Why push when you can LDP?
Perpetual board pumping techniques invented centuries ago by Polynesian and Hawaiian surfers, tinkered with on tiny skateboards since the 60’s and 70’s, and now adapted to modern day longboards. The art and sport of modern day LDP uses pumping motions of the body to propel one’s skateboard for distances never before imagined, never putting foot to ground, for miles at a time.
This page outlines pumping forms of more recent evolution, and how we’ve adapted running techniques to make distance longboarding as viable and accessible as any other recreational weekend activity.
Adopting a term like Long Distance Pumping, a.k.a. LDP, was simply a way to quickly answer the most common question — “What do you call this?” — we hear many times we’re out swinging, chopping, and groovin’ down the trails non-stop.
Some guys that we skate with here in the Northwest were distance pumping back in the 70’s: Gerry “Skip” Croteau on the East Coast, as well as Patrick Alldred, a die-hard Seattle native. They just weren’t nearly as fanatical as the younger generation here, and didn’t have nearly as techie a board for the occasion, so they’ve been basically blown away by the longer distances we skate. And have since upgraded their equipment!
Pumping a skateboard’s been around as long as skateboards have been around. But taking it another 20–100 miles further, you start to actually see the benefit and advantage that focusing on LDP lends to skateboarding as a true distance adventure.
And once you’ve got that down, you could be hooked for life!
“How to Pump a Longboard”
In my experience, pumping is best learned VISUALLY, and applied through practice.
Get the image of the motions locked in your mind, then try to mimic that imagery on your board. This is how I learned how to snowboard, wakeboard, and surf. This is also how Olympic athletes continually improve their form.
The basics of “how to pump” have been covered extensively by guys like Dan Gesmer, John Gilmour, Vlad Popov, Chris Chaput, and Alan Sidlo, among many respected others in the skateboarding world. (Posted at bottom of this page.) Their descriptions are the starting point for pumping techniques that are specific to the distance longboarder.
Mainly, skaters going longer distances than a 30-second slalom race need to pull from an arsenal of many pumps while skating for hours on end. Wiggles (rotations as Vlad puts it) come in handy for low-cost maintenance or long uphill climbs, and more powerful pumps when in the zone or when gravity is in your favor.
For some, the discovery might happen in the first session, but normally it doesn’t happen overnight. You might have one of those “a ha!” moments at the bottom of a hill, as you realize that now you’ve gone beyond the momentum of gravity, and you’re actually powering forward under YOUR energy, rather than the hill’s.
Discovering the Pump
The majority of people I learned how to pump with only got it through a lot of practice on the board, and little bits of guidance along the way. Most important is recognizing those moments of acceleration, internalizing how it’s happening, then making it your own, eventually incorporating your own style.
Expect to sweat. Expect a lot of effort on your part. And expect to look like a doofus at the beginning, but to not give a damn — and this last part is key.
This page describes elements that go into pumping, because when you practice out there on your board, as long as you keep at it, you WILL reach that moment of discovery when you have just accelerated under your own power, without the benefit of gravity.
There are many ways to go about it, and this is why one person’s way to describe it becomes the magical explanation for some, and makes absolutely no sense to another.
The “hula hoop” analogy for example, can be misleading, if you don’t already know how to hula hoop. Most beginners assume its a fully circular motion, where its actually closer to rocking weight between your feet. You should end up pumping powerful, alternating SEMI-circles rather than full circles. Whereas if you followed a truly circular motion, you’d be powering only your heel side, and simply ignoring your toe-side pump. So if it really helps to stick with some verbal analogy, make sure your understanding of it is accurate!
Parallels to nature are a more compelling example, such as the graceful dolphin pumping and wiggling through the sea. Since you’re upright, your body isn’t travelling in a horizontal direction, but when you pump, you can think of an S-turn motion starting high in your chest and core, and continuing through your lower body, all the way down through your board, the trucks, and finally the wheels.
Most pumping involves your feet catching up with your body. Michael Dong has coached us all at length in the study of slalom, in how you commit your upper body’s movement, and constantly keep your lower body chasing after it. And Dong has been the fastest guy in the world in the cyber course for the last six years…so I’d say he’s probably on to something here.
