Ah, the longboard.
Dreamy, flowing carves, mind-bending speed on downhills, power-slides, cross-steps, noseriding… The riding possibilities seem endless and so does the choice of boards.
If you’ve never bought a longboard before you’re facing a bunch of choices, like:
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Ultimately you are trying to answer the question…
What is the best longboard for beginners?
The best beginner longboard is not as simple as some might lead you to believe; there are subtleties and nuances in each rider’s own world that are completely unique. Many sites don’t give you the necessary comparative criteria to help you make an educated decision.
To best eliminate the guesswork and to steer you away from any individual person’s “recommended board”, at Shred Shack we have created this Beginner Longboard Guide to cut through the clutter to help you find the best one FOR YOU.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
1. Riding Preference
We all have visions in our minds of how we want to do things.
These images can come from a variety of different places…
- seeing people on YouTube or social media
- watching competent friends, family, or acquaintances
A shot, a swing, a glide, a turn; the forms vary but within all is a common concept: “that’s what I’m going to do.”
Boardsports don’t differ from other major sports, there are still goals for what you want to achieve, and these oftentimes seem more attainable than hitting home runs or draining deep threes. Boardsports allow all athletes to participate on the same “field” whether you’re a professional or a beginner.
Determining the particular style you are trying to create or emulate, or the feeling you want to attain while riding can be classified as defining your riding preference.
We have a picture in our minds of what we want to achieve, so complete this simple questionnaire to see if we can define your riding preference.
Class is in session.
If you answer “YES” to a question, click the “YES” graphic. If your answer is “NO”, move on to the next question.
1. Does the thought of bombing down hills at break-neck speeds, allowing gravity to do it’s work to give you the ultimate rush feel like your destiny?
2. In your mind do you see yourself flying down hills while performing critical carvers and slides around corners or on banks and laying down some gnarly skid tracks?
3. Are you the kind of person who pictures themselves dialing the speed back a little so that you can cross-step on the board, pull off a shuvit, or stomp a flip trick?
4. Did you answer “NO” to all of the previous 3 questions and want to just cruise around town to grab a coffee, hit up a convenience store, rent a movie at Blockbuster or visit a friend so stop asking me if I want to do all kinds of crazy stuff on a board already?
If you are the type of rider that dreams of the pure adrenaline rush you get when pointing your board down a hill and hitting the highest speed you and the contraption under your feet are capable of, then you’d be best suited to find a longboard that is made for downhilling. Safe and capable downhill riding requires advanced skills and the riders are always seen wearing full-armor bodysuits and aerodynamic helmets for safety and for maximum speed. If you are a beginner, you will have to steer clear or downhilling for now, at least until you have more experience and confidence in your abilities.
Once you’ve been riding for some time and are ready to enter into the realm of the downhiller, the boards these riders use are typically very stiff and have wide trucks to aid in stability. The boards are also topped with aggressive griptape to help keep your feet locked into place. Downhilling isn’t for the faint-of-heart and the boards aren’t either. Compared to other types of longboards, those made for the downhill will not perform well when cruising or freestyling and will give you a stiff and uncomfortable ride in virtually all conditions.
So mark this category of longboards as a “nope” or “not yet” if you’re a beginner. In time you’ll know if you’re ready for and in need of a downhill longboard.
Recommended Downhill Companies
- Loaded Boards
- Rocket Longboards
- Original Skateboards
Riders who like the thrill of the descent but also need to perform critical lower-speed cornering and carving maneuvers fit into the category of freeriders. Freeriders hit mind-numbing speeds on the steep-and-straight but need to lay down some serious lines when negotiating curves. Speed and the ability to slide are the requisites for freeriders, not just speed, and as such, freeriders need longboards that are designed for their specific discipline, boards that are aptly dubbed “freeride boards” (clever, right?).
In general, freeride longboards have more flex than downhill boards. The enhanced flex of the boards allow a more progressive and sensitive feel when entering corners. These boards are not a good choice for general cruising because they are more stiff than you’d want for a quick trip to the coffee shop. Freeride longboards always have harder wheels which further makes cruising uncomfortable and potentially more dangerous. The hard wheels are perfectly suited for slides but are more likely to catch on stones or cracks on your riding surface.
