Carving is probably the top skill a longboarder should learn after foot pushing to really feel the rush of longboard riding! While carving as a technique is used in various longboard riding styles, it is also a riding style of its own that’s inspired by other board sports like surfing and snowboarding.
So what makes a good longboard for serious, soulful carving? You can certainly carve of many different kinds of longboards, however, the best carving boards are those that are able to make quick tight turns and maintain speed through pumping, i.e. rail-to-rail transitions. To achieve these qualities, the best carving boards typically will have the following features:
- A mid-sized deck with lots of leverage over the trucks
- Some amount of flex for optimal response and energy in turns
- Mild concave for foot comfort and lock-in in tight turns
- Lots of wheel space through large cutouts or wheel flares
- Turny, flowy, responsive trucks that are easy to pump.
- Bigger wheels with a good balance of grip and roll speed
There are lots of great carving boards out there, but my favorite three are without hesitation:
- The Loaded Icarus: see my full review here or see it on Loaded
- The Loaded Vanguard: see my mini-review or see it here on Amazon
- The Landyachtz Dropcarve (Amazon), a more affordable alternative
Read on to find out why I think these are the best longboards for carving.
Why carve on a longboard?
If you’re new to longboarding or just to carving, you may be a bit confused about this whole carving thing. Carving originally comes from snowboarding and refers to riding by making successive turns, transitioning from edge to edge on your board.
So you make a hard toeside turn by stacking most of your weight onto your toes and your front rail, then as you exit the turn, you shift your weight back into your heels and back rail to initiate a heelside turn. Repeat again and again.
There are different purposes to carving such as:
- Controlling your speed when going downhill – the successive tight turns help slow you down
- Enjoying the flowy feel of making turns while cruising at low speed
- Traveling distances without pushing by creating energy through pumps and carves
The technique of carving involves the right weight shifting and body rotations at the right time. It’s one of the most enjoyable, “non-extreme” forms of longboard riding, and has become a style of its own. Carving is closely related pumping, a discipline some riders take to an art form (see my post on pumping).
While many longboarders primarily use their longboard for pushing and cruising along, others like to focus on carving and choose their board accordingly. Let’s look at the specific features that make a good carving board.
Carving deck features
What should you look for in a good carving deck? In short, you need good response from your moves in turns and decent energy return from the deck. That is, as you anchor your body weight into a rail and get low to initiate that tight turn, you want the deck to amplify the impulse from your motion.
Let’s dig deeper.
Size and mount style
A mid-sized deck, in the 32-42″ range, typically works best for effective carving. Too small a deck and wheelbase may not provide enough momentum from your impulses. Too large may be slower and “draggier” to push into turns.
With regards to deck style, there are a few things to consider. Topmount decks offer the most leverage over the trucks, making the board more responsive in turns. Some of the best carving longboards are commuter-style
Drop-through boards, on the other hand, tend to be more stable at speed but not as fast-turning as
Deck flex and camber
The best carving decks typically will have some flex to provide a lively and energetic response to your carving impulses and weight shifts. The amount of flex you want depends on how fast you want to go. Higher speed requires more stability and thus less flex. Some riders also prefer less flex for a more direct response when leaning and shifting.
On the other hand, some amount of flex is typically great for low-speed carving as it helps you really drive carves and generate speed through pumping.
The ideal amount of flex also depends on your weight – a lighter rider will feel the flex and hence responsiveness less than a heavier rider on the same board. For this reason, top longboard manufacturers propose several flex options – e.g. the Loaded Vanguard comes in 5 different flex options.
Since flex is important for driving deep carves, the best carving longboards are often built using hybrid material such as a mix of bamboo, which offers superior flex characteristics, and composite material such as fiberglass for resistance and stiffness.
Another feature that greatly influences a board’s responsiveness for carving is a cambered platform. Camber means the deck is slightly raised in the middle vs the mount points. As a result, the deck gives you a springy feel that adds to the flex for more rebound on your impulses in turns, resulting in more acceleration when carving.
Both the Loaded Vanguard and the Icarus have cambered profiles which contribute to making them excellent carving boards, each in their own style: high-flex,
Wheel clearance for tight turns
The best carving longboards also boast specific shape features that add to the board’s maneuverability and carving ability.
An important such feature is wheel cutouts and wheel wells. Cutout shapes give the wheels a lot of space for tight turning since the deck does not cover the wheels. This is particularly important in carving because it involves hard turns which can easily cause wheelbite problems (wheels touching the board) on decks not designed for it.
Carving longboards such as the Vanguard and the Icarus are specifically built for deep carves with their large wheel cutouts. The Vanguard has a significantly tapered shape at the edges to maximize wheel clearance. The Icarus also has sophisticated wheel wells and uplifted wheel flares which not only provide clearance but also participate in the deck’s concave pattern. See my post on the Icarus for more details.
