Buying a longboard for the first time? After putting in hours of research, I think you’ll find nothing better and easier than this handy guide. It has all the tips and tricks to score the best longboard on the market. So you can ride the right way after you buy a longboard.
Any professional longboarder will tell you tons of ways to master the art of longboarding. But the first that beats down all is a steady, durable longboard. Not too long ago, people didn’t expect different styles to match different interests. But now, with modern advancements, you can expect better skills with more advanced models.
So why is this guide important? If you’ve never used a longboard before, you’re more likely to buy what most riders are using. This impacts your style and skill of riding. It also lowers your chances of learning new tricks and turns easily.
Furthermore, picking out the right longboard shape, size, deck, and flexibility is critical too. You also need to find out more about its core, contact patch, traction, truck size, and wheel texture.
That’s why relying on these 12 factors makes a big difference in both quality and performance when you’re choosing the best longboard on the market.
1. Decide On Your Style Of Longboarding
There are 3 styles of longboarding based on a person’s skill level and maneuvering abilities. They are freestyling, freeriding, and downhill longboarding.
Each style requires a different set of skills and, chances are, a different longboard too. The fact that longboards come in different shapes and sizes makes them suitable for a specific type of longboarding style.
Freestyling boards does involve some advanced and technical skills. But beginners can learn how to control the board in myriad ways with freestyling. It’s the best longboarding style for a beginner to master first-hand before progressing to other styles.
That said, some of the common freestyling techniques are goofy riding, dancing, sliding, and more. Freestyling is a longboarding form which focuses more on each technique rather than the distance. So you get to handle the board well before learning how to incorporate each trick while traveling a certain distance.
The next skill that beginners are supposed to master is freeriding. This form of longboarding is more complex and intricate than freestyling. Intermediates practice freeriding on hills and slopes.
The kind of tricks you’ve acquired by freestyling can be incorporated during freeriding. The only different here is that during freeriding you’re traveling from one distance to another.
This means you’re exposed to a certain amount of speed with a few curd hops and slopes. This type of longboarding requires a longboard which allows better control over speed and direction. So you can maneuver according to your comfort and navigate through high speeds while practicing your moves.
Downhill longboarding is, as the name suggests, mastering the art of longboarding on the hills. It’s a difficult and challenging form that involves practicing on sloped hills and eventually streets.
You can vouch for long distance pushes, tucked positions, and increased stability on sloped grounds with downhill longboarding. Your longboard must match up to such skill level, allowing decreased wind-resistance and enhanced stability.
With the wrong longboard, you might slide out of control or break the wheels. The same applies to beginners who’ve never practiced on a longboard before.
2. Choosing A Longboard Shape
The core shape of a longboard plays a significant role in the way it performs on slopes. There are plenty of longboard shapes to choose from. But don’t let that confuse or startle you. You can narrow down your search for the best longboard based on your skill level as well as handle.
The most basic board shapes to look forward to are directional and twin longboards.
Directional longboards are meant for general cruising, downhill, and carvers. They are built to do one thing only- and that is to move forward. Under directional longboards, you will find pintail, bamboo, and cruiser.
Twin longboards offer directional control and stability on both sides, regardless of which side you’re using. It’s a symmetrical board which looks and feels the same, regardless of which way you’re going. It’s commonly used for freestyling and freeriding. Under twin longboards, you will find drop down, drop through, topmount, and speed boards.
Just because longboards come in different shapes, that doesn’t mean each is fit for every style. Some longboards are fit for more than one longboarding style, but never all. So finding something as versatile and efficient to use is important.
With that out of the way, for more complex riding styles, opting for twin longboards (speed boards and top mounts) is the right way to go. It offers more directional control on high speeds without compromising on balance.
Directional longboards have long since been considered a good investment for beginners and intermediates. They offer plenty of maneuverability over flat or slightly sloped roads. And they’re ideal for freestyling and freeriding.
3. Different Types Of Deck Styles
The deck is the board you’ll be standing on while traveling. Although there are many factors of a deck to take into consideration, determining the right deck style is the first step.
This is the most common deck style there is for a longboard. It’s also the most affordable option to go for. In a top mount longboard, the deck is lifted slightly above the truck. This makes the center of gravity higher than other contemporary deck styles.
The higher mount makes it less stable and more versatile; ideal for cruising, downhill, freeride, and freestyle. Top mount decks offer enhanced leverage than low-mount or dropped longboards. Also making it suitable for downhill longboarding. (3)
Drop through decks, the trucks are mounted through the deck. This decreases the deck height, most impacted by the thickness of the longboard. Drop through decks are known for their increased stability during braking. You can expect more core stability and reduced feet on ground contact.
The most ideal styles that suit a drop through deck are long-distance commuting, freeriding, and downhill longboarding.
Drop decks are not so common amongst beginners, but they’re extremely versatile. They have a more molded and eye-catching design as it lowers the center of gravity for reduced fatigue and enhanced stability.
It’s designed in such a way that your feet sits comfortably below the truck area. Drop deck longboards are ideal for freeriding and downhill riding styles.
Double drop decks are a combination of both drop deck and drop through styles. So this gets your feet extremely close to the ground. Being the most stable and balanced decks style, the double drop is only meant for experts. As it lacks the kind of maneuverability beginners require.
That said, due to its high-level construction, it’s also the most expensive longboard to purchase. You will find that only downhill riding suits the make and feel of a double drop deck longboard.
4. Choosing From Longboard Deck Profiles
A deck profile, is as the name suggests, the next thing that comes after you’ve decided the right shape and style of a longboard. It has more shock absorbent and durable properties than just stability and maneuverability.
Picking the right profile for your longboard’s deck goes a long way once you settle on the right skill. The most advanced longboards offer any one of three deck profiles: flat, camber, or rocker. (4)
A camber deck profile is higher in the center than other deck profiles. It offers excellent shock absorption qualities and is ideal for mellow cruising. The board flex on a cambered deck is softer than other longboards. This makes it more appropriate for cruising and freeriding styles.
More to it, a cambered deck profile balances or “springs” your weight around for a nice gliding feeling. So you can make accurate turns and curves, while staying lean and stable on the deck.
A flattened deck is of the same height from front to back. They’re best for freestyling and freeriding styles, preferably for beginners and intermediates. There’s lots to learn on a flat deck profile at it allows good shock absorption and springiness in mobility.
The board flex on a flattened deck is between soft to medium than other longboards. And this factor influences its stability and maneuverability for good.
Rocker deck profiles are way more complex and versatile than camber and flat. They’re the most durable with exceptional shock absorption properties. All this with high-speed directional control and wind-resistance.
Rocker decks slope downward towards the middle, offering a slightly lower to the ground ride than usual. It offers good maneuverability and stability for moderate to high speeds. Making it the best deck profile for freestyle and downhill riding.
5. Do You Want A Kicktail?
A kicktail is responsible for enhancing your ability to do more turns and tricks on the longboard. The option to attach a kicktail to any longboard is available for most skill levels, including beginners and intermediates.
A kicktail at the back of your longboard enables you to go faster while learning new tricks. And while you can do that, it also enhances speed and stability on the ground. This reduces the number of times you have to touch your feet to the ground to maintain balance. (5)
Here are some of the clear-cut advantages of using a longboard with a kicktail:
- Quick and swift turns
- Increased ability to do more tricks
- Better navigational control
- Suitable for beginners and advanced users
Here are some of the disadvantages of using a longboard with a kicktail:
- Suitable for freeride and freestyle riding
- More stable and efficient to handle
- Enhanced wheelbase control
The longboarding riding style that might not require a kicktail is downhill. When doing downhill, you need maximized wheelbase and more stability, which a kicktail fails to provide.
Moving forward, you can also opt for 2 kicktails instead of one, which works on Double Kick longboards. Double kick longboards offer plenty of directional control, whichever way you ride it. Plus, they’re more symmetrical and act as bi-directional longboards for more complex techniques.
The wider the distance between the wheels without the kicktail, it increases stability. On the other hand, with a kickail, the wheelbase is shorter, reducing stability required for slightly sloped hills and streets. To sum it up, no kicktail most definitely means a longer and stable wheelbase.
But for those of you who don’t pay attention to stability as much as speed, buying a longboard with a kicktail is perfect. There’s plenty to benefit from in terms of performance and learning new tricks when you can make faster turns.
6. Finding The Perfect Size
Treating the size of your longboard responsibility can have many benefits. Two main factors to take into consideration concerning the size of a longboard are the width and length. The width of a longboard is just as important as the length. Because it spells out how much room your feet have to stand and do tricks on. (6)
The most basic protocol to a comfortable longboard is that your feet need to stand perpendicular to the longboard. So taking your shoe size into consideration for this factor is just as important.
The decision to buy a shorter or longer longboard comes down to how maneuverable you want it to be. For example, short longboards are far more maneuverable than long longboards. The longer the longboard, the more space it consumes to take turns.
In hindsight, buy a shorter longboard, somewhere between 8 to 10 feet, if you want stability and flexibility. They’re ideal for young riders as much as for beginners.
A mid-size longboard, about the length of 42-inches, is the best cruising longboard for most people. It also fits most longboarding riding styles, including downhill.
A long longboard, about the length of 50-inches, is the best choice for taller people. Also, it is the most comfortable longboard for high-speed and relaxed rides that don’t involve many tricks.
Choosing between a wide or narrow longboard is never easy. But the best way to narrow down your search is by taking your own shoe size into consideration. Unlike the length of a longboard, the width solely depends on your comfort level.
Most contemporary and modern longboards come with decks that are 7 to 10 inches wide. Directional longboards tend to be narrower than twin longboards. There’s no universal pick as far as width is concerned. It all depends on your riding style and shoe size.
7. What’s The Core Placement?
Core placement of the longboard enhances performance, sliding capability, and stability. There are 3 core placement categories to know of before choosing the best longboard for you.
Centerset core placement can be characterized when the core of the deck is placed directly at the center of the wheels. This type of core placement is popular for offering grip. That’s because the large inner lip of the deck offers stability.
Another major benefit of using a centerset core placement is that you can flip it upside down to preserve condition for a longer shelf life. Wider centerset wheels are good for enhancing grip and stability, if that’s what you’re after. Downhill longboards come with taller and wider centerset wheels, which increases grip and maneuverability for intense performance.
Sideset core placement can be characterized when the core of the deck is placed along the inner line of the wheel. Unlike centerset, sidestep wheels offer the least grip since there’s no backing by the inner lip of the deck.
It’s also noted that sideset longboards aren’t so durable, to begin with. The inner lip wears out much faster than the outer lip because of the way it’s designed.
But, as a performance review, sideset longboards offer stability for smoother rides. So you can slide as comfortably and swiftly as you want with little force. Which makes them a great alternative for freeriding and beginners who wish to learn more about controlling the longboard and traction.
Offset core placement can be characterized when the core of the deck is right in between centerset and sideset core. This is the exact combination of centerset and sideset wheels. Offering a combination of grip, stability, and gliding ability.
People use offset decks for downhill and freeride riding styles. It offers plenty of slide initiation for high-speed chases and ample of grip.
8. Measuring The Thickness Of A Longboard
After measuring the length of width of a longboard, thickness comes next. Most modern longboards are more than 2.5-inches thick with a comparatively thinner nose area. (7)
This is good because it allows better flotation or gliding ability. The easier to longboard is to float on slightly sloped streets, the better the maneuverability. It also makes it easier to turn and catch tricks on flat surfaces.
A thinner tail and nose area can help build a strong foundation for performance. But if your longboard is too thick, it may not respond well to your skills. Hence, choosing moderately is very important.
You can also pick an appropriate thickness based on your body type. A skinny longboard is perfect for young and short riders. And vice versa. It helps in maneuverability and balance, especially for freeriding and downhill riding styles.
Longboards are made up of piles of thin sheets of material. Each sheet is firmly pressed together with the next to create the ideal deck. For those of you who build their own longboard, you know how important thickness can be.
9. The Right Braking Techniques
A longboard has a lot to offer to its rider. Apart from the basics, knowing how to operate a longboard based on its size and shape also involves knowing the right braking techniques. If you know how to stop a longboard, you know how to use it. But that also depends on the design of a longboard and your knowledge of the several braking techniques.
This is the first braking technique you’ll be taught to master as a beginner. It’s the most comfortable and effortless braking technique. And it can be practiced and performed on any type of longboard on the market.
The footbrake is when you push your foot off the longboard’s deck and drag it along the ground to steadily decrease your speed. Ensure you have the right kind of shoes on for the technique as it might cause some damage.
This is the safest braking technique for riders. Regardless of the speed you’re at, it works under any circumstance.
Carving is when you make continuous turns from side to side for speed control. Carving can also be performed as a fun activity for the feel of skateboarding or longboarding. The wider you are able to control the longboard, the slower your speed gets.
Air brake, as the name suggests, is when you let the wind take control of your longboard. Wind resistance plays an important role in longboarding. You stand upright, stretch out your arms, and let the wind slow you down. Combine this with deeper carves and you get slow down aggressively accelerated speeds in lesser time.
Slide brake is commonly referred to as a power slide. It’s when you make an immediate turn to control the traction of the wheels. To put it more simply, you turn the deck of the longboard sideways for better control.
The slide brake is a complex braking technique generally used by downhill and freeride riders.
Sit brake is when you bend your knees while outstretching your feet, sliding down into a seated position to slow down the longboard. It requires lots of strength and balance control, so it might not be the ideal braking technique for beginners.
Run outs are often overlooked as backup, but if a beginner is not comfortable using this breaking technique it can be avoided completely. It’s when you get off the board and taking quick steps to slow yourself down on the ground. It’s like jumping off a train on the platform when it’s increasing its speed.
The only way to avoid getting hurt is to run as fast as the speed of the longboard right before you jumped off.
10. Finding The Right Longboard Truck
Longboard trucks are what connect the wheels to the board. You will find common sizes of trucks: 150 and 180 mm. And out of the two, the latter is more commonly used around the market.
After picking out a longboard deck, finding the proper truck size is very important. The best way to take matters in your hands is to flip the board upside down, so it looks like a ‘T’.
The first measurement to look for is the axel’s width. The axel’s width is the distance between the T’s crosspieces, on both ends. And the second measurement to look for is the hanger’s width. The hanger’s width is the axel’s width minus the measurement of where the wheels are.
Once you note down all the appropriate measurements, co-related the numbers to the following deck widths.
- 130mm hanger’s width / 199mm axel’s width – 18 to 20 centimeters wide
- 150mm hanger’s width / 220mm axel’s width – 19 to 22 centimeters wide
- 180mm hanger’s width / 150mm axel’s width – 22 to 25 centimeters wide
- 185mm hanger’s width / 165mm axel’s width – above 25 centimeters wide
Longboards with smaller trucks are best used by beginners and cruisers. They have narrower decks than other longboards.
Longboards with wider trucks make perfect stable longboards for tall riders. It’s commonly used for freeride and downhill riding styles.
11. Big Or Small-Sized Wheels – Which Is It?
The size of wheels is directly related to the size of the board. But speed also plays an important role when determining the right wheel size for you. Higher speeds require bigger wheels as it allows better acceleration and acceleration control.
But the most basic and commonly used wheel sizes are 65mm and 75mm.
Based on the longboard length can the correct wheel size be determined. For example, a board that’s 50-inches long requires an appropriate wheel size of 75mm to 100mm.
The wheel diameter of the longboard can dramatically impact the speed and stability of a longboard. The average wheel size of a longboard, which is 54 to 59mm, is the ideal choice for beginners. While longboards above 60mm, are better used on rougher surfaces and for high-speed chases. (8)
The smaller the diameter, the quicker it speeds up, but offering only low speed control on flat or slightly sloped surfaces. The wider the diameter, the slower it speeds up, but offering higher speed control on flat or slightly sloped surfaces.
12. Considering The Wheel Shape And Durometer
Choosing wheel shape involves its texture and build. When choosing a new longboard, the shape is just as important as its size. It impacts how well you slide during downhill riding or catch a perfect turn during accelerating and freeriding. (9)
Here are the common wheel shapes to look forward to.
Square edge wheels are wheels that are squared off at the edges. These are better known and used for their grip ability.
Ideal for: Downhill riders
Beveled edge wheels aren’t flat or rounded. They cut at a certain angle from the side, giving an accurate edge to your wheels. These wheels are perfect for increasing wheel contact and traction.
Idea for: Taking turns on tough hills
Rounded edge wheels are wheels that offer a perfect round edge for reducing friction. It is perfect for a smooth ride without putting too much force while making a turn.
Ideal for: Freeride and freestyle riding styles
The durometer of a longboard measures the hardness/softness of a wheel. Based on research, the harder the wheels are, the faster it travels. But softer wheels offer more grip and wheel contact than hard wheels.
Soft wheels have the advantage of both deck length and width, which avoids instability and imbalance. Longer longboards are often equipped with soft wheels. While shorter longboards come with tougher and more rugged wheels.
Here is what you need to know about measuring the durometer of any longboard.
78a to 87a
Wheels that fall under this category are the softest longboard wheels you’ll find. They’re ideal for enhanced grip, cruising, and hills.
88a to 95a
Wheels under this category offer lesser grip, but are slightly harder than the former pick. They’re good for both street and rough surfaces.
96a to 99a
Wheels under this category offer all-round performance. They’re best used on smoother surfaces for high-speed chases and grip.
A lot goes behind choosing a longboard for your safety and comfort. Considering the size, shape, deck profile, truck, and wheel base of a longboard is critical. So buying based on price is not the ideal way to find your perfect fit.
A longboard affects the way you perform on smooth and rough surfaces. It also affects how you come in contact with the ground during acceleration. The build and feel of a longboard is a major factor for you to understand the technology and scope of longboarding. So it’s important you complete your purchase with the right build so you can learn and perform better.
With that out of the way, the last thing you need to do is try out the longboard on a smooth surface yourself. This is before you plan on investing in it. Trial and error has been around for years and with the kind of technology that goes behind making a modern longboard, it has become more customized and versatile than ever!
Inquiring about warranty, shelf life, and efficiency is important. A longboard’s price doesn’t always remain a good character of quality. You need to complete your purchase, keeping in mind all factors of consideration, to understand better and make the right choice.
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.