In the 1970s, a group of skaters from Santa Cruz known as the Zephyr team changed skating forever.
Another key moment happened during the 1970s in California, and that was the massive drought that hit the southern portion of the state. Backyard swimming pools dried up to the bare concrete, leaving empty bowls in the backyard of many homes in the area.
These two key moments happened right around the same time and made for the perfect ingredients to change skateboarding history forever. This was when street skating took to the air.
The Zephyr team was looking for an alternative to the freestyle and spinning type of skating that had become popular during that decade. Breaching the property lines of homeowners’ backyards, this team found empty pools to skate in that allowed them to achieve levels of air on a skateboard that were never thought possible. Before this, air was only achieved through the use of a mini-ramp.
The team also used different forms of plants and slash grinds around the edges of pools.
Eventually, this skateboarding discipline would morph into different styles of skating we now know as vert skating and big-air. Vert skating uses large ramps known as vert-ramps that allow skaters to achieve huge amounts of air.
At the time, nobody knew exactly how huge this movement was. Now almost every skate park has skate bowls, a half-pipe, or something similar. The motions of skating in a bowl or pool are fairly similar to skating a half-pipe.
Pool skating, although not nearly as popular now, still exists for a select group of skaters that keep the discipline alive. However, you can’t use just a regular skateboard and plan to be successful skating a pool. There are some things you need to know about the skateboard setup. You’ve been warned. It can take a bit longer to master this form of skating, but don’t let that deter you. That only means there’s more room for growth.
If you’re looking for the best skateboard setup for pool skating, then this blog post is just what you need. We’ll talk about all the different types of boards and wheels and help you to figure out which one is right for your needs.
Table of Contents
What is Needed for Bowl Skating?
In this guide we’ll give you a detailed rundown of the specifications required to pool skate. Remember, these are just generalizations, and it’s up to you to decide on a more specific build that’s comfortable for you.
Different Setups for Bowl Skating
You should understand that pool skateboarding is all about being in sync. Bowl skaters must operate like a well-oiled machine. The action is fast, and there’s not much time for decision-making, so your body, mind, and equipment should be firing on all cylinders.
Timing is important, as well as ensuring you don’t waste precious amounts of energy. You need to know when to push and when to roll, when to vert and when to hit a trick, and how to carve to gain higher speeds.
These are some of the best general tips to get you started in the right direction. Following the next set of tips will help you to make your pool skating a much smoother process.
You Need a Wider Deck for Bowl Skating
Pool skateboarding is all about wide decks, big wheels, and loose trucks. It’s considered by many to be a very unconventional skateboard setup, and while this may be true, every discipline has its own specific setup that may be foreign to riders who aren’t otherwise familiar with the style.
You’ll also want a custom-made deck for skating bowls. Even a name-brand board could let you down when you’re skating in a pool. Name brands mean that these decks are mass-produced. That means they’re pressed together in large numbers. You want a single pressed deck made of bamboo or maple. Something with a mellow concave is best so you have elevated levels of balance.
Your balance is precious when you’re pool skating. One little misstep or jerk in the wrong direction, and you’re toast. That’s why the setup is so important because your level of stability is a make-or-break element here.
We’ve found the best deck width to be 8.5-inches. We know these are much wider decks than what you’re used to, but you’ll understand why when you drop in. Things move fast in the pool, and you need all the available foot space you can get.
Trucks for Bowl Skating
The first thing you need to know about the trucks is that they need to be high. You’re going to be pulling off some mean carving, and you’ll need the extra sway to make those tight, circular turns.
Your trucks need to be as responsive as possible because you’re going to have to anticipate the bowl turns. You can’t really turn at the last minute because once the last minute comes, it’s already too late, and you’re wiped out. It’s important to remain one step ahead of the pool.
If your trucks are typically tighter, you’ll need to loosen the kingpin nut. The trucks also need to match the width of your deck. If you took the above advice, you’ll need an axle width of 8.5-inches.
Bushings for Bowl Skating
You’ll want to consider bushings that require less tweaking. You don’t want to have to adjust them each time you jump in the pool to find the sweet spot. Find it once, and rely on the bushings to remain in place. It will be hard to find again if the bushings need to be tweaked, and this can waste precious skating time.
Bearings for Bowl Skating
You need good quality, ceramic bearings that lead to more speed. The most useful tip we can give you in regards to bearings is to make sure you keep them clean.
For some reason, bearings don’t seem to last as long when you’re skating bowls. Keeping this in mind, remain diligent about the cleanliness of these accessories. Cleaner bearings end up with a longer shelf life and more efficient operation, which ends up leading to more speed.
Large Wheels and Hard Wheels for Bowl Skating
You’ll need larger wheels when you’re riding bowls so it’s easier to gain speed. Because of the big wheels and simultaneous carving, this is why we recommend using riser pads to prevent wheel bite. You’ll be using something closer to the size of longboard wheels.
