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How To Choose The Best Sliding Longboard Setup

How To Choose The Best Sliding Longboard Setup

Longboard sliding is probably one of the trickiest skills to learn for a longboarder. Many riders slide either to control speed or as part of their riding style.

What are the best longboard setups for sliding? The best choice of gear depends a lot on your experience and sliding goals. Quick answer though, these are 3 of the most popular longboards for sliding, one of each mount style:

  • Drop deck: Landyachtz Switchblade
  • Drop-through: Loaded Tan Tien
  • Topmount: Loaded Basalt Tesseract

In this article, I will deep dive into the key aspects of choosing the right longboard gear for sliding, including wheels, trucks, and decks. And I’ll end this post with a few no-nonsense recommendations for a helmet, good sliding gloves, and pads.

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Longboard sliding requirements

While some riders never slide, there are several reasons to want to learn or master sliding, including:

  • Controlling your speed when cruising or commuting
  • Doing technical sliding and sophisticated freeride maneuvers
  • Speed checking and corner drifting in downhill racing

Each goal leads to somewhat different needs in terms of gear, but in general, you should look for the following characteristics when choosing longboard sliding gear:

  • A deck with concave and/or rocker, creating foot pockets for a secure locked-in feel when sliding. Wheelbase and mount type are also important aspects depending on your level and the kind of sliding you do (see this section)
  • 50º (or more) trucks for a good balance between stability and turn, unless you’re into high-speed downhill in which case you may go for smaller angles. You need strong trucks that won’t break under slide pressure and good quality bushings. See this section.
  • Smooth wheels on the soft side for a good balance between grip and slide ability. You want wheels that won’t wear out too fast (depends on the urethane formula). If you’re into high speed, you should go for harder wheels. See this section.
  • Fast bearings that are also strong enough to not break when going sideways – though this is also affected by whether you have good sliding technique.
  • Quality sliding gloves, a certified helmet, and if you’re relatively new to longboard sliding, some knee and elbow pads. See this section.

A good sliding longboard setup will typically cost in the $300-400 range (plus protection gear). Experienced riders will often tell you that you can slide on just about anything, which is true given the right skills. A nice slide setup, however, will make it easy for you to progress and may last longer – even though beginners may damage their first sliding wheels and bearings pretty quickly.

See the Cantellated Tesseract freeride board on Loaded’s website

A word about learning longboard sliding

Heelside speed checks (see this post for more) are a good way to first learn sliding. Start by carving hard with most of your weight in your front foot, lean backward and push your board out with your back foot until you feel the back wheels losing grip. Once you’re confident pushing your back wheels out like that, you can increase speed and carve harder and harder into the slides.

You’ll experiment with different weight distribution, hanging your heels more and unload your weight off the rail until you successfully slide the 4 wheels.

An alternative way for initially getting into sliding is through glove-down slides, where you support yourself with your (gloved) hand on the ground. This technique helps you learn the mechanics of sliding while having your gravity center close to the floor, lowering the risk of falling.

Top longboard wheels for sliding

When discussing the best longboarding gear for sliding, the first topic that typically comes up is the choice of wheels. Wheels are an essential factor in sliding – though not the only one, keep reading for more.

A very common question is, which is better for sliding, softer wheels or harder wheels? The answer is not cut-and-dry.

Soft wheel = more control, less speed

The main thing to understand is that softer wheels will kill more speed in a slide than a harder wheel as it deforms more and therefore tends to grip the road more. By “softer” and “harder” I mean 78A vs 84A for example (assuming the same wheel model).

Harder wheels, on the other hand, will be easier to break into a high-speed slide but will not shed as much speed as softer ones, since it deforms less – and hence grips less. Thus, harder wheels give you less control at high speed than softer wheels, which will slow you way more and feel much smoother when sliding.

At lower speeds, however, using a higher duro wheel can help you kick into slides more easily while maintaining your speed. So the durometer you choose depends on how fast you plan to go – which in turn depends on your sliding goals as discussed in the first section of this article.

Other wheel sliding characteristics

While durometer is key to a longboard wheel’s sliding ability, other important factors are wheel urethane formula, lip, shape, contact patch, and core placement.

Two wheels with the same duro but with different formulas may have very different sliding behaviors. For example, the Cadillac Swingers 78A vs. the ABEC-11 Flashbacks 78A feel very different in terms of initial kick-out and controllability when taking them sideways.

Wheels with round lips, smaller patches, and sideset core placement tend to slide better for common freeride sliding. Here again, however, the urethane formula can make a huge difference in terms of sliding characteristics.

Note that longboard deck size and height can also have an impact on the choice of sliding wheels. Really long and low decks (e.g. drop down decks, see section about decks below) are harder to throw out and thus may require harder wheels for better sliding. In that case, you may choose to go for the 84A vs the 78A.

Recommended sliding wheels

The following are 3 wheels you can’t go wrong with for getting into longboard sliding. Depending on your deck characteristics you may want to pick a different durometer.

ABEC 11 Flashbacks 78A (or 81A, slightly harder): very smooth and slidey sideset wheels that don’t wear quickly. 78A will be smoother, 81A will slide out easier.

Sector 9 Butterballs 65mm 80a: smooth and slidey as well but much faster wearing. Some people like their sliding feel though. These are centerset, unlike the flashbacks (again, different feel and kickout vs slide time profile).

Orangatang Fat Free 80a: great for technical riding down smaller hills, lets you do really big stand-up slides. Buttery smooth and super easy to kick out thanks to the rounded lip, offset core, and 37mm contact patch which makes it incredibly slidey.

