A Brief History of Longboarding

Long before Tony Hawk or Christian Hosoi began carving up half pipes, there were longboards. Longboarding originated in Hawaii in the 1950s, where surfers customized their skateboards, giving them longer decks and larger wheels to mimic the rolling motion of waves and balance required by surfing. This enabled surfers to take to the streets on days when the ocean was too choppy or the surf too low and is the reason longboarding is also referred to as “sidewalk surfing.”

Longboarding Through the Years

longboards on wall

Image source: Morro Bay Skateboard Museum

Longboards were first made commercially available in 1958 and made their way to the mainland, where they gained popularity in California in the 1970s. In 1972, Frank Nasworthy introduced polyurethane wheels which provided better grip and made it possible for longboarders and skateboarders alike to skate faster and with greater control. Around this time, the iconic Zephyr Competition Team, also known as the Z-Boys, was formed and revolutionized the art of skateboarding with their signature surf style.

If you’d like to learn more about the Zephyr team, Dogtown and skateboarding in the 1970s, check out this documentary:


Longboarding and skateboarding both went underground in the early 1980s as high insurance costs and the threat of lawsuits drove skate parks out of business. Skateboarding, however, was able to maintain some of its mainstream relevance and surpass longboarding in popularity due to the efforts of skateboarders to make skateboarding its own sport. These skateboarders favored shorter, smaller decks over longboards because they made it easier to accommodate the new tricks and skate styles of the day.

The Longboard’s Resurgence 

Image source: The Board Guide

The growing popularity of skateboarding, which led to professional skateboarders becoming household names, carried on well into the 1990s. Around this time, snowboarding also began to gain traction as an alternative to skiing. This momentum led to something of a renaissance for longboarding. Compared to skateboarding, which was typically done competitively, longboarding became a fun and effective mode of transportation across city streets and sidewalks. Snowboarders also began to embrace longboarding as a way to refine their balance and coordination skills during the spring and summer seasons.

The 1990s also brought the invention of the reverse kingpin truck, which places the kingpin on the opposite side of the axle, pointing it in a different direction. Due to their shape and size, reverse kingpins make longboards easier to carve and turn. This increased control and stability led to the development of different longboarding styles, such as slalom, freeriding, downhill racing and dancing.

Longboarding Styles

Cruising and carving


Image source: Magneto Boards

Cruising and carving are two of the more common forms of longboarding because they’re the most laid back and the easiest to master. In fact, if you’ve ever seen someone longboarding across your school’s campus or through a downtown area, they were likely doing a combination of cruising and carving. Medium-length decks—ideally decks between 32” and 42”—with large, softer wheels and trucks approximately the same width as the deck are ideal for cruising and carving because they provide greater control and shock absorption.

Slalom longboarding

slalom longboarding

Slalom is a form of longboarding in which the rider pumps to maintain speed and uses carving to weave in and out of obstacles along a course. Cones are traditionally used to create a course in competitive slaloming, but casual longboard riders often engage in “civilian slalom” on city sidewalks. Although there isn’t any one style of slalom longboard, decks are usually between 36” to 40” with soft wheels for better tread and control while carving.

Watch some of the world’s best slalom riders compete in this video:


Longboard dancing

longboard dancing

Image source: Guanabara Boards

Longboard dancing, also known as freestyle, originated in the early 2000s when skateboarders Adam Colton and Adam Stokowski incorporated fluid footwork and tricks into their riding style and is inspired by boardwalking in surfing. Dancing is typically done on flat terrain and at slower speeds than other longboarding disciplines in order to give the rider greater control over the board and their movements. With longboard dancing, the bigger the deck, the better, as it gives the rider more room for their footwork. Riders interested in dancing should also look for boards with greater flex and trucks and wheels suited for carving.

Want to see what longboard dancing looks like? Check out this video:


Downhill longboarding

downhill longboarding

Image source: Adrenaline Beast

Downhill longboarding, also referred to as speedboarding, is the most extreme form of longboarding and should only be attempted by highly skilled riders. As its name implies, downhill longboarding involves riding down hills as fast as possible, often on rough slope and around tight turns, without crashing. Downhill racing has become especially popular in recent years amongst the most daring of longboarders.

Due to the dangerous nature of the sport, those who participate in downhill longboarding are advised to wear protective gear, including a full-face helmet, gloves, knee pads and shin guards. Drop-through, drop-platform and top-mounts are common in downhill, and decks are typically stiff with a small to medium wheelbase.

To see downhill in action, check out this video:


Freeride longboarding

downhill road longboarding

Image source: Longboardism

Freeride longboarding is a more relaxed form of downhill longboarding that blends in elements of other longboarding disciplines, as well as slides and tricks. Freeride longboarding decks are often similar in construction to downhill longboards and are usually 38” to 42” for added stability.

Are you a longboarding beginner looking to get started or a seasoned pro interesting in trying out a new discipline? Here at Snowboard Jones, we have high quality longboards for riders at all levels from the most trusted brands in the industry. Send us an email or give us a visit and start street surfing today!

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