I remember when I bought my first longboard. There was really only one option: The Pintail. This shape was derived from the roots of skating in general, which was to mimic surfing. As the “traditional skateboard” began developing its distinct shape the longboard was developed to further mimic the surfing feel by adding a longer deck, wider trucks, and bigger wheels. Naturally the board's shape was made to look like a surfboard as well.
But, much like the “traditional skateboard,” longboarding with its growing popularity began to change to satisfying both different styles and different types of riding, some more successful than others. With all these changes that have come to longboarding, there are three question you should ask yourself before you make a commitment to your first board.
1. Do I just want to cruise and look good doing it?
If this is the case, your only concern should be “How good does this board make be look,” but don’t forget comfort. Cruising sounds leisurely but when rough terrain and long push sessions come along, comfort becomes key. So look for a board that is made with a more flexible material: bamboo being the most common. This will dampen the vibrations from rough roads and give you a livelier feel as you ride. Besides material, also look for a board with a bit of camber (an upward curve in the deck away from the street side) this will add some more cushion for the pushin’ too. Next look for a drop thru deck or drop deck, the lower the deck the easier and longer you can push. Finally don’t forget to make sure the graphic looks good because what’s the point if you don’t look good while you're cruising? One of my favorites boards for this category would be the Riviera Dineh. Its ride is as good as it looks. If you want a little more out of you board then move on to the next question.
2. Do I know how to slide?
If you are comfortable with sliding you can move on the next question but if you don’t know how to slide or need to work on your sliding you may want to consider a drop thru board coupled with a decent amount of concave and hard wheels. The drop thru provides the lowest possible position for the deck; meaning you have more stability at speed and more lateral leverage on the wheels, allowing you to initiate the slide with less effort. The concave is what keeps your feet from sliding off the board when initiating and maneuvering through your slide. Topping it off with a harder wheel means less grip and more slide. Lastly, consider getting a symmetrical or twin tip board; if you are learning how to spin your board around, it's nice not having to think about which end is which. The combination of these features means you’ll be moving down the hill slippin’ and slidin’ in no time. Check out the FSU (Flying Spaghetti Monster) by Comet to get you started on what to look for in this category.
3. Do I want to go fast. . . I mean fast?
Once you have your sliding under control you may want to try your hand at getting your hustle on and going fast. Of course you can go fast on any board you find but some boards will react to speeds a bit nicer than others. If you have made it this far down this list you should be relatively comfortable on a board with the ability to stop (slide to a stop). So know you are looking for a fine tuned machine that can do some work. Well now that you're comfortable on a board, listen to your gut. There is so much technology out there when it comes to speed and stability your best option is to go with what makes you feel relaxed on the board. When moving at high speeds, I’m talking 40+ mph, you may want to gravitate more towards a top mount board. What was your friend when learning to slide, a low deck with stability, may not be as helpful at these speeds. When taking even the slightest turns at these speeds, a low deck, although stable, will be more likely to slide (even if you don’t want it to). A top mount deck sacrifices a bit of stability for control; a top mount has more leverage on the wheels making them agile and grippier. To get you looking in the right direction, check out one of my favorite rider's pro models - Patrick Switzer’s Fortune by Rayne.
Of course there is tons of overlap across these categories and many more features, so look around at the many options and styles. Watch a few longboard videos to find what style piques your interest. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, think about a kicktail or two; you never know when you want to get up a curb or pop an ollie. In the end, you can’t go wrong as long as you’re getting on a board.