What is slalom skateboarding?
The concept of slalom skateboarding is simple. Each skater takes it in turns to skate through a slalom course by turning around the gates (usually small plastic cones). The skater with the fastest time wins.
So what's exciting about that?
The secret of slalom skateboarding is a technique called pumping. Put simply, pumping allows the skater to accelerate with every turn. Unlike ski or snowboard racing, a slalom skateboarder doesn't have to rely solely on gravity to create speed - you can even pump your board up a shallow hill! If a race course is set on perfectly flat ground it is typical to see racers accelerating as they progress through the course, leaving it much faster than they entered it.
Pumping is almost a forgotten skill in the skateboarding world. It's not easy to master, but everybody who learns it becomes hooked on the magical feeling of accelerating through a turn.
What about the internet?
At the end of the 20th century, slalom's glory days of the 70s had been forgotten by almost everybody but the original participants. But those participants now had internet access, and had begun to re-establish communication with each other on skateboarding forums.
And so a slalom scene quickly re-emerged, with a healthy race schedule throughout the US and Europe, and old and new manufacturers quickly moving in to take advantage of the renewed demand for specialty slalom equipment. The top US pros travel throughout the country to go to each race, and often travel to Europe for the big European races. There is also an established race scene in Japan, and an emerging scene in Australia.
Who's the fastest racer in the world?
Check the world rankings!
Can I use any skateboard?
No, not really. The main differences from a regular shortboard are the wheels - slalom wheels are tall, wide, and soft. The extra height and weight gives them greater roll-speed, and the softness gives them the grip needed for hard turns. If you try and slalom on the small, hard wheels of a regular shortboard you'll slide out as soon as you pick up any speed.
As in any form of racing, slalomers constantly strive to get a competitive edge on their rivals by using high-tech equipment. Precision-machined titanium trucks and superlight carbon-wrapped foam-core boards are standard equipment amongst the top racers.
How fast do you go?
It depends. Speeds will usually be about 20 km/h on a flat course, but may go as high as 30 km/h. On a hill you're more likely to be travelling at about 30 km/h, but can go as high as 60 km/h for a Super-G course.
Is it dangerous?
Not particularly. Most racers wear knee and elbow pads, wrist-guards, and helmets, thus minimizing the most common form of injury - road rash. Although there are no reliable injury statistics it would seem that slalom skateboarding is no more dangerous than sports like skiing, snowboarding, and soccer/football.
What does slalom skateboarding look like?
Check out some videos!
Where can I find out more?