Professional longboarding refers to riding longboards at a certain skill level, mostly in competitive settings. It has various disciplines, such as freestyle, downhill racing, dancing, etc. Professional longboarders are financially compensated for their skills and achievements.
The transition of longboarding from a counterculture activity to a mainstream sports event signifies its importance in youth culture and style. Besides global acceptance, professional longboarding also has a huge economic impact. By building an inclusive community, the sport is offering people to showcase creativity, innovation, and athleticism.
I will take you through the key transition points in the history of this sport. Besides, I will discuss various disciplines of professional longboarding. I will also introduce you to notable professional longboarders and longboarding competitions worldwide.
Embark on this journey and explore the world of professional longboarding.
Professional longboarding has a rich and fascinating history. Let’s go back in time and find how longboarding evolved to where it is now. I will break the history into key milestones to focus on transition points.
There are several narratives about the origin of longboarding. The most reliable narrative is longboarding, originated by surfers who wanted to get the feeling of riding the wave on the road. They used longer boards than skateboards, from where the name longboarding came.
The game originated in the 1950s when Preston Nichols introduced longboards. Even though those longboards weren’t very good in terms of design or safety, they were better than makeshift boards early skaters used. At that time, longboards used metal wheels.
Within a decade of its introduction, the sport became quite popular. However, in the mid-1960s, it saw a huge drop in popularity due to the design and safety issues of the longboards.
Longboarding started to resurface in the early 1970s when the urethane wheels were invented. These wheels allowed longboarders to achieve greater downhill speeds than they could with metal wheels. Over time, the sport grew into a free-spirit movement.
By the 1980s, new deck shapes and wheel designs appeared on the horizon. Due to the newer upgrades, longboarding became attractive to many riders. Various riding styles were introduced during that period.
For example, downhill racing started to become popular, which was a cornerstone of professional longboarding. Besides freestyle riding and dancing, competitive longboarding started to appear in the scene.
Legendary riders like Tony Hawk and others introduced various tricks and riding styles that fascinated the longboarding community. In the 1990s, a major leap forward was the introduction of reverse kingpin trucks.
During the late 1990s, companies began to recognize the potential of professional longboarding. This was when the competitive environment in longboarding started to grow.
Many professional longboarding competitions came to light during this period. In the early 2000s, more professional longboarding events started to spread around the world.
If I may, I want to mention events like the Maryhill Festival of Speed, the World Longboarding Championship, etc., that elevated the status of longboarding.
Over time, professional longboarding has seen increased opportunities. This includes more media coverage and more financial sponsorship. The audience of the sport has also grown in the last few decades.
Besides, developments of board shapes, equipment, riding techniques, etc., are also ongoing. Professional longboarding has seasoned over the years and is as mature as any other mainstream sport now. And it is only progressing toward a more significant environment of action sports.
In the multifaceted world of professional longboarding, you will see a wide variety of game characteristics. Among them, I must mention the three prominent disciplines.
Here is a detailed overview of those disciplines.
It is probably the most competitive discipline in professional longboarding. Riders cruise through steep descents at high speeds and face challenging terrains throughout the race.
The challenges include sharp turns, change of elevation, etc., where riders need to maintain control over the board and keep themselves stable. At the same time, they need to achieve as high speed as possible.
Here is a video of downhill longboarding:
Downhill racing is more prominent than other disciplines because of its highly adventurous nature. While longboarding on flat surfaces is comparatively safer, downhill racing involves a lot of risks. So, the reward in such riding is also bigger than in other disciplines.
Fast riders gain worldwide fame through their speed runs. Downhill racing has various formats, such as time trials and head-to-head races.
- Time Trial: The competition here is against time. Riders go down the course and try to achieve their highest speed. The rider who can complete the circuit in the shortest possible time is considered the winner. Time trial is a prestigious branch of downhill racing.
- Head-to-Head Race: In this format, riders compete with each other. Two or more riders ride down the course and try to get to the finish line at first. Whoever reaches the finish line first is declared the winner. This kind of downhill racing is more popular as it includes the excitement of direct competition.
