For years, there have been endless debates about whether newer longboarders should choose a drop-through or a pintail longboard, either for a first board or for specific riding needs.
Which of a drop-through or a pintail is better? As always, “it depends”. Pintails offer a unique surfboard-inspired classic style and distinctive cruising feel that many riders, including beginners, really love. When it comes to more technical riding, however, pintails quickly fall short as they lack many of the functional features most drop-throughs come with, such as a stable wheelbase, wheel clearance, kicks, concave/rocker.
As a result, pintails tend to be much less versatile and progressive than drop-throughs. This may lead to the need to invest in a new board as you wish to get into more advanced riding styles.
In this article, I look at the main differences between drop-throughs and pintails and help you figure out which is the best choice for your personal needs.
Drop-through vs pintail characteristics
Let’s look at some key differences between a drop-through and a pintail.
The most obvious difference is the shape. Drop-through longboards typically have big wheel cutouts. The deck generally has a long and wide rectangular section with short narrow wingtips on each end where the trucks mount. Drop-through shapes are often symmetrical, sometimes almost symmetrical, and sometimes asymmetrical (directional).
Pintails have a very recognizable surfboard shape, with a pointy “pin” tail (hence the name) and a wider nose like a surfboard. The wheels stick out on both sides of the deck but not as far from it as in a drop-through.
“Drop-through” longboards have drop-through truck mounts, which means the trucks are mounted through big square holes in the deck’s wingtips. The truck’s baseplate thus sits on top of the deck while the rest of the truck lies underneath the deck. Pintails, on the other hand, are
As a result of their different shapes and truck mount style, there are some important differences between a drop-through and a pintail in terms of riding behavior:
- A pintail rides significantly higher off the ground than a drop-through due to the trucks being mounted under the deck vs across it. Ride height affects the board’s stability when pushing and riding at higher speed. On a drop-through your center of gravity is lower than on a pintail, resulting in more stability.
- Since pintails are top mounted, your front foot sits on top of the front truck, resulting in greater truck leverage and hence quicker turning for a given amount of lean. On a drop-through shape, the trucks are mounted across the “wingtips” so you typically stand in between the trucks rather than on top of them.
- Due to the large wheel cutouts on a drop-through, it’s easy to catch a wheel with your foot if you move it too close to the tip. On a pintail, on the other hand, you normal stand on the wider area of the deck and have a lesser chance of touching a wheel.
- Pintails typically have a relatively flat deck or very mellow concave for grip. Drop-throughs, on the other hand, often have more concave for a more locked-in feel when riding faster and sliding.
- Pintails often have flexier decks than drop-throughs. Many drop-throughs are designed for speed,
forwhich requires a relatively stiff deck works better. However, some drop-throughs (namely double drop decks) are built with some amount of flex.
What are pintail longboards good for?
The biggest appeal of pintail longboards is their classic and cool look and feel. Pintails are designed to mimic a surfboard. They offer a comfortable ride for relaxed leisure cruising along the boardwalk or on bike trails.
A pintail can be a nice first longboard for a beginner – assuming it’s a good quality one (e.g. the Landyachtz Chief). Being
For a newer rider, learning to longboard on a pintail lets you learn the basics before moving on to something else. A pintail will generally be narrower than a drop-through (much more so in the back) forcing you to work on your balance and your foot placement – since you typically only use a small portion of the deck surface. Turning also forces you to find the best spots for leverage.
In short, for beginner longboarder, a pintail is a great board for improving your balance, being less stable and roomy for your feet than a drop-through. When you do get the right stance and moves, you’re immediately rewarded with a very nice and smooth carving and cruising experience.
Limitations of a pintail
While pintails have a great classic surf look and are well-suited for relaxed cruising and carving, they are not as versatile and functional than drop-throughs for styles other than slow cruising.
As mentioned, pintails offer less effective foot space and are not nearly as stable being higher off the ground. They’re also generally flatter and don’t have much concave for securing your feet. All this makes them not very well-suited for going faster downhill and for technical sliding.
Pintails have no functional kicks (only a short flat pointy tail) so they’re not best equipped for quick maneuvering in tight city spaces, hopping on or off sidewalks, and dodging people and obstacles.
In short, pintails are less than ideal for freeride, freeride, downhill, or distance pushing. If your main goal is to cruise in a mellow and stylish way and enjoy a “free” riding feeling while building up your balancing skills, a pintail is an awesome choice. However, if you later decide to venture into faster or more technical riding, you may find yourself having to invest in a drop-through (or a different type of
Note: riding fast, sliding, and distance pushing on a pintail is very feasible, it’s just not as effective as with other types of boards, including drop-throughs. You can even pump quite well on certain flexy pintails!
What are drop-throughs good for?
After reading the above, you’ve probably guessed that a drop-through gives you the versatility and functionality that a pintail is missing:
- Drop-throughs give you more foot space than pintails for technical maneuvers, and typically have some concave/micro drop/rocker to secure your feet when riding fast or when sliding
- You typically feel more stable at higher speed on a drop-through due to the lower center of gravity and the less twitchy trucks.
- Unlike pintails, some drop-throughs have kick tails you can use for urban riding and quick maneuvering.
- You can push and commute over longer distances on a drop-through than on a pintail because your foot is lower to the ground and the board is not as turny.
- Some drop-throughs have a bit of flex, allowing you to carve just as well as on a pintail. Drop-throughs are also less prone to wheelbite than pintails when doing tight turns do the greater clearance.
- There are shorter drop-throughs, e.g. the Pantheon Ember, that you can easily carry around the city for short urban commutes. Most pintails, on the other hand, are on the long side and not very portable.
So which one should you choose?
To recap, choose a pintail if:
- You want to do relaxed cruising and carving on mellow pathways
- You just want a nice longboard to improve your balance skills
- You love the classic surf-style look and feel
On the other hand, choose a drop-through if:
- You want a versatile longboard you can evolve on
- You want to learn freeriding and sliding
- You want to do technical flatland tricks
- You want to cruise or commute distance
Longboarders often own both a pintail for chilling out and a drop-through for functional riding – many, like myself, also have one or more non-pintail topmount in their quiver for tricks or downhill – but that’s another story.
Featured: product shots Loaded Boards and Landyachtz
Photo “Longboard lineup” by Matt F.