Cruising downhill in India at 70 kmph on a ply board with wheels sounds insane, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what Longboarding is all about and here are some beginners’ longboarding tips to get you on the ‘insane route’.
Started in the 1950’s in Hawaii, the idea of Longboarding was conceived by surfers who couldn’t surf due to small waves. Longboarding in India is gaining popularity, enthralling adventure seeking youngsters. But how is it different from skateboarding? While the two might look similar yet there are some differences. The skateboard deck is curved upwards on both sides, making it easier to perform tricks like ‘ollies’ and ‘kick flips’. The Longboard deck, on the other hand, is normally longer (as the name suggests) and instead of curves has two narrow strips at each end which makes it more stable. Longboards usually have larger and softer wheels, which make riding easier even on rough surfaces.
Since longboarding is gaining popularity in India, it is necessary to be informed on how to choose the right longboard and other safety equipment. It becomes a primary concern because the consequences of falling from a longboard at a high speed could be fatal.
I learnt it the hard way while longboarding in Ladakh. I was lucky to get away with minor bruises but it is always smart to use safety gear. You cannot take your luck for granted!
“A friend of mine saw the “Balls but no Brain” poster and said, “Usually this doesn’t happen with you.” His comment made me realize that this was actually true! I usually have a pretty sorted mind and always make decisions considering all the risks and try my best to be safe.
Over the time, I felt that due to a constrained mindset I was missing the experience of being carefree and feeling the adrenaline rush that comes with the thrill. For a moment, I wanted to put the brain on hold and give the balls a go. I wanted to surrender my body and immerse my mind into an experience where in I was living the moment and was a part of it.
Which is why I picked up Longboarding. I felt this action sport was apt to experience a kind of freedom that comes after losing self-control and going with the flow.
It was completely stupid and reckless of me to go without a helmet, guards and braking gloves (the sport is still quite dangerous even after wearing these)! I had comprehended the consequences of my stupidity even before deciding to go. Therefore, I planned to use the board only to cruise slowly and steadily and take a lift back to Leh. The plan was not to bomb the hills but to scout them so I could come back later to ride the board with all the safety gear required. This usually happens when balls take over control from the brain!
At a particular section, where the descent got steeper, I got lost in the emotions of riding the longboard. I was cruising almost at a speed of 70 kmph. At first, I was able to control the board, but then the speed overpowered me and threw me off my longboard. I had no option but to surrender myself and trust my mind. It all happened so fast that it was hard to process everything in a go.
I got up and looked for any serious injuries. It was surprising that I had not broken any bones, no deep wounds or head injury, only an impact on the collarbone and shoulder blade, a scratch on the knee and a hole in my jacket. Footage from my camera revealed that during the fall, I had performed a Parkour Roll to slow down the momentum and prevent my head from hitting the road. Looking at it, I felt quite thankful to my brain, as balls don’t have a frontal lobe!
I resolved never to do this again without the safety gear yet I wouldn’t fear to push my limits to liberate myself once more!”
I am more of a downhill/freerider and enjoy the sport that way. Depending on the type of utility and fun, one can choose to longboard for the following uses:
Longboarding has emerged as a very healthy and green way to commute in recent times. It is less expensive to own than a bicycle, is more maneuverable in tight spaces and is definitely more fun than getting stuck in traffic. For this purpose, you must choose a longboard typically between 35-40” long with a kick tail for making it easy to negotiate cracks, curbs, and tight corners.
Downhill is the most extreme and exhilarating discipline of longboarding. Riders use racing style and skills to negotiate hairpin turns while cruising at a speed that can go up to 60mph. Using very large wheels(70-80mm) with wide contact patches(50-70mm), sharp lips to provide maximum speed and a grip is recommended for downhill longboarding.
Freeriding is a form of downhill longboarding which basically revolves around power slide but is a fun style for beginners to get comfortable with their boards and learn how to control their speed. Freeriders generally use small to mid-sized wheels(60-70mm) with narrow contact patches(29-55mm) and rounded lips. It helps to break traction and hold out long slides.
Boards used for downhill and freeride are usually between 35-40” long and are much stiffer than a board used for casual riding. A more rigid board ensures better control at high speeds.
Longboarding is not all about aggressive adrenaline rushing downhill or freeride, it is also about having fun.Any kind of board can be used for cruising or carving. However, most cruisers choose more flexible boards.
Freestyle Longboarding is all about performing creative tricks and maneuvers like Shuvit, kickflip, cross steps and tiger claws. Hence, a freestyle longboard need to be very versatile and be a combination of various types of longboards.
Freestyle decks are usually flexible with medium length wheelbase (20-28”).
Safety Gears- For basic protection and safety you will need a helmet, a pair of knee pads, elbow pads and gloves.
Longboarding culture is gaining momentum. ‘Longboard Crew India’ founded by Nikhil Bhosale is aiming to promote the growth of Longboarding community in India. Started with an eight-member team, it has brought about forty members in the ambit till now. The group came up with their self-designed longboards for a while to become one of the first in India to manufacture the product.
Author: Shivam Aher
Shivam being a free runner, climber, and a filmmaker diligently handles camera and editing at 4Play. He actively contributes innovative ideas to enhance content quality. Longboarding is one of his favourite alternate sports in which he continually challenges his own capabilities.