Deciding on the Right Skateboard Deck
The skateboard decks on the market today are composed of several small sheets of wood, known as plies. The sheets of wood are bonded together to offer a deck that is able to flex even under extreme pressure. Most skateboard decks have seven or nine plies of wood and many are made from maple. That means you can expect a modern skateboard to be light, responsive to your body movements, and resistant to breaking when you’re flipping and grinding. You can see the plies of wood quite easily if you look at a deck from the side.
First, raw wood is cut into super thin sheets of a rectangular shape. Those are then stacked on each other with a layer of glue in between each sheet. These sheets are then clamped together which is what creates the concave shape of the skateboard. Once the glue is nice and dry, the clamps are taken off and the result is a rectangular wooden shape. The actual deck is cut out and might have any number of sizes or shapes. There are many characteristics that make a deck unique and that’s what we’ll be looking at next.
The Width of a Skateboard Deck
The majority of skateboarders will find that, in terms of measurement, the width is the most crucial one when picking a comfortable skateboard. There is a wide range of widths available, but most are between 7.5 and 10 inches in width. Many people believe that wider boards have better performance but that doesn’t mean the widest board is always the best choice for you. So how do you know what width is the right one for you? You’ll have to consider a few different things.
First, you want to think about what sort of skateboarding you plan to do. The two main types when it comes to skating involving obstacles are street skating and transition skating.
The former involves spending time skating on vertical ramps and walls that transition 90 degrees from the ground. Most forms of transition skating take place in pools, bowls, vert ramps, and skateparks. This skating style involves the use of speed to drop and climb vertically and shoot up into the air. This type of skating is best done on a skateboard that is stable and wide. This makes it easier to keep your feet on the board and your feet stable even when going fast.
On the other hand, street skating is done where you might expect, right out on the street and the world at large. If you plan to head out and use stair sets, benches, and ledges to skate, that’s street skating. In most cases, this type of skating has an emphasis on flip tricks where your skateboard is rotated horizontally or vertically while the skater is in the air. These tricks are easier done with a lightweight board that is simple to maneuver. In most cases, a narrower board will fit the bill here.
What if you aren’t sure which type of skating you want to do or you plan to partake in both? In this case, go with something in between for the best results no matter where and how you skate. The good news is that the largest number of skateboard decks are somewhere in the middle, so you won’t have a problem choosing.
Wheelbase and Length of Deck
After the width, the length of your skateboard deck is also important to consider. Most typical decks are going to range from around 31 to 33 inches, but there are outliers on either side. If the deck is 33 inches or longer, it’s typically going to also have a larger width at 8.5 inches or wider. This also means that the wheelbase, or distance between the rear wheels and the front wheels, will be larger than with shorter decks. These decks are typically the most stable and have a larger turning radius.
Going with a shorter wheelbase will offer less stability but a smaller and sharper radius when turning. This type of skateboard deck will also be quicker to respond to any movements you make. Essentially, the turning radius refers to the sharpness of turning when skating. A shorter turning radius gives sharper, more precise turns while a large radius will turn less sharply.
If you skate transition, a longer wheelbase will be best, so you remain stable even when launching up a wall, rather than falling to the ground. This isn’t required with street skating. In fact, a shorter wheelbase is a negative since it adds weight to the board which makes pulling tricks more challenging.
Shape of Your Skateboard Deck
Everyone knows the typical skateboard shape with a rounded off tail and nose and a mostly symmetrical design. This is the most popular shape, but there are other options out there. Some decks have fishtails and taper in and out, others have squared off tails and noses, and some even have a tapered nose that ends in a point. Which is the right one for you? Glad you asked!
Technical and street skating of any sort will find the best results when using the standard deck shape. It’s largely symmetrical with a tail and nose that are upturned slightly. The idea here is that whether you’re skating in normal or switch stance, using your dominant or non-dominant foot forward, the board feels and rides the same. The symmetry makes this deck and excellent tool when attempting to learn new flip tricks.
That said, if you don’t skate in anything but normal stance and you don’t have a major interest in flip tricks, you may be fine using a traditional skateboard deck shape or choosing something a bit more unique. However, in most cases, a deck with a curved tail and nose is the best choice. The curve makes it easier to do maneuvers and tricks whether skating street or transition. If you just want to cruise around on your board, the need for a curve is eliminated.
Below, we’ll look at some of the most common skateboard shapes and what sort of skaters excel on each type.
- Street Decks – This is the most common shape of skateboard deck and is typically used for park and street skating. As we mentioned, the tail and nose are largely the same shape which allows you to ride switch. This type of shape is also sometimes referred to as popsicle shape and has been the traditional shape for decades.
- Bowl & Pool Deck – This deck is typically wider than a street deck with an average width of about 8.25 inches. Some bowl decks are also designed to look more like skateboards from decades past. These are often called shaped decks.
- Shaped Decks – This type of skateboard deck is a combination of modern street decks and older bowl decks. When these decks were introduced, they were intended for those who mostly skated transition but also wanted to street skate on occasion. This deck has a curved tail and nose and a large concave so it is great for pool skating but also allows you to do tricks while street skating.
- Cruiser Decks – The cruiser is an interesting deck that might be made from maple, bamboo, or a mixture of the two. There are even some decks that are made of plastic. These skateboards can come in various shapes, lengths, and widths but what they are known for is extreme maneuverability and a soft wheel. These are used to get from one place to another rather than pulling off tricks.
The Concave of Your Skateboard Deck
The final aspect of the deck that makes a huge difference when skating is the concave of the skateboard deck. This variable relates to how the skateboard is going to feel underneath you and the way in which it responds to any movements you make. Essentially, concave refers to the curvature up and down across the surface of the deck and its edge. You’ll be able to visualize the concave by looking at the profile of the skateboard deck. You’ll see how the wood flattens and curves and has bowing from side to side.
Skateboard decks can vary massively in terms of the degree of the concave and the concave of your deck can make it better or worse for specific types of skateboarding. When you have an elevated concave, that means you will easier be able to feel the deck under you. Having an easier way to locate where your feet are in relation to the sides, tail, and nose of your skateboard without staring down is crucial, especially if you happen to be skating at top speeds.
This is the reason why most transition skates tend to choose a larger concave which gives more speed to make it up a wall. Street skates typically prefer the opposite, a small or medium concave. There is more area for your feet to rest on which makes it more comfortable to skate and easier to land tricks.
Choosing the Right Deck for Your Body Size
If you’re new to choosing a deck, one of the easiest ways to do so is by taking the size of your body into account. If you’re petite, a shorter skateboard is likely going to be the most comfortable option. In addition, for a beginner, a board that is small can be less difficult to control and will allow you to get used to the movement you feel skating. On the other hand, a taller skater might want to select a deck that is longer.
Weight also comes into play when deciding on a skateboard deck. The good news is that skateboards don’t come with a maximum weight limit. Anyone who wants to get into the sport can do so. However, a person who is heavier is going to have a higher likelihood of breaking their deck while attempting to learn tricks. If you’re a bigger person, the best option is to go with a large number of plies in your deck, so it is more durable and built to last.
We’ve provided our thoughts about what the best skateboard decks are and stand behind this list for a skateboarder of any skill level. You can find minimalist boards, boards with extreme graphics, and everything in between. If this is the first time you’re buying a deck, we’ve also provided information about how to make sure you get the right one for your size and body shape, as well as which boards are best for skateparks and which are better for street skateboarding. Any of these decks will be an excellent addition to a deck collection and will last while making your skating a great time.