Best longboard trucks for sliding

When sliding, your longboard trucks go sideways and must undergo a huge amount of pressure – going sideways, something the trucks aren’t mechanically meant for.

As for truck style, you can slide on both TKP and RKP trucks. The difference is in the amount of turn vs lean (how much turn you get for a given amount of deck lean), turn pattern (RKP turn more linear than TKP), and truck height (RKP trucks typically sit lower).

Regarding truck (baseplate) angle, higher angles are less stable/forgiving but slide more, while lower angles are more stable but harder to slide. Stick to a standard 50º angle for a balanced feel unless you know what you’re doing.

Many technical sliders swear by Independent (aka “Indy”) TKP trucks as they are very durable and perform well for sliding. They’re also relatively inexpensive and readily available. Independent’s 169mm trucks (Amazon) for example, fits most slide decks.

Independent trucks are very divey, meaning they are quick to turn from their center point. This is a desirable characteristic for throwing quick slides.

Choose medium-soft bushings for your weight. For example, 87A for a rider around 150lb or 90A for around 200lb. On Indy trucks, riders often swap the default bushings for better ones e.g. Bones Hardcore bushings.

You can combine medium and soft durometers to achieve the right amount of hardness for your weight and preferences, a good way of tuning your Indy trucks.

You can set your trucks loose for easier turning and sliding, though you’re more likely to get wobbles at higher speeds. Tighter trucks are a bit harder to slide on but let you go faster downhill with more confidence.

Best longboard setup for sliding

Let’s take a look at the best deck shapes and mount styles for sliding.

Sliding deck size and shape

Sliding longboards come in a wide variety of sizes. Freeride boards are typically 38″ to 42″ long and 8.5-10″ wide, with wheelbase from 24″ to 30″. Downhill boards tend to be shorter. Shorter decks are more agile and maneuverable, while longer ones are more stable.

One thing freeride decks often have in common is a decent amount of stiffness. Though it’s certainly possible to slide at lower speeds on longer and flexier boards (e.g. on the Tan Tien), stiffer decks perform better at higher speeds as they are more stable and give you more control during the slide after initiation.

For technical sliding and freeride, symmetrical decks work best as they allow you to do 180º and 360º slide maneuvers. They often have one or two kicks for more control and for mixing kick turns and tricks. Pure downhill speed boards are typically directional with a bullet-like shape.

Concave and rocker are important features of a good sliding longboard setup as they create foot pockets for a secure foot lock-in when you push your board sideways. Freeride-oriented longboards tend to have more subtle concave compared to true downhill decks, focusing on freedom of movement for technical slide tricks.

Sliding longboards mount type

There’s a long-running debate about whether drop-through / dropped decks or topmount decks are best for sliding. There’s no clear-cut answer, it depends on the rider’s skills and on the type of sliding.

Initiating slides is generally much easier on a drop-through because the deck sits lower to the ground compared to a topmount. Boards with a lower center of gravity tend to be more naturally drifty, with sharp turns often leading to sliding. Topmounts, in contrast, have stronger grip and are higher off the ground, requiring more effort to get into a slide.

On the flip side, holding out a slide longer is easier on a topmount due to better leverage over the trucks since your feet sit right over them vs between them. As a result, a topmount gives you a more responsive feel and more control over when and how long you slide.

Drop-through decks are typically longer than topmounts (which is necessary for foot space between the trucks). This makes them more stable and easier to initiate slides on. Topmounts tend to have a shorter wheelbase, so they provide faster transitions between toeside and heelside for more technical slides.

Experienced riders often like topmounts for the effective foot platform, the foot position on top of the truck, and the resulting responsiveness at speed including in slides.

Recommended sliding setups

When it comes to sliding, drop decks are generally best for beginners, being the most stable and closest to the ground. The Landyachtz Switchblade is a very popular dropped deck longboard for sliding.

Drop-throughs are good for intermediate sliders as they’re still low riding but thinner and lighter for pushing out into a slide. The Loaded Tan Tien is a very good option for a freeride/sliding drop-through – see my full review here. Another good alternative is the Loaded Icarus – full review here.

Topmounts are the hardest to get sideways but offer the most control during slides, so they are well-suited for more experienced longboarders. The Loaded Basalt Tesseract (my review) is a highly regarded topmount board with a specific focus on freeride and sliding.

Protection gear for sliding

Learning to slide without wearing safety protection would be plain dumb and might well lead you straight to the hospital, so I’ll end this article with some quick recommendations of good protection equipment you can get.

I have a full article on when and where to wear a helmet and which are the most vetted ones. Here’s a short list of helmets that in my opinion offer the best quality-to-price ratio (links to Amazon):

  • S1 Lifer: very well-fitting, sweat-absorbing liner
  • Pro-Tec classic: protects you well – based on personal experience
  • TSG Meta: super lightweight
  • Bell Segment: flexible outer shell (some like it), solid, cheaper.

And these are my favorite options for slide gloves, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards:

Final thoughts

Again, you can slide on just about anything if you have the right skills – and you will over time. If you’re just starting though, better put all the chances on your side and get the right gear, you’ll progress faster.

First determine how you want to slide: low or high speed, flat ground or downhill, quick speed control slides, or complex tech sliding tricks. Based on your goals, choose the right deck shape and style, the right wheels, and some solid trucks with the right bushings.

And most importantly, sliding is always a risky endeavor, it’s nearly impossible to learn it without crashing a few times. Concrete hurts! Wear an appropriate helmet protection gear.

Note: see also How to Choose the Right Longboard for Me for an overview of what to look for in a longboard based on your type style.


Photo credit: featured image “_DSC4829” (CC BY 2.0) by Sandra Punct