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How to buy a skateboard

skateshop

One of the best things about skateboarding is that there are no rules, no scoreboards and no refs or coaches telling you how you need to do it. Skating is a totally individual sport. You can do it whenever you want (except at night), however you want. Oh, yeah, and it’s lots of fun, too. And getting started is easy. All you need to do is pick the right gear.

BOARD TYPES

There are two main styles of boards: longboards for cruising around and shorter boards for riding at skateparks and doing tricks on ramps or the street.

Birdhouse Tony Hawk Full Skull Complete ($81; birdhouseskateboards.com): Deck is 7.75" x 30" with Birdhouse trucks and wheels.

Birdhouse Tony Hawk Full Skull Complete ($81; birdhouseskateboards.com): Deck is 7.75″ x 30″ with Birdhouse trucks and wheels.

WHERE TO SHOP

The best place to buy a skateboard is your local skate shop. It will have a wide selection of boards and, most important, knowledgeable salespeople who can steer you in the right direction. You can find cheaper deals at superstores, but when it comes to skateboards, you get what you pay for.

Blind Matte OG Mini Complete ($81; blindskateboards.com): The smallest deck here, it's 7" x 27.75: with Slant trucks and 51 mm Blind wheels (95a).

Blind Matte OG Mini Complete ($81; blindskateboards.com): The smallest deck here, it’s 7″ x 27.75: with Slant trucks and 51 mm Blind wheels (95a).

QUALITY

For the most part, a really cheap skateboard (say, $30-$40) will be harder to ride. Cheap boards are built from much lower-quality parts, are heavier and less durable, and the wheels won’t spin as smoothly.

Powell Peralta Ripper Purple Complete ($84; powell-peralta.com): Deck is 8" x 32" with Skate One trucks and 53 mm wheels (99a).

Powell Peralta Ripper Purple Complete ($84; powell-peralta.com): Deck is 8″ x 32″ with Skate One trucks and 53 mm wheels (99a).

PRICE

If you’re just starting out, your best bet is to buy a “complete” from a skate shop. Instead of piecing together the deck, wheels and trucks, etc. one by one, completes are fully assembled, ready-to-ride boards. They are usually built with good-quality, entry-level components and provide big savings.

Most street completes cost $80-$100; longboard completes are $100-$150. If you were to put together those same parts on your own, you would likely spend at least 30 to 40 percent more. As you get more advanced, you’ll probably want to upgrade your parts individually and customize your own board.

Z-Flex Kicktail Longboard Complete ($110; zflex.com):  The most affordable cruiser option here, the deck is 9.25" x 38" with ABEC 7 bearings and 69 mm Z-Smooth wheels (78a).

Z-Flex Kicktail Longboard Complete ($110; zflex.com): The most affordable cruiser option here, the deck is 9.25″ x 38″ with ABEC 7 bearings and 69 mm Z-Smooth wheels (78a).

SKATE DECK

Most skateboard decks (the part you stand on) are made of seven layers of plywood glued together. Street decks are all pretty similar, with the same general shape, a length of 30–32.5 inches and a width of 7.5″–8.25″. Smaller boards are more maneuverable and better for tricks, while wider boards are more stable and easier to carve in ramps and pools or while cruising the streets.

The biggest difference here is the graphics on the bottom. Pick a shape you like with graphics that fit your personality. Or buy a blank deck and draw your own designs. Most decks cost $50-$60; more for longboards.

Canary 22" Penny Painted Fade ($120; pennyskateboards.com): This compact board has a plastic deck that's 22" long with aluminum Penny trucks and 59 mm wheels (83a).

Canary 22″ Penny Painted Fade ($120; pennyskateboards.com): This compact board has a plastic deck that’s 22″ long with aluminum Penny trucks and 59 mm wheels (83a).

TRUCKS

The axles holding your wheels to the board are called “trucks.” Some are lighter weight or more durable (you’ll pay extra for that), but for the most part, they are all pretty similar.

Size-wise, you want them to be about the same width as your deck. For a street board, 139 millimeter-wide trucks are probably the most common. Tighten the kingpin bolt on the trucks for flip tricks, and loosen it for carving.

