When winter arrives, most outdoor activities come to a halt other than your winter-only sports. That remains true for many longboarders. After all, there are valid concerns about longboarding in the winter time such as slick roads, damage to your board, and getting injured.
Despite what most people think, longboarding can be considered an all-weather sport. With the right gear and know-how, you can quickly develop your skills to safely ride in the winter time. Be cautious because you can do irreparable damage to your board if you aren’t careful, or even worse, get seriously injured. However, if you consider yourself a die-hard longboarder, keep reading to make sure you’re prepared for a winter boarding session.
Weatherproofing your longboard
Winter time usually brings unpredictable weather patterns like rain and snow. Wet weather can certainly damage your longboard, so you’ll want to take extra precaution as you prepare to go out.
Longboards are typically made from several layers of plywood. Wood and water don’t work well together. While different types of wood react differently when coming in contact with water, it’s best to assume that water will damage your deck unless you protect it. If exposed to water, the wooden deck will absorb it which will cause it to warp. This can damage the deck beyond repair where only 2 or 3 wheels actually touch the ground.
You can opt for water resistant decks that repel the water from being absorbed. You will pay more up front for the deck, but it’s a no-brainer if you plan on riding in wet conditions.
If your deck is painted, that will help add some water resistance, but from our experience, even painted decks can become damaged by water.
If buying a water resistant deck isn’t in your budget, and you want to add more protection, consider coating your deck in polyurethane. Polyurethane will dry clear, so any paint you have on your deck will still be visible under a thin protective film. As a bonus, it will also make your deck scratch and stain resistant. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it will be much better than doing nothing at all.
Grip tape is surprisingly durable. Unless you’re throwing your board into a swimming pool, riding in the rain and snow should be fine as long as you wipe it down afterwards. However, grip tape is an adhesive, and too much moisture can penetrate the grip tape and cause it to get damaged. Water can also get trapped under the grip tape and penetrate your deck causing it to warp as well.
For added protection, you may want to apply some waterproof grip tape to your deck.
It’s important to keep your bearings free of dirt, moisture, and well lubricated. Water can be very damaging to the lubricant on the bearings. As little as 1% water in grease or oil can significantly shorten bearing life.
Bearings can range widely in cost. Generally, most ceramic bearings will have added protection from water, because they don’t rust, but that doesn’t prevent water from ruining the lubrication.
The simplest and least expensive solution is to use lithium grease. This multi-purpose solution withstands moisture and high heat, and protects against rust as well. Using this before heading out in the wet weather can make a world of difference when it comes to the long term care of your longboard.
Do not use WD-40 or any other cheap lubricants. WD-40 will leave behind film that will attract dust, and other small particles which can damage your bearings.
Luckily, the trucks don’t normally have many issues when used in the rain and snow. You will want to make sure you wipe them down (along with the rest of your board) after you ride in order to prevent rust.
Your wheels won’t get damaged from water, but you’ll quickly find that wet weather means slippery roads. A common solution is to make “rain wheels”. Most longboarders make their own rain wheels, although there are places you can buy them online.
Why do you need rain wheels? If you’ve ever driven a car in the rain, you know you have to be careful so you don’t hydroplane. In a nutshell, hydroplaning is caused due to the wheels riding over water. When the water can’t move out of the way quick enough for the wheels to pass, the water goes under the wheel and instead of riding on the road, your wheel is riding on top of a thin layer of water. If this happens while turning, you could crash and get seriously injured.
With rain wheels, you can reduce this problem significantly because these wheels have grooves on them. The grooves allow for better traction because when the wheel comes in contact with water, instead of riding over the water, the water will pass through in the grooves allowing the wheel to maintain contact with the ground.
Be warned, it still requires significant riding skill to ride in wet conditions. If you can ride well with normal wheels in the rain, then using rain wheels will offer you a noticeable advantage.
Want to make your own rain wheels? With a few basic tools, you can be riding in no time. The video below does a good job explaining how you can do this from home.
Dress for the occasion
Winter weather can be harsh, and you should be concerned (and adequately prepare for) cold, wind, and getting wet.
You want to dress in the right gear so that you stay warm without sweating. Sweat and cold weather isn’t a good combination because sweat gets cold and that can drop your body temperature and can even lead to hypothermia.
You will be moving a lot and your body will generate its own heat. If you are downhill longboarding and have to walk up the hill, you will start to get warm really quick. It’s best to layer your clothing so you can easily add and remove it as your body temperature changes. Layering allows pockets of body-warmed air to get trapped in each layer. Seek out light-weight quality fabrics for optimal comfort and movement.
