Introduction: How to Get Set Up to Longboard Like a Boss (for Those Non-Kids Who Have Never Longboarded Before)
I've noticed in the past four months that we've all been locked down for shelter-in-place, people have begun to try new things. I've seen people with new hair cuts (and hair colors) that they never had before, people trying new hobbies and even trying new types of exercise. One of these just so happens to be longboarding which is a huge passion of mine. If you live in a place like Northern California, then skateboarding is just another normal way of getting around, though it seems as of recent more and more folks are trying their hand at this awesome activity. This instructable is for all you "not-so-teenage anymore" folks out there who have started to wonder if you have what it takes to hop on a longboard and blaze the trails and paths in your area (spoiler: you do).
Quick Disclaimer: This is Not a How-To Pro Guide
If you came here looking for a how-to guide on boardsliding down the slopes of Col de Braus at 30 MPH, your hair dancing effortlessly in the wind, ultimately ending you up in a YouTube video with awesome drone areal shots and old school punk rock blasting in the background, you came to the wrong place. Not only can I not even attempt to do that level of skating, I've never been to Col de Braus and while I might end up in a YouTube video if I tried to skate those slopes, it would not be the kind video that people would marvel at.
No my friends; this instructable is intended to give the novice rider everything that they need (including confidence) to buy a proper longboard (NO MOTORS!) and enjoy the love of longboarding all while getting a bit of exercise in to boot. If you've ever wondered if its too late for you to pick up a longboard, it's not. If you've ever wondered if you had the dexterity and skill to handle riding and looking confident while doing it, with a little practice you can. So if you're ready to get out there, and longboard like a boss, then let's get started!
Here's the quick TL;DR for the things that you will need:
- A longboard (the joke is funnier if you keep reading... at least it was to me)
- Protective pads
- Good shoes or a good shoe insole
- Confidence (Don't worry, I got you there!)
Step 1: Get a Longboard
Ok, I know what you're thinking, "Really dude?? I hung on this long just for you to give me a rehash of Steve Martin's 'You Can Be a Millionare' bit? What gives??" Patience my young padawan. Much to learn there is (I promise I will not be speaking as Yoda again after this). There are a number of different ways to get a longboard. Here are some of them and my thoughts around them:
- Buy a Longboard from a big box store: Please do not do this. I know it might be tempting to go into a big box store and think, "Hey look! $50 for a longboard! I can easly square that with this week's budget!" However, what you're getting for that money is only the satisfaction of knowing that you probably got ripped off. All of the parts, including the most critical parts for the type of riding that you're most likely planning on doing, are cheaply made and of a low quality. This is not the right way to start this adventure and it will most likely not give you a good first impression.
- Borrow a longboard from a friend: If you are concerned about budget (and rightfully so; a typical good quality longboard will run between $250 and $350) for something that you might not even like, then try to find a friend who has one or more longboards that you can try out. Keep in mind that whatever they ride might not necessarily work for you long term, but it should be enough to get you started and to help you see if you like it.
- Buy a used longboard: This is one step up from borrowing a longboard from a friend. If you're confident in your decision and your find then by all means, purchase away! However, I would reccomend at least reading this article before you dive in. There are no guarantees with used longboards so having some knowledge up front can make a huge difference between buying a diamond or a dud.
- Buy a new longboard: While this is not the cheapest option, this certainly is the best option. Custom configuring a longboard to your specific body type and riding style is going to go the farthest towards ensuring that you are given the best possible opportunity to experience longboarding the way that it's intended to be enjoyed. Please keep in mind that you will be spending between $250 and $350 for a good quality longboard, but if properly cared for, that board will last for years (I believe mine is about three to four years old and can still tear up the path like it's brand new). This instructable is primarily focused on this fourth option.
Step 2: How to Buy a Longboard (Like a Boss)
Typically the best way to buy a longboard is pre-buit from the manufacturer or a reputable reseller. In both cases, the "build it yourself" configuration process will be filtered by what is typically sold together and what will work best, so it's pretty hard to get that wrong if not impossible (remember this; I'll reference it later). For the sake of this instructable, we will be using Daddies Board Shop since I have direct experience buying from them and have always had a good experience. There are many, many other options available and even more if you get to know the parts well enough. I will be walking through the process of custom configuring a longboard as if you were sitting right here with me. I will do my best to keep the details topical as to make this useful for everyone. If I get some portion of this incorrect, please let me know so that I can update accordingly. Let's begin.
- Go to Daddies Board Shop: https://www.daddiesboardshop.com/.
- Hover over Longboards > Completes: We're going to custom configure something based on what they currently have in stock. Please note that this is current as of this writing. There may be new options available when you read this.
