Have you ever considered entering a slalom skateboarding competition? If yes, then what’s stopping you? It may look daunting at first, but you’ll never know if you can do it without even trying.
Everyone started with no knowledge about it, but look where they are now? If they can do it, you can, too. So here’s a guide on slalom skateboarding to get you started.
What is Slalom Skateboarding?
Before you start training and practicing, let’s define first what slalom skateboarding is. It is a form of downhill skateboarding that usually uses a line of cones that skaters need to weave through.
Slalom riders need to make sure that they won’t knock any of the cones, or at least just a few ones as they will be penalized for every cone they hit. The rider with the fastest time and had the least number of knocked cones wins the race.
The race can either be in a dual format where riders race head-to-head or it can be done in a single lane format where riders race against the time. There are also different types of slalom race, which will be discussed in detail in a bit.
Slalom skateboarding first emerged in the ’60s and ’70s but was somehow forgotten. It was in 2000 that it made a comeback and has maintained its popularity since then. Slalom is all about precision and high-speed pumping. It’s learning how to maximize speed through body motion.
Slalom Race Formats
Super Giant Slalom
Super Giant Slalom, also known as SuperG, has a run time of about 1 minute. It’s a fast-speed race that is around 30 to 40 mph with cone distances of up to 40 to 50 feet.
This is almost the same as Super Giant Slalom, the only difference is the distances between the cones which are shorter. It is usually done in a single lane format with more cones than SuperG.
This type of slalom race has the highest number of turns and has very short distances between each cone. Cone distance is normally between 5 to 7 feet and racers need to weave through 3 to 4 per second.
Also called Special Slalom, this is usually done in a head-to-head race. It is a combination of Tight and Giant Slalom cone spacings. The spaces in between cones are 5 to 7 inches and 10 to 15 inches.
This is almost the same as other types of slalom race. However, it’s done on an uneven obstacle course as compared to other forms where it can be held on regular streets. It’s skating on banked walls, usually in a drainage ditch or skate parks.
Slalom Skateboarding Rules
Ready for your first ride? Well, don’t go racing first without knowing the rules.
Slalom racers are penalized for every cone they knock off in the course of the race. Each cone they hit has a certain amount of time that will be added to the rider’s run time.
A slalom racer can be disqualified if s/he knocks too many cones throughout the race. A disqualification usually happens in a head-to-head race.
There is also another rule which they call Grass Roots. This is normally used to simplify the racing condition. In this rule, there will only be a maximum number of cones that racers are permitted to knock over.
If they hit more than the allowable number, they will be disqualified. However, if they hit less than the maximum number, there will be no penalty.
A qualifying time is used to determine the race order in any head-to-head racing, which is used in deciding the brackets for match-ups.
Are you ready to learn the required skill and technique to get you started with your slalom skateboarding journey? Read and learn.
Let’s start with the feet as foot position plays an important role in slalom. To change from a normal riding position, your foot placement is the first thing you need to adjust.
It is best to have a forward-facing stance as it gives you the head start to plan your course of action. Aside from that, you’ll have a better grip as the center of gravity is directed on the board. This will also allow you to weave through the cones faster.
To do that, your feet must be pointed towards the front. Ideally, it should be 30° and 45° angle from the usual surf stance. The front foot’s ball must be in the back of your board’s front truck and your rear foot’s heel must be within the level of the rear truck.
The benefits of having this foot stance will help you balance your weight giving you more control over your board, better grip, and also allows you to turn faster. Now, let’s learn how to turn.
If you are regular footed you can turn left by pushing your weight down to the heels of your front foot. To turn on the opposite position, your weight should be on the toes of your rear foot.
Same as your feet, proper arm positioning is also very important. You need your arms not only to balance but also to steer.
When steering, you need to use your strength so you can push your weight down as you also push with your toe or heel, depending on the direction you want to steer or turn. If you want to turn to your right, you need to push down on your left arm, then you either push up or out with your other arm to toss the weight of your body over.
When it comes to balancing, your arm doing the turn allows you to lean further by resisting the centrifugal force. As the board slides, the arms are dropped to regain stability.
This is the most important and honestly the hardest to teach and also to learn. But don’t be disheartened easily, as you keep on practicing, you’ll be able to learn and master the pumping technique.
