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Inline secrets from the world's top skaters and coaches

This week's tip:

How to Handle a High Speed Descent
Part 2: What to do when you're going too fast

The Big Hill at Big Granite

Going Down ... the big hill at Big Granite.
Photo: Darlene Prois


By Barry Publow
April 11, 2008

(Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part tip on skating downhill. Part 1)

Once you're going too fast downhill, you're like a runaway train. Your forward momentum makes braking difficult, if not dangerous. And about all you can do is maintain a tucked position and hope for the best.

A better idea is to control your speed and take corrective action before you're going too fast.

The Key Is Control

If you know a downhill is coming (and you're not sure you can handle it), slow down before you start your descent.

You can use any of these methods:

1) The T-brake

Drag one skate behind you at a 45 to 90-degree angle.

2) Shuffle Step

Step from one skate to the other with the toes of your skates turned slightly inward. The off-angle set-downs will absorb some of your forward momentum.

3) The Grass Stop

If the pavement is edged by grass, roll into it. The added friction will slow you down. (Watch Grass Stop Skate Video.)

4) Stand Tall

When you stand up, you encounter more air resistance, which slows you down. But don't stand up with straight knees. That reduces stability. Think of your torso and arms as a sail and try to "catch" as much wind as possible. When combined with a T-brake or shuffle step, this is usually enough to slow you down.

"But what if I'm already going too fast?"

If you are already going too fast and you still have a lot of hill left, it's probably best to stand up and T-brake. But if you're most of the way down the hill already and there's a nice long roll out at the bottom, stay tucked, stabilize your position and ride it out.

As many skaters have learned the hard way, attempts to suddenly change position when you are going too fast are potentially hazardous.

Think Fast!

barrypublowadAs soon as you realize there might be a problem, decide what to do (slow down or ride it out). Don't mull it over too long. The more you wait, the faster you'll be going. And the faster you're going, the more likely you are to panic.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re not comfortable with a particular hill, skate it in pieces.

Skate one third (or less) of the way up the hill. And then roll down.

Once you're comfortable with that, go a little higher ... let's say, halfway. Keep working your way up the hill, until you've got the whole think licked.

Eventually, you'll probably wonder what all the fuss was about.


Barry PublowBarry Publow is a world renowned coach, educator and writer. He is the author of "Speed on Skates," as well as the newly-released eBook, "Inline Skating: The Science of Speed." Since 1995, he has published more than 100 sport-specific technical and training articles. He is also an accomplished athlete. He is a former national inline team member and Canadian record holder, and has competed at both the World Championships and Pan American Games, placing as high as fifth. He is also the 2005 U.S and North American Marathon Speedskating Champion in both 25 km and 50km events.

Buy "Inline Skating: The Science of Speed"
Barry's website

Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating




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