Types of Longboards: Shapes, Styles and More
Longboards are more complex than many people might realize. There’s a lot to consider when you are choosing a longboard. You have to think about the size and shape of the board, the wheels, how the trucks are mounted, the different riding styles, the capabilities of the board, and more. This means that choosing the right board can take some time.
To make matters easier for you, the guide below can help. You will get a better sense of the options you have, what different shapes and styles mean, and how you can choose what’s right for you.
Riding Style Is Important When Choosing a Board: Learn the Basic Styles
There are plenty of different types of longboard riding styles, and there are different types of longboards that are made to match those styles. Some might just want to cruise around town to grab a bite to eat or visit their friends. Others might want to take their longboard down a steep hill.
You will want to get a board that matches the type of riding you plan to do. Think about how and where you will be riding and then choose a board that matches the style. Let’s take a close look at some of the most popular styles.
Cruising and Carving
This is the most popular type of longboarding, and it’s the one that most people get into first. You can cruise along flats, sloped streets, and most other areas with ease as you cruise along and use the carving technique to control your speed.
You will find that most boards that you buy will be suited toward this type of travel on your board. However, you might want to look at products specifically suited for cruising. They will have the length, tires, etc. that are best-suited for this purpose.
Downhill longboarding, as the name suggests, takes you down hills at high speeds. With the right downhill board and enough experience, you can have full control as you go. It’s best suited toward riders who have plenty of experience on the board already.
Most riders will be crouched when they are on the board, which will help to cut down on the wind resistance. This position also provides more stability. Slide braking helps to control the speed with downhill longboarding, just as it does with freeriding.
Freeriding is about more than just speed when you are taking the hills. It’s also about adding some style while you ride. This might mean sliding and curb hopping, for example. This can be a difficult style of riding, as it includes speed and tricks, so it’s better to get experienced on the board before attempting it.
Those who like to get creative on their longboard will find that freestyle riding might be ideally suited to them. When you freestyle, you can do anything on the board that you like whether it’s some tricks, dancing, goofy riding, etc. It’s a popular option for riders who are just starting to build their skills and confidence on the board.
Now, let’s learn more about the styles, shapes, etc. of these boards to see what can work with different types of riding styles. This can make it easier for you to find a board that’s right for you.
The Longboard Deck Shapes
There are two basic types of board shapes associated with longboards.
- Twin (also called symmetrical)
Directional longboards are meant to go forward. They aren’t meant to ride “switch”. It doesn’t feel right when riding it backward like that. One of the popular design styles for this type of deck is called the pintail.
You’ll find that most of the time, boards for cruising and downhill boarding will be directional. This is not always the case, but it’s typically the design used with those styles.
The symmetrical boards will look the same no matter which direction they are going. The front and the back are identical. More importantly, they will feel the same when you are riding. This means that you can switch, do 180-degree slides, and more with these boards.
The Longboard Deck Style
The deck style of the longboard will play a role in the stability it offers, how easy foot braking will be, and whether it’s easy to push when you are on a flat surface. Keep in mind that when you have a high board, it means that the center of gravity is higher, as well.
What does this mean? It means that higher boards will not be as stable. It also means that you will get tired faster with these boards because your pushing foot has to travel further.
Of course, there’s a tradeoff when you have a board closer to the ground. It will provide you with less leverage, which means it’s not as easy to make fast, tight curves. There’s also an added risk of bottoming out when you make those turns.
Let’s look at the four longboard deck styles:
- Top mount
- Drop through
- Drop deck
- Double drop
This is still a common option for longboards, and it is the least expensive of the options. With this type of mounting, the deck is on top of the trucks. This pushes the center of gravity higher than the options below.
With the higher center of gravity, the stability is not as good, but the board tends to be more agile thanks to better turning. Top mount boards tend to be versatile. They can be used for freestyle, downhill, freeride, cruising, and carving.
With this style, the trucks will be mounted through the board rather than on top of it. This will naturally lower the center of gravity. You’ll find that drop-through boards are stable, and they are good for long-distance traveling because you won’t get as tired riding.
Those who are using their board to commute will find that this tends to be the best option for them. However, they can work nicely for freeriding and downhill riding, as well.
This style of board is interesting. When they are constructed, the deck is made to be lower than the trucks. This can help to lower the center of gravity even more than with a drop-through board. This means even better stability and reduced fatigue during your rides.
