You can move your longboard quickly on flat ground or even uphill by pumping it instead of kicking it. This works for both short and long distances. It involves moving your body back and forth and shifting your weight in a way that makes your longboard make quick, small turns, gaining speed by using centripetal forces without your feet ever touching the ground.
What is longboard pumping?
Pumping a longboard is its own subculture. Pumpers are a dedicated group who share their experiences and knowledge with each other all the time. So why is everyone making a big deal about longboard pumping?
Most people who start longboarding start by pushing to get their board moving. They usually keep pushing for the rest of their longboarding lives, like when they want to go cruising. Most longboarders also use gravity to move quickly when they are going downhill.
Another way to do it
Pumping, or “skumping” (which is a combination of skating and pumping), is another way to move forward on your longboard. You use your body weight as a propelling engine by making swerving movements in time with each other. By shifting your weight slightly from left to right at the right times, you can make small zigzags on your longboard to gain momentum and speed.
The move is similar to “tic-tac,” which is when you speed up on a skateboard by slightly lifting your front wheels off the ground (by pressing down on the tail) and swinging the front of your board left and right (making a “tic-tac” sound).
Even though your wheels don’t leave the ground when you pump, your body moves in a similar way.
How to pump a longboard?
It’s no secret that you have to practice, practice, and practice to learn how to pump on your longboard. After 15 or 20 miles of riding, many longboarders start to get a feel for how to do it right.
Depending on how often and how well you ride, it could take weeks of practice and building the right muscles before you can really get your longboard to pump. This is especially true if you are using a typical beginner board, which is a drop deck board that is on the longer side and has trucks that both turn the same way. See the section below about pumping setups.
Even though learning to pump can be hard because you’re trying to find the right motion, once you do, you should be able to pump for miles without much trouble as long as you’re fit enough to walk 5 miles without getting tired.
Here is a list of steps from another famous pumper, John Gilmour, that might help you learn faster:
If you have access to a regular skateboard, you can start by learning to “tic-tac” on it by using the kicktail to lift your front wheels slightly and moving your board’s nose left and right with your front foot to gain speed. Tic-tac-toe will help you get used to the back arm motion and twisting of the torso that are needed to speed up.
Once you’re good at tic-tac-toe, you should get a short longboard with very loose and turny trucks (like Seismic trucks) and soft bushings. Regular trucks with hard bushings would make it impossible for you to learn the technique.
Start pumping on a surface that is very easy to grip (no slippery spots). Give your board a small push to get it moving, and then turn it by pressing hard on your rail with your front foot to make your trucks turn while pushing back laterally with your back foot. Keep practicing turning left and right, like tic-tac-toe, but without lifting your front wheels.
If your longboard doesn’t pick up speed when you make these turns, you probably haven’t figured out the right timing yet. If so, try going up a small hill that isn’t too steep for your board to roll by itself. Try the pumping carves on it again. If your board moves, you’re getting better at pumping.
Once you can keep going just by pumping on a very gentle slope, it’s time to go back to flat ground and practice your carves until you can keep the longboard going without stopping. After a while, you might even try pumping a little uphill, but that might be hard on a regular longboard. Again, see the setup section for more information.
If you still can’t keep going on your longboard by doing these carves, try pumping around in a big circle, always in the same direction, to practice carving on one side. Since you’ll be making a lot of turns, make sure you do it on a surface with a lot of grip. When you’re pumping in circles, it will be easier for you to circle on the front side, which you can do by doing toeside carves. If you’re a regular footer, this means you should ride in a circle going clockwise. If you’re a goofball, you should ride counterclockwise. Each time you carve, the hard pressure you put on your front rail combines with the turning force to speed your board up.
You could also find a longboard with a big, flexible deck to help you learn how to pump. The bouncing will help your pumping, but you will lose more energy and speed because of the momentum of the vertical bouncing.
If you’re new to pumping on a longboard, this is a whole new world to explore. Pumping was a big surprise to me, and ever since I learned how to do it, it has been my main focus when longboarding.
Getting into longboard pumping doesn’t mean you can’t do other types of riding as well. For example, many long distance skaters combine pushing and pumping to get the longest and most efficient rides. Specialized brands like Gbomb make longboards that are good for both styles.
On a pintail cruiser or a kicktailed street hybrid, with the right setup, you can combine pumping and carving with cruising or freestyling. Or, you could decide to ride a surfskate on the boardwalk and maybe change the bushings to make it a better long-distance rider.
Overall, the turny trucks, the deck flex, and the soft wheels are the keys to pumping. And, of course, the right rhythm and way to move your body. Check out this Facebook group to learn more about the world of pumping.