Expect to pay $15-$30 per truck, and stick with quality brand names like Independent, Thunder and Venture.

Santa Cruz Pinhand Cruzer ($173; nhsfunfactory.com): Deck is 9.25" x 34.83" with Krux 6.0 trucks and 60 mm wheels (78a).

Santa Cruz Pinhand Cruzer ($173; nhsfunfactory.com): Deck is 9.25″ x 34.83″ with Krux 6.0 trucks and 60 mm wheels (78a).

WHEELS

The wheels are your direct connection to the ground, so if you’re going to splurge, buy nice wheels. There are two things to keep in mind: size and hardness.

The bigger the wheels, the faster they go. For street skating, wheels between 49 mm and 54 mm are a good start. For ramps and skate parks, some skaters like to go with slightly larger wheels. Longboards generally have wheels from 65 mm to 70 mm.

The hardness (or durometer) of the wheel determines how your board will ride. The softer the wheel, the more grip it has and the more forgiving it will be. For instance, a 78a–87a is best if you’re riding around rough neighborhood streets with rocks and cracks. Most longboards use softer wheels like this. If you plan on riding at skate parks and ramps or want to do tricks, look for wheels rated 95a–99a. They are harder and faster, but still have plenty of grip.

You’ll spend $25-$40 for a set of four wheels, slightly more for longboard wheels.

Sector 9 Highline ($125; sector9.com): Deck is 8" x 34.5" with Gullwing 8.0 Mission trucks, ABEC 5 bearings and 64 mm Nineball wheels (78a).

Sector 9 Highline ($125; sector9.com): Deck is 8″ x 34.5″ with Gullwing 8.0 Mission trucks, ABEC 5 bearings and 64 mm Nineball wheels (78a).

BEARINGS

Your wheels are mounted to the trucks with bearings, small round metal pieces that slide inside the center of your wheels. Most bearings are rated with an ABEC number (from 1 to 12) that tells you the quality of the bearing itself. The higher the number, the higher quality and faster the bearing
(and your wheel). Look for bearings rated ABEC 5 and up or just choose Bones REDS Bearings ($18; bonesbearings.com), which are the industry standard and the most popular bearing by far. Most bearings cost about $15-$25 for a set of eight (you need two per wheel).

Triple 8 Saver Series 3-Pack Box ($30-$35; triple8.com): Protect yourself with Kneesaver, Wristsaver and Elbowsaver pads made with EVA foam padding and hard polycarbonate coverage caps.

Triple 8 Saver Series 3-Pack Box ($30-$35; triple8.com): Protect yourself with Kneesaver, Wristsaver and Elbowsaver pads made with EVA foam padding and hard polycarbonate coverage caps.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT THESE

No matter what kind of skateboard you get, remember to always wear full protective gear when you’re using it!

  • Helmet
  • Elbow pads
  • Knee pads

Check out BL‘s helmet buying guide to learn more.

Triple 8 Dual Certified Brainsaver ($40-$45; triple8.com): This helmet has an ABS plastic outer shell with EPS liner and comfortable fit pads that are removable and washable. Dual certified for both skateboarding and bicycling (CPSC/ASTM certified).

Triple 8 Dual Certified Brainsaver ($40-$45; triple8.com): This helmet has an ABS plastic outer shell with EPS liner and comfortable fit pads that are removable and washable. Dual certified for both skateboarding and bicycling (CPSC/ASTM certified).

Pro-Tec Classic Matte Rasta Green - Certified ($50; protecbrand.com): This helmet design has been a classic for the past 40 years, but this one is updated with a dual-certified EPS foam liner (CPSC/CE certified).

Pro-Tec Classic Matte Rasta Green – Certified ($50; protecbrand.com): This helmet design has been a classic for the past 40 years, but this one is updated with a dual-certified EPS foam liner (CPSC/CE certified).

26 Comments on How to buy a skateboard

  1. skate or die // May 2, 2009 at 6:56 pm // Reply

    yo skater dude birdhouse is also a great brand i’ve had mine for seven years and works great.

