All Types of Skateboards for Beginners and Pros
There are all types of skateboards out there today. Skateboards are identified by what they are used for. For example: street deck or park board. They can also be classified by their quality like Walmart boards.
Many people are riding longboards, cruisers or Penny boards to get around. Skateboarding is getting a better reputation than ever thanks to it being featured on TV and shared on websites. Big pool boards have also made a comeback with transition skateboarding’s popularity. Much of this has to do with the skateparks being built all over the world with incredible bowls and flow sections. Of course popsicle boards are still everywhere in the streets. Many people ride to school on popsicle boards when they would have a better ride on a cruiser or longboard.
Types of Skateboards
Mini boards were some of the first boards made to copy the 2×4 roller skate boards made by people when skateboarding first began. Today, mini boards they are usually only ridden by kids. Termite brand mini boards are out there, but kids outgrow them. So these are not as common to see at your local skate shop. People will usually have to search for them online or have them special ordered. If a little kid has a mini board, their parent is trying to give them the best experience though and that’s good.
Mini boards usually have skatepark wheels on them, or else they can be labeled mini cruisers. No one calls them short boards. And don’t even talk to me about Tech Deck hand boards.
Old School Boards
Old School boards are identified mostly based on the deck. Other parts also matter though because an old school board with big soft wheels is called a cruiser. Old school boards are usually bigger and have fish tail shapes. They have a bigger tail and a smaller nose generally. The trucks are wider to match the width of the board. The wheels are bigger too. They are designed to replicate the boards that were ridden back in the day when vert was popular. Vert skating is easier with a bigger board unless you’re a kid who isn’t big enough to control the big board.
Rails, or “cheater sticks”, are common to preserve the graphics and slide better over pool coping. The graphics on old school boards are usually rad, especially the re-issues of some of the most popular vert pro decks. Rails help with sliding over non-waxed surfaces, but many park skaters ride them for transition and street, not only for pool coping.
Rails are great because they also remove the need to balance front and back on board slides. The concave isn’t touching the rail or thing you’re sliding on. Instead there are two rails touching. This balances the board between them for tricks like board slides and lip slides. So you slide longer and better.
Cruisers are defined by the wheels. Any board can be made into a cruiser. If you ride a popsicle board to school, we recommend putting some soft cruiser wheels on it with some riser pads. If you get smaller softer wheels, you can still do tricks on it. Bigger wheels will ride over cracks better though and carry more momentum with each push.
Cruiser boards are designed for riding from place to place either used for fun or to commute somewhere. They can have tails or noses to do tricks, but the softer wheels make them able to cruise faster and longer.
Mini boards like Penny boards can be considered mini boards, but they are more of mini cruisers. This is because the soft wheels make them for cruising not for kids to do tricks like a mini skateboard.
Mini cruisers are great for carrying around campus because they are small and light, but still good for cruising. The soft cruiser wheels make them go longer and faster. These boards can get sketchy to ride though because your feet might not fit on the board very well. The wheelbase is also shorter, making them not able to handle higher speeds like when bombing a hill. They also can’t ollie up curbs or manual as well usually. Some mini boards like the Landyachtz dinky are able to ollie and do tricks though. There are boards of all shapes and sizes out there. Mini cruisers are smaller decks with soft wheels.
Longboards are literally longer boards. They have soft wheels. There is a fine line between what can be a cruiser or a longboard. Reverse kingpin trucks and the decks differentiate a longboard from a cruiser, but there are exceptions. Longboards can be easier to learn on because they have such a big platform to balance on.
According to downhill skateboarders, a longboard is a surfboard and a downhill skateboard is a downhill skateboard. Skaters today are flying down mountain roads and neighborhood streets at 40+ miles per hour comfortably drifting through turns and to stop. The boards are designed for high speed and can ride fast without getting speed wobbles. Within downhill skateboarding there is bombing and free riding.
Skaters have long bombed hills. Trucks are tightened to avoid speed wobbles, and trucks can be de-wedged to reduce the turning angle. Using angled riser pads works well for this or using bearing speed rings as spacers in between the board and one side of the trucks inside or out. Bombing hills is easier with low degree trucks that do not turn well. Aerodynamic helmets make you go so much faster. You can die downhill skateboarding, so they follow the “no helmet no respect” guideline.
