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Sp8boards Swallow downhill board review

Sp8boards have been a staple longboard brand in the UK community for the last several years. I think they’ve been severely underrated. Today, I’m going to be reviewing the Sp8boards Swallow – a minimalistic take on the modern downhill/freeride board. Check it out below.

Specs

  • Length – 35inch
  • Width – 9.5inch (mine is 8.9inches)
  • Wheelbase – 22-25inches
  • Material – 12plys of Birch
  • Mounting – 1/4inch of flush mounting
https://youtu.be/SmNvyFJp8Ns

Who are Sp8boards?

Sp8boards are a Yorkshire based skateboard and street luge shop, with Andy Speight at its head. I first met Andy when I was studying in the UK (I think in 2016?). I had just picked up a longboard and was learning DH and FR. I joined the local Facebook longboard group and started chatting with these dudes – Andy and Andrew. We then met up and hit some of the local out of town spots – and that was the beginning of many excursions with Andy for me.

What do Sp8boards make?

Sp8boards hand craft skateboards, longboards and luges. They’re one of the most affordable options for high-quality luges and buttboards in Europe. They also make a ton of custom boards and ship em out across the world – their Etsy shop is pretty cool.

When it comes to their graphics, Andy hand paints all of them, and I mean all! Everything from the simple pieces to the more intricate designs. This gives each board what I’d say is a “personal look” or personality. And you end up feeling like that board is unique for you and only you – no board is the same.

The role Sp8boards play in the Yorkshire, UK community

When I first started skating, the sessions organized by Andy (and other community members), were instrumental to my development as a skater. By that I mean, just hanging out, having other people to skate with, and other people to meet up with and talk about skating.

And when we would meet up, we would exchange ideas about boards and essentially learn from each other. They would also share their stories and experiences and I would end up leaving with a lot more than I came with.

leeds longboarding community

I think for the most part, Andy simply organises sessions because he wants to. Not because he’s trying to sell boards, or feels responsible for the community .. idk. But for whatever reason, what Andy does is incredibly important for the scene there and is essentially what keeps the wheels moving. 

A big advantage of buying from Sp8boards

Finally, because Andy hand makes everything, you can get whatever you want to buy tweaked a bit to your liking. Maybe a narrower width here, more plys there, more concave here, maybe a wacky shape? If you think it, Andy can get it made.

I had the board I’m reviewing in this article tweaked a bit to my liking and to my riding style – it’s a bit narrower than what Andy will be selling. It fits perfect to my riding style – because Andy was able to make me exactly what I asked for and wanted.

What is my personal connection with Sp8boards?

I ended up skating a ton with Andy and the local crew. Hitting up loads of spots, from the local Uni ones to some scarier ones further out. In fact, I went to my first ever downhill skate event with Andy – the Tregaron freeride in 2017. Andy actually gave me a free ride there in exchange for riding his board at the event – the Sp8boards Bullet (which I gladly did hehe). I remember vividly running out of the exam room the day of my last exam, so I could go pack my things and get ready for the event.

abuga aroni at tregaron freeride riding the sp8boards bullet

So yeah, Sp8boards was my first official ✨sponsor✨! hehehe. And I actually did one of my first ever reviews through them as well, check it out below, reviewing the board I rode at the event. So, you could say Sp8boards is one of the reasons Dh254 is what it is today eh? 

Long story short, Andy is a certified homie for life. 

And yeah, one of my goals with this review is to advertise what he does a little bit, because I think he plays a large role in his local community and we need to support such kingpins (hehe), as they ensure the survival and further progression of our sport – especially at the local level which might be the most important role.

Sp8boards Swallow downhill board review

Love the shape and look

The first thing that I did with this board was simply take pictures. I absolutely loved how it looked. It looked hella clean, and the carbon really brought it all together. Andy had sent me pictures of it, but they simply didn’t do it justice. It looked great in person.

sp8boards swallow

I also really liked the little details Andy put on it. The gold lettering on the black popped.

The carbon isn’t really “carbon”

Though the carbon does make the board look good, it’s not really “carbon”. It’s just a carbon sticker that adds no real performance benefit … maybe it protects the board a little bit but it doesn’t make it any stiffer or anything like that…  But shhh, no ones ever gonna know if you don’t tell em.

