Peter Connolly from the UK holds the record for the highest land speed on a longboard. He achieved this record in 2017 when he was going downhill at a speed of 91.17 mph. That’s one heck of a speed for a longboarder, even in downhill longboarding.
According to Peter, speed is the driving force of his longboarding journey. And that may be true for most longboarders out there. So few events can be pumping adrenaline like downhill racing does. But mastering longboarding speed takes a huge toll.
In this comprehensive guide, I will discuss the need for speed in longboarding and the role of experience in high-speed riding. I will also elaborate on techniques for pushing your speeds and strategies for speed control. Besides, You will learn about how to be safe at high speeds.
This is going to be quite a discussion. So, buckle yourself up for a long roll.
As a longboarder myself, I feel the need for high speed in longboarding due to three reasons that are adventure, recognition, and records. These reasons can be linked to personal desires or technical needs. Let me give you a better understanding of that.
The history of humans in racing is old. When that got into longboarding, riders wanted to compete with each other to figure out who was the fastest. High-speed riding has its charms, and the ones doing it want to impress others with the speed.
But it has some technical aspects, too. Speed is an important factor for longboarders to showcase their skills with various tricks. I will get that in a minute. Let’s know about the temptation first.
- The Allure of Going Fast
This reason is related to the amygdala and hypothalamus in our brain. Our brain sends signals to adrenal glands when we move at extreme speeds.
Those glands release adrenaline or the action hormone into our bloodstream. It makes us go for higher speeds, alluring that sensation in our body continuously.
- Why Speed Matters to Longboarders?
Speed is important for longboarders due to the following reasons.
- Longboarders perform various tricks, such as slides, that need a certain speed for the perfect execution.
- In downhill racing, speed is what differentiates which rider is better overall.
- Steering longboards and handling carves become much easier when riders have the necessary speed.
- Achieving higher speeds than other riders in the community brings name and fame to longboarders.
While speed is fun, it can have grave consequences. So, speeding on your longboard is a matter of responsibility as well. I will focus on two essential things before you roll at a blazing speed.
- The Importance of Safety Gear
Using protective gear before getting on the road is crucial. You need to use helmets, gloves, pads, etc., to keep yourself from fatal injuries. The safety equipment also gives you more confidence as you are speeding, so your performance will surely be better.
- The Role of Experience in High-Speed Riding
Accelerating faster on a longboard comes with a number of risks. Take wobbling, for example. It may become challenging for a novice rider to handle wobble at high speeds. So, you should always learn the nuances before racing at high speeds.
Get to know how even the smallest turn at high speed can have a large impact on the outcome. I recommend you don’t try steep downhill racing at first. Start on a gentle descent and make yourself familiar with board movement, weight distribution, balance, and control before speeding.
A longboard consists of three main components: the deck, the trucks, and the wheels. Bearings are the internal components of wheels. To achieve high speed, you need to choose all of these components wisely. Here is a detailed guide on how to pick the essential equipment to ride at a high speed.
Longboards come in different types, shapes, and sizes. But not all of them are optimized for speed. Check the following discussion to find out the best longboard for speed.
- Characteristics of Speed-Focused Longboards
There are three common deck styles in longboards. They are top mount, drop through, and drop deck.
In top-mounted longboards, the deck is positioned over the trucks. I mean, the trucks are installed on the bottom surface of the deck.
These longboards are good for speed, but you need to compromise the stability. As the deck is positioned higher, the center of gravity also gets higher. So, you might feel a bit of wobble while speeding.
Drop-through longboards are the best for speed, in my opinion. As the truck goes through the board, the height of the board gets reduced. So, the center of gravity remains low, and these boards offer great stability. You can achieve higher speeds with more confidence.
Drop decks are where the trucks are installed on top of the board. These boards may provide greater stability, but the speed and turning capability of these boards are generally lower.
The Role of Deck Shape and Length
Longboards generally come in two main shapes. One is directional, and the other is symmetrical. In directional longboards, the shape indicates the forward direction of the board.
So, you can only go in that direction. The aerodynamic benefits of the board are only achieved if you use the forward direction.
In symmetrical or twin longboards, you can cruise in both directions. If you want only speed, directional longboards are better. But if you want to combine tricks into speedy riding, symmetrical boards will be better for you.
