Does Longboarding Help With Snowboarding?
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Is Skateboarding Good Cross-Training for Snowboarding?
If you are a snowboarder who doesn’t have the luxury of traveling to far off lands to find snow during the summer months, you may be looking for ways to cross train in the off-season. Cross training on a longboard is great because it keeps you in the groove all summer long, making you that much more in tune when you first hit the slopes each year.
There are a few balance boards and other snowboard-training products on the market that may help with balance and other aspects of snowboarding, but there is no single item that really covers the total snowboard experience. Most of those items consist of you standing on a board and balancing on a cylinder, or strapping on a mini board and jumping on a box, rail or trampoline. While all of these things can be fun and have some value in terms of snowboard training, they lack the critical sense of motion — actually riding down the mountain. Most people that I know love snowboarding for its sense of fluid movement, carving and terrain park activity. You don’t get that sensation when staying in one spot.
Skateboarding versus Snowboarding
For those of us who don’t live near a great surf break, skateboarding is the obvious choice to consider if you’re looking for some way to get the free-flowing feel of riding a snowboard when there is no snow to be found. Skateboarding is also one of the more accessible and cost-effective ways to stay in the riding groove during the warmer weather.
But does skateboarding really help with your snowboarding? Will it keep you in shape and in riding mode until the snow flies again? In my experience, the answer is a definite yes — especially if your skateboard is a longboard. To be clear, I’m not saying that longboarding is an exact substitute for snowboarding, but from the perspectives of balance, stance and carving sensation, it’s about as close as you can get on dry land.
Traditional skateboards are great fun and have their place. However, if you are a snowboarder who’s never stepped on a skateboard before, a smaller skateboard can be a little intimidating due to their small relative size and their harder wheels.
Without getting into a debate about the merits of each type of skateboard, if you are an adult or teen snowboarder who is looking for a way to get the feeling of riding and carving during the summer, then a longboard is the way to go.
Longboards are Closer in Size to a Snowboard
Longboard skateboards were invented in Hawaii in the 1950s and surfers loved them (and still do) because they are the dryland cousin of surfing. It’s for the very same reasons that I find longboarding to be an ideal complement to snowboarding.
There is no hard and fast definition of a longboard in terms of size and shape, but I consider longboards to be decks that are 39 inches or longer. Cruiser boards are generally shorter than longboards and have elements of both longboards and short boards. However, while I own a couple of cruiser boards, they generally aren’t long enough for you to get your full snowboard stance on the deck. So for this reason, I recommend a full-length longboard in the range of 40 inches or more to really get the feeling of standing on a board like your snowboard. There are many well respected longboard companies. A few of my personal favourites include Sector 9, Santa Cruz, Never Summer and Arbor (the latter three brands offer both longboards and snowboards). In the late ’90s I also had my own longboard company called MJB Design (I made and shipped custom longboards across North America). Companies like Hamboards out of Huntington Beach even make a board that is over six feet long. It’s deck mirrors that of a surfboard. Getting a couple of the great Hamboard products some day is definitely on my wish list.
In addition to the size of the board, the other benefit of longboards is that the wheels are larger and softer than what you will find typically on a shorter skateboard. Larger and softer wheels mean that you can go faster (great for carving) and that you can ride more easily over bumps and sidewalk cracks — with much less impact than the smaller and harder wheels used for tricks and in skate parks. There can also be differences with longboard trucks (the part that holds your wheels and bearings and allows the board to turn), as some are are designed to carve more sharply than traditional skateboard trucks.
Ride with the Same Stance as Your Snowboard
One of the main benefits of longboards is that their size allows you to use your snowboard stance while cruising the streets or bike paths. Most longboards also carve quite nicely, giving you a similar feeling to freeriding on the snow. Riding a longboard in the summer will keep you in tune with your balance, stance and similar body movements so that when you first strap-in in the winter, you’ll feel much more confident and ready to go. This is particularly helpful if you are a newer snowboarder who has only been riding for a few seasons.
For younger kids, they may not want to start immediately on a full-size longboard because the length may be intimidating (remember, you do have to push with your other foot so some sense of size ratio is important). My daughter snowboarded for four years (starting at age four) before she first took up skateboarding. She is now seven (going on eight) and she prefers to ride her Penny Nickel board (it has soft wheels like a longboard). She also has a 33-inch cruiser board (Santa Cruz Doodle Shark) that she also likes to ride and that board gives her a feeling much closer to her snowboard stance. So for younger kids, it may be worthwhile to start them out on cruiser type of board until they build their confidence. Have a look at a few boards in the shop and have them stand on a few to see what they think (with you holding them, of course).
The Learning Curve on a Longboard
While longboards are great for balance, stance and the feeling of carving and cruising, riding a board on wheels is a lot different than riding a snowboard.
If you have never been on a skateboard before, the learning curve can be a little steep. As with trying anything new, use caution when you first step on. Remember: wheels move. Stepping on to a skateboard is not like standing on a snowboard on flat snow. A skateboard of any kind on flat pavement is going to move when you step on it (especially the first time when you don’t know what to expect). So watch some online how-to videos about how to skateboard and practice on the grass the first time that you step on.
Be sure that you know how to stop. There are a ton of good videos on YouTube about how to stop on a longboard. Watch them and practice.
Safety equipment is recommended as well. By all means, wear a helmet and wrist guards at the very least. Knee pads and elbow pads are a good idea as well — at least when you are first learning. Falling on concrete is a loss less forgiving than snow, so don’t let vanity get in the way.
I am often asked “which is easier: longboarding or snowboarding.” If you can do one, you will most likely be able to pick up the other one, but each has its own unique points to learn. One thing I have noticed, however, is that longboarders who try snowboarding think snowboarding is harder. While snowboarders who try longboarding think longboarding is more challenging. Regardless, if you snowboard then you have some sense of balance and odds are that you will be just fine in picking up longboarding and enjoying the feeling of carving on a board in the summer sun.
Other Skateboard Options for Snowboarders
In addition to longboards, there are a couple of other boards on the market that you may come across.
The Freebord is a unique creation designed to give the sensation of the way a snowboard slides along the snow in a turn. A mountain board (such as those by MBS) has bigger wheels that are designed for off-road use and that will allow you to go down a hill. Both of those boards have bindings and as a result neither one is very good on a flat road surface when compared to a longboard (it’s not that easy to skate along with one foot when there are bindings in the way). So while they may be fun in their own right, you probably wouldn’t get as much use out of a specialty board like these as you would with a longboard. I would love to try both of these boards someday, however, as they look like a lot of fun for their respective uses.
Longboarding is a Great Way to Keep the Snowboard Feeling all Year Long
So to answer the original question, I believe that longboarding is a great way to cross train in the snowboarding off-season. It will help to keep you in tune with the feeling of riding on a deck in your snowboard stance all summer long and that will help to make the first time out on the hill in the winter that much more comfortable. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to cruise around on a longboard deck on a sunny summer day.
One final word about board quality. If you do plan to buy a longboard or skateboard, do yourself a favour and go to a board shop (or an online board shop) to pick up your complete deck. Skateboards and longboards sold at big box stores typically do not have the same quality as a brand name skateboard that you will find in a specialty skateboard shop. There’s a reason why big box boards are cheaper (particularly in the quality of the bearings, wheels and trucks from what I have seen). You really do get what you pay for when it comes to skateboards, so keep that in mind.
Most of all, just get out and enjoy the ride.
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Luxury Travel Advisor, Deluxe Disney Specialist