What's the Difference between skateboards and longboards?
You've probably noticed that longboards are around more than ever before. An easy, fun and cool way to get around, a tool for carving up the streets when the surf is flat or when there's no snow, a big alternative to a regular skateboard, or a downhill race machine - a longboard can be all of these things and more. But how are they any different to regular skateboards?
Let's start off by explaining where "normal" skateboarding is. For the last two decades, not a lot has changed - deck widths and lengths have moved be a few 16th's of an inch, and wheel sizes have shrunk and grown again by a few mm, but a regular skateboard is still very much the same lozenge shape as it was back in the early 90's. Skateboards are relatively short at around 32", and feature nose and kicktails for ollies and flips. Almost always pressed from Maple - a hardwood with great energy return - they are stiff and strong enough for most people, most of the time. Street trucks are stronger, lighter and lower than ever, but still mostly cast or forged from aluminium with a urethane bushing, and the basic mechanism hasn't really changed that much from the trucks that skaters took from roller skates. Small, hard, narrow urethane wheels roll fast and grip well on smooth surfaces, whilst keeping things light and easy to throw around. Skateboards have spent a hell of a long time evolving to get to where they are now; small, light, strong, functional, perfected tools of self-expression on the streets and skate parks. As the saying goes - If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Whilst skateboarding has been busy fine-tuning the same decks, trucks and wheels to suit new terrains and tricks, longboarding has been evolving too. But unlike "regular " skateboards, longboards come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, concaves, profiles, wheel type, truck geometries and way more besides. "Longboarding" is a huge and hard-to-define thing, covering cruising, dancing, freestyle, freeride, downhill, parks and bowls, street even... in a lot of ways, it encompasses all the varieties of skateboarding that skateboarding has forgotten over the last two decades.
The closest thing in length to a regular skateboard is a Freeride/Slide/Hybrid board. A bit longer than a regular skateboard, they have a lot in common with their smaller brethren - stiff construction, often with a nose and a tail, and a symmetrical or semi-symmetrical shape. They are designed for more aggressive kinds of longboarding - ramps, street and bowls, but also sliding and bombing hills. In a lot of ways, they're just big skateboards, although they will generally feature softer wheels and "longboard style" trucks. These trucks are a variation on the good old street truck on your skateboard, but tweaked to give a better turn and more stability at higher speeds, rather than with an emphasis on grinding coping or a ledge. You'll find them on pretty much every longboard out there, and you can easily recognise them because they look like they are on "backwards" compared to a regular skate truck.
A little longer, but at the other end of the skateboard/longboard spectrum, is the drop-through cruiser board. This is a pretty funky-looking shape compared to a regular skateboard - they're designed to cruise and carve around with ease and in comfort. The most obvious difference is the "drop-through" truck setup - the trucks are mounted through the deck to create a lower ride. This makes for easier pushing and foot braking, more stability and a more relaxed turning feeling. Featuring large cut-outs to avoid wheel bite, they turn a lot compared to a regular skateboard, and have a lot more "flex" or "bounce" in the deck - often achieved using fibreglass or bamboo constructions. Soft, grippy wheels keep things rolling fast and smooth. Whilst a longboard like this is totally useless in a skate park and not much good at flipping a stair set, it's far better for getting around than a regular skateboard.
For a select few, longboarding means finding the longest, twistiest hill around, and getting down it as fast as possible. Reaching speeds in excess of 80mph, downhill skateboarders require very specialist setups and easily put as much stress and trust through their equipment as street or vert skateboarders. Downhill skateboarding is definitely a crazy discipline - and the boards that have developed with the sport over the last twenty years look nothing like a regular skateboard! Downhill longboards are very stiff and light, often using advanced construction techniques pioneered in snowboards - bamboo, softwoods, fibreglass and carbon fibre are the norm here. Unique concaves act to give the skater as much control as they need whilst pushing the limits of gravity-powered speed. Downhill "Precision" Trucks are often forged and CNC'd for maximum precision and strength, and wheels are super wide and grippy to hold a line at high speeds.
For many years the archetypal longboard was the pintail - a surf-inspired shape for cruising and carving. It's best at carving and cruising, and getting from A to B in style - but the longer, classic shape nods to skateboarding roots in surfing rather than the functional and stripped-back drop-through shapes out there. A flexy deck with soft, fast and grippy wheels and loose trucks makes for a very different ride and look to a "regular" skateboard - this is a modern take on skateboarding’ s birthplace.
The longest longboards going are a whole different breed... "dancing" has appeared in the last few years, evolving from longboard surf style board walking to incorporate many of the same flips, spins and fast plants as flatland skateboarding from the 80's. Dancing and Freestyle longboards are light and flexy like a cruiser board, but with smaller wheels, functional kicks and a symmetrical or semi-symmetrical shape make all those new-school tricks a breeze. Think of them as "aggressive cruiser boards..." Super long to give loads of room for footwork, whether you’re a longboard surfer looking to practice your footwork for time in the surf, or a dedicated dancer keen to learn the latest longboard tech, there is a board here for you.
There's way more shapes and styles of longboards out there that we haven’t covered... hybrid carve boards, mini cruisers, slalom boards, long-distance pumping and pushing setups and more... Skateboarding and longboarding is way bigger than you might think, and for every aspect of it, there is a specialist setup to make it easier and more fun. It's easier than ever before to enjoy a plan with four wheels on it than ever before, so pick your style and start pushing!