The length of the longboard will depend on your height and riding style. Longer boards may give a higher speed, but they will be hard to turn. So, you need the perfect balance between speed and control. Let me explain this with a chart.
|Required Longboard Length
|Up to 5 ft 10 inches
|More than 5 ft 10 inches
|Longer than 40 inches
|Up to 5 ft 10 inches
|More than 5 ft 10 inches
|Longer than 42 inches
|Up to 5 ft 10 inches
|More than 5 ft 10 inches
The next important things are the wheels and bearings. The material of the wheels, their compression rating, diameter, etc., greatly impact your longboarding speed. Find out the right wheels and bearings from the following section.
- Durometer and Diameter for Speed
Depending on what material the wheels are made of, they can be soft or hard. The Durometer expresses the level of compression of your longboard wheels. For example, you might see 78a on your wheels.
78 here is the compression rating, which indicates the wheels are on the softer side. Soft wheels may give you a more comfortable ride with more traction, but they are a deterrent to speed.
You need wheels with higher hardness, at least 80a or more, for speed. The letter a indicates the wheels are made of rubbery material. If you see b instead of a, it indicates the material is more of a hard plastic.
Then comes the diameter of the wheels. It is also called the wheel height. Take the point touching the ground and draw a straight line through the center of the wheel to the other end. This distance is known as the diameter.
In simple words, shorter diameters indicate smaller wheels. Small wheels aren’t suitable for speed. The wheel diameter should be at least 70-75 mm for achieving higher speeds.
Precision Bearings and Reduced Friction
Longboard bearings are commonly made of stainless steel and ceramic. Depending on the precision level of the bearings, they have different ABEC ratings. For example, an ABEC 3 bearing means it has a low precision level, but it is suitable for sports use.
While such bearings can fit into your longboards, they aren’t great for high speed. You need to use bearings with an ABEC 7 or ABEC 9 rating. These bearings have higher precision, so they will cause less friction between the wheels and the axle.
As a result, you can accelerate faster and achieve higher speeds with these bearings. High-quality bearings will also last longer, so you should choose your longboard bearings carefully.
Each longboard has two trucks, one on the front and one on the rear. The wheels are fitted to these trucks with the help of bearings. The baseplate of the trucks is screwed on the longboard deck.
An important component of the trucks is the bushing. It determines the pivoting of the trucks. Check how these components impact your riding speed.
- Tight Vs. Loose Trucks for Speed
Loose trucks are better for maneuvering the board, but you can’t accelerate faster with loose trucks. It causes a bit of wobbling, especially at high speeds. So, you need to keep the trucks tighter for speed.
When you are going downhill, loose trucks can make it harder to control your riding path. If they have too much side-by-side movement, it may alter your course. A moderate tightening on the trucks can give you the best result.
- Bushing Setup for Stability and Maneuverability
You can adjust the tightness of the bushings using the kingpin. If you loosen the kingpin, the trucks can pivot easily. While this setup is better for turns, you can’t achieve higher speeds with such bushings.
To ride at a high speed, you should keep the bushings tight. When the bushings are tight, the board will wobble less, and you can ride at higher speeds, especially when going downhill.
Besides choosing the right longboard, wheels, bearings, etc., focusing on your safety is also crucial. You need the right clothing and safety gear to keep yourself from serious injuries while riding at high speed.
- Helmets, Gloves, Knee Pads, and Full Leathers
Helmets protect your head from fatal injuries. So, a good quality helmet with ASTM certification is a must. You also need hand gloves to protect your palms and wrists from abrasion.
Knee pads and elbow pads protect your sensitive areas if you accidentally fall off the board at a high speed.
These items should be made of leather and hard plastic to give the highest protection. Leather gloves are more durable than synthetic gloves.
- Protective Clothing for High-Speed Riding
When you are riding at speeds like 30 or 40 mph, hitting something or falling off can be dangerous. So, you need protective clothing, such as leather riding jackets, jeans or leather pants, etc.
If you accidentally hit something on the road, the clothing can absorb some of the impact and save you from serious injuries.
They also protect your body from abrasion if you fall off the board on a rough pavement surface. So, you should never start speeding on your longboard without such clothing.
Once you are prepared with the right equipment and safety gear, it is time to accelerate on your longboard. To achieve maximum speed, you need to learn multiple techniques related to pushing the board, tucking yourself, drafting, carving, and more.
Let’s talk about that here.