- Select the proper length: You might think that the right place to start would be the Riding Style section, but I would disagree. For new riders, I don't think there really is a "riding style" yet and as such any of the longboards currently on the page would take you from Point A to Point B. I think it's more important to find a longboard that matches your body type. Roughly speaking, a comfortable longboard for novice riders should be around half of your height. For example, I am 5'10" and my longboard is 38" long (38/70 = .54 or just over the 50% mark). This is not a hard and fast rule and there are certainly shorter riders who ride longboards 48" and longer but my goal is to set you up for the greatest possibility for success. Given this, I am going to select the option for "33in - 37in". With this web site, you can select multiple options so I am also going to select "38in - 42in". At the time of this writing, this filtered our results down to a list of ten longboards.
- Select the mounting: Typically speaking I reccomend a drop-through mounting due to its relative height off the ground. Drop-through mountings are good for long distance riding where lowering your center of gravity helps by reducing the effort needed to move the board forward. However, depending upon your height (and the condition of your feet and ankles) this might not make a difference. What do I mean by this?
Personally speaking, I have had plantar fasciitis in the past so my plantar muscle is weak as it is. As such, I want the deck of my longboard to be as close to the ground as possible so that the amount of flex and effort required in my pushing foot is not so extreme that I injure this muscle again. Typical longboards will be between 2.5" and 3.5" or greater off the ground. Please see the photos attached that illustrate the difference between my Rayne Nemesis double drop board and my Loaded Tan Tien bamboo board. Notice the double drop is much lower to the ground.
To measure this distance for yourself, find something in your home that is between 2.5" and 3.5" tall, put one foot on it and the other on the floor next to you. Now flex the foot on the floor as if you're pushing forward. That is typically the amount of flex that your foot will feel. Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into the final height include the wheels, trucks, etc. but the mounting is one such factor. Unfortunately at the time of this writing Daddies did not have any "double drop" longboards in (i.e. drop-through mounting and a deck that drops down in the center to be closer to the ground). If they had, the instructable would probably end here with "BUY THAT". Continuing on, I am going to select "Drop-Thru" as the mounting option. This leaves us with one board left so this is the board that we will be configuring.
- Select your wheels: There are two numbers that make up a longboard wheel: diameter or the size of the wheel and durameter or the hardness of the wheel. For diameter, the larger the number the larger the wheel. For durameter, the larger the number the harder the wheel. With regards to selection, I'll keep this fairly brief; you want to pick your wheels like my daughter picks her favorite stuffed animals: large and soft. Why am I saying this?
With regards to size, the larger the wheel that you have, the faster it will typically go. With regards to hardness, the softer the wheel, the more the rubber can grip to the road, absorb shock and vibration and compensate for those things that are on the road, like nuts and rocks. My current wheels are 76mm diameter 78a durameter and I have yet to hit a sizeable small rock or nut that brought me to a full stop. When we click on the Change link, we are presented with a LOT of options. For diameter, you should be aiming for 70mm and above. For durameter, you should be aiming for less than 80a. Other then these two factors, for the novice rider nothing else really matters (yes, I can hear my more experienced riders cringing but again, I mentioned "for the novice rider"). I found a nice durameter chart on Smooth-On's web site which helps to illustrate relative durameters of various items. For longboard wheels, you will want to use the "Shore A" size as a guide.
Once you find wheels that fall into the two number ranges I mentioned, just find your favorite color. The wheels that were pre-selected seem to fit the bill so I'm going to stick with these for now. Please note that with flush mount longboards, you would have to limit the size of the wheel to avoid friction between the wheel and the board (known as "wheel bite") but again, this is one of the great things about these "build it yourself" sites; they limit you to only the wheels that will definitely work. You would not be able to select something that wouldn't work.
- Select your bearings: There is a lot of physics that has gone into the development of bearings. If there was one component that had the greatest impact on ridability, I would say it is the bearings. I've tried a handful of other bearings brands but the one I am always coming back to is "Bones Super Swiss 6". Not only are they easy to clean (please see my other instructable "Routine Skateboard/Longboard Cleaning Method") but when properly maintained, they just scream! Granted, they are a bit more expensive, but they are SO worth it when it comes to ridability. For this instructable, I am selecting these.
- Select your trucks: For the novice rider, there really is only one number to consider (outside of cost that is) which is the degree marking. The higher the degree, the more sharply and quickly the trucks typically can turn. This is not to suggest that a lower degree will be hard to impossible to manuver. For the novice rider, this will most likely not matter much. Typically the degree that you should consider is around 50. Outside of that, all of the brands that Daddies sells are pretty good so pick your favorite color and enjoy! For this instructable, Daddies had pre-selected Calibur II brand trucks which I happen to like so I'll leave this as is.
