A Beginners Guide To Buying A Skateboard
Buying a skateboard for the first time can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting if you don’t know what to look for. Hopefully this guide helps make it easier for you.
Let's start with a common question we get asked, is it better to buy a pre-made complete or build it from scratch?
Buying a pre-made skateboard can be a good option if its for a beginner. They shouldn't notice much difference between expensive and cheap components. Pre-made boards are also cheaper and will do the job nicely for anyone new to the sport.
We offer 260+ ready made skateboards that have everything a beginner needs to start rolling. Our completes start at less than $100 (AUD) and come in a variety of different sizes and styles. That said, the rest of this guide is for those who are looking for something more customised, or those curious to learn more.
One of the things we like about skateboarding is how simple the equipment actually is. A complete skateboard is made up of a wooden deck where the skater stands. Two metal trucks that function as steering axles. On the trucks are four wheels, each containing two bearings at the core to propel the skater forward.
Step 1: Picking a board
Skateboards are made out of seven layers of maple wood that are reinforced and glued together with epoxy resin. They are then shaped for weeks under immense pressure and cut into the required shape.
There are a variety of shapes available, but to keep it simple we’ll focus on the most common. The ‘popsicle’ shape is dual-directional allowing for tricks to be performed going both forwards or backwards.
The board width is universally measured in inches and most vary from 7.5″ to 10″. The good news is there’s no such thing as buying the wrong size skateboard. As skaters progress, choosing a width comes down to personal taste.
Generally speaking if you roughly align the width of the board with the riders shoe size, it will feel right. Here’s an approximate size chart you might find helpful.
Finding the right size may take a few attempts, but you'll know it when you find it. Our friendly staff are happy to recommend based on your feedback until you nail it.
Then all that’s left is to select a graphic. Different brands favour different styles, but don’t overthink it because it'll be getting scratched up with all sorts of slides and grinds in no time. Have a browse through our 600+ boards until find something that catches your eye.
Or try our custom skateboard builder making it easy to build a complete with components that suit your needs. Once you see a board you like, click on it to open the product page and add components using the correlating menu (below the product name). Continue reading this guide to help choose the right components for your setup.
Griptape is what goes on top of the board to help the riders feet grip and manoeuvre the board. Essentially its a big sticker with a grippy top surface.
It comes in both perforated and unperforated. Being perforated makes it easier to apply without getting air bubbles. But you can always poke holes through non-perforated grip if that happens.
Step 2: Choosing trucks
Now you need some trucks to bolt on to that freshly-gripped board. Trucks are forged with a high-strength axle made to withstand big impacts without breaking. The main things to consider when choosing trucks is the width and height.
Generally speaking, choosing a skateboard truck width is pretty easy. You just need to make sure they match the width of your deck so that there is no balance or responsiveness issues. If they are not wide enough the rider will lack turning power and have an increased risk of wheel bite. If they are too wide and the axles will be sticking out the side of the board and lead to unnecessary slams in more ways than one.
There are a variety of different sizing standards for trucks which can make it confusing to find the right one. So we’ve put together a helpful guide help match different board sizes with brands and truck widths.
The next thing to consider is whether you’ll want to choose low, mid or high trucks.
High trucks are great for carving and skating loose. Highs give more clearance for wheels to turn without biting the board. They are also slightly heavier which can require more force to pop your board. High trucks are generally great for bowls, ramps, transition and cruising.
Low trucks provide more stability while grinding round rails and make it easier to pop due to a lower centre of gravity. But they allow less turning radius and come with an increased chance of wheel bite if you ride larger wheels.
Mid (Medium) height skateboard trucks are great all-rounders and cover all terrains effectively.
Apart from width and height, there are materials and graphics. Trucks can come in all kinds of metals, but traditional forged steel is the most popular. There are also lots of graphic and colour options available, but these have no effect on performance. If you find a colour you like and they compliment your board graphic then go for it.
Step 3: Selecting wheels
Now that you’ve got trucks it’s time to pick some wheels, because you’re not going to get far without those. Wheels come in different shapes, hardness’ and sizes. Some are better for street and some for park skating.
A round wheel shape is your best bet for newbies, as these are fine for rolling around on flat concrete surfaces while learning. Through progression skaters can experiment with different variations to match their style.
Some wheels help with grinding rails and coping, others are made to have better control while going fast, ect. As with most skate components a skaters taste will develop through experimentation. But sticking to a basic wheel shape will be fine for most beginners.
Skateboard wheels are made of urethane which is measured on a durometer scale by density. Not all wheels with the same duro feel the same, each wheel company uses a different formula. Skaters will need to try different brands until they find one they like.
Harder wheels (101A) tend to slide better, which can be a saving grace when landing awkwardly. Harder is also better for power slides, which are fun and good for slowing down to avoid collisions.
Soft wheels (98A) tend to not slide as well, but in general the softer they are the smoother the ride. You can get some very soft wheels, especially with the ‘cruiser’ varieties, but we’ll cover that more in ‘A Beginners Guide To Buying A Cruiser’. While starting out if you stay within the 99A-100A range you’ll be good to go.
All skateboard wheels are measured in millimetres (mm). Generally speaking bigger wheels give you a smoother and faster ride, but small wheels will still do the job on most surfaces.
Keep in mind that bigger wheels will need higher trucks, unless you get some riser pads to add more clearance. If you choose lower trucks, go with 52mm or 53mm wheels and if you have higher trucks, try some 54mm or 55mm wheels. There are also 60mm+ wheels but they are for longboards, cruisers & old-school boards.
As with trucks and boards, graphics and colours won’t effect the performance of your wheels. We recommend you don’t worry too much about those until you figure out a preferred shape and size for your skating. If you like a wheel but not the graphic, you can always turn the graphic inwards for a clean simple look.
Step 4: Deciding on bearings
Bearings come in one universal size and are made to fit all skateboard wheels. They are sold as a set of eight, two bearings per wheel.
The type of bearings determines how fast you go, but speed is not overly desirable for beginners. We recommend keeping it simple and start with inexpensive entry level options like DSCO Abec 5, or Bones Reds.
As skaters get better they can experiment with higher Abec ratings, Swiss engineered or ceramic ball variations. But in the early stages of those options will likely be overkill and possibly make things harder.
Step 6: Settling on hardware
There are a bunch of brands selling nuts and bolts to attach your trucks to your board. For the most part they’re all pretty much the same. Hardware is sold in sets of eight, each truck requires four bolts and nuts.
Skateboard hardware comes in different sizes, the length of the screws you get depends on what whether or not you install risers. As long as your bolts don’t hang out too far past your truck’s baseplate, you’ll be sweet.
The use of colours can help to distinguish between your nose and tail. There are also Allen key and Phillips head options, but these won’t effect performance and is a matter of preference.
And there you have it. As you’ve likely noticed many decisions will be influenced by a skaters style and taste as they progress. Best not overthink it and just get out there and enjoy skateboarding!
If you’re still feeling stuck and have questions, send an email and one of our knowledgable staff members will be able to assist you.