Longboarders usually push their boards with their rear foot. The foot positioning and stance of a rider are crucial for achieving high speed. Check how your foot placement and posture should be.
- Proper Foot Placement and Posture
When you start pushing, your feet should be on the centerline of the longboard. The front foot should be at a slight angle, but the rear foot will be perpendicular to the board. While touching the ground, your heel should go first.
Then, the whole feet will come in contact with the ground. This ensures you can generate a more powerful stroke to push your longboard faster.
The strokes should be even distributed so that the acceleration is smooth. You should maintain a low posture so that the strokes have more energy.
- Achieving Efficient Pushing Strokes
Some riders make the mistake of pushing from their knees. But it limits the power of the stroke, and your board will not accelerate fast. To achieve optimal strokes, you need to push from the hips.
As the distance between your feet and hips is higher than the distance between feet and knees, hip strokes will give more power.
You can also switch your foot to keep the pushing rhythm consistent. It also helps in balancing your weight on the longboard. Don’t forget to maintain the right foot placement and posture every time you switch foot.
Wind resistance is a big factor in speedy riding. When you are standing upright, your body doesn’t have the best aerodynamic shape. So, achieving higher speed becomes difficult. Maintain the right tucking positions for better aerodynamics and control.
- Streamlining Your Body for Speed
In the tucking position, your body profile should be as low as possible. For example, you should crouch instead of being in an upright stance. Your knees should be close to the chest, and your head should be down. Wrapping your arms around your knees will further reduce the wind resistance.
With a streamlined body profile, you will have a much better aerodynamic shape. As a result, you can go at higher speeds. But that may come with some difficulties, which I am going to discuss next.
- Balancing Aerodynamics and Control
Even though you can go faster with a tucked body position, it makes controlling your board difficult. For example, if there is an obstacle in front of you or you need to change the board direction, doing that in a tucked position is difficult.
So, you need to balance between aerodynamics and control. When you are going through a free road with no turns or obstacles, you can focus more on aerodynamics.
But as soon as the necessities arise, you need to go back to the upright position to gain more control over the board. Learn to transition between these positions faster and smoother.
Imagine what happens when a car is tailgating a bus or an SUV. The wind column in front will go around the lead object and create a hollow space behind it.
In this case, the car will enjoy that slipstream, where it will face less wind resistance. You can use this aerodynamic technique in your favor.
- Leveraging Wind Resistance for Speed
As I have said in the example, drafting means following another rider closely. The rider in front of you fights with the most of the air resistance. You need to face a lot less resistance, which is beneficial for achieving higher speeds.
When you are in the slipstream of your lead rider, you can conserve energy by putting less effort into stroking. Especially when you are going downhill, drafting can notably increase your speed.
- Safe Practices When Riding In Groups
Drafting can also be risky if you aren’t aware of the safe practices. As multiple riders tend to ride along the same line, the chance of colliding with the lead rider is too high. So, you should always maintain a safe distance.
The distance may vary depending on your speed, so make sure you can steer clear within two or three seconds. For example, if you are riding at a speed of 30 mph, you will go about 44 ft in one second. So, you should be at least 80-100 feet behind your lead rider.
If there are riders behind you, you can use hand signals to warn them about the road conditions or the surroundings.
Carving is a fundamental technique in longboarding that allows you to maintain control at high speed. If you are riding on a winding road, carving can help you achieve greater speeds. Follow the techniques below to handle curves and turns at speed.
- Maintaining Control on Curves and Downhills
Roads with steep curves require more leaning. Before starting to carve, you need to swing your shoulders in the direction of the board. You should also balance your body weight by shifting toe or heel positions.
You might have seen those spiral-riding moves where riders go from the left side of the road to the right and then go back to the left.
When riding downhill, carving helps them maintain control over the board and achieve the right speed to navigate the curves.
- Advanced Techniques for Speedy Turns
Turns can hinder your effort to maximize the speed. So, pro longboarders learn how to deal with turns in style. Drifting or sliding is an effective technique to navigate turns without reducing your speed too much.
For example, if you perform a heelside pendulum slide near a turn, you can safely go through the turn at a high speed. But doing such tricks requires a deep knowledge of longboarding slides.
You should practice sliding techniques at low speed. Then, try to implement those techniques when taking high-speed turns.
Achieving high speed isn’t the last thing in downhill longboarding. Instead, you need to be able to control your speed to avoid hazards and come to a safe stop. I will now discuss different braking techniques, their pros and cons, and the ways of reducing hazards.
