Photo Ian Logan
10 Things I learned About Downhill Skateboarding.
Being a vert/pool skater in the 70's, downhill was something I had never seriously tried. Like every friend I skated with back then, I bombed hills here in Hermosa Beach daily, blowing through stop signs and traffic lights (not the smartest thing, but hey I was 16 yrs old) and 2 years ago I trespassed onto the 405 fwy here in Los Angeles during Carmageddon & skated down it on the hill section near Getty Center Drive, but neither of those two things is remotely like what these girls do. At all.
Here's what I learned from going to the mecca of downhill events, the Maryhill Ratz Sheride/Freeride.
1. GET A GOLF BAG: One that's padded to pack your boards in for the flight - airlines don't charge an "extra" surplus charge for golf bags like they do for other over-sized luggage - such as ski's snowboards, surfboards, - crazy right? (Thanks to my rad friend Judi Oyama for this $ saving tip!)
2. GET SOME GOOD SLIDE GLOVES: You're going to need them. Gloves with pink pucks look/feel cool. (Thanks Jonny Miller for replacing my ugly black pucks on the first day) I also think the Billy Bones Gloves are rad too. I want those next.
3. PLAN AHEAD: - most skate shops in the beach area where I live sell very limited amounts of downhill gear - so if you live in an area like this, order online ahead of time, instead of scrambling around for a size small in gloves just two days before you leave like I did. Duh.
4. THIS IS NOT POOL/BOWL RIDING: Realize that even though you skate a lot, and feel 100% comfortable on your regular cruiser, or popsicle deck, downhill is a whole other sport within a sport. For starters, the board is different than what you are used to, and your current board isn't going to cut it here. Foot positioning is totally different than what you are used to - get ready to learn a whole new stance! And don't go feeling for that kicktail because you're not going to find it, and it has no place here. Yep, that was me the first day on the hill! Gotta give big thanks to our GN4LW collab partner Dusters California for taking care of my complete board set up.
5. ROAD RASH: Be prepared to get some road rash. It's almost inevitable even with pads on. I'd suggest wearing leathers to protect yourself, and help you feel more comfortable when getting some speed. You can look for a used pair on Craig's list. If you choose not to opt for leathers, plan to donate $20 to the EMT fund. And that's OK because they use that money to buy equipment they need for the county. But do you really want to spend part of your day in the EMT tent getting patched up? Donate anyway (it's for a good cause!), wear leathers, and keep riding!
6. HAVE AN "OUT" CLAUSE: Pro skater/friend Jonny Miller was nice enough to teach me how to do a Coleman Slide on day one and told me to use it as my "out clause" if I felt I was going too fast. Did I listen? Yes and No. I practiced the move, but old habits die hard... I wanted to jump/run like in old days when I felt I was going too fast - not the smartest of ideas.
7. FULL FACE HELMET: The Maryhill Ratz events require this & I am 100% on board with it. My "Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word" helmet collab partner, XS Helmets makes a great full face helmet for women and I felt 100% safe and comfortable in it. Plus I felt kinda badass with that tinted face shield when riding.
8. SNEAKERS: Bring a couple pairs. If you are learning to slow your self down via "foot breaking" you may just go through a pair quickly. Get something with a good sole that handles a lot of friction, because that back foot of yours may just be sliding on the road at a fast rate of speed throughout the day. High-tops or low tops, the choice is yours. I saw someone riding in slip-on Vans but I wouldn't recommend it for people just getting started.
9. REALLY LISTEN: I had so many awesome downhill girls taking time out of their weekend to help me learn the basics of downhill and give me advice. I felt very lucky to have some of the best skaters in the world working with me. I really tried to listen, learn, & forget what I knew from my type of skateboarding, and learn downhill basics. Once I did that, I felt 100% more comfortable on the board.
10. HAVE FUN: You may not be starting from the top of the hill your first time out. Hell, I was taken up to Cowzers and kept asking why we were going so far up! Ha Ha Ha! I'm sure all the girls got a good laugh out of that one. It's a learning curve (so to speak) so just know that you may not feel as comfortable as you do on your regular board at first, but you will get it - it takes time. So have fun and enjoy the process.
Last but not least - the people in the downhill skateboarding community are nice. Extremely nice. They share tools, gear, camping sites, food, van rides, and most importantly, knowledge. If you are lucky enough to be part of one of their events you will come away with a distinct feeling that this is a close knit family & I guarantee you will want to come back again and again.
It guarantee that won't be my last time trying downhill, and I have so many new awesome friends to thank for getting me hooked!
Thank you to the Maryhill Ratz, Dean & Ali and all the skaters I met!