Skate longboards vary greatly in size, shape, and usage. Whether it's carving, downhill, commuting, park, or just noodling around town, there's a board for every purpose.
Many surfers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, and other action sport athletes have a skateboard longboard in their gear quivers. Longboarding is a different world from shortboard skating. While the latter focuses on board tricks, grinds, and gaps, longboarding – similar to surfing and snowboarding – has to do with speed and carving. A longboard can turn a hill into a challenge, a freshly-paved parking lot into an artist's canvas.
What Makes a Longboard?
Length, obviously. Longboards vary from 39 inches to over five feet. The longer the wheelbase, the longer the turning radius. A 40-inch board can be pumped along a flat surface by a skilled rider, or used for downhill carving by a smaller rider or a kid. A mid-length board of about 45 inches or so is just about right for most riders.
Shape. Longboards are wide, from 8 to 10 inches usually. While modern shortboards have a kick in both the tail and the nose, most longboards have a tail kick or no kick, depending on purpose. Some boards have cutouts fore and aft to allow the wheels to turn sharply without "biting" the board.
Flex. Some are stiff, some are flexible, some are very flexible. The right flex depends on the rider's height and weight and on the type of riding to be done. Heavier, taller riders generally will opt for less flex.
Concave. Some longboards have a long nose-to-tail upward concave (or convex, one supposes), like the camber in a ski, to allow the board to flex without sagging. It acts as a sort of pre-load on the wheels. Many boards have a side-to-side concave, so the rider's foot pressure can exert more downward force on the wheels when carving a turn.
Trucks. These are the units that mount the axles to board. Longboard trucks are wider and taller than shortboard trucks, to accommodate larger wheels.
Wheels. Longboard wheels are big, sometimes twice as big as the typical shortboard wheel. Also, they vary in durometer or hardness. Harder wheels can be made to slide, while softer, bigger, wheels will stick tight in hard carved turns. Shops generally stock boards with fairly hard wheels, so the rider who wants big soft carving wheels should negotiate a swap at the time of purchase.
Types of Longboard Skateboarding
There are a few basic categories of longboarding:
Carving. This is the discipline that appeals most to the surfing/snowboarding set. The rider strings together frontside and backside turns, pushing the board hard into the ground while leaning into and accelerating out of each turn. Done well, carving is graceful and athletic. It doesn't take much of a hill; in fact it can be done at relatively slow speeds, reducing the risk to the rider's life and limb. A carve board will usually be in the 45-60 inch range in length, with some flex and concave. A longer board might carve better, but it takes more speed to perform.
Downhill. The rider takes the straightest line possible down the (usually steep) hill. This is a specialized category, and not for the faint of heart. Speeds can often be in the forties and wipe-outs are common, necessitating lots of protective gear and full-face helmets. Obviously, not for beginners or those averse to hospital visits. Downhill boards are flat and have long wheel bases for stability.
Skatepark. Some riders prefer to ride a longboard, generally in the 39-46 inch range, in skate parks. A specialized group of performance pool- and park-skaters prefers the longboard's width and wheels for their extra grip at speed.
Cruising and Commuting. Especially in beach towns and on college campuses, the longboard is the transport of choice for many. Any longboard works well for this purpose, though there is a shorter class of board that is often called a commuter. Some riders make their own by putting longboard wheels on a shortboard.Share with your friends