So you want to get into longboarding (or you’re already hooked) and you’re considering getting yourself a new longboard. Before you do this, you need to understand the types of longboards that exist on the market so as to choose one that’s well-suited for you.
At first it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of options and types of longboards available.
Longboard types are usually associated with riding styles, so the first question to ask yourself is, what kind of riding do you plan to do on your longboard.
We’ll start with an overview of the most common longboard riding activities. Then we’ll take a brief look at the things that make one longboard different from another. Lastly, we’ll bring the pieces together and discuss how each characteristic is associated with each riding style.
Note : if you’re looking for practical information on selecting your first longboard you can check out this no BS guide to choosing a beginner longboard.
Longboard types : riding styles
Let’s review the main kinds of longboard riding activities so you can better scope the features you need for your board based on the kind of things you want to do with it.
You plan to use your longboard mainly as transportation for commuting or going to stores and places around your neighborhood, or across town. You will primarily be pushing and braking with your foot over pavements.
Ask yourself if you’re more likely to rider your board for long distance commutes, or small alleys and sidewalks. This will influence the type of longboard that’s best suited for you.
in addition to push transportation, you intend to ride your longboard like a surfboard for fun, carving turns on flat ground or mild hills, alternatively doing leaning forward on your toes and backward on your heels for “pumping” – that is, gaining speed through quick successive turns.
You want to ride downhill at speed while chaining slides to control your speed. Slides involve turning your board sideways making yours wheels skid, slowing yourself down and controlling your descent. Kind of like skiing or snowboarding.
Freeride is considered an expert level style, so if that’s what you’re aiming for, make sure you have adequate skills and protective gear – believe me, crashing on a road hurts…
Freestyle / dance
You’re interested in more creative types of longboard activities, and want to learn and perform technical things such as street tricks, slides, manuals, flips, etc on your longboard.
Dancing means moving around on your board and crossing your feet a lot, so for that you’ll need a special type of longboard (see below).
Like freeride, freestyle also involves advanced board control skills, but if you’re a beginner it’s a good way to build these skills.
Downhill / race
You’re into sheer adrenaline and dream of bombing down steep hills crouched on your longboard for lowest wind resistance and maximum speed. This is definitely an advanced type of longboard riding activity, you’ll need some serious skills and the right equipment for it.
Which is your style ?
You probably have an idea of the riding style(s) you are most interested in. If you’re a beginner for example, you may want to get a longboard type to use as cool transportation, but you’d also like to be able to do fun things with it such as surfing the streets, riding down mellow hills, or learning to do some flips or slide tricks.
Or, maybe you just want the best longboard for riding to work everyday 5 miles across town.
The combination of features that make up a longboard is endless, but we can group these combinations into a number of longboards types that are best associated with one or more riding styles.
Keep in mind, though, that most types of longboards can actually be used for most of the riding styles – except perhaps things like extreme record breaking speed racing.
However, depending on your prefered usage, you may want to choose a more specialized board for that specific usage.
As an example, being a lifelong surfer, for my first longboard I mainly wanted to be able to practice carving turns along the boardwalk at the beach to build my surf skills, warm up before a surf session, or extend the fun afterward.
I wasn’t really that interested in doing street tricks, long distance cruising, or downhill speed. So I went looking for a carving board (keep reading for more info).
Let’s now look at which characteristics of a longboard determine the riding style(s) it is best suited for.
Longboard types : main characteristics
Board length and wheelbase
Length is the first thing you notice when you look at the longboards on display in a shop. The longer the board, the more stable it will be. Most cruising boards are between 38” and 42”.On the other hand, longer boards will be harder to turn, whereas shorter boards can take sharper turns.
Wheelbase is the distance between the wheels, more specifically between the inner truck mounting holes. This distance, combined with deck shape, is important because it determines how your feet will be positioned relative to the trucks (e.g. on top of the trucks or not), which affects responsiveness.
