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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
- Elbow pads
- Knee pads