Learn How to Longboard in 8 Simple Steps

01
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Longboards Versus Shortboards

Behind view of long boarder on mountain road
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Learning how to longboard doesn't require much aside from a longboard, a helmet and pads, and some shoes. But before you begin, you should know the difference between longboarding and shortboarding. 

Both are types of skateboards. Each has a deck made of wood or composite material with wheels attached to the board using squat T-shaped mounts called trucks. The primary difference, apart from length, is that longboards are used for cruising streets and carving hills, whereas shortboards also are used for jumps, kicks, and tricks on the halfpipe.

Longboards are typically 42 inches long, though they may be as short as 34 inches for a kid's board or 50 inches for a tall rider. Width varies from 7 to 10 inches, depending on a rider's shoe size, but 8.5. inches is common. Shortboards, by comparison, are usually 30 to 33 inches long and 8 inches wide (though that can vary, too).

Unlike shortboards, which usually have a symmetrical head and tail, longboards are available in different shapes for different riding styles. Whatever board you choose, you'll want to buy a good safety helmet and wear flat-bottomed shoes for stability. Flip-flops are generally a no-no, especially if you're just beginning to learn how to longboard.

02
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Types of Longboards

Young male skateboarder making smartphone call in skateboard shop
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The longer a longboard is, the more stable it will be. However, longer boards are less agile; they don't turn as quickly or as easily as shorter ones. Before you buy a longboard, take a minute and think about the kind of riding you want to do.

Cruising: If you're primarily using your board for commuting, you'll want a cruiser or pintail board. Cruisers have a gently pointed nose and slightly rounded tail. The nose on a pintail is more sharply rounded and its tail tapers to a defined point.

Freestyling or freeriding: If you're into technical downhill riding or like to use your longboard for dancing (showing off a range of skills), you'll want a dropdown or dropthrough board, both of which have narrow, symmetrical heads and tails with blunt ends. 

Downhill longboarding: If you have a need for speed, you'll want a stiff cruiser deck, a topmount, or a speed deck. Speedboards resemble dropthroughs but with asymmetrical heads and tails. Topmounts have symmetrical heads and tails.

Wheels for longboards are wider than for shortboards to allow for a smoother ride and are usually made of urethane. Wheel edges may be square (best for cruising flat surfaces or smooth, straight hills), beveled (good for twisty roads), or rounded (great for carving and sliding).

03
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Goofy or Regular Stance

Man on longboard
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There are two different kinds of stances you can use when riding a longboard: regular (left foot forward) and goofy (right foot forward). The foot that's at the head of the board is your balancing foot. It's the one you'll lean on as you're accelerating or turning. Your rear foot is your kicking foot. It's the one you'll use to propel yourself forward by pushing against the pavement.

If you skateboard, snowboard, surf or wakeboard, then go with the same stance you already use. But if you're just learning how to longboard, you'll need to figure out which stance is your natural one. To do this, stand at the base of a staircase and take a step up. The foot you extend first will be your back foot on the longboard.

Just remember that there's no right way to do ride a longboard. If a goofy stance is more comfortable than a regular one, then go with what feels best.

04
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Finding Your Footing

mature long boarder performing a trick
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The next step is to practice your stance, preferably on a smooth, flat surface that's free of traffic. Stand on ​the center of your board to get a feel for how springy it is. Bend your knees and crouch down, then stand back up. Get used to shuffling and moving your feet along the deck without stepping off. ​

Foot placement depends on how you're riding. Most of the time you'll want to keep your feet between the trucks at a little wider than shoulder width, with your front foot pointed diagonally at about a 45-degree angle and your back foot pointed out slightly a few degrees.

For bombing hills (longboarding down hills fast), try spreading your feet wider. If you want more speed, try pointing your feet downhill. It's also important to put a good amount of weight on the front foot when hill bombing to remain in control.

05
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Pushing Off

Longboard Ride
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Take your back foot off of the longboard and put it on the ground. To get moving, simply push off with this foot. You can push a few times if you want to get more speed quickly or just make one big push. Once you get the board moving, put your foot back on the longboard. If it feels more comfortable to push with your front foot, that's fine, too. This is called "pushing Mongo."

Once you're comfortable with getting yourself moving on a flat surface, it's time to get used to riding down a hill. Find a slight slope—not a steep drop—and get on your longboard. Don't even push the first few times you try; just get on and let gravity pull you down. Next, try pushing once and riding down. Keep practicing, increasing your speed as you feel comfortable.

06
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Stopping On a Longboard

Mid adult man longboards down rural highway
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Getting your longboard going is important, but so is stopping. If you're just starting to learn how to longboard, the easiest method is footbreaking (dragging your foot). Take the foot you push with and try dragging it on the pavement until you come to a gentle stop. Try and keep the bottom of your foot flat on the ground as you drag it. Once you've practiced this, you can try more advanced means of stopping like the Coleman slide

If you end up going too fast and getting out of control, you'll probably have to bail by jumping off. Although it sounds reckless, it isn't. The idea is to leap off the board and to hit the ground running so you remain on your feet. The sensation is a little like hopping off a moving sidewalk.  

To practice, find a flat area where you can get moving with going too quickly, preferably adjacent to a grassy area you can leap to and not hurt yourself if you stumble. Once you start rolling, just jump off the board and try remaining upright. This will probably take practice, so wear your pads and go slowly.

07
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Simple Carving and Cruising

African American teen girl on a longboard doing downhill racing
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After you've learned how to start and stop your longboard, you'll need to learn how to turn or carve. Shifting your weight to one side or another as you ride will cause the board to turn in the same direction that you lean toward. You can carve on your heel edge or your toe edge, and the deeper you carve the more extreme of a turn you will make.

Try carving gently down the slope that you've been practicing on. Begin by getting some forward momentum, then gently lean to one side to begin turning. Carving slows you down, so you may need to give yourself a stronger push. Try moderating your speed by carving from side to side as you cruise.  Your speed will increase the more you crouch down and your center of gravity is lower.

Although it's common for beginners to watch their feet as they practice cruising and carving, keep your gaze fixed on the horizon or slightly downhill. This will become easier with practice. Remember: Your board goes where your eyes go.

08
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Hill Carving On a Longboard

Friends riding skateboard.
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Once you're comfortable controlling your longboard on gentle slopes, you may want to try something more challenging. Longboarding down a hill is exactly like longboarding down a slope, you just go faster. Plus, stopping is a little more tricky because you've got more speed built up. But the basic techniques still apply.

Regardless of whether you're practicing for the first time or have been riding for awhile, remember to wear safety gear. At a minimum, this means wearing a helmet. Knee and elbow pads are a good idea, too. Above all, watch out for cars, bikes, pedestrians and other ​boarders as you ride. And have fun!​​