Longboard freestyle is a broad – and sometimes blurry – riding style encompassing different riding styles. Street skating and flip tricks, technical sliding, bowl and skatepark riding, longboard dancing, all are part of the freestyle longboarding discipline. Yet they are very different styles – even though they all involve some amount of jumping, kicking and flipping, and sliding the board.
So what is the best longboard for freestyle? It depends on the kind of freestyle you do. For hardcore street maneuvers and park riding, the best freestyle longboard typically looks like an oversized street skateboard, though with bigger wheels for smoother rides. Or, you may choose a more regular longboard for versatile riding, more longboard-ish freestyle maneuvers, and sliding. Dancing longboards, finally, are in a category of their own.
What type of freestyle?
In general, people looking to get into freestyle longboarding fall into one of the following categories:
- You’re a street/park traditional skateboarder who wants to start tech sliding on larger boards. However, you may not want to get into full-sized, drop-through/drop-down type longboards with deep concave. But you do want to get into the longboard feel.
- You’re a regular longboarder who rides on those full-sized longboards (drop-through or topmount) and you want to get a taste of something closer to a double-kick street board to start doing kickflips, riding the bowl or ramp at the park, and getting into technical sliding.
Let’s take a brief look at the different freestyle longboarding activities:
This freestyle discipline is similar to traditional street skateboarding in that you use the street environment as your playground for doing kick/flip/jump tricks. Some the most common tricks involved in street freestyling are:
- The Manual: essentially a wheelie on a longboard
- The Pivot: a Manual with a 180º spin
- The Shove-It: basically a Pivot + stance switch
- The Boneless: a jump with a grab, front foot initially on the ground
- The Ollie/drop: kick the board for jumping on or off a curb
- The Ghostride kickflip: crossing feet and stepping off and back on – a common dancing trick.
For more ahout these and other freestyle tricks, see my other post on freestyling.
This kind of riding involves shredding bowls (or ditches outside of actual skateparks), skatepark elements, and ramps. The maneuvers for this style primarily revolve around building up a lot of speed through pumping down the ramp/pool and transitioning by leveraging that speed to get air or carve hard turns.
Slides/grind are also common in park riding, like in street riding. Kickflips and ollies are also performed to hop on/off skatepark elements.
Take a look at this awesome longboard skatepark video:
Technical sliding involves breaking traction into aggressive and stylish slides, combining these slides with other slow speed moves. This is different from freeride sliding which is done at higher speed primarily for the purpose of controlling speed (though in a stylish way).
Tech sliding is done on hard wheels (typically 90+ duro) while freeride sliding uses softer wheels (e.g. 85). What matters in tech sliding is the style and the tricks performed with the slides.
The reason I mention tech sliding as a freestyle genre of its own is that it requires specific longboard features different from other freestyle activities. However, tech sliding is typically combined with other kinds of freestyle tricks (e.g. street, dancing).
Tech sliding provides a good transition for a street skater looking to get into longboarding.
Dancing is often considered a subset of freestyle longboarding because it sometimes involves kickflips and jumps. Dancing, however, is primarily about stylish cross-stepping and elegant moving on your board while carving turns at the same time.
Also, while dancing longboards have freestyle deck features, they are specific enough to have their own category.
Freestyle longboard types and features
There are really two types of freestyle boards:
- “Hybrid” longboards, which are like giant skateboards. These typically have very large kicks and a shorter wheelbase. These hybrids offer more stability than street skateboards due to their size. Many have wheel wells allowing for larger wheels compared to a street deck which makes cruising much more comfortable.
- Typical, “regular” longboards with small kicks, a relatively long wheelbase, and wheel cutouts
Let’s go over the most common features to look for in a freestyle longboard based on the kind of deck you want.
Freestyle deck shape
The “hybrid” type of freestyle longboard has a similar popsicle shape to a street deck, but with bigger and softer wheels for efficient cruising between skate spots.
Hybrid decks range from skateboard-sized to quite large (e.g. 41″). Wheelbases may vary from 14″ to 35″ – though if you go 31″ or so you’re typically looking at a dancer board.
Smaller, street-sized hybrid decks still have longboard features like wheel wells which allow for bigger wheels for cruising and freeriding, and concave for better speed riding and sliding tricks.
