in all the areas that skaters and longboarders tend to wear out quickly.
Do Use Safety Gear
If you are just cruising around on your board, then go without safety gear at your own peril. For anyone pushing speeds to the limit while bombing hills, a helmet is the minimum of gear you’ll need. And don’t waste your cash on a multi-use skate helmet. Get a bicycle helmet with single-use EPS liner.
These liners are designed to slow the skull in a hard impact as the foam crushes, which it can only do once. It will never return to its previous position, and the helmet must be replaced after any hard impact. Your brain and your life are worth the cost of the replacement.
Do Inspect Your Equipment
Every so often, you should take a close and careful look over your entire longboard. Check the deck for stress cracks that can become much worse really quickly. Check the wheels for coning, and rotate them to keep them wearing smoothly. Flip the side that was facing out to the inside if possible, and move the wheels from the right side to the left.
When you rotate the wheels, take the time to remove and clean your bearings. The gunk and grime from the road gets into the bearings, and soon they will begin to stick. It happens so gradually that you will barely notice it. But once cleaned, you will often be surprised by how fast your bearings will roll. This service also gives you a chance to swap out a bearing that has given up the fight.
Don’t Ride through Water
Longboards are not meant to last forever. As you ride, your setup will deteriorate, and you’ll have to replenish parts or the whole thing eventually. However, nothing accelerates a longboard’s decline faster than water. Riding through puddles will quickly cause your bearings to rust and seize, and the threads on the trucks are next. Rain water will cause any deck to split at the layers. As a longboarder, you should avoid water like it’s diseased, which it likely is anyway.
Don’t Exceed Your Skillset
We are all progressing. No one is as good as they want to be, but a smart rider knows not to push the edge of the envelope too far all at once. If you have never bombed a hill, do not seek out the steepest hill in your area. Start small, and gradually improve your skills. The same goes for sliding. Never attempt to slide on new wheels or a new setup downhill before learning to do it on flatland. Kicking out is a skill anyone can learn, but doing it at speed is as fraught with peril as it is exciting. Take a steady approach and stay safe.
In case you don’t know, skitching is the obviously dangerous practice of holding onto a vehicle and being pulled behind it while longboarding (or snowboarding, or rollerblading, etc.). The word is a combination of the words ski and hitching, and the activity was invented around the mid-20th century by skiers. Every year, longboarders are hurt and killed while skitching. It’s not only dangerous, but it is also illegal in most places. Represent longboarding properly, be a solid ambassador of the sport, and never skitch.
Don’t Bomb Busy Streets
Longboarding is quickly getting a bad name among law enforcement in some areas, owing almost exclusively to skitching and hill bombing. Open roads where you can see clearly ahead are fine for riding, but blind corners at high speeds are unnecessarily dangerous. When longboarders hit cars, or vice versa, at speed, bad things happen. Cities are beginning to ban downhill longboarding for this reason. Don’t be a statistic, and don’t be a cause of longboarding being illegal in your area. Avoid areas with blind corners and cross traffic.