Since the advent of the urethane wheel, surfers took to longboards to emulate the feeling of riding a wave. Modern construction and materials have pushed longboards to roll farther and more smoothly, and rail around corners like a snowboard on a hill. Most commonly used to get around town, longboards still provide a thrill when you find time for a session of "sidewalk surfing."
Longboard vs. Skateboard
Skateboards are shorter than longboards and have small, hard wheels that make the ride pretty harsh. Longboards are, well, longer and have larger, softer wheels for smoother rolling. They have wider decks and wider trucks, which serve to improve stability—good if you’re headed downhill!
Anatomy of a Longboard
Longboard decks are made with maple laminations. The more layers, the stiffer the board, which is good for advanced riders and durability. Fewer layers make a board more flexible and comfortable to ride. The weight of the rider will also affect how much a board flexes. Recently manufacturers like Never Summer started including fiberglass and carbon fiber into their boards. Koastal and Arbor like to use wood on the topsheet, which definitely improves the aesthetics.
Longboard trucks are wider than skateboard trucks for better stability at higher speeds. Some boards are have drop-mounted trucks, which lower the deck in relation to the trucks. This allows you to push and foot-brake more efficiently since you’re closer to the ground.
These small rubber components determine how a longboard turns. Bushings are available in different shapes and hardnesses to make the board easier to turn (loose) or firmer to carve (hard). Individual preferences vary. We recommend that you ride the stock bushings and then adjust to your taste.
The larger the wheel, the better it rolls over cracked tarmac and road debris. Softer-durometer wheels also smooth out road buzz. Longboards usually have a durometer between 60a and 90a; the higher the number, the harder the wheels. Harder wheels are useful for sliding.
Bearings are an important part of a smooth ride. Most boards have oil-filled bearings that benefit from the occasional drop of bike chain lube. Bearings eventually fail and often go rusty from riding in the rain, but they’re simple to replace.
You should choose a board for the type of skating you do most, but remember, longboards are versatile. So even if you buy a board primarily for going downhill, you can still use it to get around town.
The faster you go, the more you appreciate a stable board. A drop-mounted board gives you a lower center of gravity and makes it easier to slow down by foot-braking. A longer wheelbase also reduces the incidence of speed wobbles. Remember your helmet pads and gloves.
If you want to drift around corners and slide to slow down or change direction, you need a board that’s symmetrical front and back. Freeride boards are also often drop-mounted, which allows you to have more lateral control over the wheels.
Perhaps the most similar to snowboarding and surfing, cruising boards are perfect for enjoying the ride. Cruise boards should have soft wheels and flexible decks. Shorter boards are useful if you need to carry your longboard onto a bus or into the office. Shorter boards also turn more quickly, which is helpful in crowded streets and on slalom courses. Longer boards are just plain fun and let you practice some footwork while you ride.