Before we start, a brief glossary of terms:
Deck – The skateboard looking bit. Usually made out of 7 or 8 individual ply’s of maple stacked on top of one another (a ply is a very thin sheet of wood). The most common shape for a skateboard today features a ‘double kick’ design. This simply means that, when viewed from the side, the deck will have a curve at both the nose and the tail.
Trucks – These are the T-shaped metal brackets that attach to the deck so that you can put wheels on. Without the trucks you’ve got a tiny snowboard without bindings.
Bearings – Bearings go inside your wheels, they keep friction low and your wheels spinning. You need two bearings for each wheel, so they tend to come in packs of eight and you’ll quite often get a spacer included with a pack, too. The spacer goes between the bearings and is intended to prolong the life of both your bearings and your trucks.
Wheels – Wheels are, well, they’re you’re wheels, man!
Complete – A ‘complete’ skateboard.
Okay, glossary done. Onto the nitty-gritty. First up, no matter if you’re completely new to skateboarding or just re-joining after an extended hiatus, there are a few places you should be checking out, chief of which has to be the Braille Skateboarding channel on Youtube. They post quite a lot of time-sink content nowadays, but when the channel started it was all about tutorials and how-to’s. One of the most relevant reasons for us to watch the Braille channel when buying a new skateboard is their Skate Anything series, beginning with this little gem:
If you’re currently checking websites, reviews, Reddits, etc. to work out which deck, trucks, wheels and bearings to get for your first complete, getting bogged down with opinions about best this and best that, it can be pretty liberating to see a guy kickflip a 2×4 with some trucks screwed to it. You could literally end this article right here and say ‘just go and buy any board, it’s going to be better than a 2×4 with trucks screwed to it’.
So, having watched the video above, you know that the set-up won’t be holding you back too much at this early stage of the game. I’ll also throw into the mix that you don’t want to buy one of those cheap skateboard-shaped-objects you can get from big-box stores -they’re not often made by a real skateboard company, don’t skate very well and could ultimately put you off completely -not cool. You can still get a cheaper setup from a more reputable manufacturer, don’t worry.
So, here’s a few tips and a couple of recommendations to get you buying your first board and getting comfortable on it instead of watching oodles of videos and getting yourself more and more confused about what to buy.
The main thing we’re interested in about decks is their size. So what does that mean? As far as deck sizes go, when you’re trying to pick a width for your first board, you’ll see two numbers popping up again and again in recommendations, 8” and 8.25”. These are the most popular board sizes at the moment. If you went back to the 90’s, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see guys riding boards 7.75” or even narrower, but more people are skating wider setups now (even as wide -and wider than- 9”, depending on the skater and their particular flavour of skating). As a repeat, anything 8”-8.25” is where you want to be, just pick what sounds good and go with it. Remember, your deck will probably get worn out in anywhere from one to six months, so there’s plenty of opportunity to change and try something new down the road.
The measurement from one end of your truck’s bolts (where your wheels will bolt on) to the other should closely match your deck’s width. This is called ‘hanger width’. There is a little bit of leeway here so you don’t need to be too precise, but it’s definitely worth remembering.
Note: different truck manufacturers have different ways of measuring hanger width, so it’s worth googling your chosen brand to double check. For an 8” to 8.25” deck, Independent 139 trucks will work very well. For the same deck width, you could also choose Tensor 5.5’s and Thunder 147’s or 148’s would also be ideal.
If you’re reading this then there are probably only two things you need to bear in mind, the wheel’s size and its durometer. The size is simply the diameter, measured across the wheel, and the durometer is a measurement of the wheel’s hardness. A hard wheel is 99a – 103a or higher, and a soft wheel is generally anything less than 90a. The harder the wheel, the more durable (generally) and the better for power-sliding and recovering tricks, the softer the wheel the more grippy and the more comfortable when cruising.
For starting out, any durometer of wheel is going to work, but most folks will go for something a little over to the hard side, so 99a and above. What’s more important, generally, is the wheel’s size. For a general-use board, 53-54mm will work pretty well. If you go a little bigger, to say a 55-56mm wheel, you’ll be able to get over a few more obstacles a little better (we’re not talking kerbs here, more like larger bits of grit and very, very small pebbles). A lot of people prefer to skate slightly smaller wheels, too (again in the 90’s things were really small, like 42mm small!). A smaller wheel is anything below 52mm as far as a lot of people now are concerned. Some people choose smaller wheels as having the board a little closer to the ground can feel better to some folks. For our purposes a medium to large wheel will be great, so 53-56mm and 100a or harder is ideal. Phew!
It’s worth knowing that, although the bigger your wheels the less obstacles will bother you, there is another consideration, too: wheelbite. Wheelbite occurs when the action of turning on your skateboard puts the deck into contact with a wheel. If this happens when you’re in motion, you’re probably going to fall off the front of your board, and that’s undesirable. Unless you know you’ve bought high trucks, or you’re planning to fit riser pads, it’s not recommended to use wheels any larger than 55-56mm on a standard setup.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding bearings and you can get pretty well caught up if you’re not careful. For now, just know that ABEC rating doesn’t really have any practical application for skateboarders and that better bearings won’t make you ollie any higher or flip any faster. The bearings most people use and the ones most often recommended are Bones Reds. Recently, Mini Logo have become a decent competitor, with their own bearings performing very similarly to Reds for a little less money.
It’s generally considered honourable to support your local skate shop, so have a google around and see if you can obtain any good deals from a local store (everything here is linked to Skatehut.co.uk, which is a great store to buy from if you don’t have a local independent shop to visit or order from).
Cheapest first. If you are pretty tight on funds, but want to get started straight away, something like this Renner A-Series complete will get you up and rolling for less than £30. It has a 7.75” Chinese maple deck and uses no-name parts, but that’s why we watched the Braille video earlier; remember, if a 2×4 can be kickflipped, you’ll be alright with Chinese maple and cheaper components while you’re getting used to balancing and trying a few tricks.
In second place we have this Mini Logo complete for a smidge under £75. Mini Logo is a subsidiary of Powell Peralta skateboards, one of the early pillars of the skateboarding world. By eschewing fancy artwork and pro-skater sponsorships, they produce high quality components for less outlay -great for new skaters and more experienced folks on a budget. Note that the trucks on this complete aren’t Mini Logo branded trucks, but the no-name trucks they come with are pretty good.
This is probably the best option out there in terms of price for your first board. It’s not quite as nice as a custom complete, but it’s plenty to get going with at a great price. It’s also worth knowing that Mini Logo’s owners, Powell Peralta, also own Bones, makers of some of the best wheels and bearings in the world. It’s widely believed that Mini Logo bearings and wheels are very likely the same as some of Bones’ cheaper offerings, but at a lower price…
And, finally, the crème-de-la-crème: a custom complete.This is what it sounds like; you buy everything separately, based on your own preference. It’s certainly pricier, costing anywhere from £100 – £200 for a set-up depending on your choices, but it’s a great option if you have the money and already know exactly what you’d like from your board (and that you’ll stick with it). For maximum fun points, buy all the components and put the board together yourself 🙂
An honourable mention must go to stickers. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but for many a complete isn’t quite complete without at least a few of those bad-boys to spice things up and make it your own.
Skateboarding is a great hobby, whether you’re 8 or 48 (see Tony Hawk).
It’s tough and it requires a lot of patience, but it’s a rewarding endeavour well worth getting into or revisiting. Just remember: falling over hurts whether you’re young or not, so pads and a helmet are always advised.
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you enjoyed this article or found it useful -as always, we’d love to hear from you!
Now stop reading and get skating!!!