- Optional - Add bearing spacers: Under the Options drop-down menu, select "Add bearing spacers". These little metal tubes will help extend the life of your bearings which if you went with the brand mentioned above, you should do.
And there you have it! At the time of this writing the board that we just configured came out to just about $280. No, it's not the same price as the $50 special at the local big box store, but it is SO MUCH BETTER. You will see this once you step on your new longboard and take it for a ride. No go buy that thang and let's get to riding!
Step 3: Fly, on Your Way, Like an Eagle (yes, I Did Have to Quote Iron Maiden)
So however you obtained a longboard, the fact remains that you now are in possession of a actual longboard. Are you ready to rock and roll? Are you ready to break the sound barrier? Do you have the proper pads?
Wait, what?? Pads??
Yep, you read correctly. There is some amount of pads that you should be wearing. I say "some amount" based on your comfort level and dexterity. If you choose to wear the full regalia (i.e. helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, kneee pads) I will salute you just as fervently as if you had only worn a helmet and wrist guards. Personally, I only wear wrist guards and occasionally a helmet depending upon the ride that I'm taking (i.e. a casual ride down the path is not the same as bombing a hill).
If there was one item I would splurge on, I would say it should be the wrist guards. There are a lot of cheap brands out there that will not fully protect a grown adult from a sizable fall. For this reason, I have routinely purchased from a small manufacturer in Texas, Pro-Designed, Inc., who hand makes the guards (images of my wrist guards are above). They aren't the cheapest option, but they are a LOT less than an emergency room visit (and these days with COVID19, do you really want to be anywhere near a hospital right now if you can avoid it?). If this doesn't fit your budget, you can certainly get a more commercial brand from Amazon like Triple Eight which also tend to work well.
Regardless of what kind of wrist guards you buy, rememeber this: a good quality wrist guard is intended to have two strips of hard plastic, one on the bottom to act as a "slide" to not only protect your palm, but also slide your hands forward out from under you in case you fall so that the shock of the fall is not transferred up your arms and one on the top which should severely restrict your wrist's backward movement. If the wrist guards that you have do not severely resctrict your wrist's movement when wearing them, they are probably not capable of properly protecting you.
As we get older, one of the things that we quickly realize is that all of those shoes we thought were so cool as kids... well, they suck for our feet. You're going to be engaging in a form of exercise that is going to be pretty intense for your feet if you don't already do some type of foot-related activity (i.e. walking, jogging, running, tennis, etc.) so it's best to protect those feet! There are really two ways to go about this:
- Skate in running shoes: Yep, you read correctly. I used to skate in running shoes for years (specifically Hoka One One's). The one problem with running shoes is that the heals tend to be a bit curved which brings me to one of my golden rules of skateboarding / longboarding: "If you LEAN BACK, you GO BACK." In other words, just be careful not to lean back with these.
- Skate in actual skate shoes but with a insole: This is what I am currently doing now. There are lots of insoles out there and I recently tested a few. The one that I felt the most comfortable with was with a brand called Shred (yes, I did test Dr. Scholls and Shred made a beter insole for skateboarding).
Step 4: Add a Dash of Confidence
When I first started longboarding it had been quite awhile since I was on a skateboard. I was now much older, much less confident and to be fair, we all care about still maintaining some of the coolness factor, especially around the kids. However, this for me is one the best things about longboarding. Unless you're that person who is aspiring to tear down the hils of Col de Braus, there's really only one thing you need to do with a longboard: ride it! Of all the riders that I typically pass, both those that are going slow and those that are riding the wind, they all look cool doing it. With regards to falling, we all fall. It's not about how you fall; it's about how quickly you get up and try again!
Step 5: Wait! What About the Actual Skating Bit??
So that much is usually something that I usually prefer to do in person. Sadly, we cannot do that due to COVID19 and well, I cannot just go visit all of you individually! However, if you happen to bump into me on the trail and are wiling to stay six feet away, I'm more than happy to stop and chat. The good news is that YouTube has a venerable ton of videos on the subject all of which should get you started quickly. Good luck!
I hope this was helpful for you. This is a tough time that we're all living in and we all need to destress faster and quicker then ever. I have found that longboarding has given me that opportunity to quote Happy Gilmore, "to go to my happy place." Hopefully longboarding can be your "happy place" as well. If there were sections that I missed or things that I should clarify, please do let me know and I'll happily update. Good luck, be safe and see you on the trails!