Longboarding 101: Fundamentals – The Switch Push
by Jeffrey Vyain
Let this be the start of an ongoing process for learning some basics–well, let’s call them advanced basics–in longboarding. I’m not going to teach you how to push. You’re going to figure that out. I’m not going to teach you how to ollie. There are a million videos out there that will do it so much better than me. But I might give you some tips for how to push faster or maybe set up your board to ergonomically give you more endurance. You see, that sort of thing is my wheelhouse. It is the root from which I grew as a skateboarder, from moving to NYC in 2010 and managing a skate shop and helping local commuters to 2012 when I crossed the finish line at the Adrenalina Marathon hand in hand with Paul Kent as we set the world record for the skateboard marathon (which somehow still stands). And it is what holds me together as I continue to build my longboard skills in Colorado while growing older and searching for challenges that don’t include me getting hurt very often.
I hope some of our riders will come in with some more advanced tips, but I will gladly give what I have to offer. I hope many will find useful. I want to help with the little things that might get overlooked, but might actually be quite integral. For today, we are going to work some fundamentals for any rider who wants to get further than across the skatepark or up to the ledge. Pushing with your opposite leg, or switch, is a must. Longboarding can be less fun when it hurts, so riding switch is a great way to have a better time on your board.
Why Pushing Switch is Fun and Super Efficient and How You Can Beat Bikes
At a slow enough pace, you can push a skateboard just about forever. Bike riders often get pretty ego defensive when I’m chasing them down going up a hill. You can feel their pride getting crushed slowly when they first get surprised and pick up the pace, then eventually they slow but try to hang on as lactic acid fills their legs, then they push but try to keep it together as I pass by them with a nod, and then they fall off the back. I usually make an effort to make it look extra easy as I go by. Maybe it’s the racer in me, and I’m not sure it’ll ever fully leave me, but I love crushing spirits on the course. We are all out there asking for it. It happens to all of us, and to be honest, I love getting my spirit crushed. It’s a good feeling when you get shown that you ain’t shit. It’s a better feeling to find that your limits are way out there in the distance and to push them further and further (while knowing you still ain’t shit).
When you push with one leg, if you go hard enough, your leg is going to fill with lactic acid and you are going to feel like you can’t go any further. It is at this point that you start to feel your limits, but what if your limits were so much further away from this point? If you can switch legs and allow your tired leg time to rest, you can push right up to that point where you feel you have to stop, and you can just switch and keep going. And when that leg gets tired, the other leg is now ready to go, and so you switch and continue on. In this way, you actually give your body time to flush that acid out of your legs in a way that can actually be more even efficient than a bike in the right conditions.
While this efficiency shows itself most effectively on hills, you also have to take into account that you’re spending your time on flats and downhills surfing a concrete wave (as opposed to riding a brake). When you can find efficiency and effectiveness on a skateboard, I think that it is safe to make the claim that riding a longboard over distance is the best form of self powered travel out there. Based on my experience, I fully believe it to be the case, as I can always find challenges in multiple forms, and I feel it is likely that I will never stop learning on a skateboard. Nowadays, my personal pushing involves stuff like in the video below. I love pushing up mountains and skating down them.
Tips and Tricks
In the video above, we try to show you a few things that we hope you will find helpful. This was a first try, and we can do some updates as we go and figure out how to share this information more effectively. Give us some feedback if you like or dislike this information and we will try to adjust it over time to make it the best it can be.
- Care about it. Devote mental attention and apply your learning capacity. This will save your soul on long skates.
- Push on a mild uphill if possible. This will keep you at a slower speed so you can practice safely.
- Focus attention on gliding with your off-foot. Spend time on one foot and adjust your balance and really feel it.
- Practice micro “S”-turns on one foot. It is like resistance training for switch pushing.
- Do a “foot shuffle” if you need to make a smaller platform effectively larger. Check the video at 01:57.
- Ride a low board. Being low to the ground makes stepping off your deck safer, pushing more efficient, and will inspire confidence.
- Everything comes with practice. At this point, I can push and along the way, I’ll forget which one is my dominant leg.
We are one of the only companies out there that truly specialize in boards designed for pushing. We recommend a longer push board for learning how to push switch, like the Pantheon Quest LDP board, or if you are looking for a smaller deck, the Trip Double Drop Longboard and Ember Commuter Longboard, while maybe a little more confining for foot space, is extremely efficient and fun.
Future Longboarding 101: The Drop Step
The next article/video we are going to do in our Longboarding 101 series is a little move I like to call the “drop step,” for helping people safely get off curbs and ledges on boards that don’t have a tail. I don’t know if that’s the real name for it or not, but if we are going to write about it, we have to name it something! We will link to it here when the article is up. Leave us comments or write to us and tell us other topics we can help with!