You could ask Andy to do a custom graphic for you. It might cost you a bit more, but will be nice if you want something more custom and personal.

The board is super lightweight

Despite being 12plys of Birch, this board is suuuper lightweight. It’s one of the lightest DH boards I’ve used. This lightweightness is a welcome change. I don’t think it has any performance benefits, but it is nice for carrying it back up the hill and just generally any time I have to carry it.

The 12plys of Birch isn’t something to worry about …

The 12plys seems (and sounds) a lot and like it would make the board suuper thick or heavy, but it isn’t something to worry about. This board is just as thick as the other boards in my quiver – only a tiny bit thicker than my 9ply Maple board. 

I think the Birch plys are considerably thinner than the traditional maple ones which is why we have 12plys used – as opposed to the 8 (or 9) plys used in Maple boards.

Does the board have torsional flex?

Yes. My board does have a bit of flex, and it flexed more than the only other 9ply maple deck I had. However! My deck did have bigger, wider wheel wells than you’d get on the stock model and I believe that affected the stiffness. So, yeah the stock model should be stiffer and I would expect it to be as stiff as a 9ply deck.

**I tested the flex by standing on the board and twisting my feet in opposite directions. Eg. Putting pressure down toeside with my front foot and pressure down heelside with my back foot.

If you’re worried about this, Andy can throw in fiberglass stringers on request but that will cost you a bit more. I had spoken with Andy about it and he made some adjustments to the deck – namely slightly narrower wheel wells. But I can’t say for sure how much rigidity this would add. I simply wish they came stock with the fiberglass.

That said, when riding, I don’t think the flex affected me much. And I can’t say I felt a difference when doing both hand down and stand up stuff. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take the board super fast, so can’t comment if it affects how the board handles at speed. But I will be doing so over the next few weeks/months and I’ll be able to provide info on that.

With the board as it is, I’m happy with it for freeride. But for strict DH – where I’ll be going really fast and pushing the limits of grip, I would have liked for it to be stiffer.

The concave is mellow and comfortable

The concave of this board is quite mellow. When getting the board made for me, I made sure Andy would make it as mellow as possible. I personally do not like too much concave and really feel the mellower the concave is, the better for me.

sp8boards swallow concave

The concave is pretty comfortable and easy to stand on. I think this is also aided by the fact that the rails are pretty mellow/rounded out.

The board has mellow rails

So yeah, the board has very mellow rails. This is a good thing. Rails (and steep concave) make it hard for me to sit comfortably on my heels for things like heelside slides and for generally just skating around comfortably. This board has none and that’s a good thing … especially for me haha.

No concave features

The board doesn’t have any concave features to speak of. No wheel flares, no w, no drops, nothing. 

I can see this being an issue for some, but it did not affect my riding experience much. My back foot felt lost sometimes, but for the most part I wasn’t affected by it.

You can always add concave implants if you would like. I don’t see myself doing so tbh. 

The width is perfect for both downhill and freeride for me …

The stock board will come with a 9.5inch width, but I got mine narrowed down to 8.9inches. I felt the 8.9inch width would be perfect for me. 

When it actually came to riding, I didn’t have to shift my feet much to turn or slide either direction. This worked well for both downhill and freeride. I also never felt like it was too narrow or too wide for either style – I thought it might be narrower side for freeride, but it ended up feeling just right. 

For downhill, I set it up with wide wheels on 120mm trucks. For freeride 150mm trucks with narrow centre set wheels (think Ez Hawgs, Snakes etc.) and even inset wheels like the Krimes worked well on it.

You should have similar success with the 9.5inch wide board with 130m-140mm and 165mm wide trucks respectively.

But I would urge you to request Andy to make you the narrow version if you want a board you can use your slalom trucks on, but switch it up and freeride on it too.

The board has a consistent width between …

The board does have taper, but it does not have any between the inner most mounting holes. The width is consistent between these two points. This ensures you have the same width of board to work with when standing within these two points. I’m a big fan of this. 