A longer wheelbase also makes for a more stable board, which is why it’s often quite long on speed boards (there are many other factors at play for speed riding though, keep reading).
Deck construction and flex
Decks are made by pressing together multiple layers of wood, bamboo, and/or composite materials. Deck construction plays an important role in the type of longboard being assembled and the riding styles it is best adapted for.
The most common and least expensive decks are made from maple or Baltic birch wood thin laminates pressed into shape. These are durable, the more layers the stiffer, and are the most common in basic cruiser boards.
Next up are decks made of bamboo sheets wrapped in composite laminates. More lightweight and with much more flex and springiness. Also quite durable. Flex is good for freestyle tricks, for example, but not so good for speed.
The most expensive and high performance type of decks are made from composite such as fiberglass, interwoven with some wood. These are lightweight and have flex properties that make the boards more forgiving and resistant to pressure. Great for speed boards.
Deck flex can be classified as soft / medium / stiff, depending on construction and shape :
- Soft (cruising) : great shock absorption but very unstable at higher speeds
- Medium (carving) : stable at speed, responsive to carving moves, moderate speed
- Stiff (freeride) : stability at higher speeds, less forgiving on bumpy ground
Different mount types (aka styles) can be used on different types of longboards. Mount type refers to the way the trucks that hold the wheels are mounted onto the deck.
Why is it important ? Depending on how the trucks are mounted, the center of gravity of the longboard rider will be higher or lower, which affects stability (the lower the more stable).
A lower deck brings more stability and reduces the rider’s effort to drop his/her foot to the ground for pushing and foot braking (cruising). A lower gravity center also makes sliding easier.
Mount type also affects whether the rider’s feet sit on top of the trucks or further from them, which impact the longboard’s turning agility. If your feet are on top of the trucks, you get more leverage and responsiveness when doing turns. You also get more grip.
These are the most common longboard mount types, in decreasing order of deck height – and so increasing stability and decreasing turn agility :
- Top mount : the deck is mounted on top of the trucks. This is a traditional and inexpensive type of mount for longboards.
- Drop through : the trucks are mounted through the board (cutout in the deck). This lowers the deck and the center of gravity a bit closer to the ground.
- Drop deck : not exactly a mount type but a specific deck shape that also serves to lower the board. The deck is molded such that the standing area (where your feet sit) is lower than the truck mounting points, bringing the center of gravity even closer to the ground.
- Double drop : combines drop through mount and drop deck. This is the lowest possible and most stable setup, not very common and often used on specialized downhill longboard types – it’s the most difficult and expensive setup to construct.
Drop through / drop decks are typically better suited for cruising and not so ideal for speed, since the board is not as strong structurally and maintains less grip – too much sliding for doing sharp lines and corners. However, some speed boards use them in combination with other characteristics (composite deck, certain shape features etc). Confusing huh ?
Deck shape is another essential characteristic of the different types of longboards. The first thing to mention is, a longboard may be either symmetrical (twin) or asymmetrical (directional).
Twin boards can be ridden both ways, and so they are well suited for technical tricks such as 360º slides. That’s why freestyle / freeride longboards types are often twin boards. On the other hand, many downhill and cruising / carving boards are directional.
Directional longboards may have a pintail (pointy tail), round tail, or square tail shape. These shapes give them stability and a surf-style feel, with lengths of 39”-48” being ideal for cruising.
Some decks have a kicktail, an upward curve on the end of the deck – twin boards may actually have one at each end. Kicktails are used for kicking tricks, obstacle jumps, and quick turns. They are usually a requirement for freestyle boards.
Deck shape details
Wheel cutouts are “cuts” in the deck to free the wheels from the risk of getting in contact with the deck (and crashing the rider) during sharp turns. An alternative option is wheel wells, small pits in the deck that give the wheels extra space for such turns.
Depending on longboard type, the deck may have concave, i.e. the rails are higher than the center of the board. This allows for more riding comfort and more secure foot grip.
