Trying to decide whether to get a longboard or skateboard? Welcome to the world of hard choices and multiple possibilities.
Let’s start with the basics:
A skateboard will be shorter, narrower, stiffer, with smaller harder wheels and short street trucks designed for tricks and quick turns. A longboard will generally be larger (though not always) with larger, softer wheels and taller RKP trucks for smoother turns.
A skateboard is a good choice for ollies, kick flips, grinds, skatepark and street obstacles. It’s super portable and can be stashed in any backpack. A longboard works best for comfy cruising, distance commutes, fast freeride, and/or dancing and freestyle.
But wait, it doesn’t end here. While most street street skateboards are relatively similar sizes (around 30″ long by around 8″ wide), longboard sizes vary by A TON.
The longboard category ranges from mini-cruisers that are even smaller than a street skateboard (e.g. 28″ long) all the way to huge size boards such as 48″ dancers.
So when comparing skateboards and longboards, you need to understand what exactly is meant by “longboard”. In this article, “longboard” refers to everything that is NOT a traditional popsicle-shaped street skateboard.
These are the main aspects where skateboards and longboards differ:
- Tight areas
- Terrain type
- Stability at speed
I’ll briefly go through each to help you make an informed decision.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Portability
Most street (skateboard) decks are 30 – 32″ long and between 7.5″ and 8.5″ wide (with outliers). With their short TKP trucks and small 50 – 55mm wheels, complete skateboards are very compact and lightweight, easy to stash in a bag or shoved in a small closet.
With a full size longboard, it’s a whole different ball game, e.g. decks 34″ to 40″ in length, with tall and wide 180mm reverse kingpin trucks and wheels with diameters up to 70mm. These are bulky and relatively heavy – as much as 8-10 lbs for a complete.
An example of a longboard is the Loaded Icarus, 39″ long and weighing 3.5 lbs deck only. Talk about bulky! Yet it’s far from the heaviest longboard out there thanks to its lightweight bamboo and fiberglass construction.
At the other end of the longboard spectrum, mini-cruisers such as the 27.75″ x 9″ Loaded Ballona (2 lb deck) are even tinier and more portable than a street skateboard.
In between the two, mid-sized cruisers like the Loaded Omakase (33.5″ x 10″, 4lbs deck only) are easy to carry around and can be strapped to a backpack, even though they’re noticeable larger than a street skateboard.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Tricks
Skateboards are clearly designed for doing street tricks – ollies, shuvits, no complies, kickflips, grinds, boardslides, airs, nosegrinds, slides etc, thanks to a super stick symmertrical deck, small hard wheels, and super-tough street trucks.
Larger longboards are obviously harder to pop off the ground due to deck bulk and weight, and turning isn’t as snappy as on a skateboard. That said:
- Many cruisers e.g. the Landyachtz Dinghy or the Loaded Coyote are designed with urban slashing in mind, including ollying off curbs, popping over cracks and bumps, and slashing banks and ditches. They come with a beefy kicktail and sometimes a small nose – some hybrids even have double kicks – for doing manuals and kick tricks.
- Mid-to-full size longboards like the Mata Hari are designed for freestyle and dancing tricks – shuvits, manuals, ghost rides, boneless, tiger claws, peter pans, pirouettes etc
So, whether you opt for a skateboard or a longboard depends on the type of tricks you want to do – street maneuvers and skatepark transitions, city slashing, or classic longboard freestyle / dancing trickery.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Cruising
This one is a no-brainer as longboards are specifically designed for cruising. Although skateboarders will often cruise around the neighborhood, their main goal in life is to get their board off the ground and do street tricks.
A mid or full-size (34 to 42″) longboard will give you the best cruising experience. A roomy deck lets you relax and enjoy your ride along the beach. Big soft wheels (think 78a duro) make for a smooth ride over bumps, cracks, and rocks.
Flowy and responsive RKP trucks will also lead to a buttery smooth ride and a nice and surfy carving feel.
Jumping onto a skateboard after riding a longboard will feel like stepping into a shaker – every little crack in the terrain will send a vibration up your spine. Little wonder street skateboarders can’t think of anything but getting air…
Skateboard vs Longboard: Carving
Carving is another style of riding where a larger longboard will usually fare much better than a skateboard. The reason is the combination of RKP trucks and large grippy wheels.
RKP trucks, typically 150mm or 180mm wide, offer a fluid and responsive feel in turns. Carving is about making successive turns to either control or pick up speed, so the surfy feel RKP trucks offer are ideal for that kind of riding.
Longboard wheels – including those on smaller cruisers such as the Ballona or the Dinghy, generally have a wide contact patch and a sharp lip, resulting in good grip in tight turns.
Grip is important in carving as it keeps you from sliding unwillingly.
Skateboards always come fitted with smaller (53 – 55 mm) and harder (100a+) street wheels with narrow contact patch and rounded lips suitable for hard landings and tech slides. These wheels have low grip and are less than ideal for carving.
