Downhill is the fastest of all longboarding disciplines, reaching almost 150 km/h or more speeds on a downhill! The word’s literal translation is “downhill,” and it is often practiced on a hill (which requires particular precision).
In the video we will add next, you will see the current world record. It was broken by Pete Connolly reaching 146.73kph/91.17mph at “L’Ultime Descente” – a downhill gravity speed event in September of 2017 in Quebec.
Kyle Wester set the previous record at 89.41 mph/143.89 km/h.
We added their socials because these guys are on an entirely different level, and they deserve a follow.
We started strong with this post. As you can see, In contrast to the relaxed feeling of cruising, going downhill requires more concentration; everything is coming to you much faster, making faster decisions and being more aware overall. It is magnified when you are in a race because you must go as fast as possible and try not to crash with the other racers.
We recommend a full-face helmet and full leather gear with enhanced protection for elbows, knees, spine, and tailbone (even if this is ugly, yes?). We don´t just recommend it. We encourage you to do it because they are essential. Even at low speeds, you must wear classic helmets and protective gear.
During the last five years, Downhill Skateboarding has changed as much as ten years prior. The information you will find here would probably sound different than most of the information you find online. We will bring it together so you can choose whatever you want. You might like an older style more than the current “meta”.
We will divide the information into three different eras, and you can choose the one you like the most. The first era will consist in everything that happened before 2009, the second era will include 2010 to 2016, and the third era will consist in everything that has been starting to be the trend since 2017.
First Era of Downhill Before 2009 (Old School Downhill)
During this time equiment was pretty “primitive”, there were no preccission trucks or high quality gear. Everything was more raw and sometimes even self made. This people were the pioneers of Downhill, they were riding low boards and super wide trucks, the top material that you could find during this time was the Landyacthz Evo, the Orangatang In-heat or the Abec 11 Flywheels, and the Paris 200mm. Sounds crazy but it was the thing at this time.
During that time the techniques were also much limited aswell, they didn´t know how to properly tuck, you still could see fat people wining races since weight and gravity were more important at the time than aerodynamics. Also the only slide that you could see were the coleman and the best way to slow down without stoping was footbraking. Here you can see a video that shows how was the scene at the time.
It was a great time with great experiences, but the skill level during that time was much lower than the one we have right now. As you had seen in that video, before 2001, events were local, and there were around 200 downhill skateboarders around the globe. Little by little, the community started growing.
In 2002 a World Championship and a World Series began to happen. It was organized by International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA). The skill level increased yearly until a young Kevin Reimer won the World Championship at Newton´s Playground in Bathurst, Australia. It meant the end of an Era and the beginning of a more professionalized sport. But let´s talk about the gear first, and we will explain it next era.
Downhill decks during that time had two requirements, being drop through or drop and being long boards. During this time type of boards were the thing and the most known boards were the Landyachtz Evo in America and the Airflow in Europe, Brands like Sector 9 were producing board aswell but they were not that notorious in the downhill industry because they were building mostly top mounts and there were no precission trucks during that time.
During this time, precision trucks were not really a thing, and most riders were not aware of it. Most riders tried getting the trucks super tight with factory bushing and maybe try a wider axle, the reasoning behind it was, wider = more stability. Today we know is not that way, but during the community didn´t have time to discover it yet.
Digging a little bit, we found out probably the only brand that was building precision trucks during that time and is still on the market, Don´t Trip Skate they have improved their trucks with time and it is still a valuable option if you are going to downhill. Another Brand that we found were Magun Trucks but they don´t exist anymore.
We did extensive research to find the best options and see what riders liked but discovered that they didn´t have a perfect wheel. They had different brands working partially well compared to today’s standards but were still “inventing the wheel” and finding the best option. We were going to make a listing about them with their pros and cons.
- Flywheel: It was a great idea, it had a aereted core that helped it be faster, but it was to narrow and didn´t have shaped angles. This wheel would be considered a freeride wheel after clearing the lipside by today standards.
- BigZigs and ZigZags reflex formula: You had to wear them without spacers in your bearings, it made them grip a lot but feel like you were suffering an earthcuaque while drifting, because if you wore them, they would slide uncontrolable, almost like you were skating on rain.
- In heat: Probably the best option but had a bad core, if you made it wet, it could brake and were unable to be used again.
- Sector 9 dual duro: They probably were the inspiration of the todays chetaahs, they were good but they were not grip enought because they had a smaller contach patch.
Second Era of downhill Skateboarding from 2009 to 2017 (Golden Era)
As we mentioned priorly, in 2009, Longboard Downhill or Downhill Skateboarding started changing. The scene, in general, started changing a lot; longboarding was not just an outsider sport. More and more were joining the scene, and different disciplines were influencing each other.