As with longboards made for downhill racing, those made for freeriding are best used by advanced riders who have years of experience on a skateboard. Chalk this category of longboards up to the “in due time” section of your buying list if you see yourself eventually fitting into this category.
Recommended Freeride Companies
Many of the companies that offer freeride boards also make downhill boards so check the same brands as found on the list of downhill longboards. Below are good bets to find the board you’re looking for.
- Arbor Axis
- Santa Cruz
- Loaded Boards
Cross-stepping. Cheater 5. Nose Manual. Look Back. If these terms are on your bucket-list of things to do with a longboard then you’d find yourself in the category of freestyler. Freestyle riding incorporates these tricks and more and encapsulates longboard dancing, carving and general tricks. Freestyle is more about style than anything else and every freestyler develops their own unique character. Freestyle is limited only by the imagination and is a true form of artistic expression and interpretation. Freestylers use the riding surface and environment as their canvas to realize their visions of style, grace and poise.
Longboards intended to be used for freestyle riding are ideal choices for beginners. Freestyle longboards are often long and wide to offer significant stability to perform tricks and maneuvers. On many freestyle boards you can find kicktails to further help with performing tricks. The deck designs are often of the platypus shape with a drop-through truck mount that lowers the deck to aid in stability. A lower deck can inhibit more aggressive rail-to-rail carving but that’s not necessarily the intended use for freestyle longboards.
Personally, I come from a skateboarding background so I feel that this style of riding is where I fit. I’ve spent many hours at ramps and rails trying to hone skills that translate well to this riding discipline. The true beauty of freestyling is just that, it’s a style that’s free and open and you can use your experiences as a rider to develop and progress in the way that you envision no matter your background.
Recommended Freestyle Companies
Some notable companies that offer freestyle longboards are…
- Loaded Boards
If you answered “YES” to question number 4, you’ve found yourself looking for a board to cruise around the city streets, leisurely exploring or making a quick trip to the shop.
Cruisers are a catch-all category of boards that aren’t too aggressive or stiff, aren’t too concaved and don’t have super hard wheels. Cruisers are designed to let you enjoy the ride while still being nimble enough to maneuver and carve when needed. Downhill and freeride longboards are the Ferraris and Lamborghinis, freestyle longboards are more like a restored Woody station wagon, a cruiser is the Prius of the longboard world. Some might be more like a Range Rover though, or maybe a Volvo. The point is they’re utilitarian in nature and will serve you well in many ways, just don’t expect them to crush a downhill or allow you to dance along with ease.
Cruiser boards can be found in many different shapes and sizes. Popular with many manufacturers and riders are designs featuring a pintail shape while the ground-rigging features soft, wide wheels to aid in stability and riding comfort. Models and designs vary drastically from brand to brand so be sure to explore those available from several companies to determine which speaks most to you.
Mini cruisers are popular spin-offs of larger, heavier longboard cruisers and are made small and light to be easily transported in the car, on the bus, or on your backpack. Mini cruiser designs are more than just purely scaled down cruiser boards, they often have more concave in the deck and alternative truck sizes to offset the reduced deck area. Unique design features of mini cruisers allow the boards to offer enhanced stability while reducing the overall size and weight. The Landyachtz Dinghy is a fantastic, classic example of this type of board that gracefully performs its intended duties yet inconspicuously tucks away for transport or storage when not in use.
Recommended Cruiser Companies
Apart from the Landyachtz offerings of capable cruiser boards, other popular brands include…
- Santa Cruz
- Loaded Boards
As in everything, identifying your budget for a longboard is a critical step in the selection process. Board manufacturers generally target a specific price point for their offerings and stay within that pricing band, basically meaning that you rarely find boards across all budgets from one maker.
The general rule-of-thumb when considering what to spend on a board is to decide what you are comfortable paying and try to stay on the higher side of this range. I know that it may be difficult, but the difference in deck and component quality as the price increases is often quite substantial. Bearings, spacers, and hardware that are made and priced cheaply wear more quickly and need to be replaced earlier than those that are of higher quality and, in turn, a bit more pricey.
