Choosing Your First Skateboard Deck
The first and arguably most important decision you have to make when building your first skateboard is choosing a skateboard deck. It’s the foundation for the overall feel of your skateboard. Your riding style, the range of obstacles you are able to skate, and the other necessary components (trucks, wheels, etc.) are all related to the skateboard deck you choose.
What you need to pick out your first skate deck:
- Your shoe size: This will help you choose the deck width you want to skate.
- What type of skating you want to do: This will help you choose your Deck Length & Wheelbase and choose your Deck Concave.
- An idea of what graphic you want: This is just fun.
- Know the difference between a popsicle shape, shaped board, and a cruiser: This will help you choose your deck shape.
If you have an answer for those four pieces, you’re ready to start shopping for a new deck.
All About Skateboard Decks
Your skateboard deck is the foundation for the overall feel of your skateboard. Your riding style, the range of obstacles you are able to skate, and the other necessary components (trucks, wheels, etc.) are all related to the skateboard deck you choose.
The available options in skateboard decks today are vast. Skateboarding technology has come a long way from the first skate decks of the 1960's, which were narrow, dense, and difficult to operate.
Today, skate decks are made using 7 to 9 separate thin sheets of wood, known as "plies," which are bonded together. The bonding of multiple sheets of wood allows the deck to flex under pressure making it resistant to breaks, responsive to your movements, and lightweight.
Virtually all modern skateboards are made using 7 to 9-ply maple construction (7 to 9 thin sheets of maple wood). If you look at a skateboard deck from the side, you can actually see the separate plies.
Raw maple is first cut into thin rectangular sheets, which are stacked on top of each other with glue in between each sheet. Clamps are then placed strategically on the glued stack of wood to form the concave of the skate deck. After the glue has dried, and the layers have bonded into a single object, the clamps are removed and we are left with a shaped wooden rectangle.
From this curvy rectangle, the final skateboard deck is cut. There are infinite shapes and sizes that can be cut from this piece that will determine the final characteristics of the deck. The following sections will describe in detail the different options in deck shape and size, and how each option will affect your experience on your skateboard.
For most skateboarders, the most important measurement in picking out the right skateboard deck is width. Most decks range from 7.5" to 10" in width. In order to determine how wide you want your skateboard deck to be, there are a few things to consider.
First, what kind of skateboarding do you want to do? There are two main categories of skateboarding that generally revolve around different sets of obstacles, and different sets of tricks and maneuvers. The two categories are "transition" and "street". These categories also encompass cruising, technical tricks, skating pools and parks, and riding vert ramps.
Transition skating consists of riding up and around vertical walls or ramps that gradually transition 90 degrees from the ground. These wave-like obstacles allow skaters to use speed to climb and drop vertically, and to become airborne. Transition skating is most commonly done in vert-ramps, pools, bowls, and skateparks.
The high-speed nature of transition skating often calls for a wider and more stable skateboard deck. Riding a wider deck will make it easier to keep your feet on your deck, and to remain stable at high speeds. If you see yourself predominantly skating transition, a deck width of 8.38" or wider is probably best for you. Creature is a skateboard company that produces large numbers of wider decks.
Unlike transition skating, which often requires a ramp or a pool or park, street skating is all about repurposing the world around us. Street skaters find benches, ledges, stair sets, and other urban fixtures to skate.
The collection of tricks in a street skater's stock will be heavy in "flip tricks" (rotating the board on its vertical and/or horizontal axis while airborne) and grinds (riding the edge of a ledge or down a handrail on the hangers of the skateboard trucks).
The quick technical maneuvers associated with street skating call for a slighter and more maneuverable deck. If you are more interested in technical street skating you'll find a narrower board more suitable. Choose a deck between 7.5" and 8.25" wide to get wild in the street. Real and Baker are good brands to check out for narrower decks.
If you like the idea of skating a little bit of everything, choose a deck in between the wider transition decks and narrower street decks. For all-around skating, a width between 8.0" and 8.38" should work out for you. Almost all skate deck brands will have many options in this size range.
Skateboard Size Chart
Note to Beginners: If you are completely new to skateboarding and are unsure what style of riding you may be attracted to, go with a deck size between 7.75" and 8.38". If you have smaller feet, stay on the narrow side of this scale, if you have larger feet do the opposite. Sizing is mostly based on feel. If it's comfortable under your feet when riding, it's a good size for you.