Pumping, in Two Parts
There are many pump variations, a distinction which few existing pumping tutorials acknowledge.
And there are a couple primary elements: Stance, where you place your feet most of the time, and Form, what your body is doing.
I’m going to describe some of these independently.
Mix and match what works for you. And keep at it — remember, there is no “one way” to pump!
1. Surf-stance pumps, thrusting weight into the rear and steering with the front foot
The surf stance has practically become the de facto standard in most longboard pumping, and in slalom skateboarding. Most freestyle snowboards are set up like this, with the front foot angles around 45 degrees in front, and the rear foot turned just forward of 90 degrees.
This is a very powerful pumping stance. It’s as if you’re throwing all the weight starting from your upper back, through your torso, down toward your feet, committing all your energy and weight into the turn. As you initiate this powerful thrust, you may find your rear foot is up on its toes, especially as you pick up speed.
This pump is essentially what the sk8kings “AXE” skate deck design capitalized on. It has a kicktail that hugs your powerful rear thrusting foot, and a slight concave pocket in the nose that cups your “steering wheel” front foot. On a flat board, you can achieve the same effect by attaching angled foam blocks that hug your feet in this manner. These angles aren’t absolutely necessary for pumping, but many top slalom racers swear by the power they get by being “locked in” to their boards.
Here’s a surf stance shot of our local Seattleite Dan-o, who has an incredible surf form when he rides, in both LDP and slalom.
2. Parallel stance pumps, weighting/unweighting the board
Otherwise known as a skier’s stance. A much more traditional stance in 70’s style slalom skateboarding. Very smooth and cool looking when executed by the pros. Takes a lot more forward and backward balance, as the feet are positioned toward the center of the board, quite close to each other, sometimes even touching, and some riders keep their knees together as well. Watch good parallel skiers or mono-skiers on the slopes going through mogul fields.
This pump can leverage the full power of the ‘snap’ in the board, as the rider stands center and each turn powers them forward faster. This is a fun technique to experiment with even just out cruising.
A upper body variation I like with this is holding the arms out in front, almost as if holding ski poles!
The Northwest’s David Baker (a transplant from Cali) and John Stryker, are a couple prime examples of this parallel stance style, although Stryker has since moved into a much surfier stance.
3. Running stance pump, body pointed forward, alternating arms front and back
This is a pump stance unique to distance riding, and Munson puts it’s efficiency to great use. It wouldn’t be surprising if he basically owns this unique technique. It breaks the mold of most standard skateboard stances.
Since the feet are pointing almost forward, there is less leverage being thrown to each side of the deck as in traditional toe and heel pumps. Instead, the focus is in weighting and unweighting the two sides of the body by slightly shifting weight in the core from side to side.
This stance also ties into a unique motion of the arms – similar to “Rocking the Baby” except there is less side to side rocking and instead more of a forward/backward motion which also resembles running or jogging.
4. Backward stance pump, body pointed opposite the direction of travel
This stance and pump allows you to exercise a whole different range of muscles, and it’s not only a good dose of goofy fun, but also helpful in getting through those moments during a distance ride where your body wants to stop, but your mind doesn’t.
Distance pumping usually involves much more subtle upper body motions, small movements in the calves and ankles, and alternating between big sweeping pumps and smaller pumps to conserve energy and move the effort around to different muscle groups. Shaking up your form keeps you from tiring out prematurely, and prevents repetitive motion injuries.
The standard slalom pump, for example, is potentially very powerful, generating a lot of accelleration in a short distance (watch Richy Carrasco or Michael Dong in action!) However, keeping slalom pump intensity and form up for a few miles is not only practically impossible, it simply doesn’t make aerobic sense. It would be like applying the techniques of 100-meter sprint to a marathon.
After getting the basic feel of pumping and being able to generate some forward motion on a flat surface, the idea behind LDP is to MINIMIZE your effort — after all, you may be on the board for an hour or more!
1. (LDP) Hangin Loose, swinging the arms low and quiet and lightly weighting/unweighting the turns
This is pumping technique I use by far the most for riding long distances. The real power here is coming from your CORE, your midsection. Your middle and lower back motions are small but incredibly powerful. Your abs play a part, but most of this comes from the muscles underneath such as the psoas.
