How to Slide on a Longboard for Beginners: All You Need To Know

Longboard-Sliding

If you’ve ever seen anyone sliding on a longboard and wondered if you could learn to do the same, the answer is yes. Anyone can learn how to slide on a longboard. All it takes is mastering a few simple maneuvers and body positions. Sure, extra equipment can help make more slides possible and make everything safer, but none of it is absolutely necessary. To get sliding, all you really need is a functional longboard.

What You Need

Learning to slide on a longboard is considerably easier when you have the right equipment. The deck you choose is much less important than which wheels you ride. The best wheels for sliding all have stone-ground surfaces. Wheels with smooth surfaces will eventually break in, and then you can slide on them as well. But wheels with stone-ground surfaces are pre-broken in. They are intended to break traction easily, and they work. Smooth-surfaced wheels have too much grip for slides.

Stone ground wheels
Stone-ground wheels

Also, you have to take into consideration the durometer of the wheels – harder wheels break traction easier, which is very important aspect for a beginner. So go for wheels that are at least 82A durometer or higher. You can find more information about different wheel specs and their impact in this post: Best Longboard Wheels

Other important equipment includes a helmet and sliding gloves. To be as safe as possible, opt for a certified skateboarding helmet or one intended for longboarding. The protecting foam on those helmets deforms on strong impact, so you should get a new helmet after a more serious incident, but that deformation is important for preventing concussions.

Sliding gloves usually have plastic pucks affixed in their palms and fingers, allowing you to place your hands down in a slide. Even if you don’t use this type, leather gloves help to prevent bloodshed.

Check out our gear suggestions on this page: Recommended Gear

Getting Started

We all had to learn to crawl before we could walk, and we had to learn to walk before we could run. This progression of developing skills is necessary to prevent injury. If you watch YouTube videos of downhill or freeride longboarders, it can be tempting to want to immediately do what they are doing. But remember, those riders didn’t start out on those steep hills with those death-defying hairpin curves. They started where you should start – on flat ground.

So seek out a smooth, flat area of concrete or asphalt. Parking lots are perfect places to learn. Once you have simple slides down, you can move on to mellow hills, but keep it to level surfaces during the learning phase. Because you are liable to fall a few times – or many times – as you learn, avoid parking lots with areas of broken concrete, pebbles or broken glass. Debris like that can get imbedded in your palms when you brace yourself for a fall, and the wheelbite they induce will halt your slides and send you straight to the ground in a tumbling heap.

Experience First

Before beginning to learn slides, you should have all the basics of longboarding in your bag of tricks. There is no need to wait until you have achieved expert-level carving, but you should at least be able to turn without losing your balance. It’s probably best to put off sliding until you can push up to the fastest speed your bearings can achieve and turn at will. The faster you go, the more you will need to lean inside the arc of the turn. Otherwise you may get thrown to the outside of the turn ­– the dreaded “high side”.

Leaning inside the turn is as important for sliding as it is for carving. We develop a feel for how far to lean depending on our speed. The grip of our wheels limits how far we can lean without accidentally washing out, so it’s best to develop these skills slowly. Finding the breaking point of your wheels’ traction at high speed is a silly way to learn to ride. Once you have reasonable control of your board and your body, you’re ready for slides.

Why Slide?

Longboarders slide for one of three reasons, and we’ll discuss those shortly. It is important to note however that sliding is a necessary skill for most any longboarder. We don’t ride in a vacuum on a closed course and in controlled conditions. Longboarding takes place in the real world, and adding slides to your repertoire gives you a means of board control that is unavailable any other way. Sliding can be fun, but it can also save your life.

longboard sliding

Emergency Stopping

Let’s start with the most important reason to learn slides. The friction that urethane wheels produce as they slide sideways across pavement slows the longboard dramatically. Softer wheels produce more friction because they grip the imperfections in the road better. But regardless of the type of wheel, kicking out into a slide will shed much more speed than trying to drag a foot, and it’s much safer than simply jumping off the board.