Consider too that ride quality degrades as components do, so paying a little more for quality will increase your riding time and improve your skills more effectively than the cheaper models.
Consider Shipping Costs
Apart from the obvious quality differences that are important to consider when selecting your budget are the shipping fees. Shipping longboards is an expensive endeavor for those buying boards online. By their nature, longboards are large and heavy so the fees for shipping can be shocking, especially when shipping internationally. A key point of consideration when buying online is where the board is shipping from.
Sometimes companies price the shipping into their boards, sometimes companies offer free shipping in-country, and at other times the shipping costs make you want to cry. Be sure to watch out for shipping costs when you are shopping online.
Always Look Local First
Or better yet, support your local skate or surf shop and buy directly from their store. Doing this not only helps you compare different options in person but also helps the local economy by keeping your money within the community.
The following section is a what-to-expect guide for each of the different budget categories. Brands generally stick to their own price points so it's easy to get a sense of what you should expect in a board within a given price range. We’ve identified some general characteristics for each budget that will better help you identify which pricing band is your best fit.
Low-tier (Under $100)
Brand new boards falling below $100 can mostly be found on massive online shopping sites like Amazon. The price of these boards always suggests that some aspect of the board is of lower quality, usually the bearings and wheels being the parts that are compromised to attain such a low price. Boards in this pricing tier can be a lot of fun to ride but they can’t be expected to last since the lower quality directly correlates with the speed of wearing.
Popular Low-Tier Brands
- White Wave
Some of these brands sell lots of boards since they’re popular with beginners and will get you started riding without breaking the bank. They’re a good option for people who are on a tight budget and don’t really know if you’ll even like longboarding.
Recommendation Before Buying
- Borrow a longboard from a friend, or go riding with a friend for a few hours or a few days to see what you think. This will allow you to try things out without committing money to something you’re not sure of. It would have to be a good friend though, beginners tend to damage or lose boards quite easily.
- Check for used boards at garage sales, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or other sites. Oftentimes you can find quality used boards that may have only sparingly been used that are around the same price as cheaply made, new boards. Reasons people sell their boards vary but maybe they bought the board and hardly used it so now it just takes up space. In these cases people will often unload the boards that have a lot of miles still left in it at a steep discount from the new price. You’ll also be helping the environment if you go this route since reusing items creates less wastes and less emissions than manufacturing a new board.
The mid-tier budget range falls between $100-$200 and starts to open up options for good quality boards. Within this price range buyers start to see better quality bearings, trucks, and decks.
One thing that is often overlooked by buyers for most boards is the quality of the grip tape. Boards at this budget and higher offer better quality tape that not only offers better traction but also lasts substantially longer. The grip on your deck is critical for all riding but even more so if you’re just starting out. If you’re able to buy a board in this budget range you’ll undoubtedly purchase one that will last you years while maintaining good grip and riding performance.
Recommended Mid-Tier Brands
(Some of these brands go beyond the upper limit of this tier)
- Penny Skateboards
The last budget category is available to those who have either saved diligently for their purchase or are fortunate enough to afford a board over $200. A board in this budget will last you a long time and the ride quality will stay at the highest level the longest.
To give an example of the longevity of these more expensive boards, I bought a Loaded Tan Tien almost a decade ago and it still provides a wonderful ride to this day. If you can justify the greater expense at the outset, you’ll definitely have a board that will last much longer than lower-budget models.
Another upside to buying a board in this budget range is that the resale value is considerably higher than cheaper brands. Better quality boards maintain their value and are often easier to sell if you decide that you need a different model or are no longer interested in riding the board.
Some companies in this budget range offer more environmentally-conscious programs and production methods, utilizing locally produced materials and components to reduce emissions created during transport. A good example of this is Landyachtz who partners with several organizations to replant trees in various areas of the world. Dubbed the One Board One Tree project, Landyachtz donates one tree for every board they sell. It’s good to see companies making a commitment to the environment to offset their material and resource usage.
Loaded and Landyachtz are two reputable companies that offer the highest quality boards in the upper-tier of budgets. Boards from either brand are made with great bearings, bushings, trucks, hardware and decks which will last you for years.
