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Longboard buyers guide at Blue Tomato

The world of longboarding – more than just a sport

Longboarding and skateboarding emerged in the mid 1950’s as the South Californian surf scene exploded. When the waves were nowhere to be found, surfers decided to attach wheels to planks of wood, imitating surfing’s turning style on the streets.

What was once a trend is now a lifestyle – street surfing. Where once you might have found geeks bombing hills on their downhill boards, these days you’re more likely to find board sports lovers of all kinds. And with the streets jammed up with cars, who can blame them – it’s a faster way to get about that lets them feed their passion in another environment.

A complete longboard setup is the ideal introduction to the world of longboarding. These ready-to-ride longboards are a hassle free way to spark off a lifelong passion and you’re guaranteed to get a longboard deck, trucks, wheels and bearings that are perfectly suited to the riding style of your choice.

But don’t forget: not all longboards are alike – make sure you find the right one for you and your riding style!

Longboard hardware

A complete longboard is made up of essentially the same parts as a skateboard, but certain features have been modified or adjusted to suit the extra length of the longboard and to give you a bit more stability, manoeuvrability and to absorb a bit more shock.

The deck: your stepping off point for style

Longboard decks from cruiser to freeride to dancing

Like all skateboards, longboards are made out of robust woods like maple and birch. Normally a longboard will be made of 7 to 10 layers of wood that have been glued and pressed together. The press shapes the longboard, giving it a concave that runs the length of the deck. This concave is a dip between the two sides that keeps your toes and heels in position, giving you more control over your board.

The press also gives a longboard either a rocker or a camber profile. That is: the middle of the board bends either downwards or upwards. Different concaves, profiles and shapes are better suited to different riding styles. Some longboard manufacturers also enhance their boards with additional materials such as fibreglass, foam or carbon, for lighter, more stable boards.

Trucks: From skateboarding, for longboarding

Longboard trucks at Blue Tomato

The most important thing to know about longboard trucks is that the placement of the kingpin is reversed in comparison to normal skateboard trucks; earning them the imaginative name: “reverse kingpin”. Trucks like this make the board more playful and give your longboard a tighter turn radius. Longboard trucks are also wider to make your board more stable at high speeds, but sometimes traditional trucks are still used on certain setups.

Bushings: little parts, big potential

Bushings for longboard and skateboard trucks

Bushings are the little rubber pads between your truck’s kingpin and hanger. They influence your board’s turning performance and come in a variety of different shapes. Softer bushings are more agile at slow speeds but less stable when riding downhill. Harder bushings come into their own at higher speeds but are harder to handle when just cruising about.

Wheels: Big wheels for high speeds

Longboard wheels for cruisers, downhill and carving boards

Longboard wheels are bigger than traditional skateboard wheels so your ride is both comfier and faster. The larger and wider the wheels, the better they are at absorbing shocks, the faster you can go and the more grip you have through your turns. To make sure your wheels don’t come into contact with your deck you need a longboard deck, longboard trucks, and potentially some riser pads. Skateboard decks with longboard trucks rarely work well together because they tend not to leave enough space between your deck and wheels. The hardness (durometer) of skateboard and longboard wheels is referred to in the same terms but longboard wheels tend to be on the softer end of the scale.

Longboard bearings

Steel or ceramic bearings for longboards and skateboards

You can’t really go wrong with bearings. They fit in both skateboard wheels and longboard wheels and only differ in quality. There’s no such thing as a “faster” or “slower” bearing, it’s just the precision of manufacture – given as an ABEC rating – that will determine how long they last. The higher the ABEC number, the more precisely they are manufactured and the more wear and tear they can endure.

If you want to find out a bit more about longboard bearings, you’ll find everything you need to know right here in our guide, which tackles everything from cleaning to the different varieties available.

The different styles of longboarding

Before you splash out on a new longboard, try and find out which style suits you the most. Not all longboards are alike – different shapes are better for different styles. Shorter boards with kicktails are the most fun to cruise about on, while longer boards with a symmetrical twin shape are ideal for downhill demons with acrobatic tendencies. The longest boards are generally used for dancing and boardwalking and bend slightly thanks to their soft flex.