There are a couple of slides that experienced riders rely on in emergency situations, and we will cover those in the next section. The Coleman slide – where the rider grabs the lead rail, crouches and leans back to place a gloved hand on the pavement – is the most common emergency slide, but any slide will do in a pinch.

Scrubbing Speed

When downhill riders attack a hill, they typically are trying to get from the top to the bottom in the shortest possible time. For these riders, making it around curves quickly is essential. They carry as much speed as they can as late into a curve as is feasible. However, downhill longboarders often find themselves carrying too much speed into curves. At these times, it becomes necessary to scrub speed.

Scrubbing involves kicking out into a toeside or heelside standup slide (more on these terms later) and allowing friction to slow everything down a tick. If you’ve ever driven on mountain roads, you’re likely familiar with the fear-inducing sensation of carrying too much speed into a curve. In a car or on a motorcycle, we can trail brake (braking through or into a curve), but longboarders have no such luxury. On a board, we must scrub our speed before the start of a curve.

The Fun in Freeride

Of course, sliding is not just something that longboarders do out of necessity. It can be hella fun in its own right. Learning to slide introduces an entirely new dimension to longboarding. Once you learn to do it and you build up some confidence, you will likely find yourself seeking out the perfect terrain and the best wheels for sliding. If you’re not careful, you might even start considering yourself a freeride longboarder.

Freeride is the art of sliding. These riders aren’t racing and they aren’t simply cruising on their boards. They view slides as tricks to be mastered, the same way that skateboarders look at board slides, tail slides and nose slides. The fun in freeride is all in the slides. They are an end unto themselves… so to speak.

How to Slide

So now you have all the gear and you know why you need to learn slides. There’s nothing left to do but to do it. Start out going slow to keep everything safe, but don’t be too timid. Expect to fall a few times before you get it right. Going too slow can make sliding almost impossible, though, so pick up the speed a bit at a time and take a few calculated risks.

While slide gloves may not be necessary, some stout leather gloves will keep the skin on your palms intact. Gloves and a helmet also give you the confidence to push the board out into a slide, which requires a pretty firm effort. Half-hearted kickouts rarely work. We’ll assume you are using slide gloves, and so we’ll start with hands-down sliding. Also, since most riders find a heelside turn more comfortable (because you are facing forward), we’re starting there. So, here is how to do a heelside hands-down slide – or a Coleman slide.

Proper Stance

You don’t have to do anything crazy in the setup for most slides, and our beginning slide is no different. There is no need to drastically adjust foot placement. Just stand on the board in the same manner as you normally do to carve. The rear foot should be on or just in front of the back truck bolts, and the front foot’s position should mirror that setup. This is a solid, evenly balanced position from which you can transition into almost any of the possible slide variations.

Another key that many people use to help initiate slides is to hang their feet off the opposite edge (rail) of the board. So, if you’re going to do a heelside slide, you’ll hang your heels over the heelside rail. The reverse is true for toeside slides. The reason why this works is that it helps you get lateral pressure on the wheels. Otherwise, you must rely on the grip from the soles of your shoes to kick out.

Getting in “the Box”

When we refer to the box for slides, we mean the tuck-knee crouch. You’ll want to get this position wired before beginning to work on slides. Practice getting into the box for a while before you really start to try sliding. It should start to feel comfortable after a couple sessions. It may take you a little longer to get used to it than you think it will, so take your time. It is critical that you can get into and out of the box quickly without steering offline.

To get into the box, bend both knees and bring your rear end down toward the pavement. Roll the rear foot forward until the instep is contacting the griptape. Your back knee should approach or cross your front leg at the shin, while your front knee points upward. If you will feel a stretch in your rear hip, you’re doing it correctly. Practice getting in the box and carving in both directions. Crouch and carve in one continuous motion, and learn to stand up out of the box as you exit a carve.
Check out this video, it should help you to understand the mechanics:

The Shoulders

The shoulders are the rudder that controls the direction of the slide. When we aren’t in a slide, we can lean into a turn and press down on the edge of the board to pivot the trucks. In a slide though, turning this way is impossible. Even though the shoulders always figure into carving and turning, you’ll find yourself relying on them much more to guide your direction in a slide than they normally do.

