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How longboard through turns – downhill skateboarding

Today I’m talking about how to longboard through turns. It’s necessary to understand how to do this if you want to skate downhill roads with turns safely, or simply get down as fast as you can. All on this and more below.

This guide is part of the downhill skill progression guide. Check out the guide if you want to learn about which skills you need to learn for downhill skateboarding.

Pre-requisites for this article

You should already know how to slow down – either by footbraking or doing a pendulum/shut down slide. 

Knowing how to stop will be key to reducing your speed, this is NECESSARY for taking turns safely.

The basics for taking a corner

To take a corner, you go to the outside of the corner, touch the inside of the corner, and go to the outside again. Aka, outside, inside, outside. Illustrated by the image below.

longboard through turns - outside, inside, outside principle

Just remember you need to slow down a considerable amount before the corner. 

Having too much speed will mean you will not be able to make it around the corner. And that means you might fall into the other lane, fall off the road, etc. And put yourself in harm’s way (which is something we want to avoid).

Why we got to the outside, to the inside, and the outside (OIO) again

We take the OIO line because it is the “straightest” line through the corner.

We aim to take the straightest line because it puts the least stress on our wheels. Our wheels are what provide the grip (what allows the board to stick to the road), and guarantee we can make it around the corner – we don’t want to exceed the amount of grip our wheels have otherwise we can slide off the road. Trying to go around a corner with too much speed is an easy way to exceed the grip of our wheels. More on this later on. 

outside, inside, outside principle, where to slow down
outside, inside, outside principle - how skilled skaters slow down with a pre-drift

So yeah. You slow down, go from the outside, go to the inside, then go to the outside again and you should be able to make most corners.

Body positioning

Now that we know what line to take, we need to look at body positioning. 

You want to be crouched and in the slide positions before you take a corner. 

Whilst we won’t be sliding, being in the slide positions bring us closer to the ground, lowering our centre of gravity, putting our weight on your front foot, and ultimately giving us more control over the board when we skate around the corner.

More from 2.21 in the video below.

longboard through a heelside turn
longboard through a toeside turn

Go and get some practical experience 

Up to here, this information should be sufficient for most beginners. You can stop reading. I recommend you go off and mess around with this concept, mess around with it on a safe, spotted corner, and then come back. Because of course, things get more complicated, and having that real-world experience will be key to getting you to understand the following concepts.

*Also, racing video games help with understanding the concepts below too. The general concepts apply to all road-going vehicles (with variations between them ofc). So if you can’t skate, fire up your consoles/PC and start playing.

Race lines

What is a race line?

The race line is the same as the outside-inside-outside principle, but more complex and better developed for different turns, different vehicles, etc. It applies not only to longboarding but to most vehicles too.

A racing line allows you to carry the maximum amount of speed into and out of a given corner.

Do we need to know how to take race lines?

For us to learn how to take the safest line possible, yes I believe we must understand what race lines are and how they work. 

We’re learning the fastest way to do it, so we can take it slower and thus safer. Or rather, by understanding the limits, we can skate safely within them.

Common terms

  • Your line from the outside to the inside is your entrance line. 
  • And your line from inside to the outside is your exit line.
  • The inside part of the corner that you touch is the “apex”. 
  • When someone talks about the inside, they’re talking about the innermost part of a corner.
  • When someone talks about the outside, they’re talking about the outermost part of the corner.
  • “Washing-out/sliding out” means exceeding the grip of your wheel as you take the exit line and slipping off your intended line. Could result in you going to the other lane or going off the road.
  • “Scrubbing” is when you exceed your wheels grip and they start drifting/slipping on their own. But it isn’t a slide, it’s just your wheels slipping abit under you.
diagram showing different terms to describe race lines

There are different types of race lines

There are different lines you can take through a single corner and I will be talking about them below.

How different apexes affect how you go through a corner

Different race lines allow you to hit the inside/apex of the corner at different points, and this results in different outside/exit lines.

Below we’re going to see how apexing at different points of the inside of the corner can affect your exit. It’s important to understand this because your exit line is arguably the most important thing when it comes to skating roads – especially roads that are open to traffic.

diagram showing early, geometric, and late apex

For the following examples, we are going to assume you always have the same speed before you hit the apex and you are constantly accelerating after you hit the apex.

Geometric Apex (fastest line)

The Geometric apex is the outermost point of the inside of the corner. Hitting the geometric apex allows you to take the mathematically straightest line through the corner.

longboarding through turns - geometric apex

In this case, you’ll have an ok exit line and you’ll be able to make it to the outside with no issue.

The Geometric apex is typically the fastest way around most corners.

