Longboarding is exhilarating, fun and an environmentally friendly mode of transportation. It also can be intimidating to begin and challenging to learn at first. Choosing the right board to learn how to longboard with can make a big difference in how quickly you build your skills and your confidence. To help you make an informed purchase, let’s dissect all the variables thrown at you when buying your first longboard.
The first board you ever buy may be the most difficult to select. Deciding on one that suits you is a personal journey that every beginner must go through. Choosing the appropriate style board to begin with can make a big difference in the learning experience. There are a few factors to consider when buying the correct longboard for you.
Know your budget. Don’t be cheap.
As a beginner, you may be tempted to go as cheap as possible. Like any new sport or hobby, it’s possible your newfound interest in longboarding could be fleeting. If you still need to gauge your commitment and interest levels, find a longboarding friend and take some test runs on her board. If you try it and hate it, you’ve invested nothing monetarily. However chances are, you’ll get more and more comfortable after a few rides and feel confident about throwing down some cash on your own high-quality board.
A higher price tag usually equates to a higher quality product. As a newbie, it’s worth investing in a safe, durable board as you increase your skill level. When searching for the best longboards for beginners, safety should be a top priority, and buying carefully constructed boards with well-engineered components will accomplish just that. Often a novice border will think she is saving money by going cheap, but in the long run will realize she needs better decks/trucks/wheels and end up replacing various components, essentially paying twice for the same thing. Lame! Alternatively, a beginner may have a bad experience learning to skate because the cheap board she bought isn’t performing well. Said cheap board then gets tossed in a closet never to be used again, and newbie skater writes off longboard altogether.
Know what kind of boarding will be doing.
When you walk into a skate shop, you may be asked what kind of boarding you enjoy. Answering with one of these styles will give the salesperson a better idea of how to assist you.
Cruising. Basically, you’re just rolling around town in a chill, relaxing manner. A cruiser is the best choice for learning how to longboard. It’s great as a means of transportation and comes in varied lengths, depending on your personal preference. Pick a shorter design if you want to maneuver easily around pedestrians on the sidewalk and quickly throw your board in your backpack once you get to work or school. Opt for a longer cruiser if you want more stability, especially going downhill at high speeds.
Freeriding. This is code for intermediate skating. Freeriding refers to longboarding down hills while performing more technical maneuvers.
Downhill. Proceed with caution! For advanced riders only. Downhill riding means you’re traveling at high speeds and need careful precision in every move you make.
So a cruiser is the best board for a beginner. Now what?
You’ve selected a cruiser for your first board. You may think you've finished making decisions, but there are still variations within the cruiser category to consider.
Shape and Style
The design of these longboards provides stability, comfort, and ease when riding. Drop-throughs are lower to the ground due to the mounting of the trucks, creating a lower center of gravity than other cruisers. A flexible drop-through longboard would be a good choice for a beginner because the rider doesn’t feel as high off the ground, it’s easier to push and maintains a more stable speed.
Traditional Cruiser Shape.
Popular due to their smaller size and kicktail, which makes it easy to navigate sidewalks and weave through crowds.
The design of commuters offers a lot of leverage, making them an ideal board for carving. You'll notice the wheels are placed at the very end of the deck, creating an increased sense of stability
Look for a cool design!
The board should represent your personal style. Many well-crafted boards are trulyworks of art and could serve as an interesting piece hanging on your wall when you aren’t riding it.
Choosing a board in the 28”-46” is a great place to start. The shorter the deck, the more difficult it can be to learn. That said, length is more of a personal preference rather than a necessity for success and safety (like it is in snowboarding, for example). If you’re totally unsure how long of a board you’d like, play it safe and pick on in the mid-30” range.
- Shorter (28″ – 32″ range) An excellent choice for young riders and shorter people. Also a good choice for more experienced riders who have refined their skills, since it will be slightly harder to navigate.
- Mid-Sized (32″ – 42″ range) The most popular and recommended for newbies of all heights. These boards are just right for beginners taking their first cruise and can do almost anything!
- Longer (42”+) The best choice for skaters looking for longer, relaxed rides. They’re perfect for the sidewalk or boardwalk. The downside to these guys is that they can be quite heavy to carry, and may not be ideal for day-to-day transportation.
The flex of a board is the amount that the deck bends under your bodyweight when you stand on it. Flex is a major component of a cruising longboard, in that it determines how the board will absorb some of the bumps, cracks, and rocks you may encounter on the road. The more flexible the board, the closer the rider is to the ground, making it easier to push and balance. It also helps to absorb some shock as you ride, which relieves stress off of your joints. Conversely, a stiffer, less flexible board offers the rider more stability, a trait many beginners want for their first board.
Kicktail vs. No Kicktail
To kicktail or not to kicktail is a question of if you see yourself doing tricks with your board. A kicktail is where the ends of the board curl up a bit. Having a kicktail longboard can be very convenient when you need to make quick turns, do tricks and hop up and down curbs. As a beginner, you probably won’t use a kicktail right off the bat, but if you want a board that you can grow with, choosing a design with a kicktail could save you having to buy a new board down the road. If you don’t think you’ll ever be doing tricks with the help of a kicktail, then opt for a board without this feature.
Overall, when buying your first longboard, go with your gut. There are so many variations among longboard designs, but at the end of the day, pick a board that makes you happy. Longboarding is about bending the rules, breaking stereotypes, including others and having fun. Choose a board that calls your name and excites you. If you have wheels, a deck and are standing upright on it, congratulations! You are officially a longboarder.