Two types of braking are commonly used in longboarding. They are foot braking and slide braking. Let me explain these braking techniques further for your understanding.
- Foot Braking and Sliding
As the name suggests, foot braking means reducing your longboarding speed with your foot. You can drag your rear foot on the ground. It will create friction and work as a brake for the longboard.
Slide braking is a more advanced technique where you use your body weight, foot pressure, etc., to change the board’s angle. Controlled slides reduce the longboard speed. You may also use your sliding gloves in slide braking.
- The Role of Slide Gloves
Besides using your rear feet, you may also need to use your rear hand to brake safely. Slide gloves are specially designed to have pucks. You can drag these pucks on the ground to create friction.
The friction reduces board speed, and the gloves save your hands from abrasion.
You also gain more control and maneuverability with high-quality sliding gloves. Ensure you use the right gloves with proper puck placement to get help with slide braking.
When you are at low speeds, foot braking may be an effective technique. But as we are talking about high-speed riding, you can’t rely on foot braking to come to a stop safely. In some cases, it can cause accidents.
You need to use slide braking for high-speed riding. Learning slide braking will require more time and effort than foot braking. But once you learn it, you can control speed better.
Being aware of the road ahead is highly important in high-speed riding. As you will commonly be riding at 30 or 40 mph, you have very small room for error. So, practice the following factors to be safe while riding.
- Minimizing Hazards and Obstacles
You should always keep your eyes on the road ahead to locate possible hazards and obstacles. For example, there can be small debris or potholes on the road. There can also be other riders or vehicles that may hinder your speed.
Locate such hazards or obstacles much earlier and plan how you can evade those hazards safely. Skilled riders use carving techniques, slide braking, etc., to avoid hazards and obstacles in their way.
- Responsiveness to Changing Terrain
Your reflex should be excellent for high-speed longboarding. The terrain you are riding on can change at any moment. You should know how to handle a sudden drop in slope or a sudden tight curve in the way.
Analyzing the terrain in real time is crucial. You should be able to change your body positioning, weight balance, riding styles, etc., at a moment’s notice.
Longboarding speed competitions originated in the late 1970s. With the new technologies emerging in the 1990s, riders started to set and break new speed records. Here is a quick overview of that.
You might already know that Peter Connolly has the current record for the highest longboard speed. Before that, Carlos Guto Paixao was the world record holder in the WGSA Longboard Classic.
- Setting and Breaking Speed Records
Mischo Erban was the first longboarder to reach a speed of more than 80 mph in 2012. After him, Zak Maytum achieved 80.76 mph or 129.98 km/h.
Kyle Wester was riding in the WGSA Longboard Unlimited, where he achieved 81.16 mph of speed.
From there, many legendary riders have set new records by breaking the previous ones. Erik Lundberg, Anders Inde, Adam Persson, Max D Ballestero, Tim Del, Mateus Cavinato, etc., are the riders who continuously push their speeds.
- Legendary Speed Runs and Riders
Peter Connolly’s speed run at L’Ultime Descente was a legendary run. This is a gravity sports tournament. In 2017, the run took place at Les Eboulements in Canada.
This place is known for some other legendary runs, such as the 85.14 mph run of Carlos Guto Paixao in 2016.
In competitive longboarding, you will commonly see three main disciplines. The first one is the speed-downhill competition. In this type of competition, riders compete with each other to achieve the maximum speed possible. They ride mostly on straight and steep roads.
- Overview of Speed Racing Competitions
Among the world’s speed racing competitions, some are extremely popular and widely known. For example, Red Bull Downhill is an extreme racing event where riders must face innovative and challenging courses.
The integration of advanced technology in this competition attracts the attention of riders and audiences across the world.
ISGA World Cup, arranged by the Internal Gravity Sports Association, is another well-known speed racing event in the world of longboarding.
I should also mention the Maryhill Festival of Speed, which is known for its breathtaking downhill roads and its welcoming environment.
- The World of Downhill Longboarding Racing
Riders from different countries get together in downhill longboarding racing events to showcase their excellence in high-speed riding. They gear up to hurtle down highly challenging courses and try to beat the existing speed records.
These high-speed runs are some of the most anticipated racing events in the world of longboarding racing.
With great speed comes great risks. It is the responsibility of the riders to keep themselves safe during high-speed runs. There are two main parts to staying safe at high speed. Let me elaborate on both of them.