There are several types of concave, each aiming to reinforce foot placement and grip. Downhill and freeride boards typically have deeper concave than cruisers. Danse boards are quite flat.
While concave refers to curving along the width of the longboard, camber is the curve that runs along the board’s length, with the middle of the board higher than the ends. Rocker is the opposite, that is the curve has a lower point in the middle that at each end.
Longboard types : pulling the pieces together
Now that we’ve looked in some detail at key differentiating aspects of longboard builds, let’s see how this adds up for each longboard type, that is, for each riding style.
Cruiser longboard type
cruiser board types will typically have a maple or bamboo directional deck with a bit of flex for shock absorption. They may have a drop deck for stability and easy pushing / foot braking, and possibly a drop-through mount (not so common). They often have soft big wheels for good grip and easy rolling over cracks and bumps.
A subtype of cruisers is so-called “push boards”, specifically designed for long distance transportation. They typically feature double drop decks and midsize wheels. They are not designed for turning, mainly for riding down the line on flat ground.
Carving longboard types
Carver boards are similar to cruisers but with additional features to enable hard leaning into sharp turns and flowing (like on a snowboard). The deck is usually mounted higher to allow for more responsive turns. It has more concave than cruisers, and often has wheel wells to avoid wheel bite during sharp turns. Trucks are set up to turn more aggressively, and the wheels are very soft for grip.
Freeride longboard type
Freeride type longboards come in diverse shapes and sizes, some symmetrical (most common) and some directional, with drop-through decks (most common), double drop, or even top mount – basically every option is possible ! Decks usually have less flex (not good for speed). The wheels are smaller and harder for sliding. These longboards have different degrees of concave and/or camber to offer riders a more secure foot position.
Freestyle / dance longboard type
Freestyle boards are similar to freeride boards but allow for more technical tricks. They are predominantly symmetrical. The decks are more flexible (not speed focused) and often wider to facilitate tricks. Mount type is typically drop-through, and they usually have one or two kicktails. Freestyle boards use many different types of wheels and trucks.
Dance type longboards are often very long (42” +) and wide to allow spinning around and walking. They are mostly flat with slight camber or concave. Decks have moderate flex.
Downhill longboard type
These are on the technical end, many of them with high-end composite-based (fiberglass) decks that don’t wobble as much at high speed. The boards are typically top mounted for control and stronger turning, although some boards are built with drop-through mount with stiffer decks. These boards often have advanced W concave and deep rocker for comfort and security. They use very hard wheels for grip and sliding at speed.
The table below summarizes the most commonly elements for each type of longboard :
|Cruising||Pushing||Carving||Freeride||Freestyle||Dance||Downhill / speed|
|Length / width / wheelbase||Lengthy, long wheelbase||Lengthy, long wheelbase||Shorter than cruiser||Wider for tricks||Very long (42″+) and wide||Long wheelbase|
|Deck construction||Maple, bamboo||Maple, bamboo||Same as cruiser||Composite|
|Deck flex||Soft||Soft, medium||Medium||Medium, stiff||Medium||Medium||Stiff|
|Mount type / drop deck||Drop-through, drop deck||Double drop||Top mounted||Top mount, drop-through, drop deck||Drop through||Top mount|
|Wheels / trucks||Big, soft, sharp edges||Midsize, narrow trucks||Wheel wells||Smaller and harder||Different types of wheels & trucks||Small and very hard|
|Deck shape||Directional pintail, square tail, round tail||Directional pintail, square tail, round tail||Directional, pintail, square tail, round tail||Twin or directional, wheel wells / cutouts||Mostly symmetrical, kicktails, wheel wells / cutouts||Directional or twin, wheel wells / cutouts|
|Concave / camber||Slight concave||Slight concave||Deeper concave than cruiser||Various degrees of concave / camber||Deeper concave than freeride for tricks||Mostly flat or with slight concave / camber||W concave, deep rocker|
Click here for an in-depth guide on how to select your first quality longboard based on your personal preferences and riding goals.