Longboarding has grown into a mainstream sport where professionals use specific boards for specific riding styles. Besides, longboards are also a good transportation medium for casual rides or short commutes. The types, shapes, lengths, materials, and designs of the board can vary depending on their purposes.
Urban commuting or leisure activities require longboards that aren’t suitable for downhill racing. Similarly, freestyle riders need different boards. There are variations in truck mounting styles, wheelbase, bearing, and a lot of other factors. So, you should know about the types of longboards in detail.
I will give you a detailed overview of various types of longboards and their components. You will learn how each component impacts riding and how to choose the right longboard depending on your riding style. Besides, I will introduce you to some notable longboard brands and models with customizations and upgrades. Let’s begin.
Before you get overwhelmed with the variations, let’s clear the basics. Besides giving you a complete idea of longboards, I will point out the components.
Longboards are similar to skateboards, but they have a longer deck and wheelbase. The wheelbase is the distance between the center of the front and rear wheels. Due to the longer deck and wheelbase, longboards are more suitable for cruising, downhill racing, etc.
You will notice the following differences between skateboards and longboards.
- Size: Skateboards are usually shorter. They are typically 28-32 inches long. But longboards have a longer deck, which is about 36-42 inches. You may also find bigger longboards at about 60 inches.
- Shape: Longboards have flat noses and tails. But skateboards have curved noses and tails. These curved areas help riders perform various tricks and flips easily. But longboards are shaped flat to ensure more control, comfort, and balance.
- Deck Flex: Skateboard decks are usually thinner, which means they have a higher flex. Due to the flex, riders can perform tricks easily. But longboards are generally designed for longer rides. So, they will have a lower flex to give greater speeds.
- Trucks: Skateboards use narrow and rigid trucks with traditional kingpins. But longboard trucks are wider than skateboard trucks. They are also more flexible and have reverse kingpins. This makes longboard rides more comfortable than skateboards.
- Wheels: Smaller wheels are used on skateboards, and the wheels are usually harder. But longboard wheels are larger and softer. As a result, longboard wheels can cruise through obstacles and absorb some of the shocks from the road.
These are the main differences between skateboards and longboards. I will mention the minor differences in relevant sections. For now, let me give you a brief idea of the longboarding history.
Longboarding originated in the 1950s when some surfers wanted to replicate the flowing surfing moves on land. They used longer decks to cruise through the beach sidewalk. Over time, longboarding has evolved into a multi-disciplinary sport.
In the 1970s, longboarding started to become popular after the appearance of urethane wheels. In the next few decades, longboarding saw global acceptance through professional competitions and events. Nowadays, it is a mainstream sport with many international and local events.
There are four main components of a longboard. They are deck, trucks, wheels, and bearings. The variation of these components can greatly impact your riding style and performance. I will give you a detailed overview of the components and their impact on riding.
- Deck: It is the main platform of the longboard where you keep your feet. The deck is made with layers of wood and composite materials. Longboard decks come in a variety of shapes, such as pintail, kicktail, fishtail, etc. Boards can also vary depending on the truck mounting type.
- Trucks: These metal components work as the connection point between the deck and the wheels. Trucks have axles where you fit the wheels. And the trucks are screwed on the board. Longboards have trucks with a reverse kingpin that allows you to adjust the tightness of the trucks.
- Wheels: Each longboard has four wheels. These wheels are made of urethane. The size and hardness of the wheel can vary. Wheels are installed onto the axles of the trucks.
- Bearings: Bearings are small metal components that allow the wheels to spin freely. They are made of two rings with small balls inside. The precision of bearings is important for smooth rides.
Let’s start with the bearings. If you use bearings with a high precision rating, such as ABEC 9, they will create less friction. So, the wheels can spin smoothly, and the chance of wheel locking becomes low.
