Longboard vs. Skateboard – Which is Right for You?!
Nowadays, skateboarding and longboarding have developed into two very different coexisting cultures. However, the reality is that the origin of these boards come primarily from the same time period and similar groups of people. All the way back in the late 1950’s – early 60’s, surfers in Hawaii and California had already began bolting trucks and wheels onto various sizes of wood planks. While shorter planks offered more reactivity and response, longer planks offered increased stability and a “surf-like” ride. This period was simply the early development stages of what we now know as skateboarding and longboarding.
We’ve certainly come a very long way from the early days of longboards and skateboards. As you probably know, the skateboards and longboards of today now feature engineered, high-performance components. Years of development of urethane wheels, responsive trucks, high-speed bearings, and decks made from 7-plys of premium-quality maple, bamboo, and even fiberglass have created skateboards and longboards incomparable to the first boards. What do all these component developments and progression mean for you? Mainly, the “performance” skateboards and longboards of today are more fun than ever! But, this leads us to a very big question. Given the differences between these disciplines, which one is right for you?!
Skateboards and Skateboarding
Skateboard decks generally range from 7” x 28” (Children’s) to about 9” x 33” (large adult or pool/transition decks). The correct width for you is primarily determined by your foot size and personal preference. At the moment, it is generally agreed that a “standard” skateboard deck is around 8” x 32”. Wider decks offer more stability but are harder to flip, making them more ideal for ramp, pool, or skatepark skating. Thinner decks are more responsive and lighter, making them ideal for technical street skating, but they can feel too responsive or uncontrolled for skating transition/ramps. The size of skateboard trucks should generally be as close to the width of the deck they are mounted on as possible. Therefore, an 8” deck should have a truck with an 8” axle. Trucks are available in low, medium, or high sizes. Low trucks offer more stability and response, but high trucks offer a better turning radius and height for larger wheels. Skateboard wheels are generally between 50mm and 56mm. Smaller wheels are lighter and ideal for technical skating while larger wheels are faster and better for ramp/skatepark skating. Wheel hardness ranges from very soft (78A durometer) to very hard (101A to 84B durometer). Soft wheels offer a smooth ride on rough surfaces and are very sticky to the pavement while hard wheels are faster on smooth surfaces and offer slide-abilty for doing tricks like nose and tail slides.
The very first time you step on a skateboard, it’s nearly inevitable that you will feel very unstable. A standard skateboard is generally very responsive to turning movements (toe to heel pressure) as well as side to side movements (wheels rolling forward and backward). The result of this high-response is that it’s quite hard to learn to adjust for even the smallest body movements while on a skateboard. The general response from people when they first stand on a skateboard is that it’s “harder than it looks”. However, this difficulty and highly-responsive board creates a very unique experience. Skateboarding has an incredibly extensive number of tricks and styles the difficulty is why someone can practically spend a lifetime learning something new on it. As a rule, skateboarding is especially enjoyable for those who thrive on the act of progression and who like to continually practice to gain improvement.
Longboards and Longboarding
Longboard decks can differ in quite a lot of ways from “popsicle” style skateboard decks. One of the most obvious differences is the wide range of deck shapes and a generally larger size than a skateboard deck. There’s the classic “pintail” deck, decks with wheel wells, and decks designed with a “drop-thru” truck mounting system which allows the board to sit low with the wheels inside cut-out sections. In addition, longboards are made from different materials generally not found in standard skateboards such as bamboo or fiberglass. All these differences contribute greatly to ride performance, but we’ll try to sum it up. A traditional, stiff pintail deck offers a simple, entry-level ride that’s ideal for skating down the sidewalks and flat streets. Decks with a drop-thru system offer a more advanced and responsive turning system that allows for deep carves and high-speed turns while downhill skating. In addition, many longboard decks offer varying levels of flexibility. This flex allows the rider to lean into carves and turns for a more responsive ride. In general, Flex level 1 is for heavy riders 170 lbs. or more, flex 2 is between 100-170 lbs., and flex 3 is for smaller riders between 75-140lbs.
Next, longboard trucks are very different from skateboard trucks and are primarily made by different manufacturers. Again, the truck axle width should match the width of the board as close as possible and the baseplate of the trucks must be suited for your deck (standard or drop-thru style). Finally, longboard wheels are much different from skateboard wheels in that they are usually a very soft durometer and much larger. They are usually between a super soft 75A and soft-medium 88A durometer. In addition, sizes are generally between 56mm and 70mm. The large, soft wheels give the longboard the smooth and grippy ride they are known for which simulates a momentum-based, surfing-like ride. For those looking for a more “technological” approach to longboarding, it has become increasingly popular in recent years for skaters to ride an electric skateboard! This is a relatively new discipline that’s gaining great popularity as technological and design improvements are made. Electric skateboards usually have a pretty standard longboard design but with a high-performance motor attached to the wheels to eliminate pushing the board.
In general, the performance of longboards is not quite as reactive as a skateboard when first standing on them. The wide deck surface and large, soft wheels give longboards a much more comfortable ride. The increased overall weight means that longboards will not tend to “shoot out” from underneath you so quickly if your weight is slightly off-centered. However, there is one aspect that longboards undeniably reign superior to than skateboards: high-speed performance. The current world record speed on a longboard is 91 mph. Even if you don’t come near these speeds, longboards are great fun for those who are not so interested in tricks, but rather the intense adrenaline rush of racing down hills and carving through turns. If you’re looking to relax while cruising through town, just pack up your skateboard backpack with some essentials for the day, grab your longboard, and go out for some serious “sidewalk surfing”!
The Best Choice for Total Beginners
Whether a skateboard or longboard is best for you depends highly on your personal preferences and what you hope to get out of the experience. However, if you are purely concerned about getting outdoors and experiencing the feeling of riding on a board – longboarding is generally easier for complete beginners. A longboard will allow you to learn the feeling and motion of skating without the high reactivity of a skateboard that generally makes it difficult for beginners. After growing accustomed to the ride of a longboard, it will then also become much easier for you to adapt to a standard skateboard, should you decide later to try out skateboarding. Regardless of whether you choose a longboard or skateboard, there is one thing you can be sure to get with both – a whole lot of fun!