Downhill skating for beginners: Your first longboard
July 28, 2019
As my interest in downhill longboarding grew and I started to research my first deck, I was quickly overwhelmed by all the guides, information, different types of decks people were riding. I simply didn’t know what to go with.
Today I’m writing this article to target the beginner. What type of deck should you go for? What features are good for a beginners downhill longboard and what others are not? I answer all these questions and more below. If you want a shortened, visual version, check out the video below:
Great beginner decks – My recommendations
The Omen Chief
Coming in at 38.5 in long and 9.75in wide. It has long wheelbases from 30-32in and features a large drop. This drop down board is great for beginners.
The long shape makes it stable and combined with the drop a beginner can say goodbye to wobbles. Its made with simple wood construction, which makes it strong but heavy.
The drop makes it easier to push too, so one can also use it as a commuter if they would like to.
You can check its pricing on Amazon here. The price is on the higher side, but it’s a great board and would last you a long time.
The Landyachtz Evo
All hail the Landyachtz Evo. This board has won a lot of races over the years and was the most dominant board between 2005 – 2015. It is pretty unique. It features a large drop down to the standing platform.
Where the trucks are mounted is angled. You have a 15+ degree angle on the front and a 15- angle on the back. This makes the front turn more than the back and makes the board SUPER stable and easy to ride. This is why it is a popular beginners downhill longboard. That inherrent stability is wanting.
You can check its pricing on Amazon here. This board is great for beginners. Its dominance and popularity over the years confirm this. I’m going to buy one for myself one day.
The Rayne Fortune V1 is a lightweight downhill deck. Its made with composites and combines fiberglass with bamboo for deck construction that is strong, durable and sustainable.
It comes in at 36in long and has wheelbase options between 24.5-26.75in. Great for short people or kids. It has ‘3D wheel wells’ which stop you from getting wheelbite and lock you in. You might not need a footstop with the wheelwells.
The graphics are scratch resistant, so your board will look beautiful for as long as you use it (forever basically) unless of course it gets run over by a car.
You can check its pricing on Amazon here. It comes at an affordable price which is crazy because this deck will last forever.
Sector 9 Louis Pilloni Pro Model
The pro model deck from one of my favorite skaters. Sector 9 Louis Pro is a bad ass beginners longboard deck designed for high speeds and shredding. It is a top mount but features flush mounting. This means some material has been cut out from the bottom so the truck is mounted INSIDE the board. It’s like a drop mount but you can step on where the drop is.
The board is constructed of wood and fiberglass. It is therefore strong and really lightweight. It is 39.5in long and 9.5in wide.
It has a healthy wheelbase of 26in – 28.25in. Super stable and perfect for beginners.
It also features a really functional kicktail, so you can do ollies and kickflips too.
You can check its pricing on Amazon here. For the price it is reasonable. You are investing in a quality deck that will last you a long time. Also, sector 9 is a great company and they sponsor loads of local events. By buying the deck you support them and the community too.
Landyachtz Drop Hammer
Our final option. The Landyachtz Drop Hammer is a great board. It comes in at 36.5in in length and 10in wide. It has a fixed 27.25 in wheelbase. It features 8plys of Canadian maple for strong and stiff construction. However. it will be on the heavy side. Its perfect for all riders and all shapes and sizes. Especially if you are on the heavy side.
Its a great board and you can also use it or commuting. It doesn’t have any concave features so it is comfortable to push around on.
You can check out its pricing on Amazon here. I highly recommend this board if you want a drop through. You could also experiment by mounting it from the bottom to see if you like riding a topmount.
What makes a good beginner Downhill deck?
In general, all good downhill decks have a few things in common. In fact, they all try and achieve them in different ways. Below I talk about the most important features to have on a downhill deck.
Have you already picked out the board you want? Check out my list of safety bits that a beginner needs.
How stiff should a downhill longboard be?
Stiffness is an extremely desirable feature. When you start picking up speed, you want your board to accurately reflect what your trucks are doing. The same is true the other way, you want to have the trucks and board do what you want them to do.
When you have a flexy deck, it won’t perform adequately and you can get wobbles at higher speeds. A good downhill board will be stiff.
Stiffness can be achieved by using 8-9plys of wood. Like Canadian maple, birch etc. Board manufacturers can also use composites, like carbon fiber, fiberglass and some even use metals. The boards made with composites tend to be stronger and lighter.