I have already discussed the necessary safety gear for longboarding speed. In downhill longboarding competitions, it is a must to wear proper safety gear before you start the race. But safety gear is still important when you are practicing on your own.
Imagine you have fallen off the board during a speed run. The right helmet can save your head from severe injuries. Other safety equipment, like gloves, pads, etc., can save your organs from breaking or bruising. You need to consider two key factors while choosing the safety gear.
- Ensuring Proper Fit and Functionality
Safety gear like gloves, knee pads, elbow pads, etc., should be made of strong and durable material to withstand impact and abrasion. If they don’t fit properly, they might get displaced following the impact. In that case, they won’t provide the necessary protection.
So, the safety gear should fit your body parts snugly. The designated area should be well-covered. And no gear should swing around when you are going for a high-speed run.
- Helmet Safety Standards and Certification
Longboarding helmets need to meet specific safety standards to ensure they can protect you during an accident. You should look for ASTM F1492 certifications to ensure the helmet is suitable for speed longboarding.
Some helmets may also have the CPSC 1203 certification. If you are living outside the US, you need to look for EN 1078 or Snell certifications. Helmets with these certifications are tested to be sturdy and protective in different scenarios.
The second part of personal safety in speed longboarding is risk management. You should be aware of the incidents that can happen at high speeds and be ready to react to those situations almost instantly.
- Understanding the Dangers of High-Speed Riding
If you are riding on a public road full of motorcycles or cars, you have a greater risk of facing an accident. As the drivers of other vehicles might not guess your speed exactly, they can misjudge your position on the road. So, you should be practicing on controlled roads unless you are properly skilled.
Another notable risk is losing control of the board at high speed. It can commonly happen to downhill longboarders. As they ride at a higher speed on steep roads, a little wobble of the board or small debris can cause huge consequences.
The board can go off the road or into another lane, and riders can fall over. At speeds of about 30 or 40 mph, a fall can be painful. So, riders should always keep these risk factors in mind before riding at high speed.
- Developing a Safety Mindset
Speed runs are lucrative, but the core focus should be on your safety. It is not like you need to wear safety gear just because of the rules in a competition. Instead, you should wear them because they protect you from mishaps.
The same goes for every piece of equipment in the game. Checking your longboard for weak points, cleaning your bearings and wheels, maintaining the trucks, etc., are all parts of a safety mindset.
So, you should bear this mindset in you instead of someone imposing this on you.
New-generation riders are enjoying new technologies that aid them in improving their performance. I can mention some of them here.
Technological advancements are happening in both longboard equipment and safety gear. Check how technologies and materials are taking the game to the next level.
- For example, the latest longboards come with carbon fiber decks. These longboards are extremely lightweight yet sturdy, which helps you push your longboarding speed.
- The latest longboard wheels are made with a combination of materials, such as rubber, urethane, etc., to give them the right compression for speed. Bearings are also being improved every day. So, you will find more precision bearings today than our ancestors used.
Safety gear has also been improved in the last decade. Modern protective gear has highly durable and resistant material to give the maximum protection. At the same time, the equipment is comfortable so that riders don’t face any hindrance.
These advancements have led riders to a new era of speed longboarding, where they can use technology in their favor and spice up the game.
With the increased attention in the game, many promising riders are emerging from the horizon. The game’s glamor has gone up, thanks to the speed legends of longboarding.
Rising stars follow their paths and add innovations to set new records. For example, Amanda Powell has been a promising and rising star in the world of longboarding. She associated with the LGC to inspire female longboarders.
Sponsors from around the world are also getting attracted to longboarding competitions, which will increase facilities for upcoming speedsters. I see speed longboarding becoming a mainstream sports event worldwide.
A strong community will form around the world. The community will not only do speed runs but also work for the betterment of the sport and community.
Watching a longboarder passing by at the speed of regular motor vehicles is exciting. But when you do it yourself, you have to maintain a lot of factors, such as body positioning, weight distribution, the right setup of trucks and wheels, and more. Longboarding speed is about the ultimate balance of all the related factors.
As there is no protective barrier on longboards like you have on cars, speed racing can be extremely risky. Besides injuring yourself badly, you can also cause loss to your fellow riders or other people using the same road.
So, you should always be responsible for the safety of yourself and others. This includes using the right safety gear and being properly skilled.