Turn your shoulders in the direction you want to rotate, both into and out of a slide. The shoulders lead the way, and the lower body inevitably follows. To slide heelside, for example, you must open up your shoulders first. You’ll be carving in that direction already, so opening the shoulders is just a matter of exaggerating the carving motion.

The Setup Carve

Before initiating a slide, most riders will carve first to the opposite side of the intended slide direction. Doing so opens up the road to allow more room for the carve that initiates the slide. It also lets you to wind up your body, much like a baseball pitcher before the pitch. To start the actual slide, reverse your direction with a carve leaning the other way.

So, if you want to slide heelside, first do a toeside carve as a setup move. As you come out of the setup carve, begin crouching into the bent-knee position. While you are still settling into the box, start a slight carve in the opposite direction. You’ll need to be all the way in the box before your carve reaches about 45 degrees.

Unweight the Wheels

When people struggle to kick out, the problem is usually that they are keeping too much weight on their wheels. Longboard wheels – even those meant for sliding – have considerable traction, and we must break that traction if we want to get into a slide. When a rider keeps too much weight over the board, it is that much harder to get going sideways. The trick is to shift your weight to get it off the wheels.

Remember that your knees should be bent as you slide. As you carve heelside, roll the rear heel forward. In doing this, you will unconsciously place more of your weight on your front foot, which naturally removes some of the weight (and therefore the friction) from the rear wheels. Then, all you have to do to slide is push on the heelside rail with your back foot. When you keep too much of your weight over the board, you are always fighting with yourself and battling friction.

Kicking Out (The Weight Shift)

With the weight shifted off the rear wheels and the turn initiated with a slight carve, it is much easier to kick out into a slide. You should already be in the box and leaning inside the arc of the carve. Both of those moves effectively unweight the wheels. To get sliding, simply push the back foot laterally on the rail toward the direction of travel. You don’t need to shove the board with a sharp kick. If your rear wheels are properly unweighted, a gentle nudge should be sufficient to kick out.

longboard sliding

For our heelside slide here, reach the lead hand behind you and set it comfortably on the ground. Placing your hand on the pavement stabilizes you and unweights all four wheels, but don’t lean back too far. Keep some of your weight over the board, leaning just enough to take some of your weight off the wheels. If you lean too far, you will find your knees straightening, which will cause a loss of control. That is bound to happen at first, and that’s okay. You’ll soon find the sweet spot where you are stable with a hand down, but still somewhat over the board.

Slide for Miles or Stop

Once you can get the rear wheels sliding sideways, it isn’t too difficult to push the front wheels laterally into a power slide. The only other option is to allow the rear wheels to swing all the way around 180 degrees, leaving you riding switch. Once the front wheels break traction, you can keep the slide going for longer. Faster speeds will obviously net you longer slides.

If you’re having trouble staying in slides, make sure you are keeping your weight shifted to the front truck. It’s never a good idea to place all your weight to the front, but a 75-percent front bias will usually do the trick. When the real wheels remain unweighted, most of the friction your body weight is causing stays to the front. Remember, two wheels have less friction than four wheels do. If you want to slide to a stop, shift your weight so it is even across all four wheels and directly over the deck, which drastically increases wheel friction.

Hooking Up

Slides can end one of several ways. You can either end up rolling in the opposite direction from when you started (switch) or traveling in the direction you originally were. After the slide, you’ll notice you are now rolling slower than you were before. Just how much slower will depend on several factors: wheel durometer, original speed, surface material, etc. The other way a slide can end is by coming to a stop. Slides are a reliable way to quickly put on the brakes.

The term for getting a longboard rolling again after a slide is hooking up. Remember how you sprung up from the crouched position and unweighted the board to initiate the slide? Well, hooking up simply means weighting the wheels again to force traction. While sliding, begin rotating in the direction you want to face and simultaneously move back to a crouched position. This weight shift will load the wheels, increasing friction and stopping the slide. If you time it properly, you should be able to carry momentum after the hook up.