  2. sk8rdude437 // April 26, 2009 at 6:33 pm // Reply

    umm element arent so great i had one they snap pretty easy i think girl, plan b, almost,zero,and alien workshop boards are good

  3. Grab a baker or deathwish board. Skate or die.

  4. flippinsweet264 // March 24, 2009 at 1:19 pm // Reply

    get zoo yorks they don’t snap easy. i have had mine for 5 years and i got down 20 sets and i fell without anypads or helmet but the board didn’t snap. by the way, chaz ortiz is the best skater

  5. SK8 ADVICE KID // March 23, 2009 at 9:29 pm // Reply

    KWITE FRANKLY, ANY BOARD YOU GET FROM AREAL SKATE SHOP IS GOOD KWALITY GOOD BRANDS ARE:,,,PLAN B,,,BAKER,,,ZERO,,,DARKSTAR,,
    ALIEN WORKSHOP,,,VENTURE,,,RICTA,,,SPITFIRE,,,BONE SWISS OR BONES REDS,,,LUCKY,,,AND AIRSPEED. N THOSE R JUST SOME OF EM SO YOU WON’T HAVE MUCH TROUBLE FINDING THE RIGHT BOARD FOR YOU.

  6. beastskater101 // February 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm // Reply

    if your going to use a deck its gunna get scratched up but for help use risers. My favorite shoes are vans and dc. how are alien decks?

  7. Have any ideas on protecting decks?

  8. what about shoes which is best?

  9. i have a board sined bye tony halk

  10. this is cool finaly i found advice

  11. its cool

  12. you can buy all sorts of skateboards by tons of brands either built or build it yourself. i suggest going to a shop (sport or skate) and buying an already built board but i have heard that the one you build yourself might better and recommended. I have never bought one of the build it yourself skateboards.

  13. enjoy decks are the best. the best wheels are spitfier and kruk is the best trucks

  14. beastskater101 // January 27, 2009 at 7:18 am // Reply

    I like element boards right now I’ve got a foundation.

    ARE ALIEN DECKS GOOD I JUST BOUGHT SOME GOOD TRUCKS AND WHEELS FROM MY FRIEND I WAS THINKING ABOUT GETTING A ROB DYRDEK ALIEN WORKSHOP BOARD ?

  15. if u guys are thinking about putting together a good board i suggest that if u have money that u should get a name brand deck like element, girl, plan B, chocolate, baker, or something like that. if u don’t have much money blanks are really good boards and they’re basically the same except with out the graphics. for trucks i’ve only skated with venture and they’ve been really light and nice. for wheels i have spitfire on the board i have now and they’re really nice for street skating. i also had hubba and they’re really nice wheels too. for bearing i would go with bones but black panthers are really good too. and then for hardware i would go with shorty’s or something like that. i really don’t think that what kind of hardware u get matters to much. i suggest that if you’re just starting out skating that u try to buy everything at one place because most of the time they’ll put it together for you and that’s a really big time saver. one place that you can look for good deals online is at ccs.com it’s a really good site that has a good reputation of getting your stuff to you on time. a good place to buy a lot of stuff for skating is zumiez. if any of you guys live in central pennsylvania i suggest that u check out more skates in east pete. or if any of u live in rehoboth delaware a good place to check out is east of maui or liquid skate shops they’re really helpful and they helped me get some of my boards.

  16. peanut, i used to have a walmart board and then once i really got seriously into skating it is so much better to have a good light board. when i got my element board it was amazing and i could never go back to a walmart board again

  17. is a CBS board a good type to get??????

  18. go to zumiez, everybody is nice there… ask for a sticker and they give u one.

  19. Cool guide. Gear Guy, what is the name of the board with the pointed nose?

  20. sweet guide

  21. zumiez is the best place to buy 85$ for a good board find at local mall

  22. hey is it true paul rodriguez is the best street skater well i think that

    did you see dany ways big shin slam on x games 14 that was knarly

  23. They should make a skateboarding merit badge

    That would be super sick

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