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Downhill Longboarding–insane speeds on longboards
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        Think of longboarding as a combination of surfing and skateboarding. Longboarding is the term used to describe skateboarding with boards larger than the classic short board trick-oriented skateboards. Many longboarders use their boards in order to travel long distances because, unlike skateboards, longboards are more stable and heavy.

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        Although their greater weight is less suitable for lots of tricks, it contributes to a fluid motion by providing more momentum. Therefore, a longboard will roll farther with just one push of the foot. Longboarding is perfect for people who need a comfortable and more soulful ride, but also for those with the need for speed, the adrenaline junkies who like going down steep hills as fast as possible. 

       There are various types of longboards for each style, purpose or terrain, and their designs keep on evolving and adjusting to the skaters’ needs and new ideas. Nevertheless, downhill longboarding is the fastest, most thrilling and perhaps most dangerous out of all longboard riding styles. Downhill boards are typically 95-110 cm or 35-44 inches long, featuring soft square lipped wheels from 28-35 inches, and also very stiff for maximum control and stability at speeds.


       Downhill longboarding involves riding down steep hills at insane speeds, keeping your board under control and a lot of precision. Getting up to a speed of 30 kilometres per hour is not out of the ordinary; some professional riders have even reached top speeds over 100 kilometers per hour. Such speed may seem slow when you’re riding a motorcycle or driving your car down the road, but having this speed when you’re standing up on a wooden board out in the open, with nothing to hold onto, feels fast, extremely fast. If you take the average speed of downhill longboarding, for example, and compare it to that of other extreme board sports, such as wave surfing, snowboarding or skateboarding, you’ll notice that downhill longboarding is by far faster than any of them. Moreover, let’s not forget that underneath the longboard there’s hard, rough, painful pavement in contrast to water or snow. Take into account also the tight high speed turns, the changing slope and there you have it, an extreme sport filled with adrenaline even before you had the chance to discover the last hidden treasure: racing. Yes, the competitive side of this sport. There’s nothing more fulfilling and adrenaline injecting as crossing the finish line first after a tight battle with another person. In the heat of the competition, you’ll end up doing things you thought impossible just to be able to make a pass on someone, and if you’ll finish the race without falling, you’ll be rewarded with a huge wave of adrenaline. Add to that the fact that it’ll leave you with the positive feeling of achieving anything if you put your mind to it, and maybe next time you’ll push your boundaries even further. 

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      Because of the high speed involved when going downhill, most of the time 30+ MPH, riders are advised to wear pads and protection at least as protective as that used for a regular short skateboard. Nevertheless, for greater speeds and riskier courses, pro-riders often use the same kind of safety gear as that wore by motorcyclists or dirt bikers. One of the most dangerous hazards will be oncoming vehicles leaving their lanes. However, in most downhill races the roads are closed to traffic and the riders are, thus, allowed to test their limits under controlled conditions. Except traffic, the biggest danger to any longboarder is a “speed wooble”, more precisely when the excessive speed is handled by a less experienced rider or perhaps a poorly suited board for the course, which causes the board to veer rapidly from side to side, throwing the rider off.

      The risk can be reduced by utilizing a longer board, less turny, with a lower center of gravity and firmer bushings, as well as keeping the speed under control or doing a mild side-to-side weave down the track. If a rider is chucked off the board by a speed wooble, he or she can minimize potential injuries by leaping towards grass or soft sand whenever available, making either a running stop or a rolling stop. Even the tiniest crack in the road can throw a rider off his board, and at speeds over 60 MPH, such a trip could prove deadly. Moreover, if you prefer longboarding in less than optimal lighting conditions, you should first check the zone and make yourself familiar with the course during daylight hours in order to be aware of any possible obstacles that you may not be able to detect during nighttime. As well, it’s a great idea to exercise power slides in order to stop quickly when going fast. Most longboarding injuries involve head and neck zones much more often than when it comes to skateboarding injuries, which tend to involve a skater’s lower extremities. 






       Along with skateboarding, longboarding started in the mid 1950s, around the same period that the surfing phenomena erupted in southern California. When the waves weren’t big enough, surfers went to the streets on their often-homemade boards, as in wood planks with roller skating wheels, coasting along pavement in a way that imitated the turns of surfing. Before long, “sidewalk surfing” became an official sport from which eventually resulted the emergence of skateboarding in the 1960s and 1970s. Nowadays, longboarding is a constantly growing type of skateboarding which combines lots of styles and disciplines.




Safety gear


      Before you go outside and try longboarding for the first time, it’s recommended that you know what kind of safety gear you might need because proper protection can prevent severe injurious or even death.


Helmets - These are the most essential piece of safety equipment, as head injuries can prove to be deadly. In case you’re planning on going fast, make sure you have a helmet on! Actually, even if you’re moving slow, helmets are still needed, particularly when you’re just a beginner.


Slide gloves - These come in second place after helmets, as they are protective gloves with hard plucks made of plastic that velcro to the palms. Slide gloves permit you to place your hands on the ground and execute shutdown slides which are extremely important when it comes to downhill races. They represent basically brakes for longboards. As well, they will protect your hands from obtaining road rash if you happen to fall.


