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What is a Longboard?
A longboard is a longer version of a skateboard. Longboards are most commonly used for either downhill racing, slalom, or transportation. Due to its longer and wider base, a longboard is more stable, making the ride generally safer and more comfortable than on a shortboard, although it may be hard for beginners to ride down hills at high speeds. Their greater weight makes them less suitable for many tricks, but contributes to a fluid motion by giving more momentum. Thus, a longboard will roll farther with a single push of the foot. Many people therefore prefer longboards to normal skateboards for cruising on streets and sidewalks. Longboarding is often compared to surfing on concrete, and the size gives riders the option of performing big turns and quick short carves just like on a surfboard. Carving is way of turning that is mostly used when one is going 12 mph or more.
Choosing a Longboard
Beginners to the sport of longboarding are frequently overwhelmed by the number of choices and perceived specialization of different varieties and brands of decks. However, there is some common advice that is often offered to beginners.
Beginners should avoid models marketed as "beginner" or "disposable." As in many sports, low quality equipment can turn beginners away from a sport before they even have a chance to experience it. Quality longboards should cost about $130 US, but there are some less expensive models.
Mid-length boards, (39 to 50 inches) are the most versatile. Beginners should avoid overly long or overly short boards, which are better for certain styles, but are less versatile, and may be more difficult to ride.
There are several different shapes of longboards including: pintails, flat nose riders, and boards shaped like a longer shortboard. People who have had some experience skating in the past may feel more comfortable on a board that has a tail as it will be easier to turn. Pintails permit looser trucks and larger diameter wheels better suited for carving or a "surfy" feel.
Depending on their purpose, longboards exist in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The differentiation between a short skateboard and a longboard usually depends on their application and configuration. Most longboards measure between 90 and 150 cm (35.4-59 inches). Longer boards are rare because the longer board requires more room to maneuver.
Boards used for transportation or commuting are the most common types of longboards. The boards are usually 100-130 cm (39.0-50.3 inches) long and do not have a shorter nose. The boards are flexible to provide a more comfortable ride and are often shaped to resemble surfboards. Their trucks are set up loosely to allow for narrow turns.
Longboarding for its own sake is often called cruising or, when going down a hill, carving. It can be a convenient alternative to walking as you only need to push one time to move several feet.
Slalom skateboards are sometimes used for racing through courses set up with small cones as quickly as possible. The boards are usually 63-89 cm (24.6-34.7 inches) long, and often made of high tech materials such as carbon fiber. The shorter boards are used on tighter courses, and longer boards are used on steeper, faster courses and giant slalom. Many slalom skateboarders have several different boards set up for different types of courses. The trucks are attached to the very ends of the board and the boards often have narrow ends to allow a tighter turning radius. Slalom skateboards are used almost exclusively for competitive skateboarding. Slalom wheels differ from other longboarding wheels because they often have a much larger contact patch for better traction, which is a requirement in slalom situations. Slalom trucks are often much narrower than normal longboard trucks to allow a tighter turning radius, and may differ in design.
Downhill skateboards are used for riding down mountain roads as fast as possible. The boards are usually 95-110 cm (38 - 43 inches) long and very stiff. The trucks are attached to the ends of the board to maximize the wheelbase. In order to lower the center of gravity, downhill longboards sometimes feature a lowered platform, by mounting the deck below the baseplate of the axles, or by the shape of the deck itself. Downhill skateboarders sometimes use streamlined helmets to reduce aerodynamic drag. A longer wheelbase will increase stability, when a shorter one increase the turning potential of the board.
Cruising is often used to show off skill and control over the longboard. Cruising is a relaxed style, usually performed at slow speeds and involving tricks imported from classic surfboarding such as hanging ten, cross-stepping, and drop-knee-turns. Cruising longboards are typically much longer then the usual longboard, 150 - 200 cm (60 to 80 inches) or more, and often closely resemble the surfboards that they borrow their style from.
Trick boards are similar to the short skateboards in shape and construction but are longer and usually wider. The trick boards are seldom longer than 110 cm (42.9 inches). Tricks that can be performed on these boards are the same tricks that can be performed on a short skateboard but the heavier weight and larger size of the board require more skill and strength from the skater.
A relatively recent development in the longboarding world. Companies have been experimenting with unconventional wheeled-board designs, modifying decks, trucks, and even the number of wheels on the board. These boards typically have improved downhill performance (control and/or turning radius) when compared to longboards, but are often slower or more hindersome to push on flat surfaces.
