Skateboards now come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For downhill skateboarding, the boards used have more stability, traction and durability than regular skateboards. This is due to larger wheel size and lower wheel hardness to cope with riders manoeuvring at high speed as well as reaching speeds of more than 60 miles per hour. Downhill skateboards can also turn better at angles that regular skateboards and can also coast long distances, making them much better suited to cruising and commuting on roads.
Speeds of 40mph may appear slow, but when you are standing on a wooden board out in the open, with nothing to grip on, it feels very fast. It is also faster than wave surfing and snowboarding, but with no water or snow to greet you should fall, but instead rough, hard asphalt the adrenaline rush is higher, particularly when you add in high-speed turns and changing slopes. Then you can raise the adrenaline stakes even further with downhill skateboard racing against another human being.
Downhill skateboarding began in the 1970s, and in the 1990s some of the first professional skateboarders emerged, keen to go “bombing” on the hills. The sport has been growing very fast in the last couple of decades, and it is now possible to buy high-quality boards, wheels, safety equipment, and other accessories. The sport now also has its own jargon, with terms such as sliding, bombing, tucking, drafting, freeriding, and pushing.
Starting out in downhill skateboard racing
There are many hazards in the sport, which is what helps create the adrenaline rush. Falling off a board at 40 mph hurts! Grazes and bruises are likely as you deal with blind corners, potholes and other hazards even if you wear protective clothing, which should include a full-face helmet, slide gloves, kneepads and elbow pads. Yet, as an individual sport, you can learn at your own pace which means you can manage the risks. Getting to know the basics of turning and braking are needed before progressing further, and certainly before heading to the open road where speeds are high.
Sliding is a form of braking, using your hands. You drop down onto the left or right hand and use glove slide-pucks on the ground as support to break traction. This is one braking technique, the other is to take the back foot off the skateboard and drag it on the road to regulate speed.
Tucking is what you do to become aerodynamic. The tucking position places the chest on the knee at the front of the board and angling the back foot and back knee into a position against the front calf muscle. Maintaining this position for minutes will take training and endurance but makes you aerodynamic.
Turning when leaning and shifting your weight into a curve in the road, the board is steered in that same direction, yet centrifugal force keeps your body firmly on the board.
Carving is when you rapidly turn your board from left to right, without sliding, to lessen speed slightly.
Drafting when you closely follow another skateboard to decrease your own wind resistance, which helps to increase your speed and aerodynamic efficiency.
Famous downhill skateboard racers
Thiago Gomes Lessa
Living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Lessa is the world’s number one. His favourite race is the Apac Championship which takes place in his hometown, where he has hometown support. He skates bowls and hills every single day to increase power, though the biggest improvement for 2018 he saw was from the new Cuei Wheels that have more grip and speed.
Douglas da Silva
Known as Dalua on the circuit, da Silva is also credited for being a beast of a downhill skateboarder, thanks to his monster push. With several injuries and now in his thirties, he now has an online shop called D1Dskateboard and is team manager with Robert Rodrigues, Melissa Brogni, Miguel Moreira, Lucas Perdoná, and Allyson Pastrana.
One small mistake cost Laporte the championship, but he takes the good from the bad and always looks forward. It made his stronger and made him realise he needed to work on focus and confidence for the race.