They say the first steps are always the hardest, so here’s some advice to make things a little easier. Before you even think about the rest of your longboard setup, have a browse of the various different board types on offer. Maybe you’ll find your favourite discipline right away. Even if you’re just tempted to try something new, have a read of our longboard deck guide first to arm yourself with all the vital info.
- Construction: The right wood and other technologies
- Downhill: High speed descents
- Freeride: Take corners in style
- Cruising and Carving: flatland fun
- Freestyle and boardwalking
- Deck profiles: rocker and camber
- Shapes: directional and symmetrical
- Concave: the curve between nose and tail
- Kicktails: skateboarding meets longboarding
- Wheel wells and housings
- Deck mounting styles
- Deck Flex: bendability
Construction: the right wood and other technologies
The core component of your longboard setup, your deck, is usually made of seven to eight layers of wood. Most manufacturers use robust woods like maple and birch but some boards also contain special materials like fibreglass or carbon that make the deck lighter or more robust.
Bamboo is being used more and more often these days as it’s so light and flexible. A bamboo and maple combo, for example, can combine amazing flex with incredible durability, which is perfect for carving those long winding roads and hitting high speeds. Decks made using these bamboo combinations are usually thinner than conventional maple boards and lighter too.
As well as wood, manufacturers also use other materials like fibreglass to make stable decks with incredible shock absorption properties. Using fibreglass keeps deck thickness down by replacing a whole wood layer while keeping the deck nice and poppy.
The next section will help you figure out what deck shape is right for you – whether you’re a bit of a show off or the kind of person who loves nothing more than bombing hills.
Downhill: High speed descents
Speedboarding and downhill are by far the most dangerous longboard disciplines. Reaching speeds of up to 100 km/h, this is one discipline that requires you to be incredibly well practiced and have a strong grasp of more advanced techniques. Knee and elbow pads and slide gloves – gloves with plastic pucks that let you glide over road surfaces without damaging your hands – are just some of the basic equipment you’ll need. Riding longboards on public roads can be incredibly dangerous and should only be undertaken by advanced and expert riders. Downhill longboards are much stiffer than other boards, giving you more stability at high speeds and the distance between the trucks is also often much larger to give you more balance. Because of all this, these longboards tend to be a little harder to turn at low speeds.
Freeride: Take corners in style
Freeride longboards are much easier to get along with than downhill longboards. Freeriding is less about hitting those top speeds than it is about laying down creative, powerful slides. For a bit of extra balance, freeride riders wear slide gloves so they can put their hands down on the road surface to help them slide without injuring themselves. In freeriding, you take corners with a slide, spinning your board out and maybe ending up switch. Experts can even perform slides while standing up (stand up slides), without using their hands.
Cruising and Carving: Flatland fun
Aggressive downhill riding isn’t for everyone. Longboarding, much like skateboarding, should be fun. So if you’d rather ride gentler slopes around the streets of your local town or surf the sidewalks along the beach front, cruising and carving are probably for you. You can use any board for cruising or carving - it’s all down to preference. Many riders go for a longer board with more flex and softer trucks and wheels than a traditional cruiser, something we’d recommend for longer periods of pushing as it’s much easier to pick up speed with far less effort.
Freestyle and boardwalking
Freestyle and boardwalking in particular are some of the most creative longboard disciplines. They’re perfect for beginners to get the feel of their boards before moving on, developing as a rider and nailing some of the more technical tricks like the pros of the freeride world. Boardwalking, also known as dancing, involves moving about on your deck while it rolls, a bit like surfing on a longboard. Even flip tricks like shuv-its and kickflips have a place with these twin tip boards, which feature kicktails on both the nose and tail.
Profiles: Rocker and camber
When it comes to board shape, longboards have something in common with snowboards and freeskis – they also feature rocker and camber profiles. Camber boards – boards with a positive camber – bend upwards, something you’ll notice if you look at them from the side. This shape is often used for carving decks as it really helps with turn initiation. The rocker on the other hand – a negative camber – drops you a little closer to the ground, giving you a lower centre of gravity to increase your stability and make the board a bit easier to control.
Shapes: directional and symmetrical
Longboards basically come in two different shapes, which are equally suited to beginners as experts. On the one hand you have directional boards, boards which can only be ridden one way, and, on the other, symmetrical or twin boards, which ride exactly the same no matter which way you ride it.
Concave: The curve between nose and tail
Seen from the front you’ll also notice longboards have a very specific shape to the deck, known as the concave, which comes in two basic variations:
- Standard concave
- Mellow concave
Kicktails: skateboarding meets longboarding
The raised ends of skateboards also feature in the longboard world. They let you pop the board off the ground to perform ollies or extra fast turns. Longboards with kicktails come in two variations
- Directional boards with a kicktail on one end
- Symmetrical or twin boards with a kicktail on both ends
Wheel wells and cut outs
So called cut-outs and wheel wells prevent wheel bite – contact between your wheels and deck. If you experience wheel bite, you will decelerate rapidly or be thrown from your deck. Cut outs let you lay down the wildest carves without fear of the deck and wheels ever contacting. Wheel wells let you make tight turns without wheel to deck contact unless your trucks are too narrow or your wheels are too big.
Deck mounting styles
The mounting style of your deck decides how stable it is, how easy it is to slow down and how easy it is to push. The general rule of thumb is that the higher your board, the higher your centre of gravity will be. A higher centre of gravity makes you less stable and will tire you out quicker when pushing or braking. On the other hand, lower boards are smoother to ride but harder to turn at high speeds. The four main mounting styles are:
- Top mount
- Drop through
- Drop deck
- Double drop
Top Mount: mounted from below
The most traditional, most reasonably priced style is the top mount. The trucks are mounted from the underside of the deck, so your centre of gravity is higher than with other longboard styles. The lack of stability does, however, lead to better turning performance at higher speeds, making this kind of deck a good all-rounder for cruising, carving, downhill, freeride and freestyle.
Drop Through: mounted from above
With Drop Through boards, the trucks are mounted through the deck, meaning the board sits a little lower than a top mount deck would. This increases stability and makes for a smoother ride so you won’t tire out as quickly when pushing – the perfect longboard for long distances, freeride or downhill riding.
Drop deck: don’t let appearances fool you
Drop decks are shaped so that your feet are below the truck mount point. This is a really effective way of lowering your centre of gravity, giving you more stability at high speeds. This deck is mostly used for downhill longboarding, but occasionally also for freeride. Trucks are mounted from underneath.
Double drop – deep, deeper, deepest
Double drop boards bring you closer to the ground than any other deck and feature both
- Drop through trucks and
- A drop deck style
Deck flex: bendability
Boards are available with all kinds of different flex levels, which depend on the materials, laminates, length and concave of the deck.
|Flex||Properties||Field of application |
|Soft|| || |
|Medium|| || |
|Stiff|| || |
You can easily apply conventional griptape to the top sheet of your longboard using the tape’s self-adhesive underside. Just trim off the excess tape with a file or Stanley knife once you’ve put it on. Griptapes come in a wide range of grades and different colours. Some manufacturers even offer spray-on griptape.