As the name suggests, freestyle longboarding lets riders express their creativity and style. Unlike downhill racing, speed isn’t a big concern here. Instead, riders focus on performing various tricks and stunts.
Riders can showcase their skills in different riding techniques and boast of their agility in different maneuvers. Freestyle riding competitions are commonly held on flat terrains where riders can perform stunts.
It takes a lot of time and effort to perfect different riding styles and tricks. Riders have to learn body positioning, weight distribution, balance, and control to compete in freestyle events.
These competitions often judge riders based on the technical correctness of their styles, fluidity in riding, and personal innovation. I can name a few common tricks here with a video of freestyle longboarding:
This is a classic trick where riders flip their longboards with their feet. They apply pressure to the end of the deck in a certain way to flip the board on the move.
While they are already in motion, the longboard spins below their feet, and riders get back on the board after performing the cool trick.
Professional longboarding is incomplete without slides. While moving at a high speed, riders break the traction between the wheel and the road surface.
They slide the board sideways by shifting their weight and controlling their body positions. Slides are one of the coolest longboarding tricks that are used to navigate turns and control board speed.
These are advanced tricks where riders balance their bodies on their hands while riding. It needs extreme control of body positioning, weight distribution, etc.
Riders perform this trick while the longboard is moving and often incorporate other tricks to bring fluidity to their riding style.
If you ask me what is the most fluid discipline of professional longboarding, I will definitely choose dancing. It doesn’t only need excellent control over the longboard but also requires intricate footwork, next-level moves, and many more.
Speed or trick gets less focus here. Instead, professional riders are judged on their ability to make each move as artistic as possible. Bringing rhythm to the moves is the most challenging part of this discipline. Check this video out:
Dancing in professional longboarding requires a coordinated and rhythmic movement of the feet. It demands two main things. One is positioning the feet correctly to have control over the board. The other is to combine various dance styles with the foot movement.
Pulling off these two things at the same time is a highly complex skill. Only years of skill can take a rider to that level where they can amaze the audience with their graceful style.
Besides foot movement, riders also need to be creative in body positioning so that they resemble dance poses effortlessly. It makes the ride more visually appealing to the audience and the judges. Riders can incorporate various dance moves into their riding style.
Often, pro riders in this discipline experiment with new styles and moves to take their game to the next level. Creativity, uniqueness, flow, and style are some of the most important factors in this discipline of professional longboarding.
In the history of professional longboarding, many legends have left a lasting impact. By following their path to success, promising newcomers are pushing their limits, which indicates the rise of this sport in the future. I want to introduce some of those legendary riders and rising stars in this section.
Here is a quick introduction to some of the iconic longboarders from different disciplines.
Pete is known for achieving the fastest speed on a longboard. He set the downhill speed record of 91.17 mph in 2017. In the world of gravity sports, Pete has been a well-known figure for decades.
Besides downhill racing world cups, Pete has also competed in BDSL or British Downhill Skateboard League. He has made huge contributions to the longboarding community with his coaching efforts.
By nurturing youngsters, Pete helps the community to improve the overall global recognition of the game.
Tim was born in California and began his longboarding career at the age of 15. He adopted the gravity racing discipline and quickly drew the attention of the community with his amazing performances. Maryhill World Cup 2011 was a notable event for Tim Del.
He achieved 1st and 2nd place in many events, such as Top Speed Challenge Unlimited, Dump Rd Outlaw Badlands, Maryhill Ratz Fall Freeride, etc. Tim is currently working as the team coach of the USA Downhill Skateboarding Association to train young longboarders.
Some promising longboarders from the new generation have also caught the attention with their impressive style and dedication to the game.
- Ishod Wair: He is based in Philadelphia and is known for his unique riding style. His trick selection is praised by many pro longboarders, which led him to be an influential player in the community.
- Rayssa Leal: She is a young member of the community who started longboarding at the age of 7. She impressed the worldwide community with her heel flips.
