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October 26, 2019

How To Choose Your First Skateboard Deck

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You want to skate and are probably wondering how to go about picking out your first skateboard. Practically everyone has tons of questions when they first decide to take up skateboarding. Questions like what skateboard dimensions are best? What in the world are trucks? Does the brand of bearings matter? 

No doubt, there are plenty of questions to consider when buying your first skateboard. So it can be an intimidating process without some guidance. Today we will show you how to choose your first skateboard deck and other important components.

At Empire, we live and breathe skateboarding. So we understand all the ins and outs. We will be examining the most important things to consider when purchasing your first skateboard deck and its subsequent parts.

1. The Skateboard Shop

You should visit a local business/store that also has an online skate shop to buy your skateboard. This is because physical stores are sometimes limited in their on-hand inventory. However, a skate shop with an online store typically has more variety of options to choose from, making sure your needs will be met.

Stay clear of those toy stores that sell sub-par skateboards at best (e.g. Walmart). Otherwise, you will eventually wind up in a real skate shop to grab the real thing. No reason to waste your money.

Are you going to shop online? New Zealanders should purchase their skateboards from local online shops. This is because shipping and returns will be much easier. A lot of companies don’t provide free returns or exchanges for New Zealanders and delivery often takes ages.

A local online shop, however, will usually offer free return shipping and fast delivery. Not to mention you will be helping the local community thrive.

2. The Skateboard Deck Width

The width of your skateboard deck depends on the kind of skateboarding you want to do. Something light and narrow typically means flips, as well as maneuvers, will be easier to learn. However, a larger skateboard provides more stability and space, which is important if you plan on skating off huge ramps.

While flips are harder to do on a bigger board, you are able to catch flips much easier and have more room for your feet. Most likely, you will be making a trade-off somewhere based on the type of skating you want to do and your body mass.

You will find skateboard decks ranging anywhere between 7.5 to 9.5 or more inches in width. Also, worth noting is that it is not uncommon to see experienced skaters doing highly technical tricks or tons of flips on wider decks.

3. Skateboard Wheels

Like the deck, your skateboard wheels will depend on how you plan to skate. Street skating wheels should be lightweight, highly responsive and generally smaller, making it easier to flip the board. Anything between 49 – 52 millimeters (mm) in measurement should be good.

Consider going for something between 54 – 60 mm if you plan to transition or “vert” skate. That is because larger wheels allow for more speed, which is part of the point of vert skating.

Vert Skate
A man vert skating. Image source:

You never want to go too big because your wheels will hit the skateboard when you turn. However, you shouldn’t go too small either because you will end up having to deal with lots of debris. So maintain a good balance.

4. Skateboard Trucks

Trucks are sort of like the skateboard axles and connect your wheels to the deck. The most important things to look at when picking up your trucks are width, height, and tightness. 

The width of your trucks needs to match the skateboard. You want it to be practically the same size. Always ask about the deck width if you can’t easily find it on the board before picking out trucks for it.

Height depends on wheel size. You need enough space between the deck and wheels to make sure they don’t interfere with each other. Otherwise, it can mess with your momentum and throw you off the board.

The tightness of your trucks will depend on preference. Super-tightening your trucks will make the board very stiff, which is stable but won’t be as responsive when turning. A loose truck will be wobbly but turning is highly responsive.

5. The Skateboard Deck Shape

The shape of your skateboard deck refers to its concave. There is usually a downward dip in the middle when you look at any skateboard. That is the concave, the area between the nose and tail that curves up, including the lip-like looking edges.

Skateboard Deck Shape
Image source:

You can usually tell where the nose is on your skateboard deck by looking for the tiny indentation on it. Also, there is typically a round sticker that identifies the tail. Not the one that specifies the width but often a colorful small round sticker on the deck. The deeper the concave, the easier it is to flip your board since you will have more leverage. However, you can catch flips better in mid-air using a flatter board.

Go for a really flat or deeper board depending on how you plan on riding your skateboard. What you get is going to be up to preference. So test out different skateboard decks before purchasing or settling for one.

6. The Wheel Bearings

The bearings sit inside your skateboard wheels, allowing them to spin freely. Skateboard bearings come in one size but not all bearings are the same. In the skateboarding industry, ABEC (Annular Bearing Engineers' Committee) measurement indicates whether or not ball bearings have been tested for precision and durability. 

Levels start from ABEC 3 and up to 11. Basically, the higher the number, the better your bearings will function. As a beginner, you shouldn’t worry too much about getting high-grade bearings. Instead, start with a mid-range ABEC rating but invest in something better once you become a good skater.

7. Grip Tape

Grip tape is the top sheet on your deck that looks like sandpaper. As the name implies, its purpose is to prevent you from slipping off the skateboard when riding or performing tricks. There isn’t a lot of differences between brands when it comes to grip tape except for colors. They all have good grip regardless of what you buy.

8. Skateboard Deck Graphics 

The graphic on your skateboard deck doesn’t matter in terms of functionality but is nice to have. This is because it eventually fades away as you use your skateboard. The only time graphics should matter is if you plan on hanging your skateboard up for decoration without actually skating. However, there is no fun in that.

The “Complete” Skateboard

Getting a skateboard that is already assembled for you is called a “complete”, which is recommended for beginners. This is because it will save you time. Plus it is a much cheaper option than buying individual parts and building a skateboard. You will find a plethora of complete skateboards and tons of board parts if you plan on putting one together at the Empire Skate shop.

Furthermore, buying a complete prevents mistakes. You may pick trucks that are too wide, grab excessively large wheels, focus on the wrong things, etc. Also, there isn’t going to be a noticeable difference between a complete and custom setup unless you are a pro skater.

Skateboarding Tips For Beginners 

  • Make sure you have proper protective gear. Pick up a good quality helmet, skating shoes, wrist brace, including knee and elbow pads.
  • Consider going with a thick and heavy skateboard deck that has fewer curves to reduce the likelihood of slipping off. Plus it helps for maintaining control.
  • Keep your trucks loose. Check the trucks of your skateboard once you receive it and loosen those trucks if they are too tight. As previously noted, this is helpful when making turns.
  • Get comfortable with your skateboard by standing and jumping on it. Do this on a non-slippery surface like carpet or grass.
  • Learn the basics first before going on a real ride such as being balanced on it or placing your feet in different positions.
  • Practice making turns as you ride.
  • Learn how to stop your skateboard with the “footbraking” method. Simply take off your back foot and grind it to the ground.

Skateboarding is Good For The Body

Skateboarding is a very fun and healthy activity that doesn’t take long to learn. You can get good at skateboarding and begin performing tricks with enough practice. Skateboarding also encourages individuality and artistry. Not to mention it is a cool way of moving around the city.

There is really no downside to skating. You can get in shape pretty fast, improve body posture, balance, and flexibility. While competing isn’t necessary, you can always join a club to compete in events. However, most people skate for fun.

Lastly, think about your body mass and how you plan to skate when choosing your first skateboard deck. For example, if you plan on skateboarding as a means of transportation but have a large body mass, then something big may work. Similarly, if you intend on doing lots of flips but have a smaller body mass, then a small, narrower board might be better.

1 Response


March 30, 2020

I’m currently researching skateboarding as my daughter would like to start and I, having recently turned 40, have always wanted to learn so I found this page incredibly useful thank you.

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