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Whether you're headed for work or cruising to the beach, a longboard is one of the most exhilarating ways to get there. Zipping down the street has never been more fun!
A longboard is much like a skateboard, but the wheels are larger and softer, and it's typically much easier to ride.
Sure, there's a learning curve, but with the right deck, trucks, and wheels beneath your feet, you're in for an adrenaline-pumping treat.
To get the real deal on longboards — their different styles, what things to consider when buying one, safety measures, and more — we consulted our resident enthusiast and longboards expert, Jimi Reid.
Longboarding, also known as "sidewalk surfing,” took to the streets of Hawaii in the 1950s. Local surfers saw it as a fun substitute for “hitting the waves” during the off-season. Commercial longboards first appeared on store shelves in 1958.
Jimi has enjoyed plenty of longboard rides. Since the age of seven, he has ridden everything from longboards to cruisers to banana boards.
Now 31, his competitive skating days are over, but his love of riding lives on. In this article, Jimi reveals some of his favorite tips on choosing the right board and rider safety.
The part of the longboard you stand on — the deck — plays a crucial role in the quality of your ride. You’ll find a generous handful of deck styles on today’s market. Jimi cites the pintail, drop through, and classic cruising deck as three of his favorites.
If you're looking for a no-frills board to get you from Point A to Point B, the popular pintail deck could be perfect for you. It's not for racers or those who perform fancy tricks. Rather, it's for people who want a simple-yet-fun mode of al fresco transportation.
Pintails sit high off the ground and are fairly easy to maneuver. They have a slight camber, which does well to absorb some of the vibration you might pick up on rough pavement.
With a lower center of gravity than the pintail, the drop through deck is quite stable and easy to ride. These boards are great for long-distance commutes as well as “freeride” and downhill riding styles. Competitive downhill racers use drop through decks because the lower center of gravity provides stability at higher speeds.
Trying to decide between a skateboard and a longboard? You'll typically find hard wheels on skateboards and softer wheels on longboards. The softer wheels absorb cracks and debris more gracefully than hard wheels. They also tend to roll faster and maintain a stronger grip on the pavement.
Classic Cruising Deck
This deck style is similar to what you’d find on a regular skateboard. The difference is that the longboard version (though it may not actually be much longer) is a bit wider and doesn’t assume the same shape as its street counterpart.
With at least one kicktail, and often two, the classic cruising deck is fairly easy to maneuver on busy streets and debris-ridden terrain.
Classic cruising decks with rounded sides are commonly seen at the X Games, as this type of deck permits trick riding. However, you’re not likely to see longboard wheels on a competitive trick deck.
Most longboards measure between 42 and 46 inches. However, some are less than 40 inches, and others exceed 57 inches.
Deck style and board length frequently go hand in hand. Cruising decks tend to be on the shorter side, whereas drop throughs tend to be longer than 46 inches. As such, they’re appropriate for racing.
Your deck's width, also called its stance, varies from about 8 ½ to 9 ½ inches.
The wider the deck, the more stability the rider will have. And the wider your foot, the wider your stance should be. Jimi suggests that riders relax their feet a little more than shoulder-width apart.
Though not highly visible, your longboard’s trucks play a vital role in your safety and the quality of your ride. Trucks are the T-shaped pieces of metal that fit on the underside of your board and attach to the wheels. In particular, Jimi recommends that you pay attention to the width of your trucks.
Ideally, your truck width will perfectly match your deck width. However, most riders agree that if you can’t have a perfect match, it’s better to have trucks that are slightly wider than your deck. For example, a 10-inch deck pairs well with 11-inch trucks. But a 10-inch deck with nine-inch trucks isn’t such a great idea.
Choose 10-inch trucks if:
Choose nine-inch trucks if:
Choosing Longboard Trucks is a great resource for more information on this.
Flexible or stiff? For those who travel rough terrain, a flexible board grants maximum control. For those who plan to tackle steep hills, however, a stiff board is much more manageable.
As mentioned above, a longboard’s wheels are softer, larger, and easier to control than the wheels of a traditional skateboard.
Just like decks and trucks, you can find wheels in a variety of sizes. Diameters range from approximately 64 to 80mm, but the most common size is 70mm.
If you want to even more about choosing your wheels, these are some great resources:
Not to be confused with diameter, a wheel’s contact patch is the width of the wheel that touches the ground at any given time.
Choose wheels with a wider contact patch if:
Choose wheels with a more narrow contact patch if:
Windward Boardshop has a great guide on Understanding Longboard Wheels for further reading.
Most longboards have raised edges to help the rider maintain a good foothold. This concave shape slightly diminishes foot space. If you prefer more foot space, consider a longboard with a flat deck.
High speeds, smooth glides. What’s not to love about riding a longboard? But like all vehicles, longboards should be navigated with caution. Jimi offers the following tips to beginning riders:
Pay attention to the tightness/looseness of your trucks
Loose trucks react to your movement much easier. That sounds nice, but if you don't have great balance, loose trucks can make your board really hard to control — especially at high speeds. Also, if your trucks are too loose, your deck could actually catch on the wheel, causing you to lose control.
That said, tight trucks may make it harder for you to turn. When you're first starting out, our expert Jimi suggests starting out tight and loosening as you go, until your board maneuvers the way you want it to. Why? Because if you start too loose and try and tighten, you may have trouble maintaining control of your board.
Always keep your eyes in front of you
If you've never ridden a skateboard before, you may be shocked to learn that a pebble in the road is enough to send you tumbling to the pavement. Shift your eyes constantly between the pavement in front of you and oncoming cars and pedestrians. Keep your peripheral vision alert at all times.
Once you get to know your board better and become a more confident rider, you'll learn not only what to look out for but also how to fall without hurting yourself if you need to bail.
According to Jimi, riding a longboard requires the same vigilance as driving a car. In fact, foot traffic patterns and road debris are actually less predictable, at times, than car traffic conditions. For this reason, it’s important to always have a “safe route” in mind — a plan for what you would do/where you could safely maneuver your board if someone or something suddenly got in your way.
Jimi says this about pads: "When I was a kid, I was embarrassed to wear my knee and elbow pads and helmet every time I went out. But my mom wouldn't let me go until I showed her I was wearing them. It wasn't until I watched some professional competitions and took a couple big spills myself that I realized the importance of exercising caution. A fall on concrete while trying to cut at a high speed may leave you scratched up, but pads can keep a lot of the important parts unscathed.”
Bend your knees
Our expert Jimi has this to say about the perfect form: "When you're riding, relax your body. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, and your knees should be bent. Think of it as planting yourself like a tree. Your roots are your feet, and your body is in balance with the elements around you. Riding is meant to be fun and should be treated as such!”