Spring is just around the corner here in Canada, and with the turn in weather you may find yourself wanting to start the season fresh with a new complete skateboard. Maybe it’ll even be your first board, and you’ve been thinking about what to get all winter. Regardless, we have put together this piece on how to choose a skateboard, how to assemble it, and what to note when riding it.
First thing is first. If you live in a city or town that has a locally owned shop, we suggest going there to purchase your board. The strongest skateboard scenes tend to be direct results of shops that work hard for their community. Your local shop is typically going to be run by people that lobby city council for skateparks, put on contests and demos, make local videos, support up and coming skateboarders, along with all the other stuff that gets you stoked. Support them whenever possible, and you will reap the rewards.
The Antisocial Skateboard Shop board wall.
Ok, you are at the shop. Check out the board wall. What stands out to you? Some people like to say that graphics don’t matter, but given the choice, why wouldn’t you choose a graphic that catches your eye? If the artwork on your board means something to you, then by all means, start there.
A stack of boards. You’ll have plenty to choose from.
Next, you’ll want to consider the size and shape of your board. Your shop will likely have boards with sizing like: 7.75”, 8”, 8.125”, 8.25”, 8.38”, 8.5”, 8.75”, and upwards from there even. Don’t get too hung up on sizing if you are just starting out. The difference between some of those board sizes are tiny, and you won’t see a huge change until you have been skating for long enough to have developed your own preferences. Average deck sizes fluctuate with the times, and right now the most common is going to be around 8.25” wide.
The width of your deck.
So the key sizing to look for is width. Stand on some of the boards that look good to you and see what feels right. There’s no set sizing for anyone; it’s all personal preference.
Stand on your potential deck to get a feel for its shape.
Board lengths will vary, as will tail and nose lengths. 32” long is about the standard, with tails around 6.5” and noses near the 7” mark. Wheelbases will be around 14.25” long. Check out the below photos for all the corresponding measurements on this Brad Cromer Krooked deck:
Popsicle shapes (rounded noses and tails) have been the standard for two decades now, but with the recent resurgence of more unique shapes, you may have a variety of options at the shop. The popsicle shape is going to be the most common, and give you the best all-around use of the board, but if you are drawn to the decks with the more old-school type shapes, then by all means, grab whatever you want to shred.
A variety of “old school” shapes.
Standard “popsicle” shapes.
A pro model deck is going to cost you around $80. Your shop may also carry some of their own branded product or some local brands, and may sell those decks for somewhere between $50 and $70. Please note, all prices in this article are approximate and may vary depending on products and locations.
So you’ve got a board. Keep that nearby, and it’s time to pick out trucks. There are a lot of truck brands out there, and in order to confuse you, many of them use different types of measurements to denote the size of their trucks. Well maybe not to confuse you, but it’s just the way they are. Here are all the parts that make up your trucks:
Top row: pivot cup; baseplate with kingpin sticking up; kingpin nut.
Middle row: axle nut; two washers; hanger (which has the axle running through it); two washers, axle nut.
Bottom row: top bushing (the smaller one); top washer; bottom washer; bottom bushing.
An assembled truck, as it comes at purchase.
Trucks are the most important part of your skateboard. Trucks allow you to turn, which you’ll quickly find out is very important. Whatever you choose, you’ll have them for much longer than anything else on your set-up. They’ll take constant abuse and keep you turning for as long as you need.
Your skateshop will probably have 3 or 4 brands of trucks, each in various sizes and possibly various colours too. See what catches your eye. From there, size those trucks up to your board…
The axle of your trucks should go to nearly the edge of your board.
There are benefits to different widths of trucks. The narrowest trucks will give you the tightest turns possible, which is ideal if you are a fan of getting technical. The widest trucks will be the most stable at high speeds, but they will make the longest and most drawn out turns. Odds are you probably want to land somewhere in the middle, to offer the best all-around board. You are also going to have the option of a “low” or “high” truck. In most cases, there won’t be a huge difference between one and the other. In theory though, a low truck should give you a bit more stability, as you are lower to the ground, and a quicker pop, as there is less room between the tail and the ground when you snap. Alternatively, a high truck will allow you a bit more room to turn without getting wheel bite against your board, and you could argue you’ll get more pop since your board tips back further before making contact when you ollie. But really, it’s a minor size difference, so just go with what looks and feels right to you.
Ideally the axle should be as wide or just slightly narrower than the width of your board. It just makes the most sense that way, and it’ll make your board feel more like a cohesive unit when you are turning. It’s centered and balanced best that way.
Trucks are going to cost you between $60-80 for a set.
Now you’ve got a set of trucks that fit your board well. It’s time to choose wheels.
