In our Longboard Buyer’s Guide we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about buying a longboard as a beginner. We’ll go through the basics of what a longboard actually is. We’ll look at the differences between a longboard and a skateboard. We’ll dissect a longboard and show you all the different components that make up the whole board. Then we’ll cover different types of longboards and their uses so you have a good idea of which type is the best for you. Finally, we’ll give you some tips and teach you how to choose the best longboard for you and your aims and goals with this fantastic hobby.
What is a Longboard?
A longboard is a type of sports equipment similar to a skateboard. The main difference being longboards are often longer than skateboards, have a wide variety of shapes and are used for slightly different purposes.
The very first longboards were made in the 1940s and 50s as an alternative to surfing when the waves were too dull. Early skaters built dangerous, improvised boards out of planks of wood and roller skates in a practice known as Sidewalk Surfing. Manufactured Longboards first became commercially available in 1959 when Makaha, Jack’s, and Hobie became the first professional longboard distributors.
Longboards tend to be faster than normal skateboards because of the wheel size, construction materials and more precise hardware. Longboards are commonly used for more speed related purposes such as cruising and downhill racing with the world record being an insane 89.41 mph.
Longboards are also able to slide and high speed downhill sliding is becoming more and more popular. Longboard ‘dancing’ and ‘freestyle’ are also popular alternative styles of use. This is where the rider utilises skateboard-like motions and can steps up, down and over the board, generally in a fluid, dance like manner.
Longboard vs Skateboard
There are a few key differences between skateboards and longboards, we’ll cover them here:
This is the obvious one. Longboards, hence their name, are longer than normal skateboards. The cut off point is generally considered to be around 3 feet (91 cm). Longboards can be considerably longer than this and some reach up to 51 inches (130 cm).
The length is an important differentiator between the two but so it the shape of the boards. Skateboards tend to follow closer shape designs where they have symmetrical rounded edges. Longboards on the other hand have a much larger variety in shape and sizes. They can be symmetrical or uneven, they can look like long, stretched tear drops or simply like standard skateboards.
Longboards are preferred if you’re intending on cruising or want some downhill speed. Their longer shape helps with stability and keeps the speed potential nice and high. Skateboards tend to be more suited for skateparks and performing tricks, due to their shorter length and lighter weight. Longboards are still able to perform tricks and there are some called kicktail boards that are build exactly for this. Some Longboards also have the ability to slide and a whole new type of trick has been born from longboarding.
Conventional skateboards are perfectly suited to parks and ramps where tight turns and light weight make it possible to leap and flip the board with ease. However, for long cruising rides, their short length makes them less stable and more uncomfortable. On the other hand, longboards are designed with transportation in mind. Longboard riders may cruise for miles and enjoy smooth uninterrupted journeys through cities or the countryside for fun or even for the morning commute.
If you’re interested in a new way to commute to work, then check out our guide to the best electric scooters for commuting.
Longboarding doesn’t actually require you to push that much with your feet at all. The other option is called pumping, something that skateboards aren’t able to do. Pumping is where the rider will shift their weight back and forth when riding to create a thrusting force without their feet ever leaving the board.
Which one is easier to learn?
Both have a similar learning curve but due to the extra size of the longboard they tend to be a little easier to start with and we would probably recommend beginners learn on a mid sized longboard. This is because it’s generally much easier to balance on a longboard due to their size and the larger wheels.
Whichever one you choose, remember to take your time and learn bit by bit. Stay consistent and you’ll be having huge amounts of fun in no time.
For more information on learning how to longboard, check out our guide on how to longboarding.
Different Types of Longboard
Firstly, we’ll cover some general information about all longboards.
Usually the longer the board the more stable it will be, but a longer length also means that it can’t turn as sharply as smaller boards.
The lower the deck is to the ground the more stable it will be. An example of this would be a board with a drop through deck. This is where the deck drops down into the trucks (the trucks are like the axles).
Different decks have different amount of flex. Flex is how springy the deck is. A more flexy board can give you a better carving experience but might also be unstable at higher speeds.
(Carving is where you shift your bodyweight and turn the board to make an S pattern as you longboard – it’s a lot of fun and feels great)
Penny boards are tiny little longboards that aren’t even really longboards. They’re just about big enough to fit your feet in a single position but are a lot of fun. You can really get some tight turns going with a penny board and they can get a bit scary if you’re picking up some speed.
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One of the best thing about longboards is that they can all cruise really well. Exactly how you go about this will be down to personal preference. For example, some people love carving as they’re cruising so a top mounted deck would be much more beneficial to them than a drop through. If you don’t know exactly what you want then there are some longboards that have been built with the whole focus of the board being about simple, enjoyable cruising.
