Some people might get offended if you say skateboarding is easy, but relatively speaking, few would disagree that it takes less time and effort to get used to the feel of a longboard [source: #protected_0#]. With their long wheelbases and bigger decks, longboards give the rider more room to move around and find a comfortable stance.
But is longboarding really easier than skateboarding? The answer depends on a few key differences between the two activities. For one, longboards are designed specifically for turning and smoothly cruising at high speeds over long distances. You could obviously argue then that for extended downhill runs, a longboard is going to be much easier to control than a skateboard.
Conversely, skateboards have evolved over the years for specific niche activities like hanging in skate parks, going for verticals on half-pipes and hitting the streets for some urban trick skating, so if your goal is to do some railslides and kickflips, a skateboard is going to be easier to maneuver.
However, if you’re just a beginner and you’re trying to get the feel of being on a board, you’re probably going to have an easier time balancing on a longboard, which contributes to its reputation for being easier to ride [source: #protected_0#].
When longboarding, especially in downhill racing events and competitive slaloming, all four wheels may lose traction during a turn. This common occurrence is a type of controlled, usually intentional, slide known as drifting, which is done typically to reduce speed or inspire awe in spectators. Drifting can be useful when entering sharp turns at high speeds that may be too tight to make [source: #protected_2#].
The Physics of Longboarding
First off, longboards are customizable for the intended purposes of you, the rider. But whether you’re interested in downhill racing, slaloming (riding downhill in a zigzag fashion) or just getting to and from work or school, longboards share certain characteristics, which set them apart from other skateboards.
Compared to trick-oriented skateboards or shortboards, longboards are obviously longer and heavier. They also have those bigger and softer wheels that we mentioned, which can grip more of the pavement, increase your cornering ability and potentially prevent the board from shooting out underneath you. In contrast, the wheels on shortboards are typically going to be smaller, and harder, making them quicker with near-distance acceleration. The downsides are that they require more effort for the rider to gain momentum, and they’re more vulnerable to sidewalk cracks, discarded soda cans and — um — roadkill [source: #protected_3#].
In addition, softer wheels reduce vibration and afford the cruising longboarder a less bone-jarring ride. They’re also set farther apart from each other than you’d normally find the wheels on a shortboard [source: #protected_4#]. Longboard trucks, the collective parts of the skateboard that connect the wheels to the deck’s underside, are designed to achieve a wider wheelbase. That wider distance between the front and rear wheels grants the longboard rider more turning versatility than his or her shortboarding counterparts.
A longer board makes the skateboard heavier, which also makes it more stable than a typical shortboard. With a heavier board, you’re likely going to have more mass, and more massive objects will have more resistance to a change in motion, or inertia, as you’ll remember from Newton’s first law of motion. That’s pretty handy, as a change in motion isn’t all that good for helping you get where you’re going. It also makes longboards more suited for downhill racing or slaloming than a shortboard.
Now that we’ve covered the difference between regular skateboarding and longboarding, we might as well ask — which one is easier anyhow?