Be mindful of the fabric your clothing is made of. Some fabric can put you at a disadvantage and can make your outing miserable. Avoid fabrics that absorb moisture. This makes the fabric turn into a sponge, and a sponge of cold moisture against your body is bad news. Most fabric that wicks away moisture are synthetics. Wicking away moisture makes it so the moisture doesn’t get trapped in the fabric, but moves it through so the moisture is away from your body.
Fabric to avoid
Cotton: Chances are that your closet is filled with fabric made from cotton. It’s widely common and very comfortable to wear. However, it’s recommended that you avoid it because it’s not very good for insulation. Cotton will absorb moisture (AKA your sweat) and become wet. When cotton is wet, it will lose insulation value, and you will get cold.
Rayon: Rayon is ideal for hot weather as it does not insulate body heat. In fact, Rayon can absorb water faster than cotton does, and will not insulate when wet. Rayon is made from plant cellulose, and there are many other fabrics derived from this base material. Verify your clothing is not made from any of these fabrics.
Wool: Wool isn’t the most ideal fabric, but it does have some moisture wicking properties, even though it does absorb some moisture. However, It does a much better job at keeping your warm and dry than cotton or rayon.
Polyester: Polyester is a fantastic material. It only absorbs 0.4% of moisture, while wicking away the rest to the outer layer of fabric. This will keep your skin dry and your body warm. It’s best for your first layer of clothing to be made from polyester. As a mid and/or outer layer, wear something breathable, so the moisture wicked away from your base layer can evaporate quickly.
Longboarding in Rain
If you have wanted to ride in the rain to try out rain sliding, you’re not alone. It can be a thrilling experience. It’s nothing like sliding on dry pavement.
If you’ve never slid before, trying it out in the rain is actually a good way to get started. You can slide much easier at lower speeds. As you ride, you’ll get a better feel on how to ride in wet conditions. When you carve, you’ll need to carve a little harder than usual.
Ideally, try and wait for the rain to stop so the ground is still wet. It will keep your board a little dryer, and prevent any water damage.
Longboarding in Snow
Riding when there is snow on the road can be a bit scary. You’ll notice it’s a lot more difficult and dangerous.
Look at the weather forecast before you go out. You don’t want to be caught in a blizzard with nowhere to go for shelter. As always, wear a helmet and protection gear along with your cold weather clothing to keep your body warm and dry.
A little bit of snow is fine to ride on, and it can be really fun. If you find the road has a layer of ice on it, then stop. Ice means sliding, and sliding leads to unpredictability. Once you hit a patch of ice, you lose all control and are subject to the will of mother nature. You can have the best wheels for grip, and all the necessary equipment, but all of that is for naught if you ride on ice. Black ice is a huge concern because it’s hard to see on the pavement. Scope out your route beforehand to check for possible hazards.
NOTE: Snow salt usually isn’t an issue, but sometimes it isn’t spread evenly and can stop you in your tracks. Keep an eye out for it.
The only exception to riding on ice is if you modify your board as such:
Cleaning and Maintenance for your longboard
After riding in rain or snow, your board is likely wet, and it’s imperative you get it dry as quickly as possible. Don’t allow the water to get absorbed any more than it already has.
It might seem like a lot of work, but if you really care about the longevity of your board, you are going to want to field strip everything. Disassemble your entire board including all the hardware, trucks, screws, nuts, etc, etc. Wipe down everything.
It’s important to check your bearings and clean them thoroughly. When bearings stop working, your wheels will stop spinning, and you’ll be in for a bad time.
Taking everything apart and wiping it all down shouldn’t take more than an hour. It will feel nice that you know your board is properly maintained.
Remember that longboarding in wet or snowy conditions is very dangerous.
If you do not adequately prepare, you can and will be seriously injured, or even die. Countless people each year are seriously injured longboarding.
Don’t become one of these statistics.
Be alert and attentive. Driving cars in rain or snow causes low visibility. Always ride with a buddy, and wear appropriate clothing.
Proper maintenance of a board when it becomes wet can be time consuming. If this is unrealistic for you, you might want to consider using a “beater board” or a “throw-away deck”.
Use a throw-away deck (beater board) for when you know your board will get wet. Afterwards, simply give it a quick wipe down with a towel. In fact, it might be beneficial to carry a small towel with you in your pack to wipe down quicker so it will last longer.
There you have it folks. If a little rain or snow isn’t going to stop you from riding your longboard, then remember to follow the steps listed in this guide so you can have fun, keep dry, and most of all, stay safe.