Longboards are not the same as skateboards. The claim may seem obvious, but the matter actually goes deeper than you might think. Although both types of boards were spawned as means to give surfers a way to enjoy the rolling motion when the surf is low or the weather too rough, skateboards are better suited for intense bursts of motion and performing tricks, whereas longboards come into play for longer distances and greater speeds.
Building upon this, skateboards are, while more maneuverable, also less stable, whereas longboards are more stable while being less maneuverable. Generally speaking, longboards are a subtype of skateboards, with the most striking difference being not size, as one might expect, but rather its build. As far as the size goes, skateboards are usually around 30 inches long, with the usual width of about 7 inches, while longboards can go anywhere from 22 to 45 plus inches, with an average width of about 9 inches.
How to Choose the Right Longboard Size
Speaking specifically of longboards, there are a few things you need to mull over if you’re planning to buy one (especially if it’s your first) – length, width, flex, style, shape and a couple of other features. Naturally, this will all depend on what you plan to use the board for. Remember, unlike skateboards, which are pretty much used for tricks and turns, longboards are perfectly suitable for a bunch of other activities, such as commuting, hill-bombing, street-carving, and, yes, even performing tricks.
In essence, there are four types of longboards, going by the style of longboarding they are used for and related specs – cruising (or carving), downhill, freeride and freestyle (although this is roughly speaking, and some longboarders may argue for a different division). Before going into detail and recommendations for each, let’s talk about specs for the decks and how they affect the board’s performance.
First of all, the length; the rule of thumb says – the longer, the more stable the board. This goes vice versa – the shorter, the less stable the board, but it’s also more maneuverable and you can carve streets and turn corners much more efficiently.
Speaking of deck dimensions, the width of the board generally follows the same rule of thumb – the wider, the more stable. Seeing as longboard sizes go from 22 to 45+ inches, it stands to reason that the width should follow the trend, so the smaller ones are about 7 inches wide (like a skateboard), while larger ones can go up to 9 inches.
Longboard size is not the only thing you need to consider – there’s also the board flex, or the ability to absorb shocks and provide a spring-like feel when you ride it, which adds energy for pushes and carves. Naturally, the flex also affects the board’s overall stability. Roughly speaking, you have the soft, the medium, and the stiff type, the choice largely depending on your preferred style of longboarding.
Of course, you should also consider the style you want, meaning how low you want the deck to go. The choice is between top-mount, drop-through, drop deck and double drop, the order being indicative of the level of stability each style provides, from the least stable to the most.
Moreover, the lower the drop, the less energy you’ll have to expend for pushing or breaking. As you might’ve guessed, the top-mount style puts the deck above the trucks, while the drop-through features the trucks mounted through the board (plot twist!). On drop decks, the deck actually sits below the truck area, and you can guess what the double drop does.
The shape is also an important criterion, but not the crucial one. Basically, it will affect what you can (or can’t) do with your board, and there are only two ways to go – directional or symmetrical. The first type is great for carvers, cruisers and downhill longboarders, while the second (aka twin board) is better suited for freeriding and freestyle longboarding.
Sure enough, there are other features you need to take into account – if the board has a kick tail (good for tricks, but nonessential), or the type of indent (enhances the grip your feet have on the board).
So, what are the recommended longboard sizes for the various types of longboarding? Let’s do this by the numbers.
Whether you plan on carving down sloped streets, cruising through the campus on your way to lectures, or just traveling long, flat stretches visiting your significant other living one county over, you need stability and comfort.
As far as the length goes, anything between 28 and 46 inches is OK, with the shorter boards being better for quick turns and sharp angles, and longer ones for carving at higher speeds due to greater stability. Moreover, longboards between 28 and 32 inches are ideal if you’re looking for the kids first, or if you’re a short rider, but tall boarders can also opt for these if they’re seasoned and confident enough.
Speaking of beginners, the most recommended size would be between 32 and 42 inches, irrespective of your height. So, if you’re tired of borrowing your friend’s board for short cruises (or they are), you might want to go for something in this range. On the other hand, if you need something for a longer, more relaxed ride, don’t be afraid to go over 40 inches. Keep in mind, though, that the weight grows with the length.
Downhill longboarding is the most competitive aspect of the whole activity, and counts as a sport in its own right, with boarders developing speeds of about 50mph. If you like bombing hills as fast as you can while maintaining some degree of control, then you need the right board to help you. What you need is a longer board, 36 inches and above, with a drop through the deck, w-concave and square-lip wheels. If you’re just getting started with downhill boarding, you might consider a 40-inch long board or longer, just to be on the safe side. A word of warning, though – don’t begin longboarding with downhill; for your own safety, practice a good long while before even thinking of this.
Freeriding implies riding hills at a decent speed, spicing it up with some slides and curbs, so it requires some skill and comfort with high speeds. Naturally, this also requires a stable board, so anything between 38 and 42 inches is ok. Don’t go below 38 inches, so you don’t compromise the stability, but also don’t go above 42, so you keep the maneuverability from becoming too cumbersome.
Freestyle really doesn’t have any requirements, as the title might suggest. It’s open to both newbies and pros, the only limiting factor being your proficiency. Freestyle is all about creativity, so your board needs to be the right combo of stability and nimbleness, and the biggest decision would actually be choosing the design and color pattern.