Bones and Spitfire both have great wheel selections for pool skating. Regardless of the brand and model you choose, just remember that the size needs to be between 56 and 58mm, and the durometer rating should be 97-99A.
A 56mm with a 99A setup is a good configuration to use. This combination provides great grip while maintaining sufficient levels of speed needed to conquer the pool.
If you’re in something that’s dustier or has other debris involved, it’s important you maintain an even higher level of grip. In this case, you should choose a 97A instead of a 99. It might not seem like it, but the difference between these two sizes is massive when it comes to grip levels.
Best Grip Tape for Bowl Skating
We’ve discovered that usually, either Jessup or Mob grip tape provides the best adhesive for your shoes. In a pool or a bowl, you’ll want the best possible grip you can find to avoid slamming your board.
Best Bowl Skating Setup Example
If you’re a newer skater, this example might be better at leading you towards the correct setup. This is only an example and might not be perfect for you, but you can certainly try and find out.
This setup is meant to provide width and stability while keeping the turns extremely loose. Instead of the 8.5-inch deck, go with a 9-inch version instead. Pick a deck with a medium concave so there’s extra foot room, giving you even more stability and board control.
Independent stage 11-169 trucks would be great for a deck with a 9-inch width. For bearings, choose Bones Super reds with Mob grip tape.
The bushings should be full conical, with a 56mm/99A combination. It’s up to you to choose the brand of bushings. Full conicals seem to work better because they add to the overall feel of turning, and they grip better. There’s also a larger contact patch, which is extremely important when you’re in a bowl.
Alternatively, you can use the same setup described above but use an 8.5-inch width deck instead if you’re a more experienced skater with better balance.
Now that we’ve shown you what will work, let’s examine what won’t work when you’re skating in a pool or a bowl.
What Won’t Work with Bowl Skating
Again, skateboard setups are all about personal preference and we can only give you suggestions based on personal experience. Each of these points is arguable, but we’ve compiled this section based on what we’ve found to work best.
Small Wheels for Bowl Skating
We suggest not using anything smaller than 54mm, or anything that requires you to push harder. With that being said, what one person considers a hard push might be different than someone else’s definition of the same term. These things are all relative.
What this being said, the reason behind this is because you don’t want to burn precious amounts of energy. Kicking less means lower levels of movement, and you get to conserve more energy that way. Pool skating requires you to be in excellent shape. If you’re not in the best physical condition, you’re going to tire fast, and you’ll definitely want bigger wheels.
Having to pump more also takes focus away from your next step. Remember when we said earlier that skating in a pool requires you to be one step ahead of the pool?
Well, if you’re wasting your steps by having to pump, how are you going to remain ahead of the pool? The answer is, you won’t be able to.This level of kicking should be used for street skating, not ramps or bowls.
Not only does the extra kicking lead to energy burning faster, but it could lead to a wipe-out if you can’t react fast enough. Just remember, all this could stem from using smaller wheels.
Soft Wheels for Bowl Skating
Anything less than 92A on the durometer is probably a bad idea. Soft wheels lead to higher levels of friction, which also calls for high levels of effort when it comes to board movement.
The more friction that’s picked up by the wheels, the more resistance your wheels build to rolling. This leads to more kicking, and remember, we want less kicking.
If you’re riding using smaller and softer wheels, you’re going to have to pump really hard to pick up the speeds you need. You’ll be so tired that after a few laps, you’ll be ready to fall off your board.
Narrow Decks for Bowl Skating
Now this one could be more arguable than the others, but for newer skaters, riding narrow decks probably still leads to a skateboarding disaster. Anything slimmer than an 8.25-inch we would have to strongly recommend using.
Any skater will tell you that a wider deck provides more stability when you’re skateboarding. The laws of science might not apply to you, and this could be different in your case, but somehow we think not. Use a wider board at all costs.
Tight Trucks for Bowl Skating
This could be the component we would have to argue against the most. Tight trucks are a terrible idea because they’re not as responsive as loose trucks, and response is key when you’re riding in a pool.
To get the most out of curves in a pool or bowl, you need that important responsiveness. Otherwise, you’ll never stay one step ahead of your terrain.
Finding the ideal tightness for you is a game of trial and error. Your first few drop-ins might take some adjustments, but once you find that ideal setting, you should be good to go. Personally, I’ve known skaters that use a board specifically for a bowl skating speed that they don’t use for anything else.
This keeps that board fine-tuned for the speed skaters need, and they never have to adjust it. It’s that important to find a sweet spot in your settings. That’s how dialed in your equipment has to be to conquer a pool.
Riding in a pool or a bowl can be incredibly challenging and takes a tremendous amount of discipline. However, this also makes it one of the most enjoyable once you master it.
It can take some time to reach this level. Don’t get discouraged or let other obstacles stop you from achieving the ultimate goal. Anything worth learning is going to take time, and it’s important you stick with it and not give up.