Deck Length and Wheelbase
The length of your skateboard deck is another measurement to consider. Most skate decks are right around 31" - 33" long. Decks with a length of 33" and longer will also generally have a width of 8.5" or wider. WKND makes decks with interesting wheelbases and would be a good place to start shopping.
Decks longer than 33" will often have a proportionally longer wheelbase (the distance between your front and rear wheels) than decks shorter than 33". A longer wheelbase will increase your stability, and increase your turning radius. A shorter wheelbase will be less stable, but has smaller, sharper turning radius, and responds more quickly to your movements. The turning radius is how sharply your board turns. A large turning radius doesn't turn as sharply, while a short turning radius turns more sharply.
The stability increase that comes with a longer wheelbase is, again, beneficial when skating transition. The ability to remain stable while charging up a vertical wall can be the difference between a good day and hard slam into the ground.
This added stability of a longer wheelbase is not necessary for street skating. A longer wheelbase will sacrifice some of the deck's responsiveness and add to its weight, making flip tricks and other technical maneuvers more difficult.
NOTE TO BEGINNERS: Unless you are sure you want a wide board with a long wheelbase, start off with a standard deck of 8.0" to 8.38" in width, and about 32" in length. This is a much more common size, and probably a better starting point.
While the standard "popsicle" image of popsicle shape deck shape skate deck (nearly symmetrical with rounded nose and tail) remains the most popular, there are many shapes to choose from. There are squared noses and tails, tapered noses that come to a point, fishtails that taper in and bow out, and seemingly every shape in between.
The popsicle shape deck is usually going to be the most functional for street skating and technical types of riding. The popsicle shape is nearly symmetrical with upturned nose and tail, which allows you to ride and perform tricks in both the "normal" stance (skating with one's dominant foot forward) and "switch" stance (skating with one's non-dominant foot forward, generally a more challenging way to ride). The symmetry, or near symmetry, of the popsicle shape is also the best type for learning a variety of flip tricks.
Skaters who ride predominantly in their normal stance, and are less interested in the mastery of flip tricks, may find no difference in performance between popsicle and other shape decks, as long as they have both a curved nose and tail. Check out Welcome Skateboards for a variety of different shaped decks.
The nose and tail of a deck make it possible to ollie, drop in, turn, and perform most tricks and maneuvers in both street and transition skating. Decks lacking a curved nose and tail, also known as a kicktail, can be great for cruising, but are almost impossible for street and transition skating.
The most technical variable in the shape of a skateboard deck is its concave. The concave of a skateboard deck will affect its feel under your feet, as well as the way it responds to your movements.
The concave is the upward and downward curvature across your deck's surface and edges. A skateboard deck's concave can be seen in the shape of its profile. If you look at it from the side, it's the way the wood curves and flattens from nose to tail, and bows in from side to side.
Skate decks will vary in their degree of concave, and different degrees of concave will cater to different styles of riding.
The more pronounced or extreme the concave of your skateboard deck is, the more you will be able to feel the shape of the deck under your feet. Being able to locate your feet in relation to your nose, tail, and sides of your deck without having to look down can be beneficial in all types of skateboarding, especially when riding at high speeds.
For this reason, transition skaters, who have to maintain a certain amount of speed to carve up steep walls, will often prefer more pronounced concave. Brands like Anti-Hero and The Killing Floor produce decks with more pronounced concave.
Street skaters will often prefer skateboard decks with a mild or mellow concave as it will allow for optimum foot placement. A skate deck with less pronounced concave will have a larger area of flat surface to allow your feet to comfortably move and position themselves in a variety of locations on the board. As street skating involves a plethora of flip tricks, each of which calls for unique foot positioning, a flat deck makes sense for this style of riding. Girl and Chocolate both offer decks with mellow concave, ideal for street skating.
Note to Beginners: Although certain types of decks are generally used for certain types of skateboarding, it is important to remember that there are no actual rules. There are street skaters who ride large decks with a lot of concave. There are transition skaters who ride narrower decks with little concave. Any person can ride any skateboard and end up doing something amazing. The best way to find the right deck and riding style is to experiment with different things. Concave is mostly based on feel. If it's comfortable under your feet when riding, it's a good size for you.