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.
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.