Cruising and carving

Cruising and carving longboards from Loaded for men
Photo: Marion Verdier

If you prefer to ride flat land or gentle inclines cruiser and carving longboards are the best choice for you. They’re the perfect mix of longboard and skateboard. These boards are pretty similar to skateboards but come with softer wheels and trucks and are ideal for beginners and chillers alike.

Downhill: hit the valley at speed

Downhill longboard from Arbor for men
Photo: Arbor

Downhill longboards are designed for high stability at high speeds. This sort of longboard is best suited to advanced/expert riders as the risk of injury for less advanced riders is extremely high. It’s not unheard of for downhill riders to use slides to slow them down.

Freeride: slide your way around corners

Freeride longboards from Loaded for women
Photo: Loaded

Freeriding is all about riding down a hill at moderate speed, adding in slides and curb hops wherever you see fit. The amount of board control required at these sorts of speeds is pretty demanding, even for experts.

Freestyle: Dancing and boardwalking

Freestyle longboards from Loaded for men
Photo: Christian Rossilo

Freestyle is the general term for anything you do with your board, whether it’s tricks, slides or dancing. A freestyle longboard is perfect for beginners looking to get used to the feel of a board under their feet. That said, more advanced riders also love the freedom these kinds of boards give them. Moving around on your board, a bit like you would when surfing a longboard, is known as “boardwalking” or “dancing”.

The ultimate solution for beginners: Complete longboard setups

These longboards come with all the components assembled and tuned to perfection by longboard manufacturers like Globe, Sector 9 and Loaded. So if you don’t have the time for the hassles of a Do-It-Yourself setup, a complete board could be the perfect solution. These ready-made and ready-to-ride boards are perfect for beginners too. All you need to do is figure out which discipline is your favourite before you start waving your cash about. Are you a chiller who’s always down for a spot of cruising or carving? A speed demon desperate for downhill and freeride action? Or would you rather a little dance down the boardwalk? Can’t decide? Why not get your hands on an all-rounder longboard and try a bit of everything.

In comparison to other riding styles the cruiser is better suited to short distances and urban environments. Tight curves and evasive manoeuvres are a cruiser’s specialty – whether you go for something like a Globe complete board or a Penny cruiser is down to you. But before you start cruising the streets on your complete make sure all the nuts are tightened properly. If the wheels don’t spin properly, loosen them up a bit.

Loaded longboard slide in the rain with a helmet
Photo: Tr3senlinea Studio

How to brake

Braking with a complete longboard or complete cruiser
Photo: Alexandra Kubiak Ho-Chi

Before you get started with your longboard, make sure you have the basics of control down and can bring the board to a standstill with ease.

There are a variety of methods that will help you bring your board to a stop that you ought to learn before you get carried away. The journey from the mountain down into the valley is a long one and you want to make sure you make it down in one piece. Remember: you put other people at risk of injury if you’re not fully prepared yourself. As a beginner, mastering a safe method of braking is your life insurance policy.

The footbrake: your first step in the world of braking

The first method you want to learn is foot braking. This is one – if not necessarily the safest – way to bring your board to a standstill. Simply take your pushing foot off and hold it flat against the floor next to your board. When you make contact you will lose speed – super helpful in towns and cities with plenty of pedestrians about. The sole of your shoe may suffer a little, but this is probably the most effective method of reducing your speed.

Carving: Harness your momentum

Wide carves – from one side all the way to the other – will slow you down. Making short, quick carves will do the opposite.

Air braking – use your body to slow things down

You can also use wind resistance to slow you down. If you stand up straight and stretch out your arms when riding at high speeds you’ll notice you slow down a little. Combine this with long, closed off carves to shave off a good amount of speed.

Sliding: the advanced method

Sliding isn’t just a good way of getting round corners in style - it can also help you to decelerate. In a “powerslide” your board turns 90 degrees. Here’s how to pull one off: with your slide gloves on, initiate a sharp turn so quickly that your wheels lose grip, put your hands down and stay nice and stable in the slide position until you shave off enough speed.

Emergency Measures: jumping off or running out

In the event of an emergency, just let your longboard go. If you can’t control it anymore, jump off and run as fast as you can behind it. But remember, this technique can lead to serious injuries if you’re not fast enough. This method also puts other people in danger. If this is the only braking method you can master, stay well away from traffic.