A drift is when the board loses traction around the turn. It is a controlled movement designed to reduce speed or to impress spectators. The same equipment is used as for a slide; the only variation is in hand positions. Drifting is most commonly used in downhill racing, to negotiate turns that are entered at high speed or are too tight to make. Controlled sliding (drifting) is also common in slalom competition and is used for similar reasons. Drifting can also occur accidentally when carving.
Air braking involves standing upright on your board as tall as possible with arms outstretched to catch as much wind resistance as possible. This is primarily done in speed boarding to reduce speed but is not an effective way to stop. This only works at high speeds.
Foot braking involves putting one foot on the road while balancing on the board with the other foot. This technique can be used to reduce speed or come to a full stop.
Carving is an effective way to control speed when traveling downhill. Instead of coming to a complete stop, the rider makes a continuous "S" path by leaning left and right. By making so many turns the speed can be controlled and maintained.
Slide braking or sliding is very important skill for longboard skaters who regularly downhill. To slide brake the skater quickly turns his/her board sideways into a controlled slide, to stop. A slide can be performed backside or frontside. With practice a skater can burn off speed very quickly in a relatively narrow roadway. Generally a skater sliding should have gloves because a hand is often placed on the ground for balance and control in the slide, however it is possible to slide to a stop, while moving less quickly, either hands-free or with minimal hand to ground contact.
Boardwalking is a technique that consists of moving ones feet, in front of, or behind, the other (cross-stepping) up and down the deck. Usually this technique is practiced by a longboarder with a longer deck (40+ inches). Different variations of boardwalking depend on the imagination of the rider. Twists, turns, hopping, jumping etc. can all be considered more technical variations of boardwalking.
Longboard equipment is very similar to comparable shortboard equipment, but with modifications suitable for the application. For an introduction to skateboard equipment in general, see Skateboard.
Longboard decks are made of shaped wood or composite materials, designed to balance properties of weight, stiffness, flex, and twist, while offering a secure stance, and accommodating the height and weight of the rider. The simplest decks are made from 7 to 10 plys of 1/16" thick birch or maple. These plys are glued together, and pressed into the desired shape with a vacuum, hydraulic, or manual press. More complex decks include the use of fiberglass and carbon fiber for decreased weight and increased stiffness, solid hardwoods for stiffness and aesthetics, foam cores for rigidity and light weight, and even exotic woods, like bamboo.
Decks are often given curvature that enhances their use. A board that is bent up in the center (when viewed from the side), is said to have camber, while a board that bends down in the center is said to have rocker. Camber makes a board 'bouncier' which is a good quality for some styles. Rocker allows a lower center of gravity, and a sensation of being 'cradled' by the deck during riding similar to the rocker in a surfboard. Decks may also be curved up at the edges (when viewed down the long axis), which is called concave. Concave bends add stiffness, leverage, and allow the rider to feel the edge of the deck without looking. Other bends, such as a bend up at the tail or nose (kicktails), or a deep drop at the center of the board to dramatically lower center of gravity are common on more specialized decks.
Many people have explored outside the realm of brand name equipment and find making their own decks as highly beneficial. A great variation that some riders enjoy is in the covering over the top of the deck. Some decks will have grip tape, basically a sheet of sandpaper covering the deck itself. Some decks are covered with sand and a liquid fiberglass that makes the deck extremely rough and easy to grip. Many riders enjoy adding their personal touch to their boards, oftentimes painting or carving in their own artwork straight on the deck.
Longboards are usually fitted with urethane wheels between 60 and 100mm, available in various durometers. A larger wheel provides a higher top speed compared to a smaller wheel, while the latter accelerates quicker. A larger wheel will also be able to ride better on rougher surfaces. The durometer is typically in the 75a to 90a range. Typical shortboard wheels are much harder, about 98a. Some softer wheels will have inserts called cores made of a harder plasic to retain the bearings.
Longboard wheels also come in many different shapes to suit the different disciplines. Wheel size may be a concern due to the type of deck and hardware installed on the longboard. As the longboard is turned, the deck may touch the wheels if the trucks are not far enough from the deck. This is known as wheelbite and can stop the longboard quickly, causing the rider to be thrown off the board. This problem usually occurs with larger wheels, as they are more likely to hit the deck. There are several ways of solving this problem, wheel cut outs on the deck let the board turn and the cut out sections of the deck are no longer there to hit the wheels. Increasing the distance from the trucks to the deck using riser pads can also stop this problem, as the deck no longer gets low enough to touch the wheels.