Your arms are hanging to your sides, but they are anything but dead weight. You don’t need to crank them up and down much to generate speed, just light, subtle lifts that start from the hands and move all the way up to the shoulders, that move just a little faster than your turn. Relaxed, but powerful.
Your upper body and arms are always moving ahead of the lower portion of your body, it’s as if your lower half is constantly playing catch-up.
Eric Lowell captures the essence of this really well.
2. (LDP) Shadow Boxing, keeping the arms curled up by the chest, using subtle shifts in the core for most of the momentum, some small ankle and lower leg movement. The focus here is not really on “punching”, but by doing so at first you’ll feel how your core moves over your center of balance. Eventually your arms will be relatively motionless, it’s really just to train your core / shoulders to pivot subtly, and create quiet momentum. It will look like you’re hardly moving at all.
Shadow boxing is also one of the primary “maintenance” pumps. It’s a subtle motion you can keep going for miles and miles. Munson used this quite often, especially when climbing hills. This again is one of those pumps that didn’t come as much out of the slalom world, rather it was borne of necessity in pursuing the most efficient and least energy consuming forms of pumping longer distances.
And thanks to a post from the “riderz.net” forum, here’s a translation in French.
“Traduction approximative :
“La technique de pompage dite “Shadow Boxing” pour le pompage longue distance – les épaules et les coudes décrivent des mouvements circulaires alternants, générant une accélération et toujours un peu en avance par rapport aux pieds.
La plus grosse mise en charge a lieu là où les flèches bleues apparaissent et le délestage pendant le reste de ce mouvement circulaire. La mise en charge est extrêmement importante en slalom pour générer une accélération rapide et intense à chaque virage, mais en pompage longue distance, il est plus important de décider quand dépenser ou conserver cette énergie. Au moyen de rotations, en répartissant les efforts entre le haut et le bas du corps, des cadences plus longues peuvent être maintenues.” “
Even if some of them were laughing at what we’re doing here, I appreciate their interest. In some of our earliest videos we admittedly overdid the motions, but it was basically out of a frustration with people writing 10,000-word essays to explain concepts like this.
3. (LDP) Rocking the Baby, a swing that starts at the core and moves to the feet.
Generate energy by locking your arms into a comfortable position, then rocking, and letting the bottom of your body follow your arms. You may surprise yourself how little motion is actually required to maintain this pump, once you’ve reached a flatland momentum in the 10–13mph range.
4. (Slalom) Tossing the Baby
Throwing arms high and opposite direction of feet with each pump. Brad Jackman isn’t a really big guy, but he uses this approach really efficiently to win races.
This is a quintessential and powerful accelerating slalom pump, though a little more exaggerated, as you throw your arms in the opposite direction of your legs and lower body. The midsection is your pivot point, and should keep your torso pointing forward, down the “fall line” or the “forward line”, if you’re pumping across flats.
Keeping the midsection stable and not twisting is an important point, as this pump has the most potential for fast acceleration around turns. Watch Richy Carrasco in GS, or Michael Dong on tight courses to see this pump in action. Richy also calls this one “Slingin’ the Meat”
5. (Slalom) The CHOP.
Here, the arms don’t swing as high as when Tossing the Baby, but the fast up and down motions play a huge part in flowing down to the lower part of the body, and of course transmit all that power to cranking the trucks. You might see this technique the most in tight and hybrid slalom courses.
Here’s a clip of Dong and Roe on a Salem 100-cone hill. Note how Michael’s arms shoot straight out dramatically at the top of the hill, and as he’s accelerating through the course.
And here’s a great contribution from Vlad Popov that’s been out there for years. He skates through the motions in universal mime-speak. Note that Vlad was just a quarter second behind Michael Dong in the Cyber Slalom challenge, the guy’s a phenomenal athlete.
“CodePink PUMP” On Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/1911114
People just getting into pumping and slalom nowadays can benefit immensely from all the ride-time that others have already put into figuring out what wheels, trucks, bushings, riser, and deck combinations make up the most efficient skateboards for pumping.
But there are many who will tell you “any deck can be pumped.”
