Let’s start with the most important fact about longboards: a longboard is not a skateboard.
Sure, it has lots of similarities to the board you may have messed around with as a kid, as well as the souped-up versions that are required accessories for teens who are into the skating culture. They’re all essentially decks mounted on wheels.
But a longboard is infinitely more versatile than a skateboard, which is best used simply for doing cool tricks. The (usually) greater length and larger wheels of longboards make them more stable and give them more traction so they’re great for everyday transportation.
That’s not to say that you can’t have fun on a longboard; cruising and carving on sloped streets at low speeds are great ways to exercise, freeriders can slash and spin on the pavement, and downhill riders can race at highway speeds.
Each type of longboarding is best done on a different size and style of board, meaning the best longboards for riding to work will be very different than the right ones for freeriding or carving. The review team will list a variety of choices when we run down Groom+Style’s best longboard top 5 list – after digging deeper on the qualities and characteristics you should be looking for.
Your First Longboarding Decision
The differences between the boards that we’ve mentioned make it crucial to first decide why you want a longboard, before even thinking about buying one. Only then can you choose between deck lengths, widths, styles and flex, wheel shapes and sizes, trucks (the “swivels” that attach wheels to the board) and other features.
It’s a somewhat-confusing process (who would have thought that a “skateboard” could be so complicated?), so let’s start with some quick definitions.
Cruising and Carving:
One step up from simply pushing yourself along the sidewalk on your board, cruising is the act of navigating a longboard in and around pedestrians and normal daily “obstacles.” Carving involves swinging the board from side to side to propel down a hill, usually in sweeping curves. This how most casual longboarders enjoy the sport.
This is a more exciting version of carving which adds some tricks like sliding and drifting and requires a higher skill level because foot braking is required. It’s slightly different than freestyling, which involves more creativity and can include anything from dancing to boardwalking as well as carving and sliding.
Fast and often dangerous, downhill can involve racing other boarders, but is more often a simple matter of building speed and having fun. Specialized longboards and equipment are usually required.
Selecting the Right Longboard
There’s an endless range of choices in longboards, but here are some guidelines for matching your board to how you’ll be using it.
Transportation, Cruising, and Carving:
Decks between 28 and 45 inches work well for these purposes, with shorter ones preferable for maneuvering through very heavy traffic (or for kids and beginners); wheelbases (the distance between trucks) are usually between 18 and 30 inches wide.
Longer boards and wheelbases make it more difficult to make tight turns but are more stable. Most of these longboards will also have a kick tail (the end portion of the deck that bends upward, which is often useful for doing tricks) because they make it easier to deal with curbs, corners, and unexpected pedestrians.
A cruising or caving board is usually directional (it only goes forward), will have square-lipped wheels, and will have a soft to medium flex; soft flex is better for bumpy surfaces and a medium flex provides extra stability.
Ideal longboards for straightforward transportation (without encountering lots of obstacles) are slightly different. They’ll be closer to 40 inches long with odd-looking drop decks or double drop decks that let the trucks stick out above the board; that puts the longboard closer to the ground for less strain and a more stable ride.
Freeriding and Freestyling:
These boards are designed for maximum maneuverability so they are usually no longer than 40-42 inches, with wheelbases of 22-30 inches and a drop-platform or drop-through deck giving the rider more ability to slide under control.
The decks are most often concave-shaped, to provide better foot grip while remaining stable at higher speeds, and will be symmetrical instead of directional so intricate moves like 180° slides are possible Kicktails will almost always be featured and wheels will be smaller with round-lips, to lessen traction and allow for great slides and tricks.
Boards used by downhillers are meant to maximize speed. They may be similar in many ways to freeriding boards, but with larger wheelbases and much larger wheels (with sharp lips for better grip) to keep the board stable when racing down a hill. These boards will be concave, stiff and harder to maneuver than their freeriding cousins – but they’ll definitely go fast. Don’t forget the protective gloves, pads, and equipment.
Other Longboard Considerations
What else should you consider, other than a cool board display to support your hobby? The length and width of your longboard should match not only the type of boarding you’ll be doing, but match the size of your feet. Think about your level of expertise and intended use for the board when looking at wheels and bearings, because harder wheels (with higher “durometer” ratings) provide less traction and will give you a bumpier ride, and bearings with higher ABEC ratings may be too fast for your skill and purpose.
Finally, price always matters. You don’t want to be flying down a steep hill on a cheap veneer board, but a pricey carbon fiber model may be overkill for a quick trip across campus.
Let’s take a spin.
1. Quest Skateboards Super Cruiser Longboard
The Groom+Style review team deliberated for a while before deciding how to handle this list, since the pros of a board for cruising can be definite cons for freeriding. We finally decided to identify the top 5 best longboards by their most appropriate purpose – so please don’t take the 1-5 rankings literally.
The Quest Super Cruiser is the best beginner board for commuters and cruisers who won’t be doing a lot of close-quarters maneuvering. It’s long, stiff, sturdy and stable, made from multi-ply hardwood and bamboo and measuring a full 44 inches long and ten inches wide. That’s a great length for straightforward riding yet still light (mostly because of the bamboo as well as the aluminum 7-inch trucks and 80a polyurethane wheels) at only about ten pounds. And the beveled-edge wheels have a large contact patch which creates good traction while cruising, as does the quite-wide 27-inch wheelbase.
