What is longboarding pumping and how does it work?
People often complain of tiring out when they ride their longboards for long stretches. We’re not talking about a trip to the local convenience store or riding around campus. The rides in question here are measured in miles, not hundreds of feet. And honestly, pushing and coasting will eventually wear just about anyone out. But there is one technique that can ease your burden on longer rides while simultaneously injecting a little more fun: pumping.
Table of Contents
What It Is
Pumping is simply shifting one’s bodyweight from side to
side to create momentum that propels a longboard forward. Skateboarders employ
a similar method to build momentum on halfpipes, but it is not quite the same
technique. In longboarding the weight shift during pumping is lateral.
Longboarders shift their weight from side to side during pumping. With a little
practice, the weight shift will carry your momentum through the turn as you
make the next weight shift.
How to Do It
The technique for pumping is a matter of rhythm. The movements of the body are not that difficult to learn. They just require a bit of repetition to learn to do them in order and synchronized. However, even with perfect technique, you will not be able to pump properly if your longboard is not set up for it. So before we get into the physical steps to pumping, let’s be sure that we have the right equipment and that everything is adjusted properly. Here’s a short video demonstrating how longboard pumping works:
In order for you to maintain your momentum from one carve to the next, your setup must be built in such a way as to minimize friction. An experienced longboarder who knows how to pump will still be unable to keep maintain speed if friction is grinding everything to a halt. Another requirement is having the right kind of deck. Pumping is possible with pretty much any type of longboard, but certain decks accel at it, while others get in the way.
If your deck isn’t suited for pumping, you will struggle to
keep up your momentum. Extra-long boards are often too heavy for pumping. They
also usually have outsized wheelbases to go with that extra length, which make
the tight turns needed for pumping on a longboard impossible. Those tight turns
are the key to pumping, and every decision you make on your deck will affect
how tightly you can turn.
Old school decks work well for pumping, and they have the
added benefit of allowing you to tic-tac. Pressing on the tail and getting into
a wheelie position lets you simply sway the deck over to one side. Tapping your
wheels down, you then simply pick up the front wheels and make the same move
over to the other side. The wheels make a sound each time they hit pavement,
which is where the tic-tac gets its name.
Even if you don’t select a board with a kicktail, you can
usually mimic the kickturns
of the tic-tac with any other deck. The most important thing is that you can
turn sharply. Without question, the longboard decks that allow the sharpest
turns are those with cutaways for the wheels. With these cutaways, riders can
tilt the longboard as far as possible without worrying about the tops of the
wheels rubbing on the deck.
When a wheel rubs like this, it is called wheelbite.
Sometimes wheelbite can stop the deck and throw you forward. This is a common
way to crash and it is something most longboarders take steps to avoid. But
even just slowing things down a little bit is enough to prevent you from
Shorter is Better
Choosing a long wheelbase is a good way to stabilize a
longboard, but that stability comes at a cost. Logic will dictate that a board
with a long wheelbase will make wider turns than one with a shorter wheelbase.
You can pump on almost any length board, but if you’re choosing between say a
41- and a 38-inch deck, the shorter of the two will likely be easier to pump.
Alternatively, seek out a board with a variable wheelbase.
Then, you can simply choose the bolt holes that give you the shortest wheelbase
possible. The shorter wheelbase will tighten the turning radius, making your
inputs more effective. Remember, tight turns equal fast pumping.
More Flex, Please
As you learn to carve into a pump, you will find that it is
beneficial to use your weight to flex the deck. Pressing into the center of the
deck causes it to store the energy you are putting into it. The energy comes
back as the board unflexes, propelling you in the opposite direction. So if
pumping is a priority, select a deck with some flex.
Some longboard materials are naturally more springy than
others. For example, bamboo generally has more flex than maple, which is why
manufacturers often select it for at least some of the layers in a deck. The
materials and the wheelbase work together to provide flex or to limit it.
Downhill decks are usually stiff, which provides stability for higher speeds
but limits their usefulness in long-distance pumping. There are always
compromises to be made.
