Your guide to buying longboard skateboards in California

Your guide to buying longboard skateboards in California
Photo by cottonbro on

If you scroll through your social media feed ogling the grace and speed of California longboarders, then you’ll want to check out this simple but comprehensive guide to buying longboard skateboards in California.

It may surprise you that a longboard isn’t just a longboard; they come in various shapes and sizes with different ride experiences. Some longboards thrive on a mellow commute or afternoon ride down a beach boardwalk, while others love to coast downhill. Some carve, some cruise. Some are conducive to tricks or dancing. It all depends on what you seek in a skateboard.

If you surf, skateboard or snowboard, you probably already possess the balance and know the basic motions necessary for longboarding. For beginners, longboards are a good introduction to board sports since they offer more stability than narrower skateboards, and they don’t require good water or snow conditions – just a nice stretch of pavement.

Where better to indulge in your board sports fascination than California? Hop on, and let’s go through our longboard skateboards buying guide.

Longboard types and riding styles

shallow focus photography of brown and blue skateboard

Exploring every type of longboard would require another article. Or two. If you know which of the following styles you’d like to try, the good news is that there are longboards named after each style. It’s that simple. If you’re looking for an aesthetic over a style, check out pintail or bamboo longboards.

It’s important to understand how you want to use your board. If you’re a beginner and don’t want to get too technical, cruisers and carvers are for you.

If you want to use your longboard as transportation, a cruiser will work best for your commute. You’ll head to and from the store, your school, ride throughout your neighborhood – which means you’ll ride primarily over a mix of smooth and rough surfaces.

A carver serves a similar function to a cruiser, but it also allows for sharp turns, similar to surfing. Another great aspect of carvers is the ability to pump (i.e., gain speed by making fast successive turns).

Freestyle is an intermediate style of longboarding, which involves more technical skills than carvers or cruisers. If you’ve seen videos of people hopping around on a board with enviable fluidity, that’s freestyle. Walking, cross-stepped and more. It’s similar to dancing, just on a board.

The last two styles require pro-level skills and proper equipment. Downhill gives you an unparalleled adrenaline rush while bombing down hills. You need to crouch, which necessitates some serious muscle power to reach maximum speed.

Similar to downhill is freeride, which also involves zooming downhill, but adds in slides to manage your speed. What do we mean by sliding? Basically, ripping your board sideways so that your wheels skid on the road. Sometimes compared to Alpine skiing or snowboarding, freeriding requires protective gear. Both downhill and freeride pose a danger to inexperienced and ill-prepared riders. So, be sure to take the necessary precautions to chase that rush.

Longboard types by characteristics

two white and brown longboard leaning on brown bricks wall
Photo by Erika Phillips on

Length and wheelbase (the distance between the wheels) are usually the first consideration when choosing a longboard. These two aspects determine your feet positioning and, therefore, the board’s responsiveness (i.e., its sensitivity to your movement). The longer the board, the more stability it provides; however, with more length comes less turning capability. Likewise, a longer wheelbase provides more stability.

Another important consideration is the deck build and its flex. If you’ve ever purchased a snowboard, this process is comparable. Manufacturers press several layers of wood and other materials to create a board. Soft flex boards make ideal cruisers due to superior shock absorption. They’re not ideal for speed. Medium flex boards make perfect carvers for their speed stability and responsiveness. Stiff flex will please anyone who loves to freeride because of its high-speed stability. They don’t make for great rides on rough surfaces.

Mount type also merits a conversation because the type impacts stability and rider placement. Decks lower to the ground offer stability and don’t require riders to drop their feet very far to push or brake. They also make great sliding boards. If your feet rest over the trucks, you have more control when turning.

The two most common mount types are top mount and drop through. The most common mount type and the most agile is top mount, which is when the deck sits on top of the wheels and trucks. Drop through involves cutouts in the boards that allow the trucks and wheels to pop up above the board partially.

Also like snowboards is the deck shape, which can either be symmetrical/twin or asymmetrical/directional. This determines the stability and the kinds of tricks you can learn.

Where are the best places to buy longboard skateboards in California?

Once you’ve made your decision on the kind of longboard you’d like to purchase, it’s time to find a store. Whether you want to go to a tried and true skateboard shop or opt for a small artisanal board manufacturer, California has you covered. Most everyone knows the most reputable brands, like Arbor and Santa Cruz, but some of the best longboards in California are handmade by passionate professionals.

Handcrafted in Costa Mesa, California, Koastal builds its boards with love by bridging the gap between surf and skate. Each board is unique and looks timeless. Most Koastal longboards are designed for carving and cruising.

Pacific Tribe Skateboards began as a father/son project. Mark Swan had never built a skateboard before this project, but his skills included carpentry, electrical, plumbing and more. Pacific Tribe makes cruisers and carvers, with some pintail and fishtail flourish.

Based in San Francisco, Iris Skateboards handcrafts boards by recycling old ones. So if you prioritize supporting eco-friendly and sustainable brands, Iris is for you. They have a deluxe color (which looks like a rainbow) and a raw color (which has a gradient of natural wood colors).

For a decent variety in shapes and riding experiences, check out Honey Skateboards.

Head over to Leucadia, California to check out Sanford Shapes, the artisanal skateboard shop with the most diverse portfolio of deck graphics.

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