When it comes to the wheel size, larger wheels are more suitable for long cruises and varying terrains. 70 mm is the average size for wheels, but they can be anywhere between 64mm and 80 mm. Softer wheels make the ride more comfortable. But smaller and harder wheels allow riders to perform better tricks.
The truck width and tightness are also important. Wider trucks of 180 mm give more stability, which is important in downhill riding. 150 mm trucks are a bit less stable. Slightly loose trucks provide more maneuverability, so downhill racers use them the most.
Narrower and tighter trucks are better for performing tricks on flat ground. Thinner decks are better for tricks, but thicker decks are more comfortable for long rides.
There are three main disciplines in longboarding. They are downhill racing, freestyle, and dancing longboarding. Each of these disciplines requires the use of specific longboards that are designed for that purpose. Let me tell you more about that.
In downhill racing, riders cruise through winding mountain roads with steep descents. During the ride, they try to achieve as much speed as possible. They also perform various tricks, such as slides, to control the speed and navigate turns.
Freestyle longboarders combine various tricks to showcase their skills. They usually focus more on board control instead of speed. Dancing longboarders also prefer control over speed. So, different boards are needed for these styles.
If you are a downhill racer, you will need a thicker longboard with larger and softer wheels. But if the wheels are too soft, they can hinder speed. For freestyle or dancing longboarders, pintail or kicktail boards are better. These boards are suitable for performing tricks.
Though it is unlikely, you might want to ride in different disciplines. In that case, you need to choose a board that fits the needs of all riding styles. I will elaborate on the board types below to help you find the correct ride.
As I have already mentioned, longboards come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. From cruiser longboards to dancing longboards, each has its unique characteristics to aid in a specific riding style. I will discuss the various types of longboards below.
Cruiser longboards are the most versatile boards for all-purpose use. You can use these boards for commuting as well as freestyle riding. These boards have a slight flex to absorb the shock from the road.
Most cruiser longboards come with a drop-deck design, which makes it easier to push or brake the board. These longboards usually have wider trucks with larger wheels. The wider trucks improve the stability of the board.
The large wheels easily roll over rough surfaces. Cruiser longboards may have a lower maneuverability than freestyle boards because they are designed to ride on straight lines.
Cruiser longboards may have slightly concave decks that help riders in foot placement. It means the rails are slightly higher than the center of the deck. So, riders can easily commute on these longboards. Cruiser boards are also ideal for casual riding on flat grounds.
Here is a video of cruiser longboards:
When going downhill at a high speed, riders need to feel safe and confident on the board. To ensure this, downhill longboards are specially designed with thicker decks.
These decks have very low flex. The shapes of downhill longboards are usually directional, which means the nose and the tail are pronounced. Downhill longboards typically have a top-mount design where the trucks are installed under the board.
It allows riders to take sharper turns without losing control over the board. To help in maneuvering, downhill boards have low-angle trucks. The wheels on downhill longboards are typically harder. It helps downhill riders achieve faster speeds and perform tricks like slides.
The deck is more concave than cruiser longboards with a rocker design. It means the middle of the deck is deeper than the nose or tail. Check the following video about downhill longboards:
Freeriding requires flexible boards where riders can perform tricks easily. These boards have various sizes and shapes, but the most common ones are about 42 inches long. These boards can be symmetrical or directional.
Most freeride longboards have drop-through decks, which lowers the center of gravity. So, riders achieve more control over the board. Freeride longboards have smaller wheels than cruisers or downhill longboards. These wheels allow riders to maneuver the board with less effort.
Different freeride boards can come with different concave or camber. Longboarders tend to pick the level of concave and camber depending on their preferred foot placement. Most freeride longboards have pintail or kicktail, which is important for performing tricks.
This video shows the nuances of freeride longboards:
Carving refers to riding in wave-like lines, which gives the impression of surfing on water. Riders use carving longboards that are longer and have bigger wheels.
These longboards may be similar to cruiser longboards but come with various features for precision turns and fluid riding.