Early Apex (not desirable)

An early apex means you go inside super early and touch the inside/apex well before the location of the geometric apex. This means you have to take a wide and very curved line after the apex, to make it to the outside point.

early apex

So on the exit after the early apex, you have to take a curved line to get to the outside. This could result in you washing out – the increased speed (from acceleration) and the curved line make your wheels work more. It’s easy to exceed how much grip they have.

It will be easy for you to slide out into the other lane (which can be quite bad), or off the road into a hazard (rock, guardrail?).

When you take an early apex, you typically have to slow down again on your exit line to make the exit line manageable.

Early apexes aren’t desirable.

Late Apex (safety lines)

A late apex means you touch the inside after the location of the geometric apex. It allows you to take a straighter line through to the outside.

best way to longboard through turns - late apex

Because you’re taking a kinda straight line to the outside after the apex, your wheels aren’t really doing any or much gripping. This means you’re not at risk of washing or sliding out, even if you accelerate a ton after the apex.

The late apex is the safest way to take a corner. 

How to take a late apex

To take a late apex, slow down a bit more than usual, go deep into the corner and turn in a bit later from the outside than you usually would. This should allow you to hit the inside a bit later and get that late apex and straighter exit line. 

how to take a late apex

If you’re having trouble getting that late apex, just slow down more and go slower around the corner, you’ll make it.

People often do this

Though not always advisable, people sometimes break lane and go into the opposite lane so they can have a wider entry into a corner and a straighter line to the late apex.

*This only works if the inside lane is your lane. 

This is just another way of getting a late apex. Take note of how much “less” turning I do through the corner. Cutting lane allows for an over exaggeration of going deep and allows for an easy line to the late apex. It also allows you to carry a lot more speed, as the exit line is straighter (and you simply have a wider corner to use) …

lane cut, late apex

Why the late apex is the safest line (exit line is super dangerous)

The moment in a corner when you have the least control is on the exit line. There’s often not a lot of room for error. It’s also the section of the corner where you are most vulnerable as a rider.

Once you are committed to an exit line, that’s it. If your trajectory is into the other lane (or somewhere undesirable), it isn’t easy to recorrect.

It isn’t easy to recorrect because you often realize you’ve messed your line too late and honestly, there’s little you can do. Yes, sliding is an option, but the slide continues you on that undesirable trajectory, and more often than not, you won’t be in a good body position to control the slide either.

You can watch many clips of people struggling to recorrect their line and completely messing it up. You either have to be an exceedingly talented rider or have a lot of foresight for what your line will exactly look like, for you to make the right decision at that moment.

If we simply take a later apex, we can have a straighter exit, work our wheels less, and have a lot more room for error.

In summary, the exit line is dangerous. Once you’re on it, it’s difficult to adjust your line. It’s a lot easier to make sure we are just hitting a late apex, getting that straighter exit, and not torturing our wheels much.

**Another thing I’ll add is by forcing yourself to take a late apex you naturally get a manageable exit. Even with a geometric apex, it’s easy to carry too much speed into the apex and wash out on exit. That isn’t so easy if you take the late apex.

all three race lines together

Things that limit how much speed you can take through a corner

Now that we understand what line we can take around a corner and which are safest, let’s look at other things that limit how much speed we can take through a corner …

Wheel grip

How grippy your wheels are, determines how much speed you can take through a corner. A wheels grippyness is determined by several factors (width, lip shape, urethane formula, durometer, lip stiffness, etc.).

cheetah hagws, grippy longboard wheels

A wheel with a lot of grip (eg. a race wheel like the Cheetahs) will allow you to carry a lot of speed around a corner. A wheel with little grip (eg. Powell Snakes), will need you to take the same turn slower, otherwise, it will lose grip and cause you to wash out of the road.

powell peralta dragonskins

Getting grippy wheels is an easy way to ensure you can go faster around a corner.

Road conditions

Things like how hot it is, the pavement type, whether the road is clean or not – if it’s wet, has moss, if it’s super hot, etc. Will also impact grip.

A wet road will have less grip than a dry road.

Your weight

The heavier you are, the slower you need to go around a corner to make it round. The lighter you are, the more speed you can carry through.

The more weight you have, the more sideways force you apply on the wheels. And it’s easier to exceed the available amount of grip.

How tight a corner is

The tightness of a corner also limits how much speed you can carry through it. A tight hairpin (180*) turn will require you to slow down more to go around it – you’ll have less speed through it. 

open turn vs tight turn

A more open turn (eg. a 70* turn) can allow you to go faster through it – you can take a straighter line through it and have more speed whilst taking the corner.

Applying these concepts on real-world roads

If you have a hairpin or a corner accessible to you, that you can skate safely. You can easily apply some of the above concepts and mess around with them. Skating it when it is wet, trying different wheels, etc.

