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Downhill Skateboarding: Not for the Faint of Heart

Downhill skateboarding combines the thrill and danger of speed skating with the style and skills of surfing or skiing. Risking serious road rash, broken bones, or a collision with a car in the case of a misstep, skateboarders who bomb hills, like Zak Maytum, often take their lives into their own hands. Thus, those who undertake this niche sport must build their chops up before pushing off on steep grades.

The Longboard is the Reigning King
Currently viewed as more of a longboarding sport, skaters have been tackling mountainous hills on all kinds of gear, from the standard double kick board with small wheels to the more surfboard-like carving boards. However, longer boards with bigger wheels tend to make the job a bit easier and more safe, since they can overcome small obstacles in the road, like potholes and rocks, more easily (there is no way in hell you are doing an ollie over palm fodder while flying down a hill at 30 to 70 miles per hour). The longer body also keeps it from getting squirrelly and allows for more fluid motion that lends itself well to the downhill style, providing maneuverability while keeping all four wheels on the road and your feet on the deck.

San Fran: the Home of Downhill
The birthplace of downhill skating, San Francisco stands as one of the most popular, and dangerous, graded skateboarding spots. It offers copious hills and lots of options for various grades and street styles, but it also has a lot of foot and vehicle traffic around the clock. Local skaters like Tommy Guerrero have rolled over this challenging terrain for decades.

As the sport becomes more popular, government bodies, like Santa Barbara County, have started banning downhill skateboarding due to the high degree of danger for skaters and the public at large. However, in response to the bans and the danger, groups like the IGSA and the IDF  have begun organizing formal downhill events, providing safe designated tracks for skaters.

The How-To
If you are interested in pursuing this niche extreme sport, you can find a surprisingly good step-by-step guide on wikiHow, and you will definitely want to start out on bunny hills. Don’t forgt to practice your stopping and bailouts, including the good ol’ tuck-and-roll. You can also check out buying guides online to pick the right board for the type of downhill skating you want to do (carving or speed skating). Getting the right equipment is imperative, because there are few feelings as bad as the one you get in the pit of your stomach when the speed wobbles start.

Who knows, you may develop the need for speed and end up like Mischo Erban who topped 80 miles per hour on his skateboard in 2010. But, whatever you do, this is one skateboarding activity where you have got to wear a friggin’ helmet. I’m not kidding. I don’t care if you think it makes you look like a dork. I will tell you mom if I see you out there without one.