For example, most carving longboards are top-mounted so that the riders can take sharper turns. The deck has a higher concave compared to cruiser boards for secure foot placement. You will also notice cutouts on the deck called wheel wells.
These cutouts ensure the wheels won’t get in contact with the deck. This is important for achieving a higher leaning angle. Trucks are kept a bit loose to gain more maneuverability, and softer wheels are used for better grip. Here is how to choose to carve longboards:
Dancing longboards are just modified versions of freeride boards. These boards are usually longer than 42 inches so that riders can easily spin and walk on the board. They are also wider to accommodate the dance moves.
The decks of dancing longboards are moderately flexible. They don’t have as much concave as freeride boards but can have a slight rocker. Dancing boards commonly come with drop-through mounts, kicktails, and various wheels.
Twin shape is common in dancing longboards as riders need to move the board in both directions. These boards have softer wheels for higher grips. The trucks are set up at a low angle for agility.
Check this video:
Electric longboards are the newest addition to the industry. The shape and size of these boards are slightly different from traditional non-motorized longboards. They are usually top-mounted to accommodate the motor and the battery pack below the deck.
The battery pack powers the electric motor, which turns the wheels. You have an electronic speed controller to increase or decrease the speed. One of the key differences between electric and traditional longboards is you don’t need to pump the board.
But you are still responsible for balancing yourself on the board. Due to the convenience of the electric motor and battery, users can ride for a long time with less effort. So, electric longboards are becoming popular for urban commuting.
Here is a video of electric longboards:
Mini cruisers or penny cruisers are just more compact versions of cruiser longboards. They are usually shorter than 36 inches, and the deck is narrower. So, the trucks and wheels of these boards are also smaller.
Penny Boards may have a drop-deck design to make them as low-profile as possible. It allows riders to easily cruise through urban environments and carry their boards to different places. Penny Boards are easier to carry on flights because they take up the least space.
Mini cruisers have a slight concave with a bit of camber. Their decks have a medium flex, which is suitable for all-purpose riding. But riders need more experience to handle mini cruiser boards.
Surf skates are actually quite different from traditional longboards. They mimic the shape of surfboards, which gives riders a feel of surfing on land.
This is where the surfskate name comes from. These boards have a much longer and wider deck than cruiser longboards.
The truck setup is also different. The front trucks have spring-based adapters that allow the truck to pivot. Due to these trucks, riders can carve on roads more easily, which emulates the surfing experience.
Longboards have so many variations that you might get confused about which type to choose. As a seasoned longboarder myself, I suggest you figure out your preferred riding style first.
Once your riding goals are set, you can choose boards more easily by focusing on what meets your needs. Let me elaborate on this.
I have already mentioned that different riding styles require different boards. For example, downhill racers will need boards with less flex and bigger wheels. But freestyle longboarders need high-flex boards so that they can execute tricks easily.
The riding style of every individual may vary. Accordingly, the perfect board type for each rider will also vary. So, think which way you want to go. If you are more into tricks and prefer freestyle riding or dancing, you will need some specific boards. But if you want boards for pastime or commuting, cruiser boards or electric boards may be a better choice.
Longboard decks can be of vast shapes, and the shape of the deck is actually important for specific riding styles. I will explain the common deck shapes and how they affect the riding experience.
- Pintail: These longboards have flat, long decks. Both the ends of the deck are tapered, but the tapering at the rear is more prominent. It is the reason behind the name Pintail. These boards are the most suitable for beginner longboarders because of their stability and higher grip.
- Kicktail: Kicktail longboards don’t have much of a tapering at the rear. Instead, they have a wider tail that is curved upward. The curve helps riders control the board easily, especially while taking turns. But riders need some experience to maneuver these boards.
According to the deck shape symmetry, longboards can be divided into two categories. Check them out.
- Symmetrical or Twin Boards: As you might already guess, these boards have the same shape on both ends. So, you can ride them in any direction. Kicktail boards may have symmetrical decks. Twin boards are mostly used for performing tricks.