Free-riding is the drifting style of downhill skateboarding. Anything goes: drifts, tricks, and fast apex lines. The trucks are looser and the wheels are designed for sliding. At high speeds though, any wheels will drift. Free-ride wheels are usually round lipped, although square lip wheels can drift no problem. Free-riding can be done down a single steep hill in your neighborhood or a windy mountain road. Gloves are worn with Velcroed on plastic “pucks” or pieces that look like hockey pucks. They are used to put the skater’s hand down to drift. Skaters wear anything from shorts and a tank top to full pads or even leather suits to free ride.
Longboard dancing is a new style of skateboarding that is becoming very popular with girls and skaters outside of the states. You need the longer flexible board and specific trucks to do the dancing properly.
You can save yourself from speed wobbles. Notice when it starts to happen. Pick a direction to carve into left or right so that the trucks do not go side with you in the middle until you are thrown off the board. Carve side to side to shed off speed while eliminating the ability of the trucks from being able to wobble side to side. Use your ankles to hold the board strong through the carves.
One way to avoid speed wobbles is to tighten your trucks before bombing hills. The best way is to make sure your board is a longboard made for bombing hills. The farther apart the trucks are, the faster speeds the board can handle. Some longboards like ones with sector 9 sidewinder trucks turn sharp. They aren’t made for bombing straight down a hill. So understand what your board is for.
Popsicle boards are the most common boards for street skating. They have a nose and tail as well as concave to do tricks. They are usually 7.5-9 inches wide and you will see the median widths around more. The trucks should match the width of the board and the wheels shouldn’t stick out.
Cheaply made popsicle boards from department stores are commonly purchased. These board usually stay in neighborhood streets though. If a skater is serious about skating, they will soon invest in a quality board.
With so many different kinds of boards out there, there are many companies seizing the opportunity to make money. Many of these companies are mass producing products that are not crafted with the same care as core skateboarding brands make them with. These boards may look good, but they will not ride as well and break easier. They can also make the rider look like a kook to the skaters who know what boards are legit and what boards aren’t. Each kind of board has its own pitfalls if the quality isn’t top notch. There are ways to upgrade parts on cheap boards to make them much better. Across the board, there are things to look for that can help point out a cheap board.
Any plastic parts on a wooden deck is a sure sign that the board is cheap. If the trucks are plastic, the board is garbage. One well-known thing to look for is if the board is shrink wrapped with plastic. These boards are mass produced, and you have to take off the trucks to remove the plastic sheeting completely. This is a sure sign that the other parts like wheels are cheap also.
Skateboard decks all start out looking the same. It’s only after feeling it that you will find out if it’s not high quality wood construction and prone to being defective.
Deck Construction and Problems
A deck should feel very solid under your feet and not flex very much if at all. A low quality deck will be flexible brand new when you stand on the nose and tail. These boards will have less pop and be more likely to break. They will also chip easier. The glue used in them is usually also of lower quality. This makes them prone to delaminating, or separation of the layers. This is a sure sign of a cheap board. The shape of a cheap board will also often flatten out, losing its pop. It doesn’t matter as much if the deck is defective on cruiser boards, but for tricks, it makes a big difference.
Pro decks at skate shops are the best bet when choosing a board, but they are the most expensive. They last longer and ride better though so it’s worth the extra money if you plan on riding a lot. Having good gear will also get you more respect from fellow riders as opposed to having a cheap board from Walmart. They will be able to tell.
Many people get their kids the cheap boards to test the water because their kid might only ride a few times and not be into it. Often times, this works, but if the quality is better, the board will be easier to ride. It is also a gamble because if you buy the cheaper board and they do wind up getting into it, you will then have to buy another board, this time the high quality board you could have bought at first. Many skate shops have deals with their shop brand decks to reduce the cost.
High quality wheels like Spitfire and Bones, they use better urethane. They also have formulas and shapes specific for what kind of riding you are doing. They do comprehensive tests to make sure their batches are not defective before putting them on the market.
