The world of skateboarding can seem daunting, there are many different skateboards out there that vary massively in how they look and what they are used for. One of the most popular types of skateboards is the longboard, a large, fun skateboard that is often pictured either downhill racing or cruising along a sunny boulevard. There are also what many consider to be the ‘real’ skateboards, the street and skatepark boards that are smaller and more manouverable than the former. If you want to get the lowdown on these two boards, including their differences and similarities, continue reading our guide on longboard vs skateboard!
What is a Longboard?
A longboard is actually a variant of a traditional skateboard, and as the name suggests – it is usually most simply described as a long skateboard. Longboards were initially invented as an alternative to surfing when surfing wasn’t readily available. This was around the 1950’s, and the longboard started out as a simple plank of wood with roller skates on the underside. Now, there are many variations of the standard longboard, and several longboard shapes that you can choose from, such as drop through, drop down, top mount, mini cruiser and many more. These are all designed to achieve different types of rides and would be used for different things, and we will go through a general overview and touch on many different types of longboards.
During the early years, surfing had a huge influence on skateboarding in general, and a goal of the longboard was to emulate the feel and style of surfing. One desire was for a large, stable board, this means most boards fall into the 84-150cm category in length, and 22.8-25.4cm category in width.
Over the years many different types of longboards have been popularised, and the range in length and width is the result of a desire for certain advantages during the design process. But this will ultimately output certain disadvantages too, so choose your board wisely.
The Drop Through is a jack-of-all trades style longboard, and can be picked up by beginners and intermediates alike. It gets its name from the holes in the nose and tail which allow the trucks to ‘drop through’ the deck. This design means the board can ride much lower down and stability is increased through the low centre of gravity, however, it also gives less maneuverability.
The Drop Down does exactly what it says on the tin, and has a deck that has a noticeable drop across the foot platform. This is done for the same reason as the drop through, to give added stability.
The Top Mount is one of the simplest longboard designs, with no curvature of the deck and trucks that are topmounted like a normal skateboard rather than drop through. This means the board is more maneuverable and responsive, yet will lack the stability that drop through and drop down provide.
The Mini Cruiser could definitely be mistaken for a standard skateboard, due to the size and shape of the small deck. But an important difference is that the wheels are much larger than a traditional skateboard’s, and also usually much softer. This means the ride will be much more of a ‘cruise’ and will give you a longboard style ride on a skateboard sized board. Overall great for portability.
What is a Skateboard?
Skateboarding is much more commonplace and popular than longboarding. There is no specific way to skateboard, but it is often used as a means of transportation as well as a sport, in fact skateboarding will appear in the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo, Japan 2020. Much like longboarding it appeared in the 1950’s and started out as a board with roller skates attached to it. The sport was initially popularised by individuals hand making their own boards from wooden boxes or planks, and was first manufactured by a company in 1959.
The size of a skateboard can vary, however they are usually around 71-84cm long and 18-27cm wide. Usually the tail and the nose are both curved upwards, making it easier for tricks to be performed. The deck will also be covered in grip tape, a material similar to sandpaper. This creates more friction between the rider and the board, therefore helping the rider stay on the deck and perform tricks.
The skateboard can have wheels in many different sizes depending on the type of skateboarding. Wheel size in based off their diameter, measured in millimeters, and they usually range from 50-75mm. Smaller wheels result in a slower ride, but they’re easier to perform tricks on due to how low to the ground they are. Larger wheels mean a faster ride and usually a smoother one, but they’re not as easy to perform tricks on. There is also the hardness to consider, which is measured on a Durometer Scale. Soft wheels are better suited to street skating, and hard wheels are better suited to a controlled environment such as skate parks.
As skateboards are so popular and so widely used, there are many different ways you can customise your board to get the ride you want. Ultimately this is not something that can be fully covered in this article. Things to consider would be deck length and width, wheel diameter and hardness, truck size and many more add-ons.
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Differences and Similarities
The longboard and skateboard were both created in the 1950s as a way to ‘street surf’, but today have very different reputations and cultures surrounding them.
Technically the longboard is a type of skateboard, and was created out of a desire for a different type of skateboarding. Longboards are used for cruising and downhill racing, as it tends to be larger and faster than the standard skateboard. Their large size makes them less suitable for performing tricks on, however their additional bulk contributes to a fluid, faster ride as a result of added momentum. Skateboards on the other hand can be used in many different ways, plenty of skateboards are designed for street skating, they are easy to maneuver and have softer wheels for rough surfaces, others are streamlined towards doing tricks and riding in skateparks.
The longboard length ranges from 84-150cm, and the skateboard ranges from 71-84cm in length. The longboard deck is usually larger and flatter than the skateboards due to the lack of desire for doing tricks, and they are often much more suited to downhill riding and ‘cruising’. Many longboards are drop down or drop through, meaning the rider will be lower to the ground and therefore have more stability for downhill riding.
Skateboard decks on the other hand are smaller and more portable than longboards. There are many things that you can consider when buying a skateboard, noticeable features are their curved tail and nose for performing tricks.
Wheels for both skateboards and longboards vary massively in many different ways to cater to different types of skating. The elements of both skateboard and longboard wheels often overlap, and there is no right or wrong way to choose your board’s wheels, only look at what you want out of the ride. With that said we will go over general differences between longboard and skateboard wheels.
Both longboard and skateboard wheels vary in size and hardness.
For both longboards and skateboards, the hardness of the wheel is measured in the Durometer Scale. Generally speaking, soft wheels provide more grip than hard wheels, and hard wheels are designed for speed on smooth surfaces. Therefore, soft wheels on a bumpy surface give you a smoother, faster ride, however are slower on a smooth surface than hard wheels.
Skateboard riders take wheel hardness into consideration when looking at trick skating or street skating, which doesn’t need to be thought about with longboards. Longboard riders only usually consider the hardness of the wheel when looking at the roughness of the surface they will be riding on.
Skateboards generally have smaller wheels than longboards. Smaller wheels are lower to the ground and will offer more control, which is why they are ideal for trick or street skating. They will also be slower than larger wheels.
Longboard riders will certainly go for larger wheels. Large wheels help you ride faster and provide you with more balance, which is ideal for downhill riding and cruising.
Which is Right For You?
Beginners can easily pick up either a longboard or a skateboard, so don’t worry about one being out of your skill range. In terms of what the best board for you is, only you really know that, but we’ve broken down some factors that might come into play.
Certainly one of the most important questions when picking up a new sport/hobby – how expensive will it be? Currently you can get both a longboard and a skateboard for below $100. The price of longboards can range from anywhere between $50-$300, the build quality will usually improve with increasing price. A beginner’s skateboard can start at $35, and one can easily be picked up at WalMart, however we would place a good quality beginner’s board in the $50-$120 price range.
Terrain and Area
Both longboards and skateboards can be used recreationally or as a sport, but if you want a board to use to travel around, consider the terrain and general area you live in. Longboards are not as effective at control and responsiveness, and if you feel you will be moving through an ever changing or unpredictable area, you may be better suited to a skateboard to ensure you don’t get into an accident.
The bigger sized wheels on longboards means you’ll be able to get over bumps and rocks easily, and the smaller the wheels the more unstable you’ll be when going over uneven surfaces.
Think about what you want out of this purchase. Would you like to compete in a sport, perhaps performing tricks or downhill racing? Would you rather cruise comfortably on a board with a large deck and large wheels, or would you rather have a smaller board with the option to perform more technical street skating?
Hopefully we’ve covered enough that you have something to think about, or even maybe made a decision!