You’ll find both a kick tail and kick nose on the Quest Super Cruiser, but don’t think about doing fancy tricks even though the trucks are top-mounted; the longboard is too large and too slow for that, and it’s not designed to be overly maneuverable. On the other hand, the feel of riding this directional board is quite good even for moderately-skilled boarders, because of its construction and positioning of the trucks. The bearings aren’t the best, but they’re more than adequate to get started with. Two final notes: the bamboo-finished deck is gorgeous, and the price is terrific.
The Quest Super Cruiser is the ideal choice for those just getting into longboarding without plans to go freeriding, weaving through city traffic or zipping downhill – and it won’t require a huge investment if you’re deciding whether boarding is for you.
Facts and figures on the Quest Skateboards Super Cruiser Longboard:
2. Sector 9 Blue Wave Lookout Dropthrough Complete Longboard
Had a little experience cruising around on a board and ready to move to the next level? The review team believes the 41-inch Sector 9 Blue Wave Lookout is the right choice for you; sturdy and comfortable enough for cruising but with the features and flexibility required for beginning and intermediate sliders, built by one of the most-respected longboard manufacturers around.
The five-ply directional W-concave bamboo deck is lightweight yet tough, with a fabulous ocean design. The drop-through mounting of the Gullwing Charter trucks is the right choice for freeriding and carving, and while the wheels are soft enough for cruising, they can easily be replaced with harder ones when you’re ready for some tougher carving or want to bomb a few hills. You might want to swap out the trucks in that case, too.
This is an extremely stable longboard thanks to its 31-inch wheelbase.
The Sector 9 Blue Wave Lookout is quite a bit more expensive than the Quest Super Cruiser, but it’s quite a bit more board. It’s well-built, reliable, still very reasonably-priced and the perfect board for those who want to expand their horizons after gaining a little experience.
More details on the Sector 9 Blue Wave Lookout Dropthrough Complete Longboard:
3. Yocaher Professional Speed Drop Down Stained Longboard
Don’t focus on the word “professional” in the name of this Yoacher, because that’s simply meant to convey a message about the size (41 inches long, nine inches wide) and style (symmetrical and elegant) of the board. Instead, focus instead on the word speed – as in downhill speed.
The drop-down construction of the board and 33-inch wheelbase create a lower center of gravity for stability as you build up speed, and for terrific turning and control during carving and sliding. And the extra thickness of the deck, because of nine layers of maple instead of the seven usually seen on mid-priced boards, means there’s less flex and very few wobbles on the board.
That’s exactly what you want when bombing hills, and you can do some pretty fast downhilling on this Yoacher.
There are heavy-duty trucks, fairly-soft 78a wheels and decent ABEC 7 bearings (which you’ll eventually want to upgrade), and you can choose from 22 sizzling designs.
The review team feels you should ignore the “professional” title of the Yoacher Speed for one other reason: this board is definitely suitable for those who are pretty new to the longboard thing but want to do more than just cruise a bit.
It’s extremely durable, easy to ride and well worth its moderate price.
Specs for the Yoacher Professional Speed Drop Down Stained Longboard:
4. Atom Drop-Through Longboard
This 40-inch Atom longboard is an update to a classic. It’s one inch shorter and one inch wider than the original Atom, with an upgraded maple/bamboo concave deck and sick, slick graphics. But it’s still constructed beautifully, and it’s a great board for cruising while also providing a satisfying ride for a moderately-skilled carver who’s able to adjust to the somewhat-wide turning radius.
While longtime longboarders will still want to make some replacements, Atom has used some great components building this model: Navigator Drone trucks, Area 51 soft PU wheels, and ABEC9 bearings; the review team even loved the quality of the grip tape. The board is lightweight, stable – and best of all, a lot of fun to ride.
The ideal length, moderate flex and sturdy concave deck make the new Atom Drop-Through a terrific all-around longboard for everything but downhill boarding. It’s not the cheapest model on the Groom+Style top 5 best longboard list, but it’s the most versatile and one of the most comfortable, too.
More info on the Atom Drop-Through Longboard:
5. SCSK8 Natural Blank & Stained Longboard
Here’s the review team’s choice for beginners who are looking for the best longboard they can get on a budget – or for parents who are shopping for their younger kids. The SCSK8 is priced well below the Quest Super Cruiser, it’s stable enough to let boarders learn what they’re doing without continual wipeouts, and it’s durable enough to withstand the inevitable beating it will take at the hands (feet?) of a newbie.
There’s a concave, 40-inch 7-ply maple deck without a ton of flex, the trucks and wheels are starter-level but still quite good for the price (particularly the ABEC9 Red bearings), and the fact that the board comes blank and stained lets you choose your own graphics to make the SCSK8 truly your own. (You can also choose from other color/graphics options.)
This won’t be your final longboard if you decide you want to stay with the sport – but if you’re just starting out and want to give cruising and carving a try without breaking the bank, it should be your first.
A closer look at the SCSK8 Natural Blank & Stained Longboard:
If you are still looking for some other high-quality ideas then check out Groom+Style’s best health and fitness gift ideas, or if you are after something hyper cool then check out stance: the uncommon thread!