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Loaded Vanguard Review: The Longboard Carving System

Loaded Vanguard Review: The Longboard Carving System

Loaded boards are recognized as being among the most high-end longboards out there. Each Loaded model focuses on specific areas of the riding style spectrum.

The Vanguard is an essential piece of Loaded’s impressive lineup. It’s positioned as a snowboard-style flexy topmount primarily designed for exceptional carving and pumping.

The Vanguard is a full-sized longboard (38″ or 42″) characterized by a lightweight snowboard-like construction, a cambered profile with sidecuts (we’ll see why this matters) and high-energy flex.

Loaded Vanguard owners swear by this board like there’s no other, and it’s quite common for them to ride daily it for 6 to 10 years! While many rave about the carving experience, some also use it for distance commuting, while a few like to freeride on it.

See the great reviews and pricing for the Loaded Vanguard here on Loaded’s website

*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.

Riding experience

loaded vanguard carving and pumping

The Vanguard impresses you by its responsiveness the moment you step on it. The flex is so bouncy you feel like you’re on a trampoline – especially the flexier versions. This allows for very deep carves and slashy pumps you don’t typically get on other boards.

Riders generally agree the Vanguard is the ultimate carving board – some refer to it as a “carving system”. The bounce in the deck is extremely energetic yet forgiving. The camber gives you release/pop out of your turns. Many riders who’ve owned many different boards feel the Vanguard is by far the best they’ve ever ridden.

The carving feel you get also depends on the amount of flex you choose – the Vanguard comes in 5 different flex options. Although some riders start with a stiffer option, many end up swapping it for a flexier version as they get hooked on the flexy carving feel.

The deck flex combines with the Paris trucks to offer one of the smoothest and most responsive carving feel. Because of the topmount design, the Vanguard has a tight turning radius. Riders commonly evoke a snowboard-like experience.

The flex and large wheels (optionally the very large 80mm Kegels) also result in very comfortable shock absorption on cracks and rough pavement.

The “trampoline” feel of the Vanguard can take a bit of getting used to initially but typically ends up being addictive. Your weight counteracts the flex which locks you in position and results in a special smooth riding feel.

The bouncy flex of the Vanguard results in very deep pumps, not often found on other boards. This makes it a very good board for distance pumping and commuting (LDP) due to its special pumping capabilities.

Riders also love the Vanguard’s light weight, which makes it easy to carry around when cruising or commuting on it.

The Vanguard is commonly used for dancing and freestyle as well – particularly the long version. Due to the flex and carving ability, it very suitable for cross-stepping, ghost riding, and doing some kickflips and light slides, e.g. with Orangatang Stimulus wheels.

The Vanguard, on the other hand, is not the best board for high-speed freeriding and downhill. Most riders agree it has too much flex for speeds over 25 mph, and sliding can feel a bit sketchy due to the camber. The lack of concave also makes it more challenging to keep on the board.

See the great reviews and pricing for the Loaded Vanguard here on Loaded’s website

Vanguard shape & construction

loaded vanguard construction bamboo & fiberglass

The Loaded Vanguard is a symmetrical topmount shape with a length of either 38″ or 42″ (two sizes) by 8.5″ width, quite narrow compared to most other symmetrical cutouts. The wheelbase of each version is 31.5″ and 35″.

The deck has a hybrid construction with vertically laminated bamboo core and triaxial snowboard-like fiberglass top and bottom. It features beautiful bamboo veneer graphics on the bottom.

The Vanguard has a cambered platform (higher in the center than at the mount points) which combines with the composite material to give the deck that high-energy springy feel it’s known for.

The Vanguard’s shape is tapered at both ends with big wheel cutouts for maximum wheel clearance, allowing for deeper carves and tighter turns – the board’s primary focus.

loaded vanguard shape

The Vanguard also features sidecuts (a narrowed “waist”) to reduce torsional stiffness between the feet. This results in better control in tight turns and contributes to that special carving feel.

The deck’s light concave is also designed for an optimal carving and pumping experience, allowing the rider to shift their feet freely for deeper turns.

As mentioned, the snowboard-like bamboo and fiberglass material used to produce the Vanguard results in a relatively lightweight board for it’s (full) size. The deck alone comes in at between 2.7 lb and 3.8 lb depending on the length version and natural variation in the bamboo material.

