Today a guest post (about something I’ll never try — but maybe you will) from Ritch, who blogs at heelsidechill.com.
When the snow stops falling, and it all melts away, what is there for a skier or snowboarder to do?
Sure, there is always golf or hiking, but there simply are not that many activities that carry the excitement of skiing into the summer months.
A crazy activity you should consider if you live near the mountains, or if you vacation near them in summer, is longboarding. (Even if you don’t read any further, you should definitely watch this gorgeous video from National Geographic).
Why Skiers Should Consider Longboarding
While mountain longboarding is closer to snowboarding than to skiing, it can still be a fun gravity-driven summer activity for those who generally ride on two boards.
Longboarding and snowboarding share DNA.
Snowboarders crafted the first modern longboards precisely to get the same feeling on pavement that they missed after the thaw, and they made them from reshaped snowboards to boot. They then attached skateboard trucks and wheels, and a new sport was born.
That was in the early 1990s, and longboarding and snowboarding have both come a long way since those early days. Longboarding is now an all-encompassing term for a diverse set of disciplines. The equipment has all grown up as well; it has diversified to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse sport.
At its roots, though, longboarding remains a cousin of snowboarding. Watch videos of longboarders shooting down mountain-pass roads and compare them to snowboarders on fresh powder. Speed is checked with the same sideways motion. The riding positions are identical, and the thrill is most definitely the same.
The only thing missing is a lift pass, but that’s a welcome omission.
Mountain Longboarding for Beginners: The Lighter Side
Like skiing, the danger in longboarding is moderated by the terrain and the experience of each rider. When inclines get steep and roads are curvy, safe riding requires more skill. Starting out on straighter roads with mellower inclines allows beginners to ease into the sport. You’ll learn the basics and develop the skill set necessary to start bombing faster hills. You will be surprised how similar skiing, snowboarding and longboarding truly are.
Also like skiing, longboarding has evolved disciplines. One of the more popular ones is freeride, which involves sliding sideways while riding down hills. To slide, we simply force the back, trailing wheels sideways and lean slightly away from the direction of travel. Sliding toward the side of the board the toes are on is a toeside slide, and the opposite is a heelside slide.
Freeriders can perform 180- or 360-degree slides. It is just as much fun to kick into a long sideways slide, though. Some longboarders execute 100-foot slides, but even short slides are exciting. Freeride longboarding requires a particular type of wheel, which has built-in characteristics that allow riders to break traction. The formulas of urethane in these wheels usually produces buttery slides, but they hook back up easily and still provide good traction when pushed to faster speeds.
The pinnacle of crazy in longboarding is the downhill discipline.
The speeds that top-tier downhill longboarders attain are impressive. Kyle Wester achieved a top speed of 89.41 mph in 2016, still the fastest any longboarder has gone. Any sane person would probably look at his run and think it psychotic, and it is. But it is a calculated risk. Wester has years of longboarding experience. He built up to his mind-boggling speed run gradually over that time.
Wester survived because he is a skilled rider, but he hit his high speed because his longboard setup was composed of the most stable equipment available. Its every component was made for speed. Beginning longboarders need not go to this extreme, however. It is relatively simple to put together a longboard that can achieve speeds of 40 mph or more. There are also off-the-shelf completes that can safely reach scream-inducing speeds.
What You’ll Need
The first obvious requirement to ride is a complete longboard.
Riding mountain terrain will necessitate a downhill setup. Nowadays it is now easy to research boards and find the right one. Downhill boards normally situate the rider close to the pavement, and incorporate features that limit their turning ability, making them more stable at speed.
Another requirement for fast longboarding is a quality helmet. Avoid skateboard helmets, which only protect the skull at slower speeds. Select a well-made, CPSC-certified bicycle helmet. These lids usually have an EPS liner that better protects the brain in a crash, but they must be replaced after any hard hit.
Other essentials include athletic shoes and gloves. Classic skate shoes work great, but any good athletic shoe should suffice. Gloves should be leather and should provide full-hand coverage. In the event of a fall, gloved hands can keep the rest of you safe. Bare hands are vulnerable. Knee and elbow pads are also available.
Give It a Try
When the asphalt is smooth and curves plenty, mountain roads can seem made for longboarding. Of course, it’s important to stay safe and keep out of the way of traffic. Taking risks around cars is never smart, so try to find largely empty, untrafficked roads to ride.
As drop-dead beautiful scenery goes whizzing past, time ceases, and the whole experience becomes transcendent. The same is true of skiing and snowboarding, of course. There is something about moving in a new way, and at faster speeds than our species normally does in nature, that is universally satisfying.
So, give longboarding a try. You may just find it lets you find your Zen place year round.
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