There are many different choices of bearings for a longboard. The bearings sit inside of the wheel, and attach to the ends of the truck hangers. Various types include steel ball bearings, and ceramic bearings. Steel ball bearings are mainstream bearings that are in widespread use, and readily available in skateshops and online distributors. Steel ball bearings are meant for the average skateboarder. Ceramic bearings are meant for the riders who have more stringent demands. They cost much more than steel ball bearings, but have less friction. The advantages for ceramic ball bearings include a smoother roll (if kept clean), and a lighter weight as compared to steel. Their thermal resistance makes them ideal for high speed downhill runs. Two of the main materials used in manufacturing of the ceramic balls is ceramic Cerbec® silicon nitride, and ceramic Zirconium Oxide.
There are several different types of longboard trucks, differing from shortboard trucks in many ways. The primary difference is that the hangers are often wider to accommodate the different sized decks, with 150mm and 180mm being two of the most common widths. There are also different longboard trucks for different disciplines, as well as all-purpose trucks. Many trucks are equipped with special features, such as inverted kingpins, as well as spring-loaded trucks, and variable tilt designs. Trucks designed for manuverability will have a softer urethane bushing or spring, which allow the truck to turn with ease. A downhill-type truck will usually have a harder bushing or spring to stabilize the board at high speeds. Urethane bushings are also rated on the durometer scale; the harder the bushing, the harder it is to turn the truck.
All trucks have different turning angles. This is known as the truck's geometry. The geometry of the trucks affects how much the board will turn. The geometry can be adjusted through the use of angled risers or "wedges" between the deck and the baseplate. The turning angle will increase if the trucks are angled toward the outside of the deck. If the trucks are angled to the inside of the deck, turning angle will decrease, which can improve stability. Randal R-II trucks come stock at 50 degrees on the hangers. This is a typical angle for general purpose trucks as it allows the board to turn well at a variety of speeds. Randal Downhill style trucks have a turning angle of 35 degrees which is better suited to high speed skating.
Another type of truck, unique to longboards, is the torsion truck. Torsion trucks operate differently from standard trucks in that they twist a urethane bushing or metal spring rather than using two compression bushings to return the truck to a straight position. The design allows for a much tighter turning radius at the expense of high-speed stability.
Due to the greater speed involved while going downhill (often 30+ MPH), riders should wear padding and protection at least as protective as that used for a short skateboard. However, for higher speeds and riskier courses, professional riders often use safety equipment on the same level as that used by motorcyclists and dirt bikers, such as full Kevlar suits. Other than traffic, the greatest danger to any board rider is a "speed wobble," a situation where excessive speed combined with a less experienced rider and/or a poorly suited board for the course causes the board to swerve rapidly from side to side, throwing the rider off. This risk can be minimized by using a longer, less "turny" board with a lower center of gravity and harder bushings, as well as controlling one's speed or making a very soft side-to-side weave down the course. If one is thrown off the board by a speed wobble, one can minimize possible injury by leaping for soft dirt or grass when available, performing a running stop, or performing a rolling stop.
Longboards are banned in many public areas such as boardwalks and parking garages due to the risk of an unskilled longboarder injuring a pedestrian or damaging property. *As a result, it is often a good idea to longboard at night and avoid crowds/law enforcement so as not to draw negative attention to longboarding.* However, if one rides at night, there is a higher likelihood of being hit by a car or failing to see obstructions. Even the smallest crack in the road can throw off a longboarder, and at speeds of 60+ MPH, such a mistake could be deadly. Ideally, night-time boarding should be done in a well-lit, low activity, suburban setting to ensure maximum safety. Furthermore, if you choose to board in less than optimal lighting conditions, make sure you make yourself familiar with the road during daylight hours so you are aware of any potential obstacles that you may not be able to see in the dark. It is also a good idea to practice power slides in order to stop quickly while moving fast.
Likewise, longboarding is also banned in many public areas due to its association with the property damage and liabilities caused by street/trick skaters. Boarders should use caution and good sense at all times to keep longboarding from being banned on further hills and parking garages, as the sport is practiced almost entirely on public roadways. If you spend the majority of your boarding time in the realm of a neighborhood, be as considerate as possible. Watch out for cars backing out of driveways and, especially, small children that may be entirely unaware of you or the damage you could cause them.
Info compiled from wikipedia.com
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