- Sophia Turner: Sophia is a flow rider who displays exquisite rhythm and stylish moves. She represents the future of artistic longboarding with her impressive flowing style.
Professional competitions are ideal platforms for longboarders to showcase their excellence. Besides gaining recognition, they can engage with fans in these events. The whole community gets together in such events and celebrates the outstanding performances by top riders.
These competitions can be divided into two categories. One is the world championships, and the other is the national or local competitions.
Professional longboarders from around the world participate in the pinnacle of competitive events. Often, the most elite riders get the chance to join these events. These international events are considered the most prestigious in the world of longboarding. Here is a quick overview of the notable global events.
It is one of the most competitive events in professional longboarding. The International Downhill Federation, or IDF, arranges the competition for downhill racers. The event is held in various countries.
It has challenging courses, many of them are on winding mountain roads. Riders take part in multiple runs, and their scores from different runs determine who will be the world champion.
This event allows riders from various disciplines to participate. Downhill racers, freestyle riders, and dancers participate in this event to showcase their excellence. The diversity of this competition attracts a global audience as well as sponsors.
This competition is one of the most iconic events in downhill racing. Riders worldwide participate in the event to race on a historic hill in Washington. Even though the event focuses on downhill racing, riders combine different techniques to achieve higher scores.
Besides international championships, some regional and national events have also drawn the attention of the global audience.
- L’Ultime Descente: This is a downhill racing event held in Canada. Riders from Canada and nearby regions participate in the event to perform high-speed runs. Pete Connolly achieved his highest speed record at this event.
- Knox Mountain Downhill: This event is also hosted in Canada, where professional longboarders participate in downhill racing. These events nurture young talents and prepare them for larger competitions like world championships.
Whether you watch a professional longboarder at a global event or through the camera lens, it all seems glamorous. But professional longboarders need to incorporate a lot of things into their daily lives.
I will give you a detailed insight into the professional longboarding lifestyle, including the challenges and rewards.
To be a consistent performer, professional longboarders need to undergo intensive training and practice routines. They spend a good portion of their day honing their skills, polishing their techniques, and pushing their boundaries. It helps them achieve the excellence we see in competitions.
Physical fitness is the key to the best performances in competitions. Professional riders have to do strength training to boost their stamina. They also need to work on balance and agility. These trainings make them prepared for global-scale competitions.
Be it a national or global event, professional longboarders need to travel a lot. The schedule becomes too tight when riders have back-to-back competitions, that too in different time zones.
Besides dealing with the travel lag, riders need to warm up before their competitions. This is one of the most demanding issues in their lifestyle.
Professional riders often have contractual arrangements with various sponsors. In between their practice and competitions, they must attend promotional events and represent their sponsors. Besides participating in marketing campaigns, players may also need to create content for their sponsors.
Top riders in longboarding may get huge financial rewards. But it is crucial for all riders to manage their finances wisely. Some riders can have dedicated employees to manage finances, but they still need to discuss the needs and budgets. Mid-level professionals may need to handle the finances on their own.
In my opinion, this is the most challenging part. As professional longboarders have multifaceted commitments, it is difficult to find time for the family. Still, they need to spend quality time with their family and look after their needs.
Achieving individual success isn’t the last thing in any sport. Likewise, longboarders need to give back to the community, which can take up a notable portion of their schedules. Top riders may even travel to different countries to join community events.
Downhill racing is riskier than other disciplines. But riders can even get injured in other disciplines, too. Following the injury, riders need to spend the recovery period, which can be challenging. Maintaining physical and mental sanity during this period is tough.
Top longboarders may have their own businesses. They can also be attached to various organizations or longboarding teams. So, they need to spend a large amount of time handling their businesses or jobs.
Besides polishing skills regularly, professional longboarders need to make special preparations for large events. These situations can take a huge toll on their bodies and minds. So, both physical conditioning and mental preparation are crucial for professional riders.
