What is Longboarding?

Want to discover just what is longboarding? What are longboards for? Curious about what is freeride longboarding? Read on to discover the long and short of it, in this quick guide to longboarding.

6 August 2022

Longboarding, the sport of riding longboards, originated in the 1950s in Hawaii’s surfer community.

While many compare or even conflate it with skateboarding, the different size and shape of the longboard means more stability and a smoother ride, which proponents argue make it a better mode of transportation, especially for long distances. It is also used for racing, recreation and tricks.

So, what is longboarding? What are longboards made of and what are longboards for? And what is freeride longboarding? Let’s roll.

What Is Longboarding’s History?

Teens enjoying longboarding in the sun (Photo: wundervisuals via Getty Images)

When the surfers in 1950s Hawaii craved a way to surf on land as well as sea, they created the longboard. It was a sort of surf-skate hybrid, smaller than a surfboard, bigger than a skateboard, with wheels screwed to the deck (board).

Over the decades, longboarding gained a small but dedicated fanbase. It even got a slight profile boost with the 1970s invention of polyurethane wheels. But it was only after the innovation of reversing “kingpin” connectors also found in skateboards that longboards began being made enmasse. More on these connectors in a minute in the “what are longboards made of” section.

Today, longboarding has yet to gain the mass audience or household status of skateboards or skates, but thanks to the internet, it continues to roll on.

What is Longboarding Versus Skateboarding?

Woman with a longboard walking on pier during a sunny day (Photo: Westend61 via Getty Images)

What is longboarding and how does it differ from skateboarding? Is a longboard just a big skateboard? Skate and longboarding do share many similarities. In the simplest terms, they are both boards on four wheels and forms of sport and recreation that originated from surfing. However, there are some key distinctions between the two.

First there is size. Everything about the longboard is bigger, wider and lower than the skateboard. The upper limit of skateboard size is around 34 inches long and 10 inches wide, while standard longboard length only starts at 35 inches. So, skateboards tend to be shorter and narrower. They also have smaller, harder wheels. Not only are longboards bigger, but they are also built lower to the ground with larger, softer wheels. This means that skateboards are faster, more nimble and manoeuvrable. Longboards are more stable and durable.

Another vital difference is in the axles – or “trucks” – that connect the wheels to the board. Both use t-shaped “kingpin” trucks. But again, longboard trucks are generally wider and heavier than those of skateboards. The kingpin on longboards and skateboards, the pivoting component, is also mounted in opposite directions. The longboard way is designed for responsiveness, while the skateboard method prioritises protecting the kingpin from damage during tricks.

So, how does longboard design translate to in practice? Put another way, what are longboards for?

What are Longboards For?

Longboarding on country road (Photo: Vladimir Vladimirov via Getty Images)

Skateboards are all about tricks and stunts. So, what are longboards for? Overall, longboards are seen as more relaxed, designed for cruising and transportation. They are also arguably easier for beginners to master.


Possibly the prime use for longboards is getting around, be that a standard commute or longer distance. Part of this is cruising, which is basically riding a longboard at a comfortable speed. It’s not about going fast or doing tricks, it’s about enjoying the experience of cruising along.

Downhill Racing

There is another side to the longboard’s stability, namely that it performs better than a skateboard at higher speed, making it ideal for downhill racing. How fast can a longboard go? Apparently, it can reach up to 80 miles per hour.


Dancing? What is longboarding dancing? As with boardwalking in surfing, longboard dancing is about performing impressive walks and spins atop a longboard.

Freestyle Longboarding

Longboarding may not be known for stunts, but the freestyle form is a bit of an exception. Flips and spins are just some of the tricks performed under this moniker, which is done on flat terrain as well as at skate parks.

What is Freeride Longboarding?

A Longboard freerider in action (Photo: Timbicus via Getty Images)

What is freeride longboarding? Like racing on a longboard, freeriding is a downhill pursuit, but rather than aiming for speed, the rider uses technical moves such as slides and spins. Sliding is a controlled way to turn a longboard. The rider drifts sideways across the slope, pushing their body weight onto one rail so the wheels lose traction and stop spinning. The friction of the drifting wheels makes the rider lose speed quickly. Sliding is often used to slow down or stop altogether, and it can also be used to change directions. When it comes to “what is freeride longboarding”, sliding is used as a stylistic manoeuvre.

What are Longboards Made Of?

A typical wooden longboard (Photo: Westend61 via Getty Images)

In terms of “what are longboards made of”, this is most often done using layers of different materials. Traditionally, this has been wood veneer. This is where multiple, thin sheets or plies of wood are stacked and glued before being pressed together. Maple and birch have always been popular choices and bamboo is increasingly so thanks to its flexibility, sustainability and strength.

A variation on this layering method is to use a composite structure. Instead of all the layers being wood, other materials are used. The most popular amongst these are carbon fibre and fibreglass. One favoured combination is bamboo and carbon fibre, which produces a strong yet flexible board.

And now, time to slide to a stylish stop on this whistle stop tour of what is longboarding. We’ve answered “what are longboards made of” and “what are longboards for”, learning about numerous uses including “what is freeride longboarding”. It’s been quite a ride.


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