How To Buy a Board

Waves are incon­sis­tent and win­ter only lasts part of the year, but con­crete will nev­er fade with the sea­sons. Whether you’re a surfer with a knack for bot­tom turns and cut­backs or a snow­board­er stoked on long lines down moun­tain sides, long­board skate­boards can sati­ate pow­der fix­es and swell deficiencies.

Decks: Long­board decks come in many shapes and lengths with some geared towards cruis­ing the flats while oth­ers are ded­i­cat­ed moun­tain bombers. Most decks are lam­i­nat­ed maple ply­wood, rang­ing from 5–9 ply (lay­ers), with five offer­ing the most give and nine being the strongest. Some mod­els also incor­po­rate a car­bon core that cuts weight and adds rigid­i­ty. The deck is the back­bone for which the rest of the com­po­nents are added to tru­ly cus­tomize the com­plete set-up for pre­ferred rid­ing style.

Cruis­er: Tra­di­tion­al shapes, or cruis­ers, mim­ic surf­boards with a wide cen­ter that tapers off towards the nose and tail. These boards are great get-around-town boards, espe­cial­ly in short­er sizes (30″-36″), which offer greater porta­bil­i­ty when walk­ing in build­ings or weav­ing through crowds on cam­pus. Cruis­ers typ­i­cal­ly have tail kick for added maneu­ver­abil­i­ty by push­ing on the tail to raise the front of the board and piv­ot off the rear wheels for sharp turns or for drop­ping off curbs.

Carv­er: Some boards are designed specif­i­cal­ly for carv­ing. When per­form­ing these long sweep­ing turns on cruis­er decks, there’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty for wheel bite, which occurs when the deck makes con­tact with the wheels and cre­ates a stall and loss of motion. Carv­ing decks address this issue in sev­er­al ways. Wheel wells are often cut into decks to pro­vide greater clear­ance for wheels when turn­ing. Oth­er decks cut out the area entire­ly elim­i­nat­ing any wheel obstruc­tion for flaw­less carv­ing. Anoth­er unique char­ac­ter­is­tic of these decks is the con­vex shape, mean­ing the deck arch­es up from the nose and tail, pro­duc­ing a high point at the cen­ter of the board, rather than at the nose and tail com­mon on stan­dard boards. This allows the rid­er to pump the deck into turns more, achiev­er greater veloc­i­ty and a sharp­er trans­fer from edge-to-edge.

Down­hill: While any deck can han­dle the occa­sion­al short hill, not all decks are cut out for high speed. Down­hill decks are longer and have a more uni­form width (9″-10.5″) through­out. Truck place­ment is typ­i­cal­ly spread as far as pos­si­ble for added sta­bil­i­ty. For rid­ers seek­ing the utmost sta­bil­i­ty, drop-through decks mount the trucks in a way that lets the board sit low­er to ground for supe­ri­or cen­ter of grav­i­ty, how­ev­er, some maneu­ver­abil­i­ty is lost along with ground clearance.

Trucks Most long­boards are equipped with reverse-king­pin trucks rather than stan­dard king­pin trucks found on street skate­boards used for tricks. Reverse-king­pin trucks have a high­er range of maneu­ver­abil­i­ty suit­ed for smooth, sweep­ing turns found desir­able by long­board­ers. The width of the truck hang­er, or axle, is the most inte­gral attribute of the trucks ride. Nar­row­er trucks (i.e. 125mm) are quick and nim­ble but with maneu­ver­abil­i­ty come greater insta­bil­i­ty. Wider hang­ers (i.e. 205mm) are more sta­ble and reduce the chance of wheel bite, but lack respon­sive­ness and turn­ing radius. Two all-around options are 150mm and 180mm, with the lat­ter being the most com­mon of truck sizes.

Wheels: Pre­ferred rid­ing style is impor­tant to wheel selec­tion, but equal­ly as piv­otal is ter­rain. Smooth south­ern Cal­i­for­nia con­crete is wel­com­ing to small­er, hard­er wheels, but wet­ter cli­mates where cracks and bumps pre­vail demand larg­er and soft­er wheels that will absorb rough sur­faces bet­ter. Gen­er­al­ly, small­er boards run small­er wheels and and vice ver­sa with wheel sizes for long­boards rang­ing from 60mm-75mm. Small­er wheels accel­er­ate quick­er but larg­er wheels main­tain speed bet­ter. If you’re cruis­ing pri­mar­i­ly flat ter­rain, small­er wheels coin­cide bet­ter with push­ing the board along, but if your town has rolling hills, larg­er wheels will ram­ble sweet­ly. The wheel durom­e­ter, or hard­ness, is expan­sive, but most long­board setups stay with­in a range of 78a-86a. A quick pick is to base it off rid­er weight, with lighter skaters rid­ing a soft­er wheel (78a) and heav­ier rid­ers aboard wheels around 86a. Tak­ing ter­rain into con­sid­er­a­tion, how­ev­er, you may adjust your durom­e­ter. If you’re skat­ing well-groomed con­crete, take advan­tage by select­ing a hard­er wheel, which will ride faster and last longer.

Bear­ings With­in each wheel there are two ball-bear­ings. Each bear­ing hous­es 7–9 steel or ceram­ic balls that are respon­si­ble for smooth, bal­anced rev­o­lu­tions and weight dis­tri­b­u­tion of the wheel. Selec­tion is rel­a­tive­ly straight-for­ward. Most bear­ings are steel, but high-end sets are ceram­ic, which aren’t sus­cep­ti­ble fric­tion. When bear­ings heat up due to fric­tion, they have a ten­den­cy to expand and cease up. Cheap­er bear­ings are com­posed of low­er qual­i­ty steel, thus have a greater sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to expan­sion. Ceram­ic bear­ings come with a heav­ier price tag, but have greater longevity.

Com­plete Set-Ups

If choos­ing board piece-by-piece is daunt­ing, most skate­board man­u­fac­tures offer com­plete pack­ages that are ready to ride out of the store. There are com­pletes that will cater to most rid­ing pref­er­ences and if you’re look­ing for your first board and opt to dial in your set-up from there, com­pletes pro­vide a strong foun­da­tion that can be tuned to your style down the road.