Longboarding is a highly demanding physical activity where riders need to have strong core muscles with excellent cardiovascular fitness. Endurance training is also a big part of physical conditioning.
Being physically fit is one of the prerequisites of professional events. Let me give you a quick overview of the training routines and exercises.
- Strength Training: Building strong muscles is important for longboarding. So, professional riders will spend time in strength exercises like squats, lunges, etc. These workouts improve their core strength.
- Cardiovascular Training: Professional riders often need to participate in long downhill races or multiple runs. So, they need to do aerobic exercises like running or cycling. Such exercises improve their endurance so that they can perform in competitions for a long time.
- Balance and Flexibility Training: Besides building strong muscles, riders also need to be flexible for better control of the overall ride. So, you need to do balance and flexibility training like stretching, body positioning, yoga, etc.
- Hill Climbing and Descending: Riding on varying terrains can be difficult if riders don’t have prior experience. So, you need to practice on sloped roads that resemble the courses in global competitions. It allows them to perfect their skills in difficult situations.
Even if a rider is physically sound, fear and pressure can be challenging to overcome. Self-doubt is another big issue for professional longboarders. Riders need to practice the following techniques for stress management and staying focused.
- Visualization: Besides physical practice, riders can visualize the techniques in their minds. The mental rehearsal of the skills and techniques can help them remain calm during the events.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Meditation can be a great way to reduce stress. Before competitive events, riders can meditate to improve their focus and make their minds more resilient.
- Setting Goals: The main trick here is setting achievable and incremental goals that the rider can accomplish. Once they accomplish smaller goals, it will increase their confidence for bigger goals.
- Positive Reinforcement: Self-talk can enhance the mental strength of professional riders. They need to continuously feed positive reinforcement which keeps anxiety and stress away.
- Stress Management: Besides mental training, riders have to incorporate different breathing or muscle relaxation techniques. These practices can be effective in managing stress.
- Mental Adaptability: Professional longboarders should be mentally prepared to deal with unexpected situations. For example, a change of weather or courses can adversely impact their performances. So, they should have the adaptability to maintain composure.
Pursuing the passion for longboarding can be pretty expensive. Sponsorships are a big hope for professional longboarders because they get the necessary financial and equipment support. I will mention some of the successful partnerships between longboarders and brands.
Besides financial support, professional longboarders enjoy a lot of other benefits from sponsorships and endorsements. Here are a few of them.
- Financial Support: With financial support for training, competitions, equipment, etc., riders can focus on their goals easily. The financial backing from sponsors is a game-changer.
- Equipment and Gear: Professional riders get high-quality equipment and gear from their sponsors. The equipment and gear provided by sponsors are often state-of-the-art, so riders have the best technology possible. It improves their performance.
- Increased Visibility: Besides getting media coverage in competitive events, professional riders receive more exposure due to sponsorships. Sponsors promote athletes through their social media channels and marketing campaigns. So, athletes may have better career growth due to the increased visibility.
- Additional Income Streams: In some cases, athletes may become the brand ambassador of their sponsors. Through exclusive partnerships, they can generate an additional source of income.
Here are a few examples of sponsorships that impacted the sport and the community.
- Sector 9 and Amanda Powell: Amanda is a well-known longboard dancer. She has sponsorship from Sector 9, which is a renowned brand in the longboarding equipment industry. The sponsorship has elevated the discipline with the growth of Amanda.
- Red Bull and James Kelly: Red Bull is a big brand among the sponsors of the industry. It partnered with James Kelly, which resulted in more exposure for the brand and James. The videos and social media content garnered a huge fan following.
- Landyachtz and Emile Laurent: Landyachtz is a popular brand for longboards. Its partnership with Emile Laurent, a prominent downhill racer, resulted in innovative longboard designs. Emile worked closely with the brand to develop special equipment for downhill racers.
Besides global sponsorships, there are many community-based sponsorships where small businesses support local riders. These sponsorships are crucial for the development of the sport at the grassroots level.