Types of Slides

If you’ve gotten this far, you are well on your way to freeriding. The only real differences between the slide variations are the direction of travel, which foot was forward when the slide started, and whether or not you place your hands on the pavement.  

Coleman Slides

A Coleman slide involves crouching and placing the lead hand on the ground during a heelside slide. They are named after their inventor, legendary downhill rider Cliff Coleman. The thing about Coleman slides is that the rider unweights the board by leaning out over the pavement. They therefore require sliding gloves. Make sure you place your hand ahead of the front wheels and as far out from you as is comfortable. It will be behind you as you slide sideways.

As you lean and your hand begins sliding, kick out into a heelside slide. Keep your weight toward the front truck by rolling your foot forward, and keep your knees bent as you lean backward over the road. To hook back up, simply rotate in either direction and push up off the pavement with your hand. Getting your weight above the wheels should increase their friction and initiate a solid hookup.

Hands-Down Slides

A hands-down slide is a toeside slide where the rider leans forward, placing both hands flat on the ground. Like the Coleman slide, going hands down requires the use of sliding gloves. These are also the only two slides that really necessitate sliding gloves, so you can skip them if you like. Some people never learn hands-down slides, and they still enjoy longboarding just fine.

However, sliding gloves enable the shut-down slide, which is just a Coleman slide that ends in a complete stop. Then there is the pendulum slide, which is a 180 Coleman followed by a 180 in the reverse direction – or switch Coleman slide. These are really just two methods of achieving the same thing: a quick stop.

Standup Slides

Any slide where the rider never places a hand down on the pavement is called a standup slide. These slides require a bit more balance than hands-down slides do, but they can be done without slide gloves. Because they produce less friction, you should be able to slide standing up even longer than you can with a hand down. Standup slides are also a great way to quickly scrub speed if you need to slow down for a curve.

Heelside Slides

Heelside slides are also known as frontside, because the front of the body faces the direction of travel. Where beginners go wrong in heelside slides is by straightening the legs and leaning too far rearward. To keep that from happening and to stay in the slide longer, keep the knees bent. A good visual is to feel as though there is a chair right behind you as you slide. Just sit down in the chair, and you should be able to hold a heelside slide for as long as your momentum allows.

Toeside Slides

A toeside slide is the opposite of a heelside slide. You can’t squat into a toeside the way you can a heelside. You have to really lean out behind the board, and you will be much taller in this slide than in a heelside. The key to maintaining balance is to rotate your shoulders around so that you are facing the direction in which you’re sliding. Keep the front foot loaded and the rear foot light. Most people are up on the balls of the rear foot in a toeside slide, while the lead foot remains flat on the board.

180s and 360s

A 180 slide is one in which riders turn around to the opposite direction from which they were originally facing. A 360 is a slide that spins all the way around to the original position. To do a 360, kick out into a 180 and over-rotate a bit. The extra rotation lets you get the original lead foot behind the board so you can kick it out to finish the spin. Think of it as two consecutive 180s. When you do a simple 180, you leave yourself riding switch stance.

Switch

Slides in switch stance only feel weird because they are backward from our usual experience. With enough practice, they can become as natural and as simple as sliding from your normal stance. Learning switch slides opens up the full range of possibilities in standup slides. You won’t fully unlock your potential until you’ve mastered them.

Putting it All Together

To get the most out of longboarding, it’s essential to learn every slide variation. Investing in sliding gloves allows you to experience everything freeriding has to offer. Before long, you’ll be able to fully express yourself on your longboard, instantly translating thought into action. At first, every movement will require conscious effort, and many slide variations may seem overly complicated. They get simpler over time as you begin to make inputs without thinking about it.

Sliding isn’t about being technically perfect. It is the physical manifestation of all the things that got us into riding in the first place. Sketchy yet cool, slides let us place ourselves for a brief moment on the edge of being out of control. They are a little bit risky, but therein lies the fun.

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