Getting your first skateboard is a memorable experience that will last a lifetime. No matter if you’re a kid or young at heart, the thrills and spills skateboards provide can’t be compared to anything else. Whether you’re buying this for yourself, or as a present, have in mind the sheer variety of skateboards on offer. For complete novices and kids, you’ll want a board that’s good at most things without being too overwhelming. And with decent parts that will hone skills in the skatepark or street, but can be upgraded later on. More experienced riders will already know what gets their kicks, and have a better understanding of what works for them and what doesn’t. They’ll have a defined riding style, with the right board to go with it.
Make Your Pick
Choosing your first board is much like choosing your first car. You’ll want something that’s forgiving, but still, have enough leeway to hone your confidence in different riding styles. Skaters can either go for skateboard completes, with well-thought-out parts that will also look good in any occasion. You get a board that’s ready to ride, safe, well-built and comes at the cheaper end of the price scale. What’s to consider is that upgrades will be more difficult once you get your skills up to where they belong. But for learning you’re first tricks in the skatepark, this is the best place to start.
The other option is to assemble your own board with decks, wheels and trucks that will cater to your riding style. Deck shapes, sizes and unique features in the nose and kicktails will mean they’re better for tricks and ollies in the skatepark, or garnering speed downhill on your way to school or work. Wheel sizes and shapes also play a factor in speed, stability and maneuverability, and how easy it will be to come to a stop. Trucks are all about control and how the wheels and deck interact.
The general divide is between old-school skateboards, cruiser boards and longboards. The first has shorter and narrower decks, smaller wheels and traditional and lower-set kingpin trucks. They’re a good choice for the skatepark and learning new tricks. Cruiser boards take the middle ground, and are often considered the best boards to begin with. They’re the souped-up SUVs of the skating world, good on virtually all terrain, agile in bends and with a decent dose of speed. Decks here are slightly wider and longer and set on higher trucks and bigger wheels. This is the combination for safe and stable cruising on the street. You can get one as a complete cruiser skateboard with all the right goodies, and assembled by somebody in the know. Or build one to your liking. Bigger and wider longboards are the road yachts among skateboards, ideal for leisurely rides covering longer distances. They’re good at gaining speed, but less nimble when changing direction. And they’re heavier by some margin.
What Makes a Cruiser Skateboard?
Let’s begin with deck dimensions and shapes.
The cruiser and complete cruiser skateboard have evolved to fit between generally shorter skateboards and longboards. Deck lengths are between 28 to 32 inches, and widths are usually no more than 9 inches. This affects the wheelbase between the trucks. The goal is to get a balance between handling ability and straight-line speed. Shorter decks offer more in turns, so are quick to change direction with improved safety when faced with less-than-perfect road surfaces, potholes or sudden pedestrian or vehicle traffic. While they offer a steady ride, they can’t match decks and boards that are longer and wider.
The variation in widths and lengths helps skaters of all sizes and weights get comfortable. You don’t want a board that’s too wide or too narrow, or at a length that’s hard to manage for your height.
There are variations to cruiser shapes, but generally, they have thinner and flatter noses, wider and squared tails, and some kick at the back. There are also flatter designs, but these are rare. You still want a bit of control at the back to get you over bumps, or get the board in the air. Keep in mind the shape when viewed from the side. Most cruiser decks will have a slight concave for improved all-around handling.
Here concentrate on wheel hardness or durometer, overall sizes and the contact patch that grips the ground. Cruiser boards usually come with softer wheels (75-87A durometer) that have a bit more bounce to soften rougher road surfaces. This gives a plusher ride, and more control. Wheel sizes affect acceleration and speed. Smaller wheels are about better acceleration, since they carry less weight, but need more effort in maintaining higher speeds. Bigger wheels are about going fast and suit taller and heavier skaters. For cruisers, look to wheels ranging from 60 to 69mm, as they are best suited to cruising, carving or getting nicely-executed tricks. Lastly, think of the shape of the wheels. Squared wheels will have more contact with the ground, so are grippier and faster in a straight line. But when you need more nimbleness, like riding on the pavement, rounded wheels work better.
These are the parts that connect wheels and decks. They can be mounted in different ways on the deck. Top mount trucks are bolted underneath the deck, making them higher, and less stable at higher speeds. This is what you’ll see in most cruiser completes. Alternatively, get drop mount trucks that fit through holes running through the deck. Sitting lower though will limit wheel size.
Trucks are also divided into traditional kingpin (TKP) or reverse kingpin (RKP) designs. TKPs are what you’ll find in smaller skateboards and mini cruisers. They sit lower and allow for a longer wheelbase to improve balance in shorter decks. Bigger and longer cruiser boards have RKPs that place them a bit taller, but these designs provide more turning capability.
Truck widths vary, but still need to match the deck. Go for wider trucks if you’re more about safety and keeping planted to the road, and narrower trucks if carving is your thing. For cruiser boards, trucks range between 150 to 180mm.
What Else to Look for?
Ultimately, if you’re just getting into skateboarding, the style also matters. Go for a design that you like, as this will get you riding more. And build your skating skills. There are also different colour schemes to bring out the best of your skating. As for materials, most boards offered by skating specialists will be built to a high standard, including hardwearing 7-ply maple wood decks, polyurethane wheels and aluminium, alloy or steel trucks. No complaints here. All that remains is some basic protective gear, like helmets and pads, and you’re good to go.