The market for longboards is a dense jungle with dozens, even hundreds of products available. There are big boards, small boards, cheap boards, pricey boards, symmetricals, pintails, drop-throughs, drop decks, topmounts, cruisers, carvers, freeride boards, freestyle boards, dancers …
If you’re a beginner looking to buy your first longboard – or 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.
UPDATE: see my newer post here on how to choose the best longboard for a beginner (2020 version) which takes into account the significant riding experience I’ve acquired since I wrote this article.
As a beginner longboarder, should you get a 40″ cruiser dropped platform? A stiff symmetrical freeride board with hard wheels? A beautiful-looking surf-style pintail?
Here’s the truth: there is no such thing as a BEST longboard for beginners. You can pretty much start on ANY longboard. Which you choose is largely a matter of personal goals and preference.
Also, much of the advice available comes from younger riders. If you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, your objectives and constraints as a beginner longboarder may be very different. You may look at longboarding as a great way to move around while having a blast and staying fit.
In this post, I’ll go through some of the common goals for a beginner longboarder, and I’ll suggest a few good longboards well-suited for each goal. Hopefully, you’ll get a better idea of what you want for a beginner longboard.
Goal: you want a beginner longboard to cruise & commute on
As a newbie, you want to get a board for commuting and cruising around for fun and fitness. This type of riding involves a broad range of scenarios, with just as wide a 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 wants 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.
Beginner commuter longboard
Suppose your primary goal is to ride to work or school a few miles away, on 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.
Beginner longboard for city commuting
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 kicktail will also come in handy for doing kick turns when it’s tight and for getting up and off curbs.
Check out the Landyachtz Dinghy (see my full review) 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, uncrowded and less slalomy, you can get a larger but more pushable beginner longboard such as the Arbor Dropcruiser drop-through city cruiser – see my full review.
Beginner longboard for relaxed cruising
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 Z-flex 38″ pintail and the Arbor Timeless 42″ (Amazon pages). 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 a beginner longboard to carve & pump on
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.
So if your goal from the start is to really surf on land in addition to normal cruising, you should check out the Loaded Poke (see my full review here) – a somewhat pricey but high-quality board and does the carving job perfectly.
Alternatively, if you’re into surf style, consider getting a surf skateboard – check out my in-depth post on the best surf skates.
Goal: you want a beginner longboard for freeride and sliding
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 your beginner longboard should probably be a freeride board. When it comes to freeriding 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 a 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 choice of a beginner freeride longboard
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 Switchblade – see my complete review here.
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 Loaded Tesseract (see my review) 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 a beginner longboard for dancing and freestyle
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 Bustin Yoface hybrid (see my mini-review here) with its nice kicktail for both skatepark riding and city cruising. Another popular option for skatepark and street riding is the Landyachtz ATV series (read my full review).
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, you should consider the 48″ Loaded Bhangra, pricey but still considered one of the best dancing boards around. See my post on the best 5 dancing longboards for more dancing options.
Goal: you want a beginner longboard to bomb hills fast
So 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 need to learn how to slide and stop, and seriously gear up with protective equipment (see this section for gear recommendations).
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 structural weakness like a drop through, yet the deck is lowered, providing enhanced stability and foot lock-in at higher speed. The higher end Loaded Truncated Tesseract (see my complete review) is an example of an advanced speed board 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)