1) A Legitimate longboard Deck.
Modern decks are made with a composite of thin layers of either maple or bamboo pressed into a near symmetrical shape with a nose equal to or longer than the tail. The deck should be concave (subtle U shape) along the whole board with both the nose and tail angled upwards (the “kick” of the board). Conceptually while the longboard is a platform, it also serves to cup the balls of the skater’s feet with rising sides, nose and tail providing the foundation for pretty much all modern longboard tricks.
A high quality longboard deck will be lightweight while remaining durable and providing “pop” – the right combination of flexibility and rigidity that allows the board to respond during ollies and other tricks where the deck needs to be “popped” off the ground.
Spotting a poorly made longboard deck can be hit or miss. Some toy longboards don’t even try to look “real”. They might have no concave to their shape and may not even have a extended nose. Others may be shaped to resemble a real longboard, but are made with cheap woods and fillers. If that is the case, they may be both thicker and heavier than a quality board, or they may be ready to fall apart quite quickly and easily. Consider that it isn’t easy to make a real longboard deck. Most legitimate longboard decks will sell for somewhere between $35 – $55. If you are paying that much for the entire longboard, it is unfortunately a sign that significant corners were cut on quality.
2) Quality Wheels.
Proper longboard wheels are made out of polyurethane with minimal additives. Toy longboard wheels can be made of plastic or a low quality poly mix which leads to poor performance in the best case and even outