Longboard Designs: How to Choose
Longboarding is one of the most fun things you can do standing up. There’s no better way to get around than by longboard. For many, it’s an alternative way for getting around short distances with less expense and impact on the local environment. Just like cycling, longboarding can also be rightly used as personal transportation, for regular short commutes between home and work and other points in between. But the activity is also part of the culture of skateboarding from which it derives many of its basic designs and skillsets.
Longboarding and skateboarding emerged in the mid-1950s, around the same time the surfing scene exploded in Southern California. When the waves weren’t breaking, the surfers took to the streets on their homemade boards, carving up the pavement in a way that mimicked the turns of surfing. Pretty soon, “sidewalk surfing” became a sport in its own right, which ultimately led to the emergence of skateboarding in the 60s and 70s. Longboarding is a constantly evolving sport today which blends many styles and disciplines. In the recent years, sport manufacturers have become increasingly more devoted to developing well-designed, high-performance boards for every type of rider.
How to Choose
There’s a lot more to longboards than meets the eye. Longboards come in different shapes, construction, and features, and they are designed for various riding styles and abilities. When selecting your longboard, keep in mind that there is a ton of crossover between each riding style and many decks are great options for multiple styles of riding. Remember, a complete longboard is assembled from all the same types of components that make up a typical skateboard. However, certain features are often modified or enlarged to reflect a longboarder’s need for stability, carvability, and vibration dampening.
Boards come in different shapes and designs for every style. Personal choice is a large factor in this as many shapes are right. So we’ve created this small guide to take the guesswork out of longboard selection and get you on the streets as fast as possible.
Cruising and carving are all about carving down gradually sloped streets, ripping through the quad on your way to class, and long distance pushes on flat or slightly sloped ground. When most people think of longboards, these are usually the first that come to mind. The classic pintail shape made its appearance in the early 90’s and is still one of the most common shapes seen on the streets, sidewalks, and boardwalks. Longboard cruising and carving are a great alternative to jogging or biking for exercise. The spectrum of cruiser boards is about as vague as longboard styles get and you can find all the different types of super long cruisers, mini cruisers, old-school cruisers and everything in between.
The most extreme and exhilarating discipline of longboarding is referred to simply as downhill. This type of longboarding is all about bombing hills as fast as you can while maintaining control. Riders use protective slide gloves with plastic pucks so they can slide their hands across the surface of the road while performing technical drifts and tight cornering. Just like in freeriding, it’s not uncommon to break those wheels out in a slide to control your speed, so true downhill isn’t the best style of riding for brand new riders. Downhill boards are usually 35-45″ long, plus they are stiffer than a board used for casual riding because the rigidity enhances stability and lends more control to the rider at high speeds. In general, a longer wheelbase (25-32″) is used for faster riding.
Freeride is a far more accessible form of downhill longboarding or skateboarding. Freeriding means that you are riding hills with a fair amount of speed while styling it up with slides and curb hops, as well as sliding to control your speed on bigger descents. This is a fun riding style that is a great way for beginners to get comfortable on their boards and learn control without using their hands. Stability and turnability is the key when freeriding. A 38-42″ length and 8.5-11″ width, stiffer deck works well to keep stable when going fast while keeping within a good wheelbase for turnability. A cut-out shape with deep wheel wells is most common to prevent wheel bite at high speeds and deep carves.
Freestyle boarding is all about being creative, so you can pretty much ride whatever you want. It involves many technical skills such as sliding, board tricks, goofy riding, and dancing, just to name a few. This type of riding is ideal for beginners who wish to learn board control skills, but can also be enjoyed by expert riders alike. It incorporates dancing maneuvers with technical flat ground tricks and any other stylish elements that the rider wishes to mix in. Freestyle has many different varieties that fall under its general definition. Freestyle decks usually have medium length wheelbase options (20-28″) and a moderately flexible construction for more stability on technical trick riding. If you’d like to focus on your dancing moves, you might want to buy a board with a longer wheelbase (28-35″) and effective standing platform.
Slaloming is similar to the slalom associated with snow/water skiing. It is when you weave in and out of obstacles down a course or around whatever is facing you. Riders use a technique called ‘pumping’ to maintain the speed that is gyrating the body and maintaining continuous carve to propel themselves. A slalom board can come in many styles, the length generally sitting around 36-40″ keeping the wheelbase short enough to provide good turn radius and carving ability. A top-mount board will give you more leverage and carve for your lean. The decks or boards for slalom are generally longer than typical longboards and include materials such as carbon fiber and foam cores, to increase board responsiveness and strength.
Twin (Symmetrical) Boards
Twin kicktails and a symmetrical shape are preferred for freestyle because you often find yourself riding the board both ways. Drop through mounting and micro-drops are often incorporated into these types of decks as well. A symmetrical board looks and feels the same regardless of which way it is facing. If you plan on doing any 180-degree slides – which is quite common in freeriding and freestyle – a symmetrical board is the way to go.
Unlike its counterpart, the skateboard, a longboard varies in shape and size and has more stability, traction, and durability due to larger wheel size and lower wheel durometers. Many longboards use trucks that contain different geometric parameters than a skateboard as well. These factors and their variation have given way to a variety of disciplines, functions, and purposes for a longboard. There’s actually a lot for you to take into consideration when selecting the right longboard design. The most important thing, however, is to have FUN!