It is a bit of a skill to apply this stuff to new roads and new corners though. Does take some trial and error. But it’s better to take it easy at a new spot instead of trying to get the best line first try. 

You might also have more luck experimenting in video games, as the risk-reward isn’t too bad.

If you want to see how these thigns work in a real race, check otu this video – https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3159957194079328 That is from the 2019 Verdicchio finals. Watch the lines the first two racers take.

Start from the exit line 

When I get to a road I’m not sure of, I start creating the line from the exit (essentially creating everything in reverse).

I look at what the straightest and safest line from the exit line would be, and where that would apex, and then I pick a manageable entry line.

Makes it easier to solve the puzzle of “what line should I take here”.

Learn to ride every line

To become a very proficient rider, you should learn to ride every line. 

Practice:

  • Taking a tighter inside line, but making sure you are slow enough to have a manageable exit. 
  • Try taking a tight entry line and an even tighter exit.
  • Taking a tight entry line, but hitting that late apex.
  • Slowing down a lot, hitting the early apex and then still trying to get a straight-ish exit line (manageable if you’re going slow enough).

Illustrations examples:

  • Red line – Basic late apex.
  • Yellow line – Cutting super deep for a very straight exit line.
  • Blue line – Normal late apex line, but tight exit.
  • Green line – Tight entry, geometric apex, tight exit.
  • Pink line – tight-ish entry, early apex, normal exit line.

And the below image isn’t of lines you should necessarily practice taking, but just to show different lines. Hope that makes sense.

You’re not always going to be able to take the outside-inside-outside line, or something more ideal. It doesn’t always go to plan so being practiced with taking different lines ensures you can come out safe.

Tips for taking corners fast

  • You might want to set up carve for it so you’re in an ideal body position to take the corner comfortably. 
  • Don’t be too aggressive on entry, you could make the back wheels scrub which results in a high side
  • More weight on your front foot to steer better, especially if you have a huge split on your trucks.
  • If you wobble or put a puck down, or deweight even a bit it can throw you off your line and result in you washing out – be careful to not do this and to keep the board settled through the corner.
  • A lower center of gravity is better for taking corners fast. This is why skaters crouch down when taking a corner.

Other things to watch out for and tips …

There are several things you need to manage …

  • You have to slow down enough for the corner and judge how much speed you can carry through safely – this is a skill in itself. I advise you to err on the side of being slower, so aim to be a bit slower than you think/slow down more than necessary.
  • The next thing you need to manage is the line from the outside to the inside. Otherwise, even though you touch the outside on entry, you may not necessarily get to the inside of the corner. This might be because you’re carrying too much speed, or you’re turning in too late, or you’re not turning in aggressively enough, or your trucks may not be turny enough, etc. 
  • And to remedy this, you might have to turn in early, or turn aggressively, or go slower, or loosen your trucks (softer bushings or higher angle baseplates), etc. It can be complicated …
  • Another problem is your body positioning as you take the corner. You might be positioned awkwardly – not balanced nicely and this reduces how you can control your trucks, or makes you wobble which changes your trajectory and makes you wash out. Or your griptape may not be grippy enough, making you slip off which leads to a weird input into the trucks, throws you off your line, and makes you wash out.
  • Don’t suddenly shift your weight or change position on exit. This will affect your line and make it wider. Which could shift your trajectory into the other lane or off the road.
  • Turning too suddenly can highside, sometimes you need to apply input steadily to get the board to turn – yes it may turn slowly but thats ok.
  • Body positioning is so important. Remember to lean off the board more. This will allow you to counter the force that wants to throw you forward.

So keep the above in mind as you try to skate around a corner.

For the more advanced riders …

  • This is a momentum based sport, you need to conserve momentum. Whatever entry line you take, make sure you’re scrubbing as little as possible on the exit to conserve your momentum and speed. 
  • A mix of a geomtric/late apex should give you pretty good results in terms of exit speed/momentum.
  • If you have to take lines through two corners chained together, priorities the 2nd corner first and create the lines that will give you the best speed (or whatever you want) out of the 2nd corner.
  • If you’re racing, protect the inside line and park yourself on the apex – whoever is trying to overtake you in the corner will either hit you, or have to slow down to not hit you. 

Was this article helpful?

Let me know if this guide has been useful. As always these guides are a bit difficult for me to make so your feedback is appreciated. Helps me know if I’m doing something right or wrong.

Big thanks to all my patrons for the support – David, Squirrels Adventures, Mike, Jed, Mowgii, Jan, Josh, Jay, Bryan, Owen, Daniel, Alex, Kasajja, Leah, Helge, DeLacoste, Connor, Josh, Mike, Anthony, @issishreds, and Justin. I couldn’t write articles like this without you guys’ support

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