Foot lock-in and sidecuts
Some high-end carving boards such as Loaded longboards also feature a narrowed down shape in the middle, aka sidecuts, to help minimize torsional stiffness between the rider’s feet, allowing more control over the board’s turning radius. Boards with a wide center section are often harder to control precisely when tight turning.
Another desirable feature of a good carving longboard is a slight amount of concave for foot lock-in when performing those continuous fast edge-to-edge transitions and tight turns. A bit of concave gives your feet something to push on while keeping them in place. If you’ve tried carving on a flat deck, you know it’s much less effective due to your feet moving around in every deep turn.
Kick tails are typically not so important for carving unless you plan to do tricks or city slashing as well. Kicks allow for quick turns and small jumps but they typically result in a shorter wheelbase which can reduce a board’s carving ability and stability. Some riders, however, like to leverage the kicks when carving, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Best carving longboard trucks
Most carving longboards come with reverse kingpin (RKP) trucks as these are designed for carving flow and responsiveness in deep turns.
A 50º baseplate angle is the most common type, typically giving you a good balance of lean vs turn, which translates into turning ability vs stability.
Though there are dozens of RKP trucks out there, some trucks offer a noticeably different feel for carving than others, and the choice of trucks can have a huge impact on carving performance.
Carving with surfskate trucks
For me, the most effective trucks for performing the tight and deep turns carving involves are
If you go the
Regular RKP trucks great for carving
The Bear Grizzly trucks from Landyachtz (Amazon) offer some really good carving performance. They are very tight turning and easy to pump, especially when set looser. I have been using them for a few months on a 36″ flexy Landyachtz pintail deck and I’m always impressed by the carving performance I get – the turning on those trucks is not that far from my Carver CX.
Many top carving longboard setups, including the Loaded Vanguard and the Icarus, come with Paris V2 50º trucks. These are quality, highly versatile trucks that can certainly provide a nice carving experience if used on a deck with the right shape, flex, and concave and the right wheels (see next section).
Personally, though I consider the Paris as a great all-around truck including for commuting and freeriding (which both involve some carving
Gullwing Sidewinder: born to carve
Sector 9’s Gullwing Sidewinder II (see it on Amazon) is a special and very popular carving truck with 2 separate kingpins, resulting in 2 different pivot points when riding. As a result, these trucks excel for carving since they let you drive deeper and tighter turns than with regular RKP trucks, providing a smoother and more flowy surfing feel.
The Sidewinders are taller than regular RKP trucks and so using them results in
So while the Sidewinders can bring outstanding carving performance, they can be harder to control for newer riders. Note that you can convert these trucks into a regular TKP by removing one of the kingpins.
Carving trucks vs carving deck
When choosing the right trucks for your carving longboard, you need to take into account the characteristics of your deck, or vice-versa.
If you settle for a loose, deep carving truck such as a surfskate truck (Carver, Slide etc) or some Gullwing Sidewinders, then you may want to opt for a slightly stiffer deck such as the Loaded Icarus or Poke to make up for the looseness.
On the other hand, if you choose a regular RKP truck such as the Bear Grizzly, a deck with more flex such as the Loaded Vanguard or the Landyachtz Dropcarve may provide the added response and energy you need for effective deep carves.
Best longboard wheels for carving
Probably the most important characteristic of a good carving longboard wheel is stability. In general, larger (65mm+) and softer (80A
Softer wheels also roll over cracks and
So when choosing the hardness of your carving wheels, you’re facing a tradeoff between speed and grip: softer wheels have better traction for deep carves while harder wheels roll faster and longer but tend to skid and slide more in tight turns.
Another aspect to consider is core placement on the wheel – where the
Your weight is another factor to consider when choosing the wheels for your carving longboard. The heavier you are, the harder your wheels should be (e.g. 83A instead of 79A) since a given wheel will feel softer to a heavier rider.
Some very popular wheels for longboard carving are the Orangatang 4President (Amazon). These are the ones I use for intense carving on my Loaded Poke and Carver surf trucks. With a 70mm diameter and 80A
If you ride a smaller deck, e.g. smaller than 34″, you may need to choose smaller wheels to avoid wheelbite, such as the excellent 65mm Orangatang
Carving will always be a core part of the longboard experience, whether you like to cruise, pump, or freeride. More than a technique, however, carving can be a soulful riding style of its own. Some riders see choosing or building the right board for carving close almost as an art form.
The best carving longboards can help you make those deep tight turns but giving you the right amount of energy response and riding comfort. This is typically the result of the right amount of deck flex, ample space for big wheels, carefully crafted concave,
If in doubt, for carving you can’t go wrong with the Loaded Vanguard or the Icarus, or Landyachtz’s Dropcarve for a cheaper option. If you’d like to take your carving to the next level and actually surf the pavement, try a Slide
Featured image: courtesy Carver Skateboards