Scene 1: A skinny, young dude with long, blonde hair flowing in the wind, shirtless and barefoot, cruising down the Venice Beach Boardwalk in between palm trees, with the ocean to his back.
Scene 2: An angsty looking teenager with Vans on his feet and ripped up jean shorts, blasting Blink 182 while he and his buddies do tricks at the skatepark.
Most people create a similar scene in their mind when asked to picture someone on a longboard or skateboard, respectively, But other than these cultural stereotypes we may carry, how many of us really know the difference between longboarding and skateboarding?
It would be normal to think that the difference between longboards and skateboards is that longboards are...well, long? Not necessarily. A lot of conflicting information circulates the internet about how to define a longboard. Is it a type of skateboard? A category of its own? Do we define it by deck length or wheel size or shape of the board? The most important piece to consider when distinguishing between the two is not coming up with a black and white definition, but rather picking a board that best suits you.
Differences in Riding Styles
It turns out the best way to differentiate between skateboards and longboards is by the activity of the rider. When deciding which style is best for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will you use your board as transportation, sometimes for long distances?
- Will you use it to commute to work?
- Do you see yourself cruising along sidewalks and parkways?
- Do you want to go fast?
- Are you concerned about your balancing skills?
If you answered yes, you need a longboard!
- Do you want to learn how to skate on ramps and rails?
- Do you feel comfortable practicing at a skatepark?
- Does the ability to be agile on your board overrule your desire to have a comfortable ride?
- Do you want to learn how to do tricks, with the ability to increase the difficulty of what you can perform?
If you answered yes, you need a skateboard!
There are many types of longboards that come in all different lengths, and can even be short, like Ivy’s Retro Cruiser, which is only 28” long. Whether you’ll be cruising on flat ground or downhill at fast speeds, longboards will provide a much more comfortable ride since they tend to have softer, larger wheels. The standard, technical length for both boards is up for debate, but it’s worth noting the width of the boards as well. Skateboards are narrower, usually around 7 inches wide, whereas longboards are wider, measuring in around 9 inches in diameter. While seemingly unimportant if you aren’t building your own board, it is important to have a general understanding of how the shape and size of your board dictate the skating you can do with it.
Another tell tale sign to differentiate between a skateboard and longboard is the design of the ends of the board. If the nose and tail of the board turn up, it’s a skateboard. If they lay flat, it’s a longboard. Easy! The curved end of a skateboard allows the rider to perform traditional skateboard tricks you may see at the skate park, like the ”ollie” and “kickflip.”
A common term you’ll hear regarding longboarding is “carving,” which describes the motion of curving back and forth down a hill, forming a large “s” shape. A critical technique when you learn how to skate, carving will help you control your speed when you encounter your first downhill.
If you’re looking to hit the skatepark and practice Tony Hawk-esque tricks, skateboard design allows for just that. (If you do venture out of the skate park, watch out for those 4mm sidewalk cracks that can send you sailing.) The primary technique used to ride a skateboard is “pumping,” using the foot to propel the board forward by pushing off of the ground. This motion is pretty impractical when speeding down a hill on a longboard. However, the rider can replicate the same effect on a longboard by shifting the body weight back and forth, which creates a forward thrust without taking the foot off the board.
A third option lays somewhere in between. Enter the mini longboard. These boards tend to be 20”-33” long, shorter than the typical 34”-60” range. These minis are perfect for quick commutes and running errands since they maneuver more nimbly than the very long boards, but still offer stability. They also travel well if you want to throw it in a backpack before you hop on a plane. If you are brand new to skating and aren’t sure if you’re Team Longboard or Team Skateboard, minis can get you started while deciding which style you prefer. Mini boards allow you the opportunity to try out some street tricks while still offering a smooth, comfortable ride, should you use the board for transportation as well.
Whether you’re looking to learn easy skateboard tricks or want to just ride around your neighborhood, it’s important to choose a board that will serve your interests. If you are the kind of person who wants to spend hours learning a new trick, practicing your technique and tracking your progress, you may find yourself getting a greater sense of accomplishment from learning how to skateboard. However, if you’re looking for a comfortable, eco-friendly mode of transportation, and a fun way to see your surroundings from a new perspective, you’ll likely find yourself accomplishing this goal faster by choosing a longboard. Let your lifestyle dictate what kind of board is best for you. Whichever you choose, know that there’s a community full of welcoming people who can’t wait to meet you and teach you what they know!