Freestyling on a longboard mixes a bunch of different practices into one. It’s a combination of sliding, tricks, dancing and obviously a bit of cruising and carving for good measure. These boards tend to be on the larger size with a minimum size of around 38 to 40 inches. They regularly have small kicks on either end to help with tricks and you’ll get a bit of flex in them to help cushion any tricks or dancing you’re doing. These boards tend to be good all rounder boards and make a great choice for beginners as it gives you a lot of options to test out and figure out where you want to take your longboarding.
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Slide boards are generally constructed from pretty stiff materials with really deep concave decks to help you lock your feet in place. They also have very rough grip tape to get you as much hold and traction as possible. Slide boards generally tend to have drop through decks as you want to be nice and low when sliding. These boards are tough and are meant to get up to nice high speeds to help with your sliding.
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These are similar to slide boards and some can easily cross over between the two categories. These have super stiff decks with nice big concaves and rough grip tapes. The wheels tend to have nice hard edges and big contact areas to make sure you’re really gripping the road at high speeds.
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Understanding Longboard Parts
The deck is the largest part of the longboard. This is where you stand and is where most of the strength of the board comes from.
There are many types of deck on the market, some are very similar to the classic popsicle style of skateboard and others have very different looks.
There are boards where the nose and tail are much thinner that the rest of the board. This allows you to carve really hard without the wheels hitting the deck. A favorite of ours is the pintail longboards. These have a beautiful long, thin point at both ends that makes what we think are the best looking boards you can buy.
You also have decks that sit on top of the trucks and some that drop through, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Drop through tends to give more stability, sit on tend to be better for carving.
On top of your deck is the grip tape. This is the rough surface that helps you keep your feet in place on the board. This also comes in various styles and roughness. A rougher grip tape will generally be found on downhill boards and is there to keep your feet firmly in place. A less rough grip tape is better for freestyle boards and any board that you want to do tricks on so you have some maneuverability. Grip tapes are normally black but can come in many colors, including transparent. A transparent grip tape shows off the wood underneath and looks fantastic.
Wheels are very important with longboards and can dramatically change how you ride and how the board handles.
One of the most common types of wheels is the slalom style wheel. These generally come fairly soft which give you a lot of grip. Highly grippy wheels are perfect for carving and keeping your line. Harder wheels also often have a rolled edge feature to them. This is where they edge of the wheel has a nice smooth, curved edge to it to help initiate and perform slides.
Larger wheels tend to be a little slower than smaller wheels at changing direction but do tend to be able to roll for longer.
These are the T shaped piece of metal that looks like an axle type thing that the wheels attach to. These are very important and can greatly affect the style of your ride.
Most longboards have reverse kingpin trucks. This means that the bolt that holds it together (the kingpin) is facing out towards the nose or the tail (depending on if it’s the front or back truck).
There’s one truck called the Gullwing Sidewinder that has a double kingpin. This means that there are two axes that gives the rider a very tight turning radius. This is fantastic for carving but can become unstable at higher speeds.
Here’s a great video that goes into a lot of detail about longboard trucks:
The bearings are little devices that have a series of small metal balls that allow for free movement of the wheels whilst the trucks stay in place.
Get the best bearing you can afford. You’ll see all over the internet people saying that they’ve improved their cheap longboard with a set of nice bearings. A good set of bearings will help you roll smoother and longer. This will mean less pushing and more fun. When you’re riding down hills you’ll be able to pick up speed quicker and have a generally more enjoyable ride with a good set of bearings.
Here’s another great video so you can better understand what they are and why a decent set of bearing can make all the difference:
How to Choose a Longboard
Know what you want – Now you’ve got the knowledge to pick a longboard but how do you know which one to go with. You have to know what you want from a longboard. This is very important as there are so many different types of longboard on the market.
Have a look on YouTube and do research on AltRiders and the rest of the web to get an idea of what you want to do. When you know if you’ll be more of a carver or a slider then you can choose your board from there.
Check out our best beginners longboards post for a detailed review of some of the best entry level longboards out there. If you want general advice, we’d say go for a freestyle board that gives you a lot of versatility and find your riding style from there. Then invest in a more specific board that matches your style and has better quality.
We hope this has given you a good introduction to longboarding. Any of the boards on our guides and what we recommend on this website will be worth your time and money so head over to the best beginner longboards post and see what you like the best.
If you have any questions or think we missed something then please let us know in the comments or ask us on Facebook.