This statement is absolutely true, but it’s not complete.
What really needs to be clarified is “some setups can be pumped far more efficiently than others.”
And many other factors must be taken into account as well. Just as you wouldn’t buy a BMX bike for an interstate bicycle race, you wouldn’t ride a park board for a longboard marathon. You wouldn’t even necessarily want to ride a high-tech slalom board on a marathon, because your pumps would be far shorter and faster. You would be best off considering a board with a much longer wheelbase, and a touch of flex. It starts to get increasingly opinionated from this point forward.
With all the gimmicky new “surf-like” trucks and gadgets that pop up on the market each year, there is an important element of getting back to the basics, that should always be kept in mind.
All that said, the most efficient Long Distance Pumping setups are made up of the following elements.
1. High-rebound wheels in a durometer that suits the terrain. 84a is fine for good surfaces, but 78a is probably the best all-around durometer.
2. Wheel size that matches the terrain. Short ride? 66-70mm is fine. Real distance, like 10 miles or more? Bump it up to 75/76mm. You’ll appreciate the added momentum and ability to maintain a faster high-end clip.
3. A very turny front truck with excellent, snappy rebound back to center. Good bushings make all the difference.
4. 10-15 degrees of wedging in the front truck (and sometimes more.)
5. A stable rear truck with excellent rebound to center. Again, choose bushings wisely.
6. 5-10 degrees of de-wedging in the rear truck.
7. Simply clean, oiled bearings, in the Abec 3-5-7 range. The differences are trivial. Ceramics can be overkill for harsh trail riding conditions in LDP.
8. A deck that is wide enough in the nose to enable the full width of your foot, to transfer more subtle movements directly over and down into the front truck’s pivot.
9. A wheelbase in the range between 26″ to 31″.
10. Some degree of subtle flex in the board. Not a soft noodle, and not stiff as a rock.
Realize that shorter setups, such as those used in slalom, can be much easier to learn on, though it is not absolutely necessary to do so. These have wheelbases in the 17″ to 22″ range, are usually in the 8″ to 9.5″ widths, and are not always of the flexy variety.
Other Random Thoughts
~ Spend more time on your board than on your keyboard.
~ It takes more effort to pump slower speeds. LDP is all about maintaining momentum. Get up to speed and keep up that speed!
~ For rainy days, set up a smaller pumping board and find a small dry square of concrete anywhere (garages are a prime candidate) to pump circles and figure eights.
~ Push all you need to, at first, to keep speed going and not get discouraged.
~ Practice the general pump principles of weighting and unweighting, aligning your shoulders forward, relaxed and bending at the knees.
~ When you get comfortable, gradually increase your ride mileage every time you get out.
~ Pain in the arches? Move around on the board to keep your feet alive. Change pumps more frequently, and get away from riding directly over the truck too much to reduce vibrations. Pump switch stance, cross-step when you’re on a mellow slope, shake it up.
~ Don’t expect validation from others that your efforts in LDP are really ‘cool’ or worthwhile. You need to pursue this from within, with a desire to do something that’s a little awkward at first but that pays off incredibly in the end. Even once you’ve gotten smooth, there will be a constant line of critics. This is true with any “unique” pursuit, but skateboarding has a stigma all its own. Even within the skateboarding community there are some that feel LDP is too unlike cruising, or takes too much effort, something only a “jock” would pursue. Forget about it! And just keep your eyes on the target — eventually a target that’s 40 miles away.
And some inspirational reads!
“Chi Running” by Danny Dreyer is a book written primarily for marathon runners. Munson introduced me to this book years ago, and we incorporated into LDP pumping many of the same principles that Dreyer wrote for distance runners:
** Using the upper body’s momentum to complement the lower body is essential, this can simply be the body’s CORE, doesn’t have to be dramatic swinging arms movements
** Using the gravitational concept of “falling forward” as you pump (or run)
** Remembering the basics, efficient Breathing and Relaxation
“Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long Distance Swimmer” was an inspirational autobiographical story by Lynne Cox, who has swum amazing distances all over the world in some of the most extreme conditions. Far beyond the physical, and deeply into the mental challenges, and with a focus on the people that supported her along the way.
