Figuring out how to buy a skateboard can be daunting, especially if you’re not sure what you are looking for. There are customizable parts, accessories and some fancy technology that can be overwhelming. Good news is, we can simplify it for you! At Tactics, about half our crew skates daily, so we put our heads together and came up with some tips. Our guide breaks it all down to give you the basics plus a few recommendations.
The first thing to consider is what kind of skateboarding you want to do. Do you want to skate your local skate park and learn tricks? Do you want something for commuting across town or campus? Or, would you enjoy charging down hills at high speeds? Take a look at the options below and note which features work well for the type of skating you want to do.
|Deck Width (in)||Suggested Truck Axle Width (in)|
|7.25 - 7.625||7.4|
|7.4 - 7.875||7.6|
|7.6 - 8.0||7.75 / 7.8|
|7.75 - 8.25||8.0|
|7.875 - 8.375||8.125|
|8.0 - 8.5||8.25|
|8.25 - 8.75||8.4 / 8.5|
|8.5 - 9.25||8.75|
|8.75 - 10.0||9.5|
|9.0 - 9.75||9.25|
|9.25 - 10.0||9.5|
The “popsicle” deck is the most popular shape because of its versatility and durability. These decks feature both a nose and a tail that are exactly or nearly symmetrical. Since the nose and the tail are shaped about the same it’s easy to do tricks no matter which direction you’re headed in. Most skateboarders stick to popsicle decks because of their functionality and reliability.
TIP: If you’re looking for your first deck, this is the best place to start. Popsicle decks work well for most types of skating.
A cruiser board is just that, a board that’s ideal for cruising across town. Cruiser boards are often about the same size as “popsicle” decks often have have a more unique shape. Cruisers are ideal for getting around because they are lighter and more nimble than larger longboards, allowing you to bob and weave through urban obstacles.
TIP: We recommend getting bigger, softer "Cruiser" wheels for this kind of deck to make the ride smoother and faster. Shop Cruiser Wheels
Old School decks pay respect to vintage 80’s-style skateboards. These decks are much wider and have longer wheelbases than standard and cruiser decks, making them stable and great for transition skating and transportation.
TIP: Extra width and short noses make old school boards more difficult to flip or lift off the ground, so they are not ideal for street skating. With some old school boards, the truck mounting holes are drilled to only fit certain trucks, so make note of the truck pattern before you buy the deck. If you’re not sure your trucks will fit, just give us a call and we’ll figure it out. Shop Old School Compatible Trucks
Longboards are often 8 to 12 inches longer than a standard skateboard. That added length makes them super stable for long rides and for high speed downhill runs. Available in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and truck mounting options, longboards are highly customizable for many types of riding. If you want to push long distances, skate fast down hills, or are a beginner looking for an easy board for learning to balance, check our Guide to Longboarding for more info.
If you are buying your first board, we suggest a deck that is proportional to your shoe size. If you wear men’s size 6.5 to 9, start out with a deck width of 7.5 to 8.0 inches. If you wear shoes 9.5 or larger, get a deck between 8.0 and 8.5 inches. Those general guidelines give you a place to start.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to try out different sizes to find out what works best for you. There’s no exact science about deck size – only what works for you.
Once you’ve been skating a bit you’ll start to figure out what board width suits your preferences. Narrower decks are lighter and easier to flip, but you’ll sacrifice some stability. Wider boards are more stable but are slightly less ideal for tricks. Skaters who like flip tricks, manuals, ledges, and flat bars usually prefer boards on the narrower side of the spectrum (7.75 – 8.25 inches). Someone who skates big bowls, hand rails, or likes to jump down large gaps at high speeds will be more comfortable with a larger board (8.25 – 9.0 inches).
Again, don’t let these guidelines confine you to one kind of board. There are always exceptions to the rules because it is possible to do any kind of skating on any size board. In the end these are some solid guidelines, but “what should I buy?” comes down to personal preference
Cruisers and longboards are similar in that they are meant for transportation and have bigger and softer wheels than standard skateboards. Here’s how to decide between a longboard and a cruiser.
Most skaters consider width is the most important dimension of the deck. That is measured straight across at the widest point of the deck. Skateboard decks generally range between 7.0 to 10.0 inches depending on the shape of the deck. There are boards that are narrower and wider than that, but they are not common and not practical for all around skating.
The length of the skateboard is measured from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Length usually is proportional to the width and ranges from 28 to 33 inches. Longboards can measure up to 44 inches.
The wheelbase of a skateboard deck is the distance between the centers of the inner most truck mounting holes. This distance ranges between 13.5 to 16 inches and is generally proportional to the deck length on standard popsicle decks. Some specially shaped boards and cruiser decks have differing length/wheelbase ratios. Wheelbase can impact stability and turning radius, but the effect is often subtle and not a major concern for a beginner.
Nose and tail are measured from the center of the outermost truck mounting holes and usually range from 5 to 7 inches. The nose is often slightly wider and longer than the tail, except on uniquely shaped or old school boards.
The classic 7-ply is the most common skateboard construction. The deck consists of seven thin layers of maple veneer, which are pressed and glued together with strong adhesives or resin. Maple is a dense hard wood that provides excellent strength and pop, making it the tried and true standard for decades.
Some skate decks are designed with layers of fiberglass or other materials to improve strength and retain pop. If you like to jump down stairs or put a heavy beating on your deck, check out these durable decks!