Cheap boards will have urethane that may look good in the store, but it will not ride the same at all. The quality of the material they are made from determines how fast they roll and how long they last. Cheap wheels will not go far at all. They will wear quicker and get roughed up from the streets. This makes them slower from then on.
Sometimes they are softer urethane even though they are shaped like park wheels that should be harder. This is a sign of a poorly designed wheel. A real skater will ride the board for 2 seconds before realizing this is the problem if the wheels are like this. These wheels will feel sluggish.
These cheaply made wheels can start to disintegrate on the part that touches the ground when riding through the streets. The black asphalt on the street is usually rougher than sidewalks. This makes your wheels wear out quicker and causes you to have to buy new wheels or have a worse riding experience.
A cheap wheel when switching back to concrete will ride horribly. They commonly get gunked up with a thick layer of asphalt from the street because the urethane sucks. This is not good because then your wheel is not riding on urethane anymore, it will be riding on the layer of asphalt solidified on the outside of the wheels’ contact patch.
Most wheels will get black from riding on the streets, but cheap wheels will get a thick layer caked on there. If the blackness doesn’t come off within a few minutes of riding on the sidewalk after riding on the street, then they are cheap wheels.
The street itself and the time of day also affects this. If the street is newly paved, a lot of black asphalt will get on your wheels. If it’s hot outside, the asphalt will melt and also get more black tar on your wheels than normal.
Cheap wheels need to be taken care of more and one ride on a street can reduce their quality.
Note: Some park riders don’t let their Bones Skate Park Formula wheels touch the asphalt because it does wear them out faster and can make them less smooth. These people probably only ride skateparks and are usually older skaters who want their board performing the best it can. Whatever floats your boat. There are tons of good skaters who skate to the skatepark on the streets and shred. So babying your name brand wheels like this doesn’t affect your tricks that much- they can take it.
The main point here is that even though wheels are affected by where you ride, quality wheels will be more resilient to riding over any surface. This is something to be aware of when buying wheels. Buy wheels based on what you will be using them for.
If your cheap wheels are roughed up, disintegrating, or have a thick layer of asphalt on them they will also not be as fast. They will also not perform the same while doing tricks like tail slides where the wheels need to slide to do the trick. They will get the asphalt all over the park which is not good.
The formula, or the combination of materials used to make the wheel is a very important part of the wheel. If you want to learn about how wheels are made, check out this video. Most major wheel companies will boast that their formula makes for a quality wheel.
In addition to being high quality that is resilient, the formula is also usually designed for a specific purpose. Bones has SPF (skatepark formula), STF (street tech formula), ATF (all-terrain formula), and many more which are for specific purposes. Spitfire has different hardnesses and their Formula Four, which resists flat spots. Cheap wheels will flat spot much easier.
Wheel shape is also designed for different uses. Spitfire has their classic wheels that are the standard wheel for street skating. They offer various other shapes. Cruiser wheels are bigger and offset slightly for more grip.
The construction is also important, because wheels can sometimes detach the urethane from the core, or plastic insert that holds the bearings in. Major brands stress test their wheels for this before putting them on the market. They do this with machinery as well as giving them to their professional riders to skate and give feedback.
Cheap bearings can be strong, but can’t compare to the precision of higher quality skateboard bearings that makes them faster. If your wheels don’t spin for more than a couple seconds brand new, the bearings are probably cheaply made and aren’t fast. Upgrading wheels, especially to cruiser wheels, will make a bigger difference in riding faster and longer than upgrading bearings with cheap wheels.
Upgrading decks, wheels, and bearings will be the most effective way to make your board better depending on what you want to do with it. If you are learning to do tricks in place, wheels and bearings won’t matter as much because you aren’t riding far. Getting a good quality deck will make a huge difference in popping better.
If you ride a lot, upgrading to better wheels and bearings will make a huge difference. Converting your old park board to a cruiser board with soft wheels is the way to go. You may need riser pads if the cruiser wheels you get are too big, causing your board to wheel bite. You don’t want your wheels to touch the board when you turn because it can stop the board and make you fall.
Increasing the size of your board is also recommended as kids grow and get bigger. Kids usually start on a 7.75 inch wide deck. They then can upgrade to 8, 8.25, and 8.5 if they stay skating for 10+ years like many of us have.