Pumping in slalom is also known as gyrating or power turning. It requires body rotations to create a steady carving and to produce speed without foot pushing.
You need to master shifting weights continuously and put pressure on your toe or heel at a fast and constant pace. It is initiated by small consecutive turns to increase speed and momentum. The main goal of a slalom racer is to gain speed and maintain it while turning through the cones.
To achieve powerful pumping, your hips should be your main focus. It will start a sideways roll that slowly grows to your legs, feet, and front truck to turn.
The front foot should be at the back of the front truck while the rear foot is placed on top of your board’s rear truck. This is the usual foot positioning when pumping.
The importance of lines will greatly depend on the cone spacing. If the spacing between cones is long distances the more it becomes vital and most likely with lesser chance to pump.
Finding the correct line will allow you to know ahead of time if a difficult cone is coming. This will then help you prepare for it.
Now, this is not about your weight or your board’s weight. It’s about you weighting and unweighting your board. This is another aspect that is vital when pumping. As you press and put your weight down on your board the wheel traction is increased as it improves acceleration.
Now as you unweight your board while getting out of the turn, which is done by pushing up with your legs this will give you another increase in your speed.
There are different kinds of decks and of course, you would want to get the right one specific for slalom skateboarding. Now, the material used is also important, best to find something that is made from carbon fiber or maple wood. Carbon fiber is more expensive but it doesn’t really mean that it’s better.
When it comes to size, the length is normally between 30 to 34 inches and a wheelbase of 18 to 24 inches. It normally has a wide nose, enough to fit the whole front foot. This is important for truck responsiveness.
It is also best to find a slalom deck with kicktail as this will be useful for more aggressive pumping. A slight concave is also better for a more accurate turning and steering.
For tighter courses, best to settle for a shorter deck, and for longer courses, best to stick with longer decks.
When it comes to slalom trucks, remember that front trucks are used for quick turns, therefore they should be responsive. Rear trucks on the other hand are meant for better grip when turning, so stability is needed. Keep in mind that finding the right combination will allow you to perform better pumps.
When choosing wheels, the size and durometer are the key factors. Different wheels are used depending on the type of course, surface, temperature, and speed.
Softer wheels provide more grip but are slower, while bigger wheels are suitable for faster and bigger courses. The only downside is it takes time to accelerate.
The good thing about slalom skateboarding is you can use any kind of skateboard, all you need to do is loosen the trucks. Plus you don’t really need any special equipment. A skateboard and some yellow cones or even tin cans can be used while learning and practicing.
Don’t be ashamed if you don’t have any special board for your slalom training. Did you know that in the ’70s, all they used was regular boards, some are even thinner than normal boards. But they still managed to learn the skill and technique anyway.
However, if you’re serious about becoming a professional slalom racer, you would need to find a specialist board. But don’t worry about that too much yet; what’s important is you have a decent skateboard. Later on, you’ll learn how to set up your board for slalom skateboarding.
Just like any board sports, slalom skateboarding can be a bit dangerous, although not as dangerous as freestyle or street skateboarding. But still, wearing protective gear is very important.
Well, for slalom racing all you really need is a nice fitting helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. But if you are new to this sport, then you might need more than that.
Setting Up Your Slalom Board
Now, are you ready to set up your slalom board? Here are a few tips to help you with your very first slalom board.
It all depends on the tightness of your trucks. It should be just right. If your wheels are too tight, don’t even try as you won’t make it through the course. However, if they’re too loose, you will not be able to create the speed you need.
Now, this is more on feelings and experimentation. It’s more like trial and error and it usually depends on the rider’s preference. If you think you are sliding too much, then choose a softer wheel and vice versa.
If you feel that the surface is rough then go softer. Also, take note of the diameter, the bigger it is the better chance to maintain speed.
A larger wheel base will allow your board to keep up the speed and they are also more stable.
So, are you excited to start your slalom skateboarding journey? Or were you even more scared to try it? Well, the great thing about this is that any kind of skater whether a newbie or expert can do this. Anyone has access to it since you don’t need much equipment. As long as you have a skateboard, flat area with a soft incline, some cones, or anything you can use as an obstacle then you’re good to go. Remember mastering the skills and techniques are the key to becoming a professional slalom racer.