Some decks have vinyl or polymer coatings on the bottom to allow for smoother and longer slide tricks. Check these out if you want to boardslide through pockets or tail slide for days without loading up on wax.
Concave is the curvature upward across the standing surface of the deck, and is designed to add strength and help your feet grip the surface. All decks have varying degrees of concave. In time you’ll probably try a few different concavities and learn what feels best under your feet.
The nose and tail of a standard skateboard curve upward slightly to make tricks easier to perform. On most decks, the nose and tail are shaped slightly different. The nose is usually wider, longer and steeper than the tail which aids in nose-based (nollie) tricks, and also helps you differentiate the nose from the tail. Some shaped boards have very different nose and tail dimensions, and some old school boards lack noses all together.
Deck, grip, trucks – check – but you won’t get far without wheels. There are a lot of different wheels made for all kinds of skating. Some are specifically formulated for skateparks, some for sliding, some for rough ground, and some are designed to be good all-around wheels.
Harder (95-101a), mid-sized (50-58mm) wheels are usually preferred for park and street skating because they slide easily, are fast on smooth surfaces, and fit easily on any type of deck.
Built to fit on any deck and roll fast on any surface, cruiser wheels have a similar shape to park/street wheels, but are usually slightly larger (54-65mm) and much softer (75-90a). Throw on some cruiser wheels to make any skateboard a fun and fast way to get around town.
The biggest (65-75mm) and softest (75-85a) wheels available, longboard wheels are designed to power through rough surfaces and keep their grip through corners. There's a huge variety of options for everything from carving and sliding to downhill racing. Check out our Choosing Longboard Wheels page for more info.
The next part to select is skate trucks. The trucks are the aluminum T-shaped parts that mount to the underside of the deck. They hold your wheels and bearings and pivot with your weight to allow you to turn. There are two types of skateboard trucks, we'll cover each one below.
TIP: The size of trucks should usually match the width of the deck that they are being mounted to.
These trucks will mount to any standard or cruiser deck. There are many brands and various features to consider when your set up, including truck height, weight and replaceable components. Trucks are easily adjustable and allow you to loosen or tighten the boards responsiveness to how you adjust your weight.
These are much wider than standard trucks and made specifically for skating downhill, providing more stability at greater speeds. They also are adjustable so you can customize how your board responds and they may mount a little differently depending on what type of longboard deck you have.
For more information on trucks, check out our Skateboard Trucks Guide.
Lastly, you’ll need bearings and hardware. Bearings are inserted into the holes of your wheels, allowing the wheel to turn easily on the truck axle. Skate hardware are the bolts that hold the trucks on to your deck. Choosing bearings and hardware is a less critical decision because it will have less of an impact on your skating.
Bearings are standardized to fit in all kinds of skateboard wheels. All bearings will eventually get dirt and gunk in them which slows you down. Regular cleaning is recommended. Higher rated bearings will perform better, roll faster and retain more speed. Some longboard bearings that have built in spacers. Those will not fit into a standard skateboard wheel.
Similar to sandpaper, grip tape, or “grip” as it’s commonly referred to, is applied to the top of your deck for traction. Grip gives you the friction you need to perform tricks such as ollies and kickflips. Not all grip tape is the same however. Grip tape brands perform differently so you may want to experiment with different brands to get a feel for what you prefer.
Jessup is considered to be a standard grip tape, and it is the grip we offer for free with all decks. MOB is one of the more grippy brands and will give you excellent traction, but it will also wear down your shoes faster. MOB M-80, Grizzly and Shake Junt grip tapes are somewhere in the middle, offering good overall traction without the heavy abrasion. There are other extra course grip options for downhill skateboarding (Vicious, Blood Orange, etc.). That stuff locks your foot in place but it is so coarse it would quickly destroy your shoes if you tried flip tricks with it.
Hardware won’t have an effect on your skating. Standard 7/8 - 1 inch hardware will work for most skateboards. However, if you use riser pads, be sure that you have long enough hardware to go all the way through the deck, trucks and riser pad. If you're unsure what length of hardware you need, give one of our experts a call at 888.450.5060 and we'll be stoked to help you out.
TIP: Our crew double checks the configuration of all custom skateboards ordered using our Skateboard Builder. We’ll always call you if we see a compatibility issue and let you know what needs to be adjusted.
Risers sit between your deck and the trucks and are used to give your deck extra clearance from your wheels, to ensure that you don’t get wheel bite. They range from 1/8- to 1/2-inch.
Skateboarding can cause injuries. Falling is just a part of the sport and learning how to fall is among the best ways to avoid injury. As they say, “you gotta pay to play”. Protective gear is highly recommended for all skaters, and especially beginners and younger skateboarders who have not yet learned the graceful nuances of eating it.
A good helmet protects your most important vital organ. Remember than in some states helmets are required by law. In Oregon, for example, skaters 15 and under can be fined for not wearing a helmet. Knee and elbow pads will also save you from bumps and bruises. Knee pads are particularly valuable when learning to skate tall vertical walls because those allow you to slide down the wall on your knees instead of having to run out of every bailed attempt. Wrist and ankle injuries are common in skateboarding, so braces are another really good investment.
We’re here to help. You can call, email, chat or IM during business hours seven days a week. Our customer service staff skate…a lot. They know their stuff and are happy to help you with all things skate.