The market for longboards is a dense jungle with dozens, even hundreds of products available. There are big boards, small boards, cheap boards, expensive boards, symmetricals, pintails, drop throughs, topmounts, micro drops, cruisers, carvers, freeriders, freestyle boards, dancers, push boards …
If you’re a beginner looking to buy your first longboard – or let’s say your first serious longboard – you’ve probably been weaving through an insane quantity of information trying to figure out what’s the best longboard for you to begin with.
And chances are, the more you research, you more your head spins with all these options.
As a beginner or newer rider, should you get a 40″ cruiser with a dropped platform and big wheels ? A symmetrical freeride board with a stiff deck and hard wheels ? Or perhaps that beautiful pintail looking so sexy ?
The truth is, no matter what people on websites say, there is no such thing as “the BEST longboard for beginners”. You can pretty much start on ANY longboard. Which one you pick is largely a matter of personal preference.
I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve been there : how can I know my personal preferences if I haven’t done much (or any) riding before ?
Another thing is, much of the authentic advice available online comes from younger riders. If you’re, say, over 30 (or like me, over 40), your objectives and constraints as a new longboarder may be very different.
You may not be interesting in the “extreme” side of longboarding, rather, you see this as a great way to move around while having a blast and keeping fit.
Alright, let’s try to sort things out a bit. In this post I’ll go through some of the common goals for a beginner getting into longboarding. For each goal, I’ll suggest one or two of the models experienced riders consider best for the job. These will often be the same for a “serious” beginner than for a veteran rider (unless I mention otherwise).
Hopefully, you’ll come out of this with a better idea of what you want for a beginner longboard, whether you end up choosing one that I mention or something similar.
Goal : you just want something to commute and cruise on
As a beginner longboarder, you want to get a board for commuting and cruising around for fun and fitness. Now this type of riding involves a broad range of scenarios, with a just as wide range of longboard choices. Let’s try to narrow it down a bit based on your primary focus.
A word of warning : many beginner longboarders think all they’ll ever want to do is ride to work or do some relaxed cruising. oftentimes, however, they end up getting hooked, and within a couple of months, they want to move on to more technical riding – be it freeride, long distance pumping, freestyle, or downhill.
That’s why veterans often advise beginners against choosing a “pure” cruising board to start with, because they’ll outgrow the board fast and feel hindered if they decide to get into more advanced stuff.
That said, others argue that if a beginner knows she want a longboard for cruising, and she’s just not interested in speed, sliding or freestyle, there’s no point in her buying a freeride or freestyle board even though these are more versatile. More about this later.
So now, let’s dig deeper into your cruising / commuting needs.
Suppose your primary goal is to ride to work or school some miles away, through open roads and sidewalks. For this you’ll want a larger board that rides low for stability and ease of push (less distance to the ground). This you’ll find in a drop-through board. You’ll also want some deck flex for comfort, and big soft wheels for shock absorption.
Now, if your commute path passes through busy city streets, crowded sidewalks and tight corners, you’re going to want a medium length, nimbler, lighter weight board you can pick up and walk with. A kick tail will also come in handy for doing kick turns when it’s tight and for getting up and off curbs.
Get the awesome 34″ landyachtz Ripple Ridge (Amazon link) topmount for weaving quickly around obstacles, with its comfortable foot pockets, wheel wells, and functional kick tail.
Or, if you expect your ride to be quieter, less crowded and slalomy, you can get the larger but more pushable 36″ Maple Drop Hammer Cardinal (Amazon) drop-through city cruiser.
If you don’t plan on riding long distances or across town, and all you want from your beginner longboard is to chill out in the park or at the beach, you can get a stylish, nice and comfortable pintail with bigger wheels.
Pintails are less stable at speed and often have no concave, but they are really nice for cruising. Due to their shape and top mount, they are responsive, turnable, and very pleasant for mellow riding.
Two of my favorite pintails are the Sector 9 Ledger 40″ (Amazon link) and the Arbor Fish 37″ (Amazon), slightly smaller. If you go for one of these, you will probably love the easy riding and good vibe – I’m a pintail fan myself.
Just remember though, if this is your first beginner longboard and if later on, you want to use it for speed, slides or tricks, you will need much more skills with a pintail than with other types of boards.
Goal : you want to carve and pump through town
Carving, or long distance pumping, is the art of snaking successive turns on your longboard through body swaying, impulsing energy into your board to gain speed without pushing.
If your primary goal for your beginner longboard is to ride surf style through pumping, you need a carver. Carving longboards are designed specifically for the kind of responsiveness and sharp turning you need.
You want a deck with mild flex and top mount trucks so that you can have several wheelbase options, and tune it as you like as you get better.
For sharp carves you’ll need lose trucks. You can also opt for special carving trucks that have an extra axis (e.g. “Carver CX”) or are spring loaded (e.g. Original S6 trucks). With good carving trucks you’ll even be able to carve up small hills without kicking – just beautiful !
So if your goal from the start is to really surf on land in addition to normal cruising, you should probably get the Loaded Poke – somwehat expensive but high quality board and does the carving job perfectly. Or, for a 100% surfing feel, take a look at the SurfSkate Jamie O’brien Tahiti (Amazon link).