The amount of drop on the decks can vary, and they are typically measured in inches. These types of boards have top mount trucks. Since the deck is lower, though, the potential negatives of top mounts are avoided. The drop deck longboards work well for downhill boarding, but you can find them with some freeriding boards, too.
If you want to get your center of gravity even lower, you’ll want to opt for the double drop longboards. These boards have the drop deck feature discussed above, but they also have drop-through mounted trucks.
This is the most stable type of deck you will find. However, these boards tend to be rare because they are expensive due to the style of construction required. These are generally only found on boards specifically used for downhill riding.
Shape Features of a Longboard
Longboards have a range of shape features that can provide different types of benefits to certain types of riding. These features determine how the board will best be used. Important features include:
- Kick tails
- Wheel Cut-Outs and Wheel Wells
Kick tails are found on the front and back ends of traditional street skateboards. They are used to make it easy to lift one end of the board off the ground, so you can then perform tricks or make fast turns.
Some longboards will have kick tails, as well. If they are on a directional board, they will only be on one end. If they are on a symmetrical board, they might be on both ends. The kick tails are good for cruising and freestyle boards.
Wheel Cut-Outs and Wheel Wells
If you corner too hard, your wheels will often end up rubbing against the bottom part of the deck. This can result in a fall, which you want to avoid.
Having wheel cut-outs or wheel wells on the board will help you to avoid wheel bite from occurring, so you are less likely to run into this problem. Cut-outs will ensure that the wheels don’t touch the board.
Wheel wells can do the same and let you make tight turns. However, they could still make contact if the wheels are too large, the trucks are not tight enough, or if the risers aren’t big enough.
If the longboard deck is concave, you’ll find that the edges of the board deck are somewhat higher than the center of the board. This can increase the contact area of your shoe with the board, which can help to improve your grip further.
There are concave boards for many styles of riding. Concave downhill or freeride boards will be more concave than those that are used for cruising.
These boards work similarly to the regular concave boards. However, instead of just one large concave section, there are two concave areas next to one another. It provides some nice grip, but these boards tend to be expensive. They are best for downhill and freeride longboards.
How Long Should the Board Be?
One of the other things to consider when buying a longboard is just how long it should be. Below are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind for different riding styles and heights.
- Cruising – If you are 5’10” or less, you can choose a board that’s between 32” and 40” long. If you are taller, you can opt for boards that are 40” long or more.
- Downhill – Riders 5’10” or less can choose boards from 35” to 42”. If you’re 5’10” or over, you can get a board that’s 42” or longer.
- Freeriding and Freestyling – Regardless of your height, you should choose a board that’s between 38” and 42” long for these riding styles.
What to Consider with the Longboard Flex
You should also consider the amount of flex that the longboard offers. There are different types of flex ratings, but we can simplify things a bit and narrow them down to three basic flex options – soft, medium, and stiff.
If the board has a soft flex, it will provide excellent shock absorption when you are going over rough terrain. However, it’s not stable when you are traveling at medium and higher speeds. This option can work well for cruising and some basic tricks.
Boards with a medium amount of flex can remain stable even when you start to pick up speed with the board. They will have a bit of springiness to them, which can make it easier to carve and push. There is a decent amount of shock absorption, and these boards are nice for long-distance traveling and commuting.
Stiff boards will have the greatest amount of stability when you are moving fast. However, you will find that they do not have much in the way of shock absorption. Boards with this type of flex will work well for downhill riding and freeriding.
These are some of the most important things you will have to keep in mind when you are choosing a longboard for your riding style. You should also consider the size and types of trucks you will be using, the longboard construction, the wheels you use, and your bearings.
The Right Board for You
You should now have a much better understanding of the different types of longboards available and what the different shapes and styles mean. Knowing that information and the type of riding you will be doing can make it easier for you to find the board that will be perfect for your needs.
There are plenty of fantastic options from a range of manufacturers. Find the perfect board and remember to pick up some safety equipment to keep yourself protected while riding.
Valerie Mellema is a writer living on Lake Fork in East Texas with a crew of three border collies, goats, horses, and a whole bunch of chickens. When she’s not writing or riding, she enjoys knitting and needle felting, a hobby she picked up in Ireland.