A lighter board would be easier to carry around, easier to slide and a bit more quick to respond.
Does the shape matter much?
The shape, or rather cut out of your board doesn’t matter so much and a beginner shouldn’t worry a lot about this. However, if you want a kicktail on your downhill board you should go for one that has this feature.
As you get more experienced and ride more boards, you’ll learn what you like about each shape.
For example, I like a board with a shape that allows me to be close to my front truck. I like the shape of the deck to be wide enough that will cover both trucks and wheels. Being close to my front truck gives me the most control over it.
For width and length, I would recommend a board smaller than 9.5in in width and a length of about 36in. Any shorter and you will be limited by the length in terms of wheelbase and by width in terms of leverage over your truck, which will most likely be 10in.
Which mounting option should you go for?
Building on the shape of the board, there are different types of longboard truck mounting options available. This is the most important factor a beginner should consider. There are three main types of mounting options available:
The drop down longboard
The drop down is a deck shape where the standing platform of the deck is lower than where the trucks are mounted. This is one of the most stable shapes and is, in my opinion, the best for beginners.
This shape doesn’t give you a lot of leverage over your trucks, your center of gravity (c of g) is lower and your input is under-exaggerated. Therefore it is much more stable at speeds. It is also a lot easier to slide and you have a lot more control than the other options. You have a lot more leverage than the drop through option.
However, it doesn’t allow you to maximize the amount of grip you get out of your wheels and the best performance of your trucks. These are not things beginners should worry about though. You need to focus on getting the basics and learning before maximizing anything … Plus its more fun to learn on something easy to skate.
The drop through longboard
The drop through mounting is where the truck is mounted through the board. This lowers your c of g, give you less input over your trucks and all together provides a more stable ride.
However, you don’t have a lot of leverage over your trucks and as such it might not slide that great. This is a great option for cruising (imo) but not for downhill. However, you might personally like it.
It also allows you to try out the top mounting option and switch between the two. It’s an easy process to take apart your truck and mount it the other way.
The top mount longboard
The top mount is basically a racers favorite. It allows you to maximize your leverage over your trucks and wheels. In racing, this is important as you can take the best line and have the best slowing down power … however, we are not racing just yet.
It’s also the most unstable out of our 3 shapes and the grippiest. Which means you won’t feel comfortable going fast and it will be hard to slide.
I recommend this shapes for intermediates who want to push their ability and for people interested in racing, but for beginners, I would not.
The best beginner shape is easily the drop down. If not, the topmount paired with slidey wheels would do fine too.
What wheelbase options should I go for?
This is basically how many holes your board has. In my opinion, the more mounting holes the better. This allows you to experiment with different wheelbases, where you like to put your front truck, front foot, back foot etc. I think experimentation is a key part of downhill skateboarding.
In general, long wheelbase options are great for beginners. A long wheelbase will be more stable at higher speeds. This is because the setup will have a longer turning circle and twitch less at those high speeds. In the slides, it will be more controllable and you can get away with making mistakes. They really allow you to get those less than 90degree slides so you won’t flat spot your wheels.
However, you will have to setup carve more for the slides if you have a long wheelbase.
Short wheelbases are NOT a good idea. Especially if you are a beginner. You are gonna twitch, high side, slide at 90 degrees and just have a bad time. I recommend you try it for yourself and experience it. Maybe you’ll like something about it or hate something about it.
What else should I think about?
Griptape – I recommend you get coarse griptape. Coarse grip sticks you to the board and stops you from sliding off sideways when you are sliding. Griptape such as Seismic grip and the more affordable Vicious grip are great options. You can check their pricing on Amazon by clicking the links.
Footstop – This helps lock your front foot in. There are different types available in different shapes in sizes. They are particularly useful for stand up toeside slides or hand down toeside slides and they really lock that front foot in. You can see an example of a footstop here – Rayne Footstop .
Which longboard is right for you?
The most important factor for longboarding is experience and figuring out what you like. You do that by buying a board, riding it and using the feedback to influence your future purchasing decisions. If you are having trouble deciding on a board, I recommend either the Omen Chief or Landyachtz evo. Pulling the trigger on either is a safe decision as they are both great boards.