Bikes, kick scooters and skateboards are a sum of their parts. How good each component is will greatly determine the quality of your ride. Some parts will naturally carry more weight (both literally and figuratively). For bikes it’s the frame, for scooters and skateboards it’s the deck. All other parts either stem from frames and decks, and these are the basis around which to build your next adrenalin rush. Here I’ll be looking at the different types of skateboard decks, what type of riding they’re best suited to, and which type is right for you.
Types of Skateboard Decks
Choosing a skateboard deck can be confusing, especially if you’re just getting into skateboarding. There are different shapes and sizes, though most decks can be divided into 4 major types – longboard, shortboard, old school and cruiser skateboard decks. Longboard decks are naturally the longest and are good for both beginners and pros since the long wheelbase provides increased stability at all speeds. Riders can push along at a steady pace or go downhill at speed. Shortboards are also self-explanatory, and are best suited in the skatepark for doing tricks. Old school and cruiser skateboard decks are somewhere in between both in terms of riding style and size. Cruisers are designed for shorter bouts, and need a little more balance. They’re mostly symmetrical, with similar widths throughout and a slight upward curve in the front and back, or nose and tail for better control. Old school decks tend to have a wider flat nose and a little kick in the tail. They’re more of an all-purpose deck, suited to a variety of riding styles.
What to Look for in a Skateboard Deck
Decks need to be stiff enough to avoid damage, and also flexible enough to absorb impact and the rider’s weight in jumps. To this end sturdy natural or synthetic materials are used. The most common is a maple veneer design consisting of 7 or 8 plies of maple plywood joined together with a strong adhesive or resin. Other wood types are less common, but you’ll also find decks of birch or bamboo. Wood combinations of maple and bamboo give a lightweight, yet durable deck with good flex.
Synthetic materials like nylon, Plexiglas and fibreglass are often chosen for their strength and lower wear and that they can be manufactured from recyclable materials like nylon plastic bags. And as for metals, there are also eco-friendly choices, with lightweight and tough aluminium decks slowly gaining popularity.
Though the decks above are more about length, you should be looking at the width of the deck and how comfy it is to get the right riding position. For adults, widths range from 7 to 10 inches. Most cruiser skateboard decks hover around 8-8.5 inches, but the size you ultimately end up with is based on your shoe size. Taller riders with bigger feet will need wider boards, while shorter riders should stick to narrower boards. Also, there’s some difference to riding style. If you need more comfort for a laid-back ride, go for a wide board, and if you’re into tricks in parks or on ramps, go for a narrower board with better maneuverability.
This refers to how far apart the front and back wheels are set. Wheels fit along ‘trucks’ which are bolted into mounting points in the deck. Some decks have two sets of mounting points at the front and the back, meaning you can adjust the wheelbase to suit your skill level and your riding style. Most decks have wheelbases in the range of 13 to 15 inches.
Nose and Tail
The nose is the front of the deck, and the tail in the back. They can be flat or have a slight or more pronounced ‘kick’ or upward curve. Shortboards and street boards have a bigger kick tail to allow for popping the skateboard up when doing tricks. The nose kick is also more angled to keep your front foot steady. Cruiser skateboard decks have some kick in the tail and usually a flat nose. Old school and longboard decks have little or no kickback and front. Most boards have a concave indentation in the wheelbase or the part between the nose and tail. This gives riders more control and stability.
To distinguish noses and tails, especially in symmetrical board shapes, manufacturers offer printed grip tape. Grips come in different designs, patterns and colour schemes, and varying levels of grip. This is what defines the overall appearance of the board and speaks a lot about you as a rider. Customisable clear grips let you experiment, as you would in the skatepark or on the street.
Which Skateboard Deck is Right for You?
If you’re just starting out in skateboarding and not sure about which riding style suits you most, then a cruiser skateboard deck is the way to go. Once you clock up a bit of riding experience, you can graduate into shortboards, while using the cruiser board for everyday riding. It’s all about what you like. Choose the deck that is the right size, is comfy and balanced in both straight lines and curves, and has a bit of fun built in.