Street trucks (traditional kingpin) are also shorter and with a lower baseplate angle as well as harder bushings, making skateboards a lot less carvy / surfy compared to longboards and cruisers.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Commuting
Just like carving, commuting on a longboard will provide a much more comfortable and effective experience compared to a skateboard:
- A longer and/or wider longboard or cruiser deck makes commuting a lot more pleasant vs a street deck
- Large longboard wheels give you a lot more speed compared to small street wheels, and the soft duro absorbs the vibrations and shocks from imperfect terrain, offering a much smoother ride
- Drop-through and drop down commuters like the Pantheon Trip ride low to the ground resulting in easier pushing on distances compared to a skateboard
- Urban cruisers in the 30″ – 34″ range like the Loaded Coyote or the Omakase are as a lot more comfortable to commute on in inner cities areas and on sidewalks vs a skateboard, thanks to their directional shape and bigger wheels
So unless you want to work on your ollies and grinds during your daily commutes – which means you’ll be drenched in sweat by the time you reach school/work – a longboard or cruiser is generally much better suited for commuting than a skateboard.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Terrain
This is something I’ve already alluded to above. A longboard or cruiser, thanks to the fatter and softer wheels and taller trucks, will generally let you ride comfortably on many types of surfaces, including rough and beat up terrain.
If you’re tried riding a skateboard on messed-up pavement, you will know that feeling of your whole body shaking from the vibrations of your hard street wheels rolling on rough ground.
Street skateboards work best on smooth surface like the ones found in downtown plazas, underground parking lots, skatepark transitions etc.
Longboards with larger wheels and wider trucks can generally roll over any kind of pavement, you hardly notice the cracks and bumps and hopping on and off sidewalks is a breeze.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Speed
If speed is your thing, a longboard should probably be your first choice. Smaller boards like street skateboards and short cruisers are not designed to go really fast and will quickly start to wobble due to their short wheelbase.
Freeride and downhill riding works best with larger wheels with good grip. Again, softer longboard wheels with wide contact patch and a sharp square lip provide the best traction as speed.
Smaller street wheels can’t offer the same kind of roll speed, and their small diameter and rounded lip result in much less grip at speed.
Of course, if you’re a speed rider, you may choose slide-able wheels for your tech slides, switch riding, or pre-drifts at high speed, e.g. the 65mm x 45mm Orangatang Keanu wheel.
A drop-through or drop-down longboard with a larger wheelbase (e.g. 20-25″) will give you tons of stability at higher speed compared to a 12-14″ wheelbase skateboard.
While preferences vary – advanced freeriders often opt for a mid-size topmount like the Loaded Tesseract, while others prefer shorter decks – a longboard will always beat a skateboard for bombing hills.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Skatepark
Skateparks are of course skateboard territory. The short symmetrical, popsicle street deck with the double kicks, the hard wheels and the super-tough TKP street trucks, are all designed for roughing it up at the skatepark.
Catching big airs on large verts is part of skateboards DNA.
That said, some cruiser longboards also have their say at the skatepark. For one thing, the so-called hybrid, like the Landyachtz ATV series or the Arbor Axel Serrat Pro, are street-inspired longboards with a symmetrical shape, dual kicks, and TKP trucks design similar to their street skateboard counterparts.
These hybrids, however, come with larger street trucks (e.g. 169mm) and slightly bigger and softer wheels (e.g. 58mm 80a) compared to skateboards.
So while they’re technically longboards, hybrids have skatepark capabilities similar to street skateboards, but are a lot more versatile for things like commuting or freeride.
Also, some smaller cruisers (single kicktail with or without a small nose) e.g. the Loaded Ballona are skatepark-friendly, though perhaps not as suitable for insane big airs on ramps and highly technical tricks.
Many cruisers and mini-cruisers are also great for fluid bowl riding. Special mention for surfskates like the Loaded Carver Bolsa or the Landyachtz Butter.
Skateboard vs Longboard: Dancing / freestyle
Dancing and longboard freestyle can only be done on a dedicated longboard, a standard skateboard will not work.
You need a big roomy deck (40″+) for cross stepping, raised edges and wide surfy RKP trucks for carving, and big double kicks for manuals and flip tricks.
Popular dancing & freestyle boards include the 44.5″ Mata Hari and the 47″ Tarab.
Skateboards work best for street and park. While they’re easy to carry around and can be used for cruising and commuting, they’re not nearly as efficient and comfortable as a longboard for these riding styles.
Longboards includes many types of boards. Mid-sized boards can be great for distance pushing and/or freeride, depending on their shape, kicks, and truck mount style.
Full-size longboards (39″+) are very comfortable and stable for commuting and for going faster. They are an obvious choice for dancing and traditional freestyle. However, they’re not as nimble for crowded urban riding.
Mini-cruisers (< 30″) and cruisers (30 – 34″) are versatile longboards closer in size and function to street skateboards. They are better-suited than skateboards for longer rides and for rougher terrain.