- Asymmetrical or Directional Boards: These boards have different shapes in the nose and the tail area. They are only used in one direction. Directional boards are more suitable for cruising or downhill racing.
Another parameter for categorization is the mounting type of the boards. You will commonly see three types of mounting in longboards.
- Top-Mounted: As the name suggests, the deck stays on top of the trucks. In these boards, the center of gravity is at the highest position. So, they have a very low stability but are good for sharper turns.
- Drop-Through: In drop-through boards, the truck axle goes directly through the cutout into the board. As a result, the center of gravity gets lowered. So, these boards have better stability than top-mounted boards.
- Drop Deck: In drop deck boards, the deck is even lower than trucks. Due to the lower center of gravity, these boards are highly stable and suitable for downhill racing.
There are double-drop boards that have the highest stability, but those boards aren’t that common. Another important factor is the curve of the board. In terms of curves, longboards can be of different types. Check the following.
- Concave Boards: Some boards have concave decks where the side rails of the board are higher than the center. As the center is deeper, riders can grip the board securely. Cruiser boards may have a slight concave, but downhill boards require more concave to be comfortable.
- Rocker: When the concave is lengthwise, it is called rocker. In this case, the ends of the deck will be higher than the middle. These boards are better suited for freestyle riding.
- Camber: If the ends of the deck are lower and the middle is higher, it is known as camber.
Flex is the indicator of softness. If the board wobbles when you place your feet, that is known as flex. Boards can have different degrees of flex, but they can be divided into three main categories.
- High Flex: These boards are usually suitable for cruising as they are more comfortable. The softness absorbs the shocks from the roads. But they aren’t stable at high speeds.
- Medium Flex: Medium-flex boards are more stable than high-flex boards. So they are suitable for carving.
- Low Flex: These boards are the stiffest, so they can handle higher speeds. Downhill racing longboards have a low flex. But riding on bumpy roads can be uncomfortable with these boards.
There are two main considerations about longboard wheels. They are the wheel size and durometer. In terms of wheel size, you have to think of two parameters. One is the width, and the other is the height or diameter.
- Wheel Width: It is the distance between the two edges of the wheel. The higher the width, the more will be the contact area between the wheel and the ground. It will give a better grip, but you need to compromise speed.
- Wheel Height: The distance between the lowest and highest points of the wheel is the height or diameter. If the wheel diameter is larger, the wheel will cover more distance in one turn. These wheels are more suitable for versatile terrains.
Smaller wheels are better for tricks on flat grounds, but they aren’t comfortable for cruising. The diameter of the wheel is usually marked on the wheel.
For example, you might see 75mm on a wheel, which indicates its diameter. Wheels in the range of 70-75mm are suitable for downhill racing.
It indicates the hardness of the wheel. If the number on the wheel is lower than 80, it means the wheel is soft. Softer wheels give better grip, but they aren’t suitable for high-speed riding.
Wheels having a durometer of 85-90 or even higher will be considered hard. These hard wheels are better for high-speed riding, sliding, etc.
A letter is also included in the durometer, like 78a or so. You will notice the letter a or b in the durometer. If the number is a, it means the wheel has more rubber. So, it will be soft. But b indicates that the wheels have more plastic, so they will be harder.
Longboard trucks have reverse kingpins, which are different from skateboard trucks. There are rubber bushings between the metal truck and the kingpin.
When you tighten the kingpin nut, it makes the truck pivot less. So, trucks become more stable, which is good for high-speed riding. But you need to compromise turning capabilities.
If the trucks are set up to be loose, they pivot more and help in turning. It can be helpful in urban commuting or cruising. But loose trucks aren’t that stable. So, downhill racers can’t use this setup.
The width of the truck also impacts the ride quality. Trucks are usually 150 mm or 180 mm wide. Narrow trucks are more suitable for turns, but they don’t provide enough stability. Wider trucks are more stable, so you can use them downhill riding.