Recommend High-Tier Brands
- Loaded Boards
- Bustin Boards
- DB Longboards
Your riding environment is as important as any consideration in purchasing a new board. The riding environment is as unique as any other aspect of your newfound longboarding hobby. You may be riding in areas that have degraded pavement or cobblestone so you may need a board that is better at handling rough surfaces. Sharp, tight corners in your riding area are also important to be aware of since some boards are more agile and adept at maneuvering through these features than others.
Generally, boards that have larger and softer wheels (a lower durometer value – 75A-87A) are better at handling rough surfaces while boards that have a smaller wheelbase are better for tight cornering. Possibilities for each environment are mostly limited by rider skill, however, for those just starting out, be sure to really consider the size of the deck and the wheel characteristics to ensure you get the best board for your environment.
4. Where To Buy?
Once all of the necessary decisions have been made, the prices and specs considered and compared, the graphics and deck shapes carefully scrutinized, you need to finally buy the board you want. There are several ways to make your purchase, each with its own advantages.
Buying from your local skate or surf shop is the best way to get into longboarding or any type of board riding. You’re helping the local economy, reducing shipping costs and also getting the chance to see and feel the board before you buy it. The prices you see at shops are almost always the same as you’ll see directly from a company’s website since the shops are able to buy the boards at wholesale prices. Keep an eye out for sales and promotions too which can help get a bit of a discount or maybe some useful gear or gadgets you may need at some point. Local shops are also the best place to get your board fixed or serviced so buying from them creates an indispensable relationship that will no doubt come in handy in times of need.
Other local purchasing options include garage sales and used goods sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Usually these offer used boards and, as we mentioned earlier, can sometimes reveal some hidden treasures.
Whichever avenue you choose to pursue in procuring your board, try not to wait too long when buying your chosen board. In our experiences we’d rather be out riding than hunting for days or weeks for a deal. If you’re looking for boards to add to your quiver then absolutely take some time to see what’s out there. For those who are just getting started though, the ride is the game, so get a board and get riding.
Buying directly from a company’s website is probably the easiest purchasing option and maybe the only way for many riders who don’t have a skate or surf shop nearby. I’ve exercised this option numerous times since sometimes specific boards I am interested in are not available at my local shop. For a beginner though, you do lose out on that buying experience and relationship you create when you deal directly with a shop crew. Talking to someone in person who knows about, and has ridden the boards you are considering offers indispensable insight.
An interesting online option is to buy from a wholesale online shop. I have purchased boards from Muirskate, a retailer based in San Diego, California, and I cannot say enough good things about them. The Loaded Tan Tien I bought more than 8 years ago came from them and when I bought it, I accidentally ordered the wrong wheels. To my surprise, Muirskate sent me another set of wheels completely free without requiring that I return the set that I originally selected in error. I wouldn’t ever buy a board and expect this to happen, and you shouldn’t either, but it does speak to the quality of customer service you can expect from Muirskate. A quick side note on Muirskate though: I am not affiliated with them in any way. I’ve had only positive experiences buying from them and they will continue to be one of my first choices when looking for new boards.
Online options on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Yahoo Auctions and others are great ways to find boards too. You can typically find good deals in online auctions but do be careful that the discounted prices aren’t offset with inflated shipping costs.
So there you have it.
If you want the best beginner longboard, you should consider your riding goals, budget, and environment to narrow your purchasing options.
If you like to build things and customize, you have even more options for your first board, however, this might be a little more challenging if you are new and don’t have a clear idea of what you want. Almost all reputable companies offer excellent complete units that take the guesswork out of the sizing and component characteristics of selecting the parts on your own. Take our advice, get a complete set-up using the guide above to help you select the best option for you.
And if you’re wondering more about technical information on boards such as deck concave, flex ratings, truck types and pivot angles, wheel durometer ratings, and more, we’ve intentionally left this information out to make this article accessible for beginning riders. Advanced tech specs are more useful when you’ve already had some riding experience and have a better idea of what you want from your board.
So for now, get a board and get out there and ride; there’s never a better time to start skateboarding than right now.
Question or Suggestion?
Drop a comment below.