The complete setup for the 38″ length weighs around 7+ lbs and 8+ lbs for the 42″ length.

Like most Loaded longboards, the Vanguard really stands the test of time and can handle a lot of abuse. Riders praise the boards’ exceptional reliability and durability. Many have been riding their Vanguard for 6 years, sometimes even up to 10 years, without any failure, and choose to buy it again once theirs gets too old.

See the great reviews and pricing for the Loaded Vanguard here on Loaded’s website

Loaded Vanguard size & flex

loaded vanguard flex

As mentioned the Vanguard comes in two different lengths and 5 different flex ratings, so you may need some help in choosing the right deck for you.

One thing that’s not immediately clear about the Vanguard is that size and flex are tied to each other: Flex1 and Flex2 are associated to the 42″ length (wider stance, bigger riders), while Flex3, 4, and 5 come with the 38″ (average size riders). The longer a deck, the stiffer it needs to be for strength and ground clearance.

Now the choice of size and flex option is typically based on your weight, height/stance, and riding style. As a rule of thumb, heavier riders generally choose stiffer decks, and taller riders go for longer decks.

The following chart shows Loaded’s suggestions – I’ve added deck length as well:

Flex ratingDeck lengthRider weight
Flex 142″175 – 230 lbs
Flex 242″150 – 210 lbs
Flex 338″150 – 200 lbs
Flex 438″120 – 170 lbs
Flex 538″80 – 140 lbs

So if you’re a heavier rider (200+ lbs) for example, you should probably opt for the bigger version with Flex 1 or 2 for a stronger deck.

The above chart, however, is only a general guide, and riders often choose based on their own riding preferences. For example, you may choose a flexier version than the chart suggests for more responsive carving or for more control and tighter turns at low speed.

On the other hand, a stiffer board will be more stable at higher speeds. It will also hold up better for hard freestyle tricks such as shuvits, bonelesses etc.

Riders also tend to prefer the longer and stiffer deck versions of the Vanguard for long sweeping carves down small hills. The 38″ flexier versions, on the other hand, are often preferred for flat terrain and crowded areas such as a college campus as they are more responsive and nimble.

These are some concrete examples from actual Vanguard owners:

  • One 165 lbs rider is very comfortable on the 38″ Flex 4
  • One 150 lbs rider feels just right with the 38″ Flex 3
  • 185 lb rider (6’1) rode Flex 1 / 42″ for a few months then switched to Flex 4 / 38″
  • 200 lb (6’1) rider raves about carving on his Vanguard 42″ Flex 2

If in doubt, Vanguard riders recommend erring on the flexier/smaller side (for an average rider weight) as in many cases, those who start with a stiff deck end up switching to a flexier one after a while.

It’s worth noting, however, that decks will generally do become flexier over time as they break in.

See the great reviews and pricing for the Loaded Vanguard here on Loaded’s website

Loaded Vanguard setups

loaded vanguard setup

The Vanguard comes in two Loaded recommended setups, “Carving and pumping” and “Monster truck” – though you can alternatively go for a custom config.

The Carving and pumping setup focuses and fluid, fast, and smooth carving with large (75mm) and grippy Orangatang In Heat wheels. You can see the Carving & pumping setup on the Loaded website.

The “Monster truck”, on the other hand, includes the HUGE 85mm Caguamas – also a 80A duro like the In Heats – for really fast and smooth riding.

The fact that you can run 85mm wheels is an indicator of the Vanguard’s amazing clearance and carving-focused design – most “normal” longboards would at least need big risers to run these wheels wheelbite-free.

The Caguama setup includes high-rebound Orangatang Nipple Bushings for uber-responsive carves, and a custom washer configuration to ensure a smooth and durable setup. This “Monster truck” Vanguard setup can easily roll over all kinds of obstacles on the pavement.

See the Vanguard Monster truck setup on Loaded’s website

Alternative setups riders also use include Randal RII 180mm in the front for super-efficient distance pumping. The Holey, Crail, Bear Grizzly, Tracker Fastrack, and S Original trucks also play very well with the Vanguard.

Some Vanguard riders run smaller 70mm wheels for agile cruising, dancing and freestyle.

Final words

The Loaded Vanguard is a very durable, high-flex, uber-responsive longboard built specially for carving and pumping. It’s lightweight, playful, and buttery-smooth, built with the highest quality.

