Longboards are skateboard-like devices designed to roughly simulate the feeling of using a surfboard on dry land. Because of their appearance and the methods used to ride them, they are also sometimes known as longboard skateboards. Users of these boards often refer to their pastime as longboarding. The choice of the right board for any given person depends on factors that include the rider’s level of experience, the rider’s preferred riding style and the steepness of the ground to be covered.
Longboards have the same basic structure as skateboards — with a board or “deck” mounted on two horizontally aligned sets of wheels — but are longer and range from roughly 38 to 59 inches. Materials used in the construction of various types of boards include hardwoods such as mahogany and maple, and 7- or 8-ply plywood. While some boards are relatively narrow, others provide a much wider surface. The average longboard is both heavier and significantly more stable than the average skateboard; because of these characteristics, it usually travels farther than a skateboard after a single kick or push.
Many longboard riders like to cover medium or longer distances over flat ground. Boards of medium or long length that provide a smooth ride and travel well over a straight line are typically the best choice for this type of rider. More adventurous riders, who prefer riding down gentle to moderate slopes, might want to choose a medium-length board that has better turning characteristics and allows a relatively gentle, surfboard-like turning motion known as “carving.” A third class of medium-length longboard skateboard lets the rider make even tighter turns and move quickly down steep hills while still staying in control.
Some riders of longer boards also use an accessory called a skateboard paddle. This long, handheld paddle — which resembles the paddles used by some ocean surfers — lets the rider push off from the ground and move forward while remaining upright and keeping both feet on the board. In addition, the device makes it easier to stop a longboard, provides even greater riding stability and also gives the rider a serious upper-body workout when used over longer distances. Longboard shops offer paddles with shafts made from materials that include carbon fiber, bamboo and fiberglass. The tips of high-quality skateboard paddles are made from replaceable vulcanized rubber.
Beginning riders typically do best working with stable boards on flat surfaces. This type of riding gives the new user the opportunity to gain familiarity with the basics of longboarding, including riding smoothly, stopping when necessary and falling as safely as possible in unavoidable circumstances. Some riders continue to ride mainly on flat surfaces even after they gain significant experience. Other riders prefer to expand their skills and take on the challenges of riding down steeper grades or using sharper turns. Some highly experienced riders prefer steep hills or tight turns that would endanger less agile or proficient longboarders. Whatever the preferred riding style, well-stocked longboard shops typically have boards and accessories to fit a variety of riders with a range of available budgets.