As in every sport there is a level that simply stands out as the ultimate achievement in the sport. With longboarding, there are trick contests and racing.
This article’s purpose is to give an overview of the events, courses, and safety issues, which are all parts of the fast growing arena of longboard racing.
The Longboard Events
Ever race down a hill with your friends on a longboard?
That is exactly what longboard racing is although at much higher speeds. On most of the courses riders go an average of 40 mph but on some of the most advanced courses they can get as high as 50-60mph.
Because of different skill levels, there are often different categories. In most competitions the standard categories are junior (under 18), women, luge, master (over 30), luge, and open classes where anybody can compete in the same class. Luge classes are perhaps the most unique class though.
In luge, the rider actually lies down on the longboard with the legs out in front and goes down the hill in that position. Riders typically achieve higher speeds while doing this but it is also harder to control around curves.
There are a lot of safety issues involved with going 40mph down a hill with sharp curves and steep straightaways and there are standardized safety rules set out by the International Downhill Federation that riders must follow if they want to compete.
The bare minimum requirement for safety in every downhill or luge race is a full closed helmet. These are essential for protecting against concussions and serious brain injuries if riders fall off of their boards.
For most of the higher level events, riders must also wear a leather suit: a full body suit made completely out of leather material to protect the rider. This protects the rider from serious road rash if they fall although they still face the risk of broken bones or worse at the high speeds that they travel.
You want read more about safety and longboard gear?
For some races, they also line the side of the road with hay bales so that riders can safely hit those instead of taking a tumble down the road. The picture below shows a good example of all of these safety measures put into place during a race.
Longboard races are held wherever there is a challenging enough road to host them. As such, there are longboard races all across the world spanning from Colorado to Brazil to even South Africa.
A very popular race is the Pikes Peak Downhill held in Pikes Peak, Colorado. It is one of the most advanced races in the United States with a starting altitude of over 11,000 feet and over 1.5 miles of steep drops and hairpin corners. Shown below is the full map of the course reposted from the Pikes Peak Downhill website.
During the race each rider goes through the same basic actions. 4 riders line up at the start and with the blast of the gun they start pushing quickly, trying to get the most speed before the downhill starts.
As each rider starts to go down the hill they quickly enter into a speed tuck. The speed tuck is a position where they lean forward with their hands clasped behind their back to create a streamlined appearance and reduce air resistance.
When going around each corner, the riders carefully lean as close as they can to the ground to stay very close to the inside edge of the road and retain as much of their speed as possible.
Sometimes, on especially tight corners, riders are forced to use their slide pucks and put their hands down to control their motion going around the corner. At the end of the race, each rider normally exits out of the speed tuck and instead expands their body, this time using air resistance to help them slow down.
A video of the entire experience, at the Pikes Peak course in Colorado is show below. The video is taken from footage of 2 go pro’s worn by different riders. It truly shows the adrenaline rush that longboard racers experience.
This piece was a relatively short piece designed to just give an overview of the sport of longboard racing.
If you want to go deeper into this thrilling world you should check out the International Downhill Federation’s page here. They are the premier international organization dedicated to organizing most of the longboard races and they have details of the general longboard racing circuit and how the points work for winning each race.
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