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Skateboard Buyer's Guide

Skateboard Buying Guide & Size Guide

Searching for the best skateboard for beginners? There can be a lot of different factors to consider as you make your choice, from varying sizes and types, right down to the very parts that make up your board. Fortunately, once you get a handle on the basic differences out there, as well as an understanding of what kind of skating you want to do – from cruising around town to jumping off-road and hitting some ramps – you will be able to find the right skateboard for you. 


As one of the leading skateboarding and streetwear retailers across NZ, our in-house pros at Empire Skate have put together this complete, yet simple skateboard buying & size guide to help you out. This includes the different types of skateboards you will find on the market, such as the standard design, as well as cruisers and longboards.

We also provide a skateboard size chart that will show how to find the best boards for men, women and kids as you shop so you don’t end up with a design too big or small.

What’s more, we even have a breakdown of all the parts you will find on your board, from the decks and bearings to trucks, wheels, grip tapes and general hardware, should you ever wish to customise. By the time you’re done reading, you will be equipped with everything you need to know to select the right board and get skating. 


Different Types of Skateboards


Standard Skateboards

You may also hear these referred to as ‘shortboard’s, and they are the most common among the different types of skateboards. Ask most experts in the industry and they will typically prescribe these as the best skateboards for beginners and kids given they are so versatile, and used the world over for street skating, tricks at the local skate park, and practically any other form of skating out there. 


You’ve certainly seen them around; shorter in length with the nose and tail exactly symmetrical (or as close as can be), looking very similar to a popsicle stick. Riders will find these to be far more manoeuvrable, which makes them excellent for learning and carving out a variety of tricks. They are also the lightest option and easiest to carry around.


With that in mind, however, standard shortboards are not as stable as other types of skateboards, given their size and structure, so they can be more difficult to ride over longer distances and/or when travelling at a faster speed. If you are looking to skate around the city, or are building some serious speed riding downhill, for example, you may be better suited opting for a cruiser or longboard.


Cruiser Skateboards

When reviewing the different types of skateboards available, this might not be the best for beginners who are still mastering control of the board. Cruiser skateboards are the recommended option for those using their board as a means of transportation. They are available in a range of different designs and styles, but will typically be found in the same length as shortboards. The noticeable difference, however, will be the wider width towards the head or in the middle of the board, offering more room for your feet, and therefore greater stability. The wheels are generally softer, too, to offer a smoother, faster roll even when on rougher surfaces like tarmac and pebbles. 


Riders have less manoeuvrability than shortboards and, given their greater width, most tricks will be harder to perform. They are, however, far more nimble and lighter than longboards in comparison, making them the better choice when looking to weave through urban obstructions.


Longboards


Ever heard the story that skateboards were invented by surfers who installed wheels onto their surfboards to still carve up, even when the waves weren’t rolling? Well, this is the true origin story of modern skating, and longboards are the closest we have to those boards of old. 


As the name suggests, longboards offer a far longer, more stable alternative that creates greater ease for balance when riding over greater distances. This is the ideal option for chill cruising, or letting loose down hills and allowing gravity to do its work to build up some incredible speeds. Naturally, their size will prohibit most tricks, but this can prove helpful to beginners looking to gain more stable legs and endurance on the board.


Skateboard Size Chart


So, with a variety of different types, styles and designs of skateboards available, how are you supposed to know which is the best skateboard for you? After all, men’s & women’s boards will surely have to be different to those for kids, right?


Well, there isn’t an exact science behind deck size for riders, as it is more about personal preference and technique. With that in mind, however, there are some standard sizing rules that you can follow to get started, especially when searching for the best boards for beginners. Given everyone grows and develops differently, these consider your height, age and shoe size and then recommend the appropriate deck width to ensure an improved skating experience:


Deck

Deck Width

Rider Height

Age

Shoe Size

Micro

6.5" to 6.75"

Below 103 cm

Below 5 Years Old

Shoe Size of 1 or Below

Mini

7.0"

102 cm - 160 cm

Ages 6 - 8

Shoe Size Between 2 - 5

Mid

7.25" - 7.75"

130 cm - 160 cm

Ages 9 -12

Shoe Size Between 6 - 8

Full

7.75" & Over

161 cm & Over

Ages 13 & Over

Shoe Size of 9 or Higher


Once you get a bit more skill under your belt, you might want to start experimenting with different board types and styles to better suit your preferences. For example, those who have a knack for doing technical tricks, flip tricks, manuals, ledges and flat bars will be better off with narrower boards around 7.75 to 8.25 inches. Those who kick it up a notch and do some solid work on big bowls, handrails, and even sizeable jumps will prefer a larger board with a width of 8.25 to 9 inches. 


Skateboard Parts


Once you know which of the different types of skateboards is best for you, you can start to learn how to customise your skateboard to best suit your tastes and riding style by having a strong understanding of its parts.


Decks


The deck is the main part of the skateboard, where you stand while riding. It's important to choose skateboard decks that are strong and durable, yet light enough that you can manoeuvre easily. When considering how to choose a deck, remember the size also affects how easy it is to control your board; as mentioned above, smaller decks are usually easier to control than larger ones.


Bearings


Bearings are what allows the wheels of your skateboard to rotate smoothly. There are different types of skateboard bearings, and each has its own benefits. For example, ceramic bearings are great for high speeds, while steel bearings are better for durability. Choosing the right bearings can make a big difference in how your skateboard rides.


Trucks


Trucks are the metal axles connecting the wheels to the deck. They come in different sizes, and you'll want to choose trucks that are an appropriate size for the width of your deck. Truck height also affects how easy it is to turn your skateboard; taller skateboard trucks make it easier to turn, while shorter trucks make it easier to do tricks.


Wheels


Skateboard wheels are available in a range of different sizes, materials, and durometers (hardness). Soft wheels are better for riding on rough surfaces, while hard wheels are better for doing tricks. The size of the wheel also affects how fast you can go; larger wheels usually mean higher speeds. When considering how you will choose the right skateboard wheels, be sure to first decide how you wish to apply them.


Grip Tapes


Skateboard grip tapes are what keep you from slipping off while riding. They come in different colours and designs, so you can choose one that matches your style. All grip tapes have grits or textures that help you stay on your board while riding on rough surfaces.


Hardware

Skateboard hardware includes the bolts, nuts, and washers that hold everything together. It's important to choose hardware that's made of high-quality materials so that your skateboard is durable and long-lasting.


How To Choose a Skateboard


Best Skateboard for Beginners


As mentioned above, when looking for the best skateboard for beginners, a standard shortboard can be great to build familiarity, balance, and even rudimentary tricks thanks to its better manoeuvrability. 


Best Skateboard for Women


You won’t be able to find ‘women’s skateboards’ in the sense they are designed and manufactured exclusively for women. Instead, use the size chart above to find which size suits your age, height and shoe size, and then also review the different styles, types and designs that match your preferences to find the best skateboard for you. 


Best Skateboard for Kids


Again, apply the skateboard size chart above to find the best-suited board when shopping for your kids. Should you also be purchasing for beginners, you can find micro and mini designs that will be accommodative of their developing height and shoe size, allowing them to refine their skills on a more appropriate board.