This book played a large part in mentally preparing and psyching me up for the 2007 Seattle to Portland ride, as I had been going through months of physical therapy, yoga, and other treatments for a pretty gnarly back injury from November 2006.
~ The Distance Mentality is not just for “Jocks!”
If you can comfortably walk 5 miles (and I suspect for many in relatively decent shape, this is true) then you could probably get out and skate 10 miles even today. It’s really a question of pacing, and initially its just that mental wall of not being sure how far is “far.”
I usually slash around on the board in a small area for a few minutes beforehand, just to get loose and warmed up, then stretch for 5–10 minutes before a ride.
When I haven’t ridden for a long time due to rain, injury, or just taking some winter weeks off, a 12-mile commute will take 80–90 minutes at a slow pace, then increasing the pace over several months, eventually shooting for 60 minutes or less.
Then its a question of how many days in a row the body will handle it, and decide when to alternate days, or take a couple off. just like a distance runner’s routines. Just listen carefully the next day how your body’s feeling and if you’re really up to it. You’re building a strong base, so you shouldn’t think about “pushing through pain” during this time.
Call it “training” if you like, but I just consider it my daily commute!
Vlad Popov’s description from his Pump page:
Pump is a set of rotating, angulating, inclinating, and weighting-unweighting movements that allow for an active control of skateboard’s speed and turning line.
A solid one-foot riding skill needs to be developed prior to getting both feet on the skate. It takes about 2 weeks for the lower leg muscles to strengthen and adjust. Balancing on the board and learning the basics becomes easy.
There’s no agreement on whether it’s better to start learning with pure rotation (which I call Pump-1) or with abdominal and back muscles work without any rotation (which I call Pump-2). Both approaches have been successfully tried. Those who start off with learning the rotation, get rid of all the counter-productive rotation in the upper body sooner or later. Those who choose to start off with Pump-2, sooner or later find out that they must learn rotation before moving to the next level. Learning 1-2 takes the same amount of time as learning 2-1. Pump-2 is a compulsory precursor for Pump-4, and Pump-2 and 1 are the two necessary pre-requirements for Pump-3. Jumping and skipping 1 and 2 will set you back down the road. It’s up to you which one to learn first, but 3 and 4 will not be mastered without 1 and 2. This is similar to learning to walk before learning to run.
John Gilmour’s pumping description posted on ncdsa in 2000:
On 8/5/2000 John gilmour wrote in from 18.202.xxx.xxx:
First I learned the arm motion and timing from tic-tacking a regular kicktailed board.
Then I got on a very short board with very loose trucks with quick turning geometry trucks. I used California slaloms at first- but Bennetts are a good choice as are Lasers. You’ll have to buy an old junk deck to get these off ebay.
if you try to learn to pump on a slower turning truck like a common street truck….I doubt you’ll ever get it. indys turn slower than the above trucks and Tracker slower than that. Seismics would work well. If you want to make it easier you can run your trucks with both wedges thick ends pointed inwards- skinny sides to the tip and tail. Use soft grommets- hard urethane street grommets will make learning to pump almost impossible.
Then find an excellent surface….. note not a good surface but an EXCELLENT surface that is high traction. Some of that pink sidewalk stuff is really good- your street isn’t a very good place to learn as it may have oil and antifreeze on it making it more slippery.
Try to turn the board while twisting the rear of the deck and pushing the board laterally.
If your timing is off you may have some difficulty getting this. To assist you can find a hill that is not steep enough to coast down…. but almost enought to keep going. Try pumping on this grade…if you can keep going- you are learning how to pump. your front foot tilts teh deck and the back foot pushes it out to the side and down.
Then go to flat.
Then try an uphill.
If that does not work you may favor one side over another when pumping as many do.