Longboard decks can be made of various materials. Wood, bamboo, etc., are the most common materials for longboard decks. You will also see some high-end boards made of composite material. Here is a quick overview.
The most common and inexpensive decks are usually made with thin sheets of birch or maple wood. Several layers of wooden sheets are compressed together. A lamination layer is given on top to keep everything in place.
These boards usually have a higher flex, so they are more suitable for cruising or freestyle riding. But wooden boards can’t be used in downhill racing or high-speed riding.
Longboard decks made of bamboo sheets also have a high flex. Due to the springiness of these decks, riders can perform tricks on these boards easily. Multiple bamboo sheet layers are compressed together and wrapped with a laminate layer.
Bamboo decks are very lightweight, so they are good as travel boards. But you can’t use these boards for high-speed riding.
Besides natural materials like wood or bamboo, longboard decks are also made of composite materials, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass. These boards are extremely lightweight but have more strength than the previous boards.
Due to higher pressure resistance, these boards have a low flex. So, they are great for downhill racing or high-speed riding. But performing tricks can be a bit difficult with these boards.
Longboard decks made with natural materials are less durable. These materials are not weather-resistant in general. Once the lamination layer wears off, these boards can deteriorate faster. They are also more prone to cracking or chipping.
On the other hand, composite boards are far more durable. With higher strength, these boards are weather-resistant and can withstand much pressure.
The chance of cracking or chipping is also low in these boards. But composite boards are more expensive than wooden or bamboo boards.
So, you must consider your riding style, expected service life, price, etc., to get the right board.
Different brands continuously enrich their longboard line-up to offer more options for the users. With advanced technology and intriguing designs, some manufacturers have become highly popular and trusted in the community.
I will introduce you to some of the most reputed manufacturers and popular longboard models.
The following brands have been reliable manufacturers of longboards for a long time. Here is a quick overview of them.
It is one of the largest manufacturers of longboards, with a lineup of 37 boards. The company has been making longboards for about three decades. Longboards made by Sector 9 have a solid build quality with higher durability. And their boards provide a smooth riding experience.
Sector 9 produces boards for all levels of riders, from beginners to professionals.
Even though this brand is comparatively new on the market, it has produced some really nice boards. They are famous for making highly durable and versatile boards. The company has cruiser boards, freeride boards, downhill boards, and more.
Arbor originated in California, where longboarding began. The company is more into making environmentally friendly boards. Exclusive design and high-performance boards are the unique selling points of Arbor.
It has about 22 boards in the product lineup, where you will find cruiser boards, hybrid boards, and more. There are some more prominent brands that I couldn’t include here because that would make the guide unnecessarily long.
Instead, let me tell you about the most popular longboard models of all time for different riding styles.
These are some of the most popular longboard models of all time. Check them out.
These are some of the best boards for downhill and freestyle riding. With top-mounted trucks and concave decks, these directional boards allow you to ride with confidence and style. The 9-ply deck gives higher stiffness, and the 181mm trucks give better stability.
This board is the most suitable for carving and cruising through mellow hills. They have drop-through mounts with standard directional decks. Cutouts on the decks prevent wheels from biting. The 7-ply deck has a slight flex, and the trucks are designed to maximize lean.
If you want an all-purpose longboard, Icarus is probably the best choice. It has a bamboo and fiberglass build, which gives it a special flex. The board has a higher camber with large wheel wells. Larger wheels let you take this board anywhere. And the board is very lightweight.
Even though longboards are much smaller than your regular rides, there are a lot of customization options. Customization allows you to add some character to your longboards and give them a unique style expression. You can upgrade its components to customize the performance and feel. I will explain everything below.
There are two levels of personalization in longboards. Using grip tape is a common practice to increase foot grip. You will find many attractive grip tapes with unique designs that will make your board stand out.