For once I had enough leverage on the toeside rail – most boards taper a lot towards the front, and you end up not having a lot of leverage on the toeside rail. It usually ends up being narrower than the width of your trucks. Practically, this means I have to shift my feet and grab rail to get the board to behave how I want it to on toesides.

With this board, I could have my (size 9UK/(9/5US) foot in one position – diagonally across the board and not really have to shift it to do anything heelside or toeside. I could also comfortably not grab rail on slides or when doing toeside turns.

However, I do think that more than one factor affected this (I suspect the flush mounting helped as well), so take with a pinch of salt. I will be experimenting with this idea more though. 

The flush mounting and wheel wells are A1

With this board, you have about slightly more than 1/8inch of flush mounting and slightly more than 1/4inch deep wheel wells.

The deep wheel wells ensure you don’t get wheelbite when you use the flush mounting without any risers.

The flush mounting does add a bit of performance. It lowers the ride height and makes the board feel a bit more stable. The transitioning in and out of slides felt a bit smoother, and riding that edge of traction felt a bit more forgiving. 

Finally, I’ve been wedging and dewedging my trucks. The flush mounting means my overall ride height isn’t gonna be huge. This is nice and made it more desirable for me to mess with wedging.

The stock griptape is pretty good

The stock griptape impressed me. It wasn’t as sharp as Cuei or Lokton grip, but this made it feel just right for freeriding. It has been holding up decently to the abuse, but it is now starting to get dull. I would get Cuei if you want something more durable – but that feels almost similar. 

It is quite affordable though and I recommend it if you don’t mind replacing grip every 6 months or so. You can get 4 sheets for £10 here on the Sp8boards website.

The tail looks amazing, but does get messed up a bit…

The shape of the tail with the Swallow is pretty cool, but it does get damaged from use and from kicking the tail down to pick up the board. Over time, the tips on mine have lost the sharpness, and become quite dull.

sp8boards swallow board tail

Of course, the Tail is only there for aesthetics and not really performance. But it is in a high wear area and isn’t shaped best to withstand that. If you want keep yours looking nice, don’t use the tail much or at all.

The price is fairly decent, where to buy it?

You can buy the Swallow here at Sp8boards.com for £125. You get pretty good value for this deck at that price point. Other decks in the UK and EU go for I’d say an average of £160 and more. Not too many modern downhill/freeride decks at that price point.

How do I have mine setup?

I currently have mine setup with Aera Rf1s. I’m gonna keep that way, the setup feels pretty dialed.

sp8boards swallow resting on a hill
  • Trucks – Aera Rf1s
  • Baseplate angle – 46*
  • Wheels Dragonskins, Krimes.
  • Bushings – Hardcore barrels 87a.
  • Bearings –  Loaded Jehu V2 bearings.
  • Griptape – Sp8boards coarse grip.
  • Footstop – Voxel boards footstop

What I didn’t like about the Swallow …

The torsional flex …

I’d say the little bit of torsional flex was the one thing I didn’t like. As I said, I didn’t feel as though it affected me much when skating. However, all the other boards on the market are stiffer, and I naturally feel this should follow suit.

Not much else to not like ..

I don’t have much else I don’t like about the board. I got it fitted to my specifications and likes, so that eliminated a lot of what I would naturally not like hehe.

Who should buy the Swallow?

  • If you want a board that can be adapted to both freeride and downhill, this is an excellent choice.
  • If you want to support a local shop.
  • Do you want a downhill board but want one or two things tweaked to suite you? This is the board/shop to go with.
  • If you want a handmade board.

Who shouldn’t buy the Swallow?

  • If the flex issue is a big issue for you. You can of course get fiberglass stringers added for maximum rigidity.

What do you think, does the Swallow sound right for you?

The Swallowtail is a great board and I recommend it to everyone. I would say, make sure you get the option with fiberglass if you want a properly stiff downhill board.

Big thanks to Andy for sending me this deck to review. I think I’ll be keeping it around as it’s one of the most fun set ups I have presently. 

Big thanks to my patrons, Jed, SuperbadJuju, Mowgii, Bryan, Andrew, Jan, Jay, Owen, Samil, Daniel, Alex, Kasajja, Leah, and Justin for the continued support. Your continued support of me allows me to keep making things like this. Cheers!

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