A good hybrid board should offer the best of both worlds (street board/longboard):
- It should be lightweight enough to get off the ground easily for tricks – and paired with the right components to keep it lightweight
- If should offer a smooth and comfortable commute between spots, which also a key consideration when getting a hybrid.
Freestyle construction and mount type
A freestyle deck needs to be very strong and durable to withstand the abuse from the kick tricks, nose tricks, tail rubbing, and jumping!
While laminated maple wood is strong, bamboo construction is considered strongest as the material will typically bend instead of breaking.
Topmount boards are also the most resistant and durable for freestyle involving jumps. Drop-through boards are prone to breaking in extreme situations, as drop-through decks run very thin at the truck mounts. Yet this is where most of the force goes on jump landings. Thus, hard jumping on a drop-through board may break it (even bamboo).
Freestyle longboard kicks
Kicktails are an obvious requirement for any freestyle riding. Kicks give you the ability to throw your board around, hop on/off curbs and obstacles, and get air off a vert. Street tricks like the Pivot – frontside or backside – and similar require kicktails to perform. When skatepark riding, you typically keep your foot on the kick all the time.
As mentioned, hybrid decks have large, symmetrical kicks. Some mini-cruiser longboards (e.g. the Landyachtz Tugboat) may have a big kicktail and a smaller nose. Larger freestyle-oriented longboards like the Loaded Tan Tien or Landyachtz Drop Carve have smaller kicks.
Freestyle deck cutouts
Big cutouts result in much narrower kicktails, which make it harder to ride with your foot always on the kick – like you do in skate park riding.
Also, having your heel millimeters away from touching the wheels when doing a hard kick turn on a vert is terrifying! So if park riding is an important part of your riding mix, you should avoid wheel cutouts.
Nevertheless, wheel cutouts may be a good thing on a larger freestyle longboard running bigger wheels, for mellow longboard-style step/flip/slide tricks that don’t really involve hard kicks and tight turns.
Freestyle deck flex
Street skateboards have very stiff decks. Longboards tend to have more flex for more comfortable cruising. Here again, how much flex you want in your freestyle deck depends on the kind of freestyle you do. More flex can help with traditional flowing longboard stepping and flipping tricks.
On the other hand, too much flex can make for sketchy landings for jump tricks and can make drop-through boards even more prone to breaking.
Freestyle longboard trucks and wheels
For freestyle riding, you can use either traditional kingpin (TKP) or reverse kingpin (RKP) trucks depending on what you’re most interested in skating. TKPs are well-suited for more technical skate tricks as they are twitchier and more responsive.
For street tricks and tech sliding, Independent, Tensor or Gunmetal trucks are typically a good choice, perhaps with added risers. On Gunmetals you may have to play with the bushings for the best “street” feeling.
If speed is involved, e.g. on a larger longboard used for relaxed longboard freestyle tricks, RKP trucks may be a better choice for better stability and control.
The whole purpose of choosing a freestyle longboard vs a street skateboard is generally to be able to cruise smoothly while still performing the kind of tricks you like. Thus you want wheels that are well-suited for comfortable riding in between street shredding or skatepark sessions.
For hardcore street riding on your longboard, you may want to look for wheels around 56-63mm, soft enough for cruising but with a supportive core that’ll keep some of that nice pop you get from hard wheels. RAD Feathers and Powel G-Slides are both great options.
An 85A duro is a good middle-ground for comfortable cruising on super smooth roads. If the roads around you are rough, though, you should probably go softer, e.g. 80-82A.
If you’re into a more mellow type of freestyle with less hardcore street tricks and more mellow bowl riding, you may alternatively go for 64mm-70mm wheels for a good feeling when pushing. Look for lightweight wheels (e.g. Butterballs) with a round lip as these work better for technical tricks – they mathematically will flip and rip better than square lips.
My top 3 freestyle longboards
When it comes to freestyle-oriented longboards, there are a lot of choices out there. In addition to freestyle-specific boards such as hybrid decks, a lot of all-around boards can be used for mellow freestyling and tech sliding in addition to other uses such as freeriding or distance commuting.
The following are 3 longboards I warmly recommend based on my own (and longboarding friends) experience.
1. Loaded Kanthaka
The Kanthaka, now replaced by the shorter Kut-thaka, is Loaded’s hybrid skateboard with big double kicks for switch riding and street freestyle tricks.