Knee Pads - These aren’t as important as the other two, but they are still recommended at least for beginners. They are especially convenient in case you want to practice how to slide. They will prevent you from damaging your knees, as in breaking them and tearing them up.


Elbow Pads - Although these are the least important of pads, they do a good job at protecting your elbows. They are essential if you plan on performing downhill at insane speeds, learning how to do slides, or even if you’re only a beginner still learning to skate around smoothly.


Butt/Hip Pads - These usually come in the form of padded shorts that you have to wear underneath your clothes. They’re great at preventing road rash when performing fast downhill and learning other techniques.






Tucking: In downhill, a typical rider crouches down his/her body into a compact position in order to decrease aerodynamic drag. There are a large variety of tucks, but the most important ones are the following:


American tuck - When the rider tucks his/her rear knee right behind the front knee and leans onto his/her front thigh. Most riders find this tuck to be one of the easiest to maintain while getting a very flat, aerodynamic back as well as a small frontal profile. This tuck leads to larger draft pockets behind the rider, which is used in a race in order to make a pass on someone.


Euro tuck - When the rider tucks his/her rear knee behind the front ankle and leans onto his/her front thigh. This tuck gets the rider to crouch very low and many find it to be uneasy. Also, this tuck leads to a larger frontal profile which produces drag. However, it does decrease the draft pocket by directing the air downwards because of the curved back.


Hybrid tuck - When the rider tucks his/her rear knee into the middle of the front calf. It offers a balance between the Euro and American, having some advantages and disadvantages from both of them.


Brazilian tuck - When the rider puts his/her rear knee directly on the board behind or next to his/her front foot. This tuck creates a very large frontal profile that enhances aerodynamic drag. It’s generally used by beginners or as a resting position for some riders when they have very long courses.


Drifting: This is when the long board loses traction around the turn. It represents a controlled movement conceived to decrease speed or to impress observers. Drifting is usually applied in downhill racing, to manage turns that are entered at great speed or too tight to execute.


Air brake: This technique consists in standing straight up on your board and stretching your arms out to either side to increase wind resistance. This isn’t an effective way to stop, but it can be employed in speed boarding to reduce speed; it solely works at greater speeds.


Foot brake: This is performed by placing one foot on the road while balancing on the board with the other foot. This technique can be applied to reduce speed by dragging the sole of your shoe along the road or even to stop entirely.


Carving: This is an effective technique to control speed while going downhill. Instead of coming to a full stop, the rider creates a continuous “S” route by leaning left and right. By performing so many continuous turns, the speed can be under control and maintained.


Slide brake: Also known as power slide or sliding, this technique is very important for longboarders who regularly downhill. This is when the rider rapidly turns the board sideways into a controlled slide, to break the traction of the wheels. A slide can be executed backside or front side. With practice a rider can use up speed very rapidly in a fairly narrow roadway.  In general, the skater uses slide gloves because a hand is often placed on the road for balance and control in the slide. Nevertheless, it’s possible to slide to a full stop if you travel less quickly, either without using your hands or with minimal hand to ground contact.


Board walking: This technique involves moving your feet in front of, or behind, the other up and down along the board, as in cross-stepping. This is mainly used by a longboarder with a longer deck, over 40 inches in length. Other variations of board walking rely solely on the imagination of the skater. Turns, twists, jumping, hopping and so on, all these can be considered more technical versions of board walking.


Run outs: This type of move should only be applied as a last resort. Running out is essentially jumping off your longboard and taking quick steps to slow yourself down from running speed. This technique may lead to quick and painful consequences and it only works if you can run as fast as you’re rolling when you bail off your board.


Train: This technique involves more skaters riding in a straight line down a hill. The front skater drafts for the following skaters, who in turn utilize their hands to push the front skater through the wind to enhance the overall speed for the whole team. This technique involves skill and practice because all skaters are such close to each other.

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      There are a growing number of events and competitions all over the world. All riders start together at the top of the hill and race till they reach the finish line at the bottom. Obviously, the first rider who crosses the finish line wins. 

       Skateboard culture rules at the annual Whistler Longboard Festival which is held in July. Spectators will enjoy seeing events such as the warp-speed International Downhill Federation’s Canadian World Cup race which takes place at the Whistler Sliding Center. 

      The best riders in the world race against each other at the Maryhill “Festival of Speed”, which is North America’s premier longboarding race. This particular event is one of the most anticipated world cup events on the planet every year.There’s also Angie’s Curves, situated in Pala, California, which is one of the most challenging downhill races when it comes to the World Cup Circuit.



Interesting facts

•    Canadian Mischo Erban broke the record for the fastest skateboard speed from a standing position on 18 June 2012. He shattered the Guiness World Record reaching an incredible speed of 129.94km/h, as in 80.74 MPH, in Les Éboulements, Quebec, on the road going down to the St. Lawrence River port of Saint-Joseph-de-le-Rive.
•    This specific road is known for being dangerously steep, often descending at an 18-pecent grade.
•    Many municipalities, especially Vancouver, have considered banning or restricting longboarding in some areas, expressing grave concern with the dangerous speeds longboarders can reach.
•    Because of the high speed involved when going downhill, most of the time 30+ MPH (> 50 km / hour), riders are using in most of the cases the same kind of safety gear as that wore by motorcyclists or dirt bikers.






Published by Claudia Barbu


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