Choosing Your First Skateboard: A How-To Guide

Saturday, 02. 9. 2013  –  Category: Everything else

Guest post here from Let me know what you think in the comments.

So, you’ve decided to buy a skateboard. I’m not sure what may have compelled you to do this. Perhaps you were playing Skate 3 on your Xbox and got cocky. Maybe you’re already partial to an extreme sport or two, and fancied dicing with spinal trauma in a new way. Or, possibly, there’s a child in your life who thinks skate parks are cool and you just couldn’t bring yourself to buy a scooter. Whatever lead you down this path, let’s get off on the right foot and clarify one crucial piece of information – Skateboarding is dangerous. You will fall off and hurt yourself. Depending on how many tips you choose to take from Bam Margera, there’s a strong possibility that you will break a part of your skeletal anatomy and snap the skateboard in half in the process. So, this guide also comes with a disclaimer – Skate at your own risk. If you push yourself off a flight of steps and end up in casualty with your board in bits, that’s TOO BAD. I WARNED YOU. It probably had nothing to do with which skateboard you picked, it’s just part of the game.

I’m glad we cleared that up. Now, on to the nitty gritty.

When you shop for your first skateboard, the first thing that you’re likely to consider is your budget. I understand that there’s a recession going on and we’re all penny-pinching a bit, but now is not necessarily the time. A good, complete setup will cost around £100. Sure, there’s plenty of high street stores that will hawk their £20 completes to you like there’s no difference at all. But ultimately, those cheap little numbers are completely inferior to the real deal. They’re not made for sport and they’re not made for tricks. They’re made to be toys. They have no speed, no strength, no design quality. If you are over the age of five, you should loosen those purse strings and go for something that will last more than an hour on the street and actually provide you with some fun times. Once you’ve found yourself a proper skate shop to make your purchase in, this is where the joy begins. A lot of what you see – like graphics – will be down to personal taste. Got a preferred pro rider? Maybe go for something they ride or design (Jason Lee fronts Stereo Skateboards, for example). But ultimately, you can’t get a ‘wrong’ design, not unless you plan on skating with elitist posers who are conceited enough to judge you on it (in which case, you’re not going to have much fun anyway).

Video is Opinion: by Globe featuring Rodney Mullen.

A skateboard deck, aside from the artwork, will also vary in width. Commonly, decks will be available in 7.5”, 7.75” and 8”. You can also find ‘mini’ decks which measure in at under 7.5”, too, if that’s what you’re after. Your best bet is to stand on a few to try and work what feels best. Commonly, it’ll come down to how big your feet are… The bigger the feet, the bigger the deck, in general. As you get used to skating, you might develop different preferences. Some people find a narrower deck easier to do tricks on, for example. Most of these tastes will develop over time, so if you’re just starting out, I wouldn’t stress too much about it.

Nearly all quality skateboard decks are made of Canadian maple wood, so you probably won’t find much variation there, if you’re buying from an extreme sports store (and as we addressed previously, you should be). Some decks and setups market themselves as being ‘lightweight’, just to add something else into the mix, but it’s debatable whether they actually make much difference to the casual rider. Skateboard wheels are a pretty important part of this process, as I’m sure you can imagine. There won’t be much variation in size, but the firmness is worth considering. Soft wheels will grip a surface more and mould around contours in the ground with greater ease, but they’ll also wear down quicker and be more susceptible to cuts and splits. Hard wheels will slide well over smooth surfaces as they don’t grip so much, but that will make them quicker and possibly more difficult to control. The ‘A’ scale is generally used as the durometer, with wheels usually varying between 90 and 100A (the lower the number, the softer the wheel). 99A will probably suit you fine, initially.

You may also wish to consider how concave the deck is. In short, this means how steep the angle of the nose and tail are at the ends of the skateboard. Low angles make the board easier to control, but once you’ve got a bit more experience, you might want to try something a little more concave. It helps you get a bigger flip or jump, if you’re into that kind of thing. So, to begin with, you might want to opt for a flatter deck and take things easy.

Skateboard trucks probably won’t make too much difference to you in the early days, so long as you adjust them properly. Go for an established brand and you should be fine – Independent are a popular choice. As a really basic explanation, the kingpin nut can be tightened or loosened in accordance to how much you want the board to turn. You’ll soon establish a riding style to help you decide how to dial it… To begin with, you’ll probably need them pretty tight, so the board is nice and stable and the wheels don’t touch the bottom of the deck while you turn at speed (which will send you flying, probably straight to A&E).

Wheel bearings are the last piece of the puzzle that you’ll want to think about. They’re measured in ABECs – The higher the ABEC rating, the faster and smoother they spin. The best bearings will keep a wheel spinning with minimal effort. Bones is a pretty popular brand for strength, durability and speed, as well as coming in a variety of price points… So if you’re not sure, they’re probably a safe bet. Bearings tend to pop after a while, no matter what you buy… So you’ll have plenty of time to find a favourite brand, I’m sure.

So, those are the basics. You’ll have plenty of time to modify the various parts to complete your ideal ride, so don’t go overboard trying to get it perfect first time round. You won’t really know what you like until you get a feel for the sport, anyway… This is more about getting some quality first pieces that will last reasonably well while you get to grips. Now, away with you… Get practicing those kickflips so you can at least look half as good as your kit does!


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