The primary influence that downhill had was coming from freeriding. Riders now knew how to do any kind of slide and drift; it helped them improve the way they were taking corners during races, and the skill gap increased significantly. In the first era, being brave, having balls, and just trying to go fast could help you win races. In the second era, it wasn´t possible anymore. Riders were more skillful, and not anybody could win a race anymore. During this time, you still could see people foot braking winning races, but the number of them decreased yearly.
Another thing that happened during that time is the switch from a downhill federation to another, the first organizor IGSA, started to do things not as the riders were expecting. That´s why in 2013, some riders created IDF, a organization focused on downhill skateboarders and not every downhill sport.
Second Era was a time of change, domwhill skateboarding started to be understood, but you still could see people riding drop and drop-through boards, but most of the riders were switching to Top-Mount Boards. The average characteristic that the boards had during that time were:
- Approximately 100 cm (39 inches) long.
- Wide enough for stability (usually 9.5″ or wider)
- Sufficient wheelbase for better directional stability.
- Moderately uneven enough to hold feet in place
- Rigid Camber
- In short, the board is long and wide enough to provide good stability Shaped pendulum for high-speed descents.
What was believed during that time was that a larger track = more stability so they would choose a 180mm truck.
Also, during that precision truck was the goal to have for most riders that wanted to compete, the two biggest brands were Aera and Ronin. At first it seem like Aera was the go to option, since it had the best pros riding them and with a single kingpin was easy to understand. But when Patrick Switzer switched from Aera to Ronin, and people started understanding the Ronin double kingpin structure, the competition was right on. They were other valuable options like Valkyrie or Bear, but the fight was beetwen those two.
During this time they were more affordable option like the Forged and Semi precision trucks like Paris V2 and Caliber II. They were a great option for riders that didn´t want or couldn´t afford to invest over 400 €/$ for a set of trucks.
Downhill Skateboarders were not as clueless as they were on the pass. Now they new that wheels needed to grip in the corners and had to be fast aswell. The requirements during that time were:
- Large diameter, such as 70-75 mm.
- A large contact area of 50 mm or more.
- Low rigidity, 78A or 80A
- Straight outside corners (shaped Angles)
- Offset core
During this period they were design a lot of wheels that were different but were the base to develop the wheels that we have now on the market.
This time had also great improvements in hardware. Brand started developing products that were complementary for improving your results.
People new that having a truck can be important, but having the right bushing composition could help you have more stability and take better corners, the brands that were most importants in the bushing industry at the time were Riptide and Venom. They were producing the highst quality products and people that wanted results were using them.
Most riders whould ride double barrer, and some of them would add one or two eliminators to have less rebound. The duro combination was up to each rider.
Normal griptape wasn´t enough anymore. If you wanted to grip as fast as possible and stay on tope of the board at all time. Normal grip tape could not handle the heat and the intensity of downhill skateboarding, tha´s why some brands created Coarse Grip Tape, companies such as Vicious and Seismic (Lokton) were pioneers in the industry and their griptapes were considered the best option in the market.
Everything was important if you were trying to win races, even having the right set of pucks. Pucks are the gadget that you stick to your gloves, they are useful to slide on your longboard while having one of your hands on the floor.
One the one hand, lot of brands made pucks that were average, they were useful but not the best. On the other hand, there were brands like Urethane Burners.
They developed a great puck that helped you control your slides, not to sticky or to slippery, enough for controling your movement, they also created a formula that would last really long, helping riders both save money and don´t have the risk of wasting all their pucks during races.
Foot Stops were really important for, as the name says, stoping your foot. It also helped a lot of riders to know where their foot was located in the board by just feeling it, which is really important for not looking at your feet when you are going down a road.
At some point it seem to be the biggest trend, since some people that were riding boards with enough concave to don´t use a footstop, were also using them because they looked cool.
New Era from 2007 to Today (Professional era?)
The last era of downhill skateboarding, or New Era, is happening right now. On the out side it might seen that scene hasn´t change that much but if you start digging a bit, you will see that the new riders are not just proffesional riders with a lot of skill on the board. New top riders are also studying physics to be pros.
This people will have developed the best techniques to optimize the amount of movement on the board, this way the can save every second possible. They are also developing their own prototypes, like Diego Poncelet (current World Champion) is adding new components under his board, this way he is aiming to reduce air resistence under his board.
By today´s standard, we can´t barely see any rider attemting footbrakes or pendulum slides in races. New proffesionals can pre-drift or drift any corner, loosing enough speed to not don´t loose the inside line and be the fastest.
As we mentioned earlier, gear kept changing and improving. In the last era we talked about how riders were starting to use precision trucks. This era brought changes too, now precison trucks weren´t enough. What now is required is to ride a really narrow precision truck with rake, that we will talk about later.
This Era also brought organization changes, IDF was the favorite world champion organizor until they stoped organizing events in 2021. A new org came to sustitude them in 2022 the WDSC (World Donwhill Skateboarding Chamionship). We wish they have many successes and can make great events for the community.
Today there is not time to have extra gadgets that can disturb, just ride what you need and don´t add innecesary things.