This board is particularly great for hard carving, distance pumping, and even dancing/freestyle. It’s also exceptionally smooth and comfortable for all-around cruising.

Louis

Saturday 17th of September 2022

Where's the detailed comment I left earlier this week??

Louis

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

Vanguard owner here (Flex 4 with 85mm wheels and Paris trucks, 6'1", 180lbs) coming from a much shorter and stiffer surfskate (C7 trucks)...

While I really enjoyed the low-speed, crazy-tight turns of surfskating in parking lots, I find longboard carving to be more fun. Obviously, the turns aren't as tight because of the longer wheelbase, but the speed is so much higher. In the end, you get the same feeling of balancing that centrifugal force. But you cover so much more distance! Also, there is something magical about the flexing of the cambered Vanguard - feels just like skiing when it rebounds after you compress it. Also, when combined with 85mm wheels, pebbles and sidewalk cracks just aren't a concern anymore.

However, what none of the reviews prepared me for is that the Vanguard, unlike a surfskate, can't be pumped from a standstill or pumped uphill. It requires *momentum* in order to pump/carve. That means 6 hard kicks to get you up to speed. Then, if you're on flat ground, you can pump and it simply becomes a question of maintaining that momentum with good pumping technique and cardio (just like on a surfskate) and timing the rebound from the deck with the rebound from the bushings (unlike a surfskate). And if you're on a slight downhill, you can either pump to accelerate (seemingly no limit to how fast you can go) or turn the pumps into crazy carving arcs of variable radius. (Again, the flex adds so much to the experience.) It's truly amazing how easy that last part is. It's also amazing how forgiving the board is to little balancing errors, and how tolerant it is to foot placement (again, unlike a surfskate). Last thing: the Paris trucks need to be loose (nut flush with threads) for carving fun. Yet that doesn't affect pushing/kicking stability at all (unlike on Carver trucks).

I've tried a lot of things to make the Vanguard more pumpable at slow speeds (like after two kicks instead of six kicks). In order of effectiveness: Orangatang orange nipples up front; 7 degree wedge up front; 165mm hanger width in the back (down from 180); 7 degree dewedge in the back; 43 deg baseplate in back (down from 50); 165mm hanger width up front; purple Cags up front (orange in back); running the back Cags backwards for shorter track. (Note that I tried Nipples and Knuckles in the back - orange and purple - and can't find anything better than the red Paris V3 stock barrel/cone bushings.)(Note also that I can't tell the difference between Flex 4 and Flex 3!) After all that effort, my conclusion is that I have only very marginally improved the performance as compared to the stock Paris 180mm symmetrical setup! To me, that means 2 things: this board is awesome in stock form; this board truly is a momentum board - for whatever reason.

By the way, this board is way more competent than it has a right to be at my local skatepark going down and up ramps and obstacles, and around waves. Again, it is just incredibly tolerant of rider error.

Bottom line: this is an incredible board that delivers a carving sensation like nothing else short of parabolic skis or a snowboard. It is also super nimble while also efficient enough to cover a couple of fast miles over flat ground - a perfect commuter. But *do* expect to kick as much as you pump. Anyone want to buy my Omakase?

Louis

Daniel Michael Sasson

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Hey, so lately I've been doing more surfskating, and I was wondering how the vanguard would pair with a pair of carver cx trucks? Would that be too much with the flex and everything? I've put the CX trucks on an omakase and that actually has been awesome. (I've actually been able to pump some pretty steep hills) Wondering also if I'd be able to pump uphill with the vanguard as I would have less control over the front trucks? Thanks again for this awesome site!

Peter Swan

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Jesse, thanks for this great review. Two questions please: I weigh 154 lbs, have ordered Vanguard flex 5 (the only one available) – do you think it will be good for pumping? Too flexy? About trucks, I have Paris 180 mm, and Poppys about 110 mm with spacers to extend to about 146 mm (from a GBomb). What do you think – which would you recommend I try?

Nicho

Saturday 6th of March 2021

Hi, how can I choose the flex (And the trucks/wheels set that are proposed) ? Knowing I'm a few months new on longboards, I like carving, riding around for long distance, afraid of too much speed (very smooth hills for me are perfect ), love the sensation of snowboarding and i'm 5ft10, 85 to 90 kg and 54 y.o with a old background of different board sport. Thanks ! 😊