The types of trucks you choose when building your complete
will require similar tradeoffs to the ones you make when picking a deck.
However, it is not very likely that you will eliminate your chances of pumping
on your longboard by choosing the wrong trucks. You may make your life more
difficult than it needs to be, though. Let’s see how.
Most longboard trucks these days have reverse kingpins
(facing outward). While a conventional-kingpin truck may dive more steeply into
turns, reverse kingpins work just fine for pumping. They are also much more
stable than conventional trucks, so they aren’t as susceptible to speed wobbles
at faster speeds. Selecting reverse-kingpin trucks lets you do more things than
just pumping on your longboard.
Picking the correct size hanger for your setup is not really
complicated. All you have to do is match the width of the board – more or less.
The width the manufacturer gives you will normally be the widest part of the
board. Choose trucks with a corresponding axle width (given in inches) and
hanger width (given in millimeters). If matching these widths forces you to use
abnormally wide trucks, consider purchasing a different deck.
Kingpin Nut Adjustment
If you are just learning to ride a longboard, you might have
been instructed to tighten your trucks for stability. Tighter trucks work great
for beginners because they make the deck into a stable platform on which to
balance. Obviously, they also make turning more difficult. Beginners who start
out with tight trucks and gradually loosen them have an easier time learning,
but you simply can’t pump with tight trucks.
Of course, the trucks do not need to be ridiculously tight
either. As you learn to pump, you will want a bit of resistance in both
directions. You will be leaning heavily into your carves once you get pumping
down, and resistance helps your board return the energy you will be putting
into it. It’s best to start out a little tight and gradually loosen your trucks
until you are happy with their adjustment. Erring on the side of looseness
makes pumping more difficult.
The bushings you choose will effect more than just your
ability to pump. Cone-shaped bushings make it easy to dive into turns, but they
become unstable at high speeds. Barrel-shaped bushings have the opposite
effect. A cone-and-barrel setup would seem to be the perfect solution, but it
may still be either too unstable or too restrictive. Everything depends on what
other things you expect your board to accomplish. A cruising setup may be just
fine for pumping, whereas a downhill setup won’t likely be.
Durometer is one characteristic that may actually enable you
to get a better pump from an existing board. Swapping your bushings out for a
softer set – while keeping the same shape combination – will always make it
easier to initiate turns. Just be careful that the bushings are otherwise
compatible. If the replacement set is a bit too large, the trucks may not turn
as they should.
The bearings you choose don’t need to be super-fast or crazy
expensive. If you are the type that needs to have bearings that spin for
minutes on end, go for it. Whichever bearings you settle on, just keep them
cleaned and lubed. Friction is the enemy of pumping, and fewer things will slow
you down worse than dirty bearings. As long as your wheels spin freely,
with no discernible stumbling signifying
debris in their races, you should be able to pump.
When pumping is the main priority, choose the wheels that
offer the most grip. Stone-ground surfaces provide grip right off the shelf,
but all wheels soon develop this surface roughness. One thing that doesn’t
change over time is durometer. Softer wheels offer more grip than do harder
ones. Their grippiness offers peace of mind that the wheel won’t slide out from
underneath you as you dig into your carves when pumping.
On the other hand, your wheels should not be too soft
either. Wheels that are soft to the point of being gummy have more friction
than harder wheels. They will slow you down to the point where it is impossible
to keep up your momentum. So avoid the softest wheel formulas, but otherwise,
Taller is Better
Taller wheels cover more ground per revolution than smaller
wheels. If everything else in a setup were the same, the rider with taller
wheels would always be the faster rider. What this means for pumping is that
the momentum you produce will carry you farther and you’ll maintain a higher
speed. The only conceivable downside is that taller wheels are more prone to
wheelbite, but there are many ways around that drawback. Nothing makes up for
How to Get Pumping
The standing position for pumping on a longboard is the same
as it is for coasting. Stand sideways with your feet about shoulder width
apart. Do not set your feet uncomfortably far apart. If they are set on top of
the truck bolts, they are too far from one another. You’ll want them close
enough to the center of the board to bend the deck in the middle. Heavier
skaters will be able to flex the board with their feet further apart.