So pick your favored side and try to pump in a very very very very large circle- at least 30 feet in diameter.
your downforce has to match in timing to the lateral force and twisting motion and your hand motion.
if that fails…… get a large deck like a fibreflex pintail- and bounce on that when you pump (this is bad habit though) once you get the rhythm you can go to a regular board.
| Alan Sidlo’s pumping description posted on SF
“hmmmm…. so you want to feel the pump?self propulsion on a skateboard is real easy actually once you get the basics then you can just forget about the details because it becomes something totally natural. there are some motions to learn but it’s the timing of the turns which are key to this maneuver. yes, there’s a rhythm to it.visualize a straight line with another wavy line on top of it. your body’s path is the straight line and the wavy line is the skateboard’s path wherever the lines intersect is when the board is under you (no lean) where the wavy line is farthest away from the straight one is where the deck is “pushed away” and your body will be leaning towards the direction of the straight line… you’re be trying to squeeze more out of the turn by compressing your body while going into the turn follow by decompressing through the turn, and compressing for the next. by sort of pushing the board away from the body (the direction opposite of the turn) at the same time you force the friction of the wheel against the riding surface to interact with the truck causing it to turn bringing back the board underneath you. the more pressure that is applied to the board through the turn, the more power is derived.
learning how to pump is facilitated by the a very short board although it can eventually be picked up with a longer deck. a deck that is too short will give you a real turny pump so that the exaggerated motion will get you going quickly but top speed is going to be slower.
my suggestion for a deck to start with would be:
something that would be important would be a level and smooth but grippy riding space such as a tennis court or asphalt parking lot free of debris.
you wont be using the short board for long as you should quickly graduate to a longer board but i think that this would give the best demonstration of the mechanics of self propulsion. a longer deck such as a turny slalom deck can be substituted but the longer decks require more effort for the larger turns.
let me define some terminology here just for some sense of clarity…
first you should get comfortable turning in both directions. try kicking off slow and then going into a turn, then try it the other way. try it again both ways several times each time getting tighter and tighter in the turn. tuck low when doing the tighter ones in order to jam into the turn. this should be one of the first things to learn once one can stand on a board for any distance. besides this is always fun to do no matter how long you’ve been skating.
if you have a short board try this: kick off at a slow speed and put both feet over both the front and rear trucks then try working the trucks against each other. when turning, for a toeside turn twist the front forward and away from you and sort of shove the rear out behind you in a jerking motion then the opposite for the heelside turn. important: don’t turn the trucks in opposite directions – instead use foot pressure to push or pull the trucks in opposite directions while leaning into a turn sort of twisting at the hip. this should give you some feeling of propulsion… the elusive pump.
once you get comfortable with the board and your turns, it’s time to try getting the feeling of pumping in one direction. for this effort we’ll try going in circles. push and go toeside riding in a drawn out circle as large as you can comfortably, kicking off to maintain a slow speed. now while continuing to go in this circle cut tighter then draw wide (straighten out a bit) repetitively like your carving a wavy line trying to maintain that circle. next try it the other direction (heelside). after a while you should be able to maintain speed pumping in a circle. remember you are only going one direction for now. so all your pumps should only be pushed out away from the center of the circle. keep doing this until you feel like your getting the hang of it. if propulsion still evades you or you get tired of this just skip the next lesson move on to the following lesson and come back to this practice later or your not going to be able to go onto making figure 8’s… not to worry though, you’re bound to eventually.
next let’s try doing a figure eight. you’ll probably need a wider area to do be able to do this. start off by kicking off slowly into a toeside (or heelside) turn , pushing out your turn and drawing tight and pushing out again for a few pumps then switch to the opposite turn (forming a figure 8 path) and push out to pump your turns in the other direction. if you can move smoothly between the heelside and toeside turns you are well on your way. that switch in the very middle is your linked turn (where you go from one turn to the opposite) perfecting this transition between the turns is where it’s at.
now for pumping in a “straight line” you’ll have to draw a wavy line by turning one way and then the other. kick off slowly and weave a wavy line just turning back and forth. lean into your turns riding slightly crouched with your hands out for balance, bend your knees as you go into your turns and push out against your board straightening your knees out just a bit to draw the board away from the body and then turn it back under you as you transition into the next turn in the opposite direction. it’ll be clumsy at first but with a few tries you should get the feel for how far you can push it while lean into the turn. if this still gives you problems go back to doing circles to get the feeling there and move on to figure eights, then you can try pumping a straighter line at a later time.
remember this can be learned on a longer board, just takes more space and a lot more energy expended.”