For any aspiring skater, choosing a skateboard deck can be a bit like looking at the Macca’s drive-through menu when you haven’t eaten for three days….everything looks so damn good at first glance! With all the choices available on the market, it can be a bit overwhelming making the right choice, especially if you’re new to the scene.
I’ve seen that face a million times… newbie walks into the shop, eyes wide with excitement …and intimidation. Where does one begin with so many cool decks lining the wall? Some would argue that the deck is the most important part of a complete skateboard, and to a certain extent, it is. It’s also going to be the one part of the skateboard that you will replace the most often.
Your deck will have the biggest impact on how you perform tricks and the style of skater you ultimately become. So in making your selection you should consider the four basic elements; deck construction, size, shape and materials.
When it comes to deck construction, most skateboards are constructed of North American maple, a material selected for its durable and flexible qualities. The deck is comprised of laminated layers, also known as veneers, typically in a 7-ply construction. Some board companies offer 5 or 6 ply boards to reduce weight, or 8 or 9 ply decks to increase strength.
The veneers are layers with the wood grain running along the length of the board, every other layer running the width of the board; a technique called cross beaming, which adds strength. A glue or epoxy resin is used to adhere the layers together, under the pressure of a hydraulic press. The press forms the concave and the curve of the nose and tail. After the holes are drilled, the decks are cut into their final shape with a band saw, then routed, sanded and sealed to protect it from the elements.
The ply that you choose will be affected most by your weight and skating style. (Though obviously if you are a beginner, your style won’t be established… yet!). Generally, most people ride 7 ply but it’s not uncommon for riders over 200 lbs to seek out the 8 or 9 ply decks. Smaller riders learn better on lighter boards, which leads us to our next topic, size and shape.
The manufacturing process, as described above, sets the shape of the board. Varying degrees of concave and pop are incorporated into the final product, offering a variety of shapes to appeal to different skaters. So what shape should you choose? Well, that depends on how you plan to skate.
Do you plan on just cruising for pleasure or shredding? Are you going to skate street or vert? The more pop you have in a board (the curvature of the nose and tail) the higher you will be able to ollie. Since the ollie is the basic skill on which most tricks are based, pop is a very important element if you plan on doing any tricks.
Vert skaters are generally going to need wider boards for stability and speed when cruising up and down the ramps. But since width adds to weight, street skaters tend to ride slightly smaller boards to decrease the cumbersome affects of having too much wood under their feet.
If you don’t plan on learning tricks or riding the ramps, but still want to chill with the guys and use your board for transportation to a buddy’s house, a cruiser board may be right up your alley. They generally only have pop on the tail (for turning and navigation over small obstacles) but have a flat nose and wider width for stability and durability.
In essence, your choice in deck will be determined by how you plan to use your deck. The best thing you can do before making a purchase, is going to your local park and asking a few skaters if you can try out their boards. Ask them what they like best and consider the style you are aspiring to achieve. Most seasoned skaters will be happy to show you the ropes, to do their part to pass the torch to the next generation of skaters.