There have been lots of questions about riding a mountain board, stance, speed wobble, stopping and turning – so I have written a ride guide starting with the basics to get you on the board and going down hill and then stopping at the bottom. Many of the principles can then be transferred to kiteboarding.
This is only meant as a guide and in no way can replace having proper instruction/training from a qualified ATB instructor.
Riding a mountain board has similarities to riding a skate board and a snowboard and if you have done either of these you will have an advantage (which I know doesn’t help if you have never ridden a skateboard or snow board!).
When riding safety is paramount, wear a helmet, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads before even stepping onto the board. Never get on or off a moving board as this can cause injury to your self and your board can continue on and injure somebody else.
Before riding you need to know your style (goofy or regular) this means which foot you lead with (or are comfortable leading with). Regular is leading with the left foot and goofy (or fakie) is leading with the right foot (obviously). If you have skateboarded or snow boarded you will probably already know if you are goofy or regular stance.
If not you will need to know which is your lead foot. Did you ever slide along the ice as a kid (I still do!), which foot did you lead with? That is the one you want pointing down hill as your front foot, as you will feel that is the way that you will be most comfortable and in control. Or stand up with both feet together and get somebody to give you a gentle shove back – which foot did you step back with to stop yourself falling over? That again will be your front foot.
If it still feels uncomfortable when riding try switching your stance, the above doesn’t work for everybody.
The way to stand on the board is, feet in the bindings (locked in -see atb guide), knees slightly flexed. At this point you will be pointing to one side and not forwards! So rotate at the waist to look where you want to go (the pictures on the mbs ride guide do show this) and keep your weight over the lead foot.
(when down hilling only) – start by practicing on the flat on a stationary board!
Stand on the board with your feet in the bindings, crouch down and wrap your arms around your knees and grab the edge of the board between your feet. Gently lean back still holding the board – and eventually you will end up on your arse, which is the basis of a power slide that will stop you. Now try it on a gentle slope – as you start to role (and before you are going to fast!) crouch down, wrap your arms around your knees, grab the edge of the board and lean back – the board will turn hard (it may slide) and will stop. Again you will probably end up sat on the ground. Keep practising that on a gentle slope, you should be able to stop yourself quickly without ending on your arse and standing back up, it may take about 5 or 6 attempts.
As you progress and gain confidence your power slides evolve, one handers, palm off’s etc. I find that I also tend to lift my back foot slightly as this helps get the rear end around and you get a great looking spray of grass or dirt. Then hop the board around and off you go again. I still end up on my backside at times, but power sliding is a great feeling and I love it.
The power slide technique can also be used with a kite to stop – but you won’t grab the board and the kite needs to be sent up to the zenith.
I started off describing how to stop (huh!) as before you get moving it is essential that you know the technique to stop!
If you are on a hill, rather than pushing your self off with one foot and then trying to step onto the board (and into the binding), set the board up on a slope, with it the right way round so that your lead foot is in front (down hill). If you let go of the board it will roll down hill, so before you step on reach across and hold the tyre of the up hill wheel and grip it tight so the board doesn’t move as you climb on.
As an example – I ride regular style (left foot as lead) so I would have the board on the hill so that when I climb on and step into the bindings my left foot is in front. Before getting on I would then reach across with my right hand and grab the furthest up hill wheel (to stop the board moving), then climb on and still holding the wheel make sure you are comfortable in the bindings.
Let go off the wheel and you should gently start rolling, stand up but keep your knees flexed, keep your weight over your lead foot. Keeping your weight low maintains a lower centre of gravity and better balance. Before you go to fast, practice the power slide to stop.
Once you can stop safely you can gradually build up to heel and toe side J- turns (the turn is in the shape of an inverted j). This will allow you to control your speed as you descend the hill (and avoid obstacles!). Start with heel side first (as is similar to a powerslide) and just press gently on the heels to turn and keep turning until you stop. When you are comfortable with heel side then try toe side.
When you have mastered that then you can try to link turns carving across the hill to control your speed.
The fastest way down the hill is in a straight line down the fall line (imagine letting a ball roll down a hill it will follow the fall line – the fastest route). To control your speed you need to be able to carve across the fall line.
Depending on the size of your turns and how close to the fall line you turn depends on your speed of decent down the hill. For a fast decent, head more or less straight down hill with gentle turns to scrub of some speed. For a slow decent ride further across the hill, you will need to do big carves and remember as your board points down hill in the turn it will pick up speed.
As your confidence and control increase you will find that you will make shallower turns and take a more direct and faster route down hill.
As your balance on the board improves you may want to try a 90° hop to start – looks cooler! Practice first on flat ground; stand on the board feet securely in the bindings (locked in) and jump with the board, as you jump you need to spin the board through 90° – so that you land with your lead foot pointing the way you want to go. Jumping clockwise for regular stance and anti-clockwise for goofy. When you can do this on the flat, getting the board through 90°, landing, remaining upright and stable you can try it on the hill.
Place the board at 90° to the fall line, it should remain stationary, so that when you get on you are facing down hill, stand on the board and secure yourself in the bindings. Then jump the board through 90° (clockwise=regular, anti-clockwise=goofy), you should end up with the board pointing down hill, with your lead foot in the lead (!) and starting to move.
Before you know it you will be doing a 90° hop to start, speeding down the hill (in control) and pulling off a dramatic power slide at the bottom, kicking grass and dirt into the air! You will be covered in mud and grass stains (maybe some bruises!) but will hopefully have a huge grin on your face – bring it on!
All this gets covered in an hour’s lesson (which costs £10-£15) and is easier to teach directly and demonstrate than explain. As I said at the beginning this is only meant as a guide and in no way can replace having proper instruction/training from a qualified ATB instructor.
...is the wobble that occurs when you are going at speed on a board!
It mainly happens with skate trucks (which are the most unstable) but can happen with other trucks.
It develops from steering/balance corrections which are very fine and done without knowing it, but because of the speed and less stable trucks, they gradually spiral into more and more over corrections that make the wobble bigger and bigger and you quickly feel less in control.
Before you know it the board is snaking around under your feet and then you are lying on the ground thinking what the hell just happened!
If you have skate trucks you can tighten the king pin (the central bolt) or change the bushes to a harder compound – though this may effect the steering.
Keeping your weight onto your front foot (by trying to keep your foot, knee and hip in alignment) and both knees bent can also help. If it starts to wobble get lower (it hurts less if you fall off) and lowers the centre of gravity (more stable) if you are not going to run into something just try to let the board run out straight and slow down a bit. These principles work both with a kite and when down hilling.
Sometimes knowing what it is helps – I saw a kid (9 or 10) riding a board with skate trucks, gradually getting more and more confident going down hill, then he started to get wobble and took a few spectacular wipe outs. Typical kid though, just jumped right up and had another go (fearless) but was starting to get frustrated. I just mentioned to him that it’s nothing he was doing wrong and it was speed wobble; keep your weight forwards – no more speed wobble! Instead he decided to try and wipe himself out on a jump!