While most people wouldn’t even think to ride a bicycle without brakes, those of us who love longboarding have no other option but to learn some more “creative” methods for slowing down. The most useful and basic of these methods are carving and sliding, both of which involve using natural physics and friction to reduce speed and the likelihood of a nasty wipeout. I recommend to all new riders to get a firm grasp on these techniques before attempting to bomb any serious hills and studying the local crowd or Internet videos to perfect the execution. Carving and sliding are both very similar to snowboard maneuvers, although they require a bit more finesse due to our less forgiving terrain.
Carve It Up!
Carving a longboard is when you pull snaking S-turns from side to side, effectively slowing down and also giving a stronger feeling of control over a longboard that might be starting to speed-wobble. Practice on an easy downhill by leaning on the heels until reaching the gutter and then shifting the weight to the toes and completing an arching turn until the opposite side of the street. Continue this balanced turning dozens of times while keeping the knees bent while the back is straight and arms at your sides. Shifting your feet forward, toward the nose, will allow you to make a sharper carve but may set you off balance – practice until you find your personal sweet spot. Keep in mind that even simple movements can cause your board to react dramatically when hitting high speeds.
If you’ve ever watched professional longboarding races, you’ve probably noticed the insane amount of time they spend literally drifting on their wheels as they fire down the track. This technique is known as sliding and is essential for those who want to conquer serious hills and take the sport to its maximum potential. There are a few different techniques, but all include creating friction with the wheels in order to brake. The most common slide is known as the Coleman slide and can bring you to a full stop if necessary. This trick requires slide gloves because of the need to place a hand on the rough cement. Pushing the rear heel forward and opening up the shoulders perpendicular to the street can create this slide if situated in a deep squat position. Practice in a squat position until it becomes comfortable, and remember that the lower body follows the shoulders and that the front foot should hold much of your weight, remaining strong and static throughout the slide.
Again and Again
These sliding techniques will allow you to gain confidence and control when longboarding and allow you to conquer hills that may seem beyond your skill level. They might be daunting at first, but with enough practice, your body will gradually memorize the movements, build the right muscles, and do much of the work for you once you have an idea of the proper execution. Keep in mind that all longboards can carve and slide, although some might be more difficult than others. Wheel size and shape, bushing choices, and weight all have a dramatic effect on the physics of a longboard. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot complete a wicked pendulum-like Coleman slide in the first week on your old water-logged longboard – the satisfaction you’ll feel when you finally hit it right will be worth the hard work.