Experiment to find your happy zone.
First Learn to Carve
We briefly touched on the importance of learning to carve
before attempting to pump, but it bears repeating. Pumping is an exaggerated
carving motion, timed carefully to maintain the energy we put into each turn.
Carving is simply leaning into a turn. As you tilt the board to turn it left or
right, keep your weight centered over the top of it. You may feel as though
you’ll fall over, but centrifugal force will keep you upright.
Heelside vs. Toeside
Depending on how you learned to ride, you may have an easier
time keeping your momentum turning one way or the other. Most people have a
preference for either toeside or heelside. Try not to develop an overreliance
on whichever is your strong side. To keep a pump going, you’ll have to learn to
turn either way equally smoothly.
While the goal of pumping is to keep up your speed without
having to push, you will still need to push a couple of times to get off the
starting block. It should be easy enough to keep up the pace once you get bit
of speed, but there is no other way to get going on flat ground.
Dive to Turn
The key to executing a perfect pump is to really dive into a
turn. You may see people wiggling as though they were on a slalom run to pump,
but that is so much wasted effort. All it takes to pump is lean hard and brace
yourself against the deck. So if you start with a heelside turn, you’ll want to
really sit down as you lean.
Just as with any carve, there is a chain reaction of body
parts that should fire off in order. Start at the top and work your way down.
Begin by turning your shoulders in the direction you want to turn. The
shoulders may follow a slight bobbing of the head, but they also overtake it.
Your shoulders also lead your hips, like in this slow-motion video of a
Notice how far that rider leans horizontally,
digging the toeside edge into the snow. You can do exactly the same thing on a
Flex the Deck
As you lean over into the first turn, make a concerted
effort to flex the deck in the middle. The flexing accomplishes two things.
First, it stores up energy that the board can return to you as it straightens
itself. Second, it causes the turning radius from the tilting hangers to
tighten slightly. The turning radius does not tighten much, but it doesn’t need
to for it to have a dramatic effect on how tight the resulting turn will be.
Unspring Your Weight
This is the tricky part, but it is the key to the whole
process. As you finish carving to one side, spring vertically off the board
while subtly pushing the board forward at the same time. You should spring
upward until you feel momentarily weightless. Don’t try to go completely
airborne. Some part of your foot should remain in contact with the board at all
times. When you time it perfectly, you will feel the board spring you up and
out of the initial turn.
Dive Back In
As gravity begins to pull you back down to your board, place
as much of your weight as possible on the opposite side of the board. So if you
began with a toeside turn, you will need to land back on the board already
digging into a heelside turn. Remember to compress your weight into the middle
of the deck as you peel off in the opposite direction. Flex it, loading your weight
into the bend for the carve into the opposite side.
Keep it Going
As you begin to time your dives and board flexes properly,
you should start to develop your own distinct rhythm for pumping. The
components you choose to ride will have some effect on your tempo, as will your
own weight and flexibility. Try not to get too fast and twitchy in your
movements, as this will soon wear you out. On the flipside, getting overly
deliberate can slow down your movements too much, causing you to lose momentum.
Like dancing or anything else that involves precise body movements, let your
own personality dictate your rhythm.
If you ever get tired of pushing, give pumping a try. It
really is the only way to avoid constant kick pushing when on flat land. And if
you are one of the many longboarders who struggles with their pumping technique
at first, keep after it. Almost everyone battles frustration as they learn to
pump, but the fun factor it brings to longboarding is always worth the effort.
Hi there! I'm a huge enthusiast of various board sports and been longboarding for 4
years now. I remember how hard it was to start and understand various aspects of this hobby so I'm hoping to give you a jump start by providing answers to the multiple questions you will have. Happy reading!