A variety of wheels. Big, small, soft, and hard.
The diameter (height of the wheel) will be measured the same from one brand to the next, but the durometer (hardness or softness) will sometimes be measured on different scales. Let’s talk diameter first.
Your shop is probably going to have an offering of wheels from around 49mm up to 63mm. They may even have larger wheels, but that’s creeping longboard territory. 63mm will be plenty big for the majority of people. The average size of wheels right now is around 54mm. Small enough to not be too heavy, yet big enough to get over cracks and pebbles. If you are primarily going to be getting technical on smooth, clean ground, then you might want to just stick small, say a 50mm wheel. If you are going to be riding really rough streets, big bowls, or who knows, maybe even mega ramps, you’ll want to go big, like 58mm or 60mm wheels. It adds some weight, but it will be a smooth and fast ride.
Wheels, from 50mm on the left to 60mm on the right.
Now, let’s move on to the durometer of wheels. Typically for skateboarding, you are going to want a fairly hard wheel, one that gives you enough grip to make turns, but that gives you some slide when you need it, like when you are pivoting, powersliding, or when the wheel is making contact while skating ledges. If you aren’t going to be doing tricks, if your skateboard is mainly just for getting around in a quick and fun manner, then you might choose to go with a softer wheel. Soft wheels can be handy to have on one of your set-ups: when you are trying to take it easy; when it’s raining; or when you want to skate a spot that’s just too crusty, they can give you that smooth roll needed to pull through.
A soft wheel. You can squeeze it a bit.
You’ll also see different shapes of wheels. Some will be very thin, and others rather wide. Thin wheels will be faster, as there is less contact area with the ground, while wide wheels will be smoother and better on rough terrain. Think about what you’ll be skating, check out your options, and don’t be afraid to try new styles when you have the opportunities.
Wheels are going to cost you around $50.
On we go to bearings. When it comes to bearings, you’ll hear a lot about Abec ratings. You’ll hear that mostly from other kids, because the people at the shop probably don’t want to talk about them. Basically, the rating number means the higher the number, the finer the polish on the balls inside the bearing. Shops will tend to have some bearings available with ratings of Abec 3, 5, and 7. When it comes down to it, bearings go in your wheels and make it turn. More expensive ones tend to roll faster and break less often. That’s the bones of what you need to know.
A bearing, with it’s shield on, in a wheel.
Again, there are going to be a variety of bearing brands, and they will probably fall into three price categories:
$12-15: Your shop will probably have some bearings in a clear plastic tube, or some other small package. Entry-level bearings that you can afford to get dirty and beat up. They are prone to breaking at times though, having the case crack and the balls go spilling out onto the ground. Which will send you back to a shop to try to pull the outer bearing ring out of your wheel (a tricky move), and then scrounging through a case of old bearings left behind trying to find one that turns well enough to get you back into the streets.
$25-30: The average bearings. Take decent care of these and you’ll make them last for a few deck changes.
$60 and up: Getting into the fancy stuff. “What the pros ride.” These tend to be “Swiss Precision Bearings”, which is a sign of quality in a variety of things, from watches, to knives, to chocolate. With the price comes quality, in the form of a faster bearing that you will rarely have explode and interrupt your session.
Some people swear by popping the shields off their bearings. Those people also happen to be the ones that get their bearings for free. Go figure. It will make them louder, which is cool, but the shields are on there to keep them clean and rolling smoothly, so it probably makes more sense to leave the shield on. It’s your call though.
A bearing, with it’s shield removed, in a wheel.
We are almost there. Now you’ll need some hardware to hold the trucks and board together. If you are young, you’ll probably choose Philips head hardware. That’s the one that looks like +. If you are more mature, you’ll go for Allen key. That’s the hexagon (shape with six sides). No use explaining why, just choose the one you like and you’ll figure it out eventually. As long as you didn’t put riser pads on your board (and there is no need unless you chose some massive wheels), 7/8” or 1” long hardware will be just fine.
And lastly, choose your griptape. If you are younger, you may be tempted by the graphic griptape. If you are older, you’ll go straight black, and if you are in between, you might go with black but doodle all over it with a paint pen. There is also perforated grip, which goes on easier with less air bubble problems, and it tends to have a slightly more coarse grip. You can only see the perforations from the bottom of the sheet though, so it’ll be no distraction when you are skating.
Again, whatever gets you stoked!
Graphic grip, custom grip, and standard grip.
Griptape will either be included for free with your board, or cost somewhere from $5 to $10.
Now you’ve got all the parts. Check back soon and we will give you a run through on how to set it up, and then we will be giving away a complete skateboard.