If you aren’t happy with those tapes, you can get grip tapes with custom graphics.
You can use color patterns, artwork, or any of your desired graphics on your board to make it look cool. Another way of customizing longboards is by using various accessories. The following accessories not only enhance the look but also provide some functionalities.
- Rails and Guards: The edges of your longboard are at the highest risk of getting damaged. You can use guards on the edges. The guards will protect the deck from damage and enhance its appeal.
- Riser Pads: If the deck is too close to the wheels, you can use riser pads to increase the distance. They sit between the deck and the trucks. By increasing the ride height, you can take sharper turns.
- LED Lights: Even though I am not a big fan of these funky lights, you can always opt for some. These lights will create a cool effect around the board and make you more visible at night.
- Handle Grips: When you are carrying boards within a short distance, handle grips can be convenient. They will attach to the ends or sides of the board so that you can carry the boards easily.
Longboards are always open to upgrades. Even if you have bought the best board but want something more from it, upgrading components can be helpful. Here is how you handle upgrades for enhancing performance.
- Wheels: The size and durometer of wheels will affect the speed, grip, comfort, etc. If you have a downhill board that requires more speed, you can replace the wheels with harder ones.
- Bearings: The smoothness of bearings is crucial for obtaining higher speed and comfort. If you have a decent board that has mediocre bearings, you can use high-precision bearings in them. For example, use bearings with an ABEC rating of 7 or 9.
- Trucks: The width of the trucks is a big factor in longboarding. If you want more stability from a board, you can swap the stock trucks for wider trucks. The stiffness of the trucks can also be fine-tuned for desired performance.
Buying the best longboard isn’t everything. Rather, you need to maintain your boards to make them last longer and perform better. Here are my tips for proper maintenance and care.
Two vital parts of longboard maintenance are bearing maintenance and deck maintenance. Check the detailed tips below.
- Cleaning and Lubricating Bearings
- Remove the wheels from the longboards.
- Scrub off any dirt or debris from the bearings using an old toothbrush.
- Then, you can use isopropyl alcohol to clean the bearings thoroughly. Scrub the inner and outer rings well so that there is no dirt or grime in the bearings.
- Once the bearings are clean and dry, you can apply lubricants. Spin the bearings to distribute the lubricants.
Deck maintenance includes checking for signs of wear or cracks, cleaning the deck, etc. Perform these checks regularly so that you notice structural damages as soon as possible.
Cleaning grip tapes is also important for a great ride. You must check the tightness of the trucks to ensure the ride will be as desired. Wheels and bearings should be properly fitted. There should not be any structural errors that might cause accidents.
Different components of longboards can require periodic replacements. Here is a quick overview of when to replace them and what safety measures you should take.
- Wheels: If the wheels are worn too much, and the core is exposed, you should replace them. Remember to replace them with wheels of the same size and durometer.
- Deck: When most part of the deck lamination is worn, or there are cracks on the deck, you should replace it.
- Bearings: If there is unusual noise from the bearings or they get jammed, it is time to replace the bearings.
- Trucks: If the trucks are cracked, bent, or damaged, you should consider replacing them. Otherwise, your rides can become dangerous.
- Before taking any components off the longboard, you should know their proper placement and installation process.
- Keep all the necessary tools handy. It will help you complete the replacement process faster.
- After replacing any component of the board, you should test the board in a controlled environment and make adjustments as necessary.
There are so many types of longboards that you might get overwhelmed in the beginning. Once you know all the riding styles and their requirements, it will be easier for you to categorize longboards.
I mentioned all types of longboards out there to help you choose the best ride for your discipline and personal preference.
But it should not be the final verdict. As you explore the world of longboard decks, you will notice minor details that may force you to change your perspective.
I suggest being open to changes so that you can accept the ongoing evolution of longboards. Experiment with different boards and see which works best for you. Even then, you can take the performance further by tweaking the components.