The Kanthaka is longer than a street deck (36″) but only slightly wider (8.625″ or 8.875″ options). Its deck has bamboo and fiberglass construction making it very lightweight and very strong, with carbon reinforced kicks.
It has a mild concave for foot lock-in and wheel flares for wheel clearance and improved sliding.
The Kanthaka has a lot of pop for ollies and is really good for both street and skatepark riding. The flared contour and foot pockets are a big plus for tech sliding, offering easy foot positioning and feedback.
The complete comes stock with 149mm Paris street trucks (responsive and controlled) and 62mm Orangatang Skiffs 80A ($45 value alone) which offer strong core support for freestyle tricks. Like all Loaded longboards, the Kanthaka is quite pricey at around $300. You do get your money’s worth, however.
UPDATE: the new Kut-thaka is a shorter, more agile version of the Kanthaka yet otherwise very similar to it. Besides being an even nimbler board for freestyle and city slashing, the Kut-thaka is significantly less expensive than its big brother. Check out this in-depth review of the two Thakas – old and new!
2. Bustin Yoface
Bustin’s entire brand is based around cruising the city looking for skate spots. They’ve been the experts at combining cruising/commuting with street/park since long before it was cool. Their hybrid, the Yoface, is 35″ long and slightly fatter than a classic popsicle. It’s great for street, tech slides, bowls, banks, verts, stairs etc.
Like the Kanthaka, the Yoface’s wheel wells give extra clearance for longboard wheels and create nice foot pockets for performing tech slides and tricks. The board has a lot of pop with nice big kicks. The deck and tails are strong and durable – although built like a regular all-wood street board (contrary the Kanthaka).
The Yoface typically comes with 150mm TKP trucks and 66mm 80A Bustin wheels.
In short, if you’re a regular street skateboard rider, this is another board that can help you make a great transition into freestyle longboarding by allowing you to keep riding everywhere while cruising and commuting more comfortably. The Yoface is also much more affordable than the Kut-thaka.
3. Loaded Tan Tien
For my third favorite freestyle board, I would have preferred to pick something from a different manufacturer for variety. However, it’s hard to leave out the Tan Tien, a widely vetted choice for traditional longboard freestyler.
The Tan Tien is a big 39″x8.75″ classic drop-through deck with large wheel cutouts and narrow double kicks. It is no doubt a solid freestyle deck for combining pushing/commuting/carving with classic freestyle longboard tricks.
It has a shorter wheelbase and deeper concave than the popular Dervish, so it’s better prepared for freestyle moves.
The Tan Tien’s cutouts, camber, and flex allow for tight carves. The symmetrical shape and kicks make it easy to hop over and off obstacles and perform 360º flips. Due to the drop-through construction, the board is super easy to break into slides. Not the best board for hardcore street riding, jumping high, and skatepark, however.
The bamboo + fiberglass construction once again results in a thin, lightweight, and very durable longboard. There are 3 flex options to pick from based on the kind of freestyle you do – mellow vs aggressive, “carvier” vs “jumpier”.
The Tan Tien comes with 180mm Paris RKP trucks and larger 70mm, 80A Orangatang Stimulus wheels. So for those looking to get into a more classic style of freestyling where tech sliding and flip tricks combine with deep carving or even dancing, the Tan Tien is probably a good choice.
Other freestyle boards
Although the above are my top 3 freestyle longboards, here are some other boards I’d definitely consider for freestyle (Amazon pages except the Poke):
- The Arbor Shakedown
- The Rayne Renegade
- The Loaded Poke (see my full review)
- The Earthwing Team
- The Landyachtz Drop Carve (drop-through – longboard freestyle)
So we’ve seen freestyle longboarding encompasses a broad wide variety of riding styles and techniques. Consequently, the best freestyle longboard for you depends on your own background and goals – whether it’s old-style street and park riding, tech sliding, or true longboarding freestyle with or without a dancing orientation.
The best freestyle longboard for you should have features that match the things you want to do – the right deck shape and construction, wheel clearance, kicks, concave, mount type, trucks style, wheel size… Picking the right freestyle board requires you to understand where you’re coming from and where you’re going in terms of your longboard riding.
Featured image: Arbor Collective (Shuriken Pro model)
Image street jump: Arbor Collective (Shuriken Pro model)