Choosing a board can be simple if you know what you want to do with it. Use the information below to determine what shape or type of board best suites your intentions in longboarding.
Anatomy of a Longboard
The general length of longboards is anywhere from 30”-48”. The shorter end of the spectrum (30”-35”) are the techsliding, general skateboarding, pool/bowl riding etc. The middle-ground (36”-42”) are the general longboarding styles: cruising, freeriding, and downhill. The lengthiest boards (42”+) are good for cruising and dancing.
The ends of the longboard are called the ‘nose’ and the ‘tail’, or if the board is symmetrical they are simply ‘tails’. Some longboards have one kick tail which is bent upward so you can pivot the board in the direction you want to turn, much like regular skateboards. Other longboards have two kick tails which are generally smaller and allow the rider to perform technical flip tricks and ollies etc. Many longboards simply have tails that are flat and are not for kicking, they are only there to provide space between the truck and the tip of the board.
There are two truck mounts at or near the nose and tail where 4 screws will hold the truck tight to the deck. Some truck mounts are ‘Drop-Through’, meaning the truck is split in half and attached as if it were dropping through the board; the screws go through the truck then the deck. The more conventional ‘Topmount’ is when the truck simply rests on the bottom of the board and is mounted from above with screws coming through the deck and then the truck. More details about the differences in mounting styles in the next section. Truck mounts are also used to determine wheelbase.
Topmount boards are the classic way of mounting trucks to a board, the truck goes on the bottom of the board, hardware enters the board first then the truck. It is higher off the ground giving more carve for your buck because of the leverage it provides. Topmount boards give fairly good stability even at high speeds, but also the height of the board off the ground gives a freerider a nice grippy board that can still slide. The weight of the rider is on the top of the board and thus pressure on the tops of the wheels. Some people even topmount their drop-through boards to get that same height feeling for leverage; topmount’s are good for downhill but for some it may feel unstable. The Height of a topmount may make it harder to push or commute and for some it is harder to slide on a topmount.
Drop-Through refers to the trucks dropping through the board. You must disassemble your trucks in order to mount them on the board. The hardware goes through the trucks first then the board. Drop-Through boards are a good all-around board, they are lower in order to distribute the weight of the rider and put pressure on the wheels in a way that allows a more driftier ride. You do have to carve harder to slide because you need more pressure for leverage, but sliding and drifting are much easier on a drop-through; this makes drop-throughs great for freeride. The stability of the board even makes it good for some downhill; they make amazing in-between boards. Having a drop-through with a low truck gives the board a super low effect, this type of board is amazing for a long distance pusher; this makes a great commuter board.
Concave on a longboard refers to the top of the board being shaped to give the rider a better grip over the board. When making the longboard they bend the board to give it this effect. There are different types of concave that serve different styles but the main point of concave is to give you a more ‘locked in’ feeling when riding, sliding, or speeding.
Radial concave is taco shaped, or U shaped which is the usual type of concave, most riders end up on this and love it. This is great for freeride, downhill, and general longboarding.
Tub concave has a flat bottom with rails curved up, mainly found on drop downs, many small company builders have this type because they use foam blocking when creating boards.
Elliptical is a modified Radial concave, with a flat spot at the bottom. Most regular skateboards have used this.
W Concave is always one that is either loved or hated. It has a small ridge running down the middle of the board to take some pressure off the arch of your foot, however your foot needs to really be formed to the bump to get the ‘locked in’ feeling, and it can feel like the board doesn’t have as much concave as it does. This is a great concave for freeride and downhill.
This is not all the styles for concave, keep your mind open to try new things, you never know what you’ll like until you try.
When measuring wheelbase, usually it is the distance between axles of the wheels, however with skateboarding the trucks and wheels may factor in and increase or decrease this distance. So, when you see a skateboard’s wheelbase it is the measurement of distance between the inner pairs of mounting holes on the board.
Wheelbase is important to factor in when buying a longboard, especially when it comes to downhill. The longer the wheelbase the more stability the board will have but the trade off is maneuverability in terms of turn radius. With that in mind, a shorter wheelbase will increase the the turning radius while decreasing stability.
For long straight runs with little movement a long wheelbase will be ideal, on a technical run with turns, pre-drifting, sliding etc. you’ll want a shorter wheelbase for more mobility. Finding a happy medium will come with experience. With many of the dedicated downhill longboards they will have multiple mounting holes on the board for different wheelbases to choose from.
For a cruiser board buying a board you’ll love is going to come a lot from personal preference. Any type of board is going to work out, top mount, drop-through, any type of truck/wheel setup, any concave. Some may like a firm stiff board that doesn’t bend, others enjoy the feel of flex when they’re pushing. The flex on a longboard may not be good for sliding or downhill but it does take a lot of pressure off the knees while cruising and pushing. I may suggest going to your local shop to check out the boards they offer. Get them down and stand on them so you can feel it on your feet. You’ll want one that feels good and you can tell that you’d enjoy just riding around on it. Lots of cruiser boards are pintail or other topmount boards, but don’t be afraid of looking at drop-throughs as they can also be amazing rides. When it comes to a cruiser board, get one that you like regardless of what people may say or judge you about it.
For a freeride board, You may want to look into getting either a nice topmount board or a drop through. The good thing about drop-throughs is you can still top mount them for the height. Since there are so many boards and manufacturers, buying the board that is perfect is going to come with experience and personal preference. There are a few things to look for in a freeride board: stiffness, concave, truck mount (top or drop-through), and wheelbase. When it comes to flex and concave a stiff board is good for sliding to give you something to push against when carving into a slide. Many people like the ‘W’ Concave to give them that ‘locked in’ feeling when going sideways. Many boards are simply a Radial Concave which also provides a good ‘locked in’ feeling. Go to your local shop and feel the way the board is on your feet if you’re not familiar with these concaves. The concave may feel a little awkward at first, but the more you ride it the more you’ll love it. Getting a top mount or a drop-through will effect the board, but it’s hard to tell which is going to fit your personal riding style. Wheelbase for freeriding will be in the range of about 25-30″ a good starter spot is about 28″. Also a good freeride board is going to be symmetrical so that when you slide and end up switch it won’t effect the board.
For a downhill board a nice topmount or drop-through board is going to work out perfect. You’re going to want to get a truck that has a lower baseplate (read more in the ‘choosing trucks’ section) and a wheel that’s fat and grippy (read more in the ‘choosing wheels’ section). You will want a board that is stiff, a board with flex is going to be unstable at high speeds. If you can get a nice stiff board with the right truck and wheel setup it will be stable and good for high speeds if you have the skills. Generally the dedicated downhill boards are not going to be symmetrical.
Lower boards will give more stability mainly because of the loss of leverage they provide. Increased stability will also come from a longer wheelbase. Keep in mind the key to stability is in the rider. You can’t buy anything to prevent speed wobbles, but there are products to assist you. You cant blame your gear, it is all you. Work on leg strength and balance and with time and experience you will be a downhill king.
Now that you’ve read about boards, take a look at trucks.