In professional longboarding, glamours and challenges come hand in hand. Downhill racers need to face more risks than in other disciplines. I will briefly discuss the risks and challenges associated with the sport. Besides, I will give you detailed insights into risk management strategies.
The following risks can hinder the smooth growth of a professional longboarder.
- High-Speed Downhill Racing: Despite being one of the most prestigious disciplines in the sport, downhill racing can be extremely dangerous. As riders cruise through winding mountain roads at high speeds, they can face serious accidents.
- Injuries: Besides downhill racers, freestyle and dancing longboarders can also face injuries. For example, abrasions and fractures are common injuries for many longboarders.
- Traffic and Pedestrians: Competitive events are held in closed circuits. But when longboarders practice on open roads, pedestrians or traffic can cause accidents.
- Equipment Failure: A faulty equipment can pose a great risk to professional riders. For example, a locked wheel or broken truck can cause serious injuries.
- Environment and Terrain Conditions: The condition of the road surface where riders practice can sometimes be unpredictable. Bad weather can worsen the situation, which will be risky for riders.
As a professional longboarder, you need to take the following safety measures to minimize the risks mentioned above.
- Wearing Safety Gear: Before hitting the road, every professional longboarder should wear appropriate protective equipment. They should use certified helmets, gloves, knee pads, elbow pads, etc., to keep from unwanted abrasions and fractures. Special slide gloves should also be used for downhill racing.
- Developing Skills: If a rider isn’t properly skilled, it increases the chance of accidents. So, professional riders should practice a lot in controlled environments to perfect their skills.
- Assessing the Risks: Professional riders should always assess their courses before riding. For example, finding out potential hazards, terrain conditions, turns, etc., can help the rider during the ride.
- Riding in Groups: When not in competitions, group riding can be a great way to be familiar with a new terrain. Following experienced riders in an unknown course gives riders the necessary confidence.
- Maintaining Equipment: Keeping the longboarding equipment clean and well-maintained is crucial. It lets riders know about any possible failure and become proactive in fixing the equipment. So, the risk of accidents can be reduced through regular maintenance.
- Having Contingency Plans: In the case of any mishaps, riders should have the necessary knowledge of first aid to help themselves and fellow riders. They should also maintain contact with the local authority to call for immediate help.
For a sport of 70+ years, the growth may seem a lot. But there is a lot more to come in the foreseeable future. Technological advancements are going to elevate the sport to a whole new level. Let me tell you what I think about the future of this sport.
Longboarding equipment is getting updated every day. With lighter and stronger materials, the equipment is now designed to be more durable. It increases the speed and maneuverability. And the mass production of the equipment will be helpful in reducing the price.
Rider safety has always been a big concern in the game. In the future, newer safety gear may arrive at the scene, where riders can use their safety gear as wearables. They will receive real-time feedback on their performance parameters from these devices.
With the rise of social media, professional riders can now easily share their skills and lifestyles with their fans. The increased interaction will give players more exposure.
As longboarding is getting more global acceptance, more disciplines can emerge. A crossover between skateboarding and longboarding may also be possible as these sports share similarities.
With the increase in structured competitions, more professional riders will be interested in global and regional events.
Longboarding has the potential to be included in multi-sport events. For example, skateboarding is included in the Olympics. I wish to see longboarding in such events, which will further elevate the sport’s status.
Despite the humble beginning of longboarding in the 1950s, it has grown into a vibrant global sport. Technology has played a big role in the popularization of the game. With diverse disciplines, innovative tricks, advanced equipment, and a supportive community, professional longboarding is now a renowned sport.
I should express my gratitude to the pioneering riders who pushed their limits to snatch the exposure the game deserves. They also made a huge contribution to the sports community that is being followed by rising stars.
Professional longboarders lead a challenging lifestyle where they need to juggle a lot of professional and personal balls. With the increased support from global sponsors, longboarding has hopes to reach new horizons. Delve into the world of longboarding and enjoy the charm it has to offer for both participants and enthusiasts.