Goal : you want to ride hills and learn to slide
OK so you’re really serious about starting longboarding. Cruising around or riding for transportation is not enough. You want to feel the speed and rush of riding downhill and powering through slides.
If that’s the case you your beginner longboard should probably be a freerider. When it comes to freeride, though, there are two schools of thought : drop-throughs vs topmounts.
As a beginner, you’ll appreciate the stability at speed and comfortable concave of a drop-through. Drop throughs have longer wheelbases and are lower to the ground, so getting into a slide is easier. They are comfortable to ride and feel safer.
Also, as mentioned earlier, are they’re easier to push, which makes them good all-around boards.
However, even as a beginner, you may prefer the lively feel of a topmount board for freeriding and sliding. Topmounts are highly responsive downhill due to shorter wheelbase and higher leverage over your trucks, giving you quicker transitions and better control in slides – albeit at the price of stability.
Topmounts are also generally smaller and less bulky, easier to carry around. They’re also often more durable – drop-through cutouts are known to weaken the deck structure, which may break over time.
Confused enough ? What should you get for your beginner longboard then ?
Your final freeride choice
It’s actually quite simple : if …
- you know you’ll want to start sliding downhill as soon as possible
- you want to learn to ride and slide the easier way
- you’ll be using your board for transportation as well
then get yourself a good classic drop-through freeride board such as the Landyachtz Ten Two Four, successor of the famous Nine Two Five.
On the other hand, if …
- you love carving and turns
- you want to learn big slides
- you don’t mind a steeper learning curve
- you don’t want anything too bulky
then get a topmount with good concave like the Moonshine Hooch, which has shined for years for its freeriding abilities. Or if you’re looking for a less expensive board, you can go for the Earthwing Payback 32″, a great topmount with a large standing platform and deep enough concave to help you in slides .
Goal : you want to do tricks or dance on your longboard
As you’re considering which longboard to get as a beginner, you may want to start by learning freestyle tricks right from the get-go. That’s totally feasible if you have the mindset and the fitness level for it – freestyle is probably the most physically demanding longboard riding style of all.
For freestyle you typically want a wide enough topmount longboard with a double kick. You want wheels relatively small and hard (82a-90a), and nimble 50º trucks.
Be aware there are many models you can use for freestyle as a beginner, since an increasing number of longboard models now have a hybrid design (e.g. freeride/freestyle).
Many freestylers love the Sector9 Shogun Assassin 30” hybrid with its nice kicktail for both skatepark riding and city cruising. Another popular option for skatepark and street riding is the 32″ Omen Skinnydippin.
Dancing longboards are also usually topmounts, but they have much larger decks than regular freestylers, with no concave to facilitate walking, jumping, twisting and dancing.
If your primary goal as a beginner longboarder is to dance, go for the 48″ Loaded Bhangra, still considered one of the best dancing boards around, or a popular alternative, the 47″ Rayne Whip (Amazon).
Goal : you just want to speed downhill
Let’s say you’re going into longboarding mainly for the rush of downhill speed. Downhill is a more advanced riding style, but getting into it as a beginner longboarder is not unheard of.
Of course you’ll first have to learn to slide and stop first, and seriously gear up with protective equipment.
Downhillers often have directional topmount decks because these provide more precise control on the trucks and more feedback, especially in corners and hairpin turns. As I mentioned before, topmount decks are also stronger since they don’t have the structurally weakening cutouts of drop-throughs.
As we’ve seen, though, topmounts are also less stable than drop throughs. As a beginner, learning to master those speed wobbles will be your main challenge. Of course you can alway opt for a more stable drop-through, but if you’re serious about starting downhill you’ll soon switch to topmount for performance.
Downhill boards typically have lightweight hybrid fiberglass decks, a directional shape for good wheel clearance, and advanced concaves (“W” or “4D cup”) that create special foot pockets to rest your feet against at high speed. The Rayne Genesis 100 Demons and the Comet Voodoo Dustin Hampton are two examples of good downhill boards .
A good middle ground between topmount and drop-through is a dropped platform : no stuctural weakness like a drop through, yet the deck is lowered, providing enhanced stability and foot lock-in at higher speed. The higher end Loaded Tesseract 33″ is an example of an advanced speedboard shape.
So now, if I asked you what’s the best longboard for you as a beginner, what would you say ?
- I still have no clue
- I have a better idea of what I want
- I’ve found my perfect board
- I want to try a couple more things before deciding
If your answer is 2 or 3, then this article has fulfilled its mission in life. If you’ve answered 4, it has done an even better job by opening your eyes on what else exists out there.
If you’ve answered 1, howver, it means there wasn’t enough information in here to help make a decision. This wouldn’t be really surprising, though, if you’re at a very early stage of your project to start longboarding. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out some beginner articles such as this one about the types of longboards.
Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I wish you the very best for your future board riding !
Featured photo : “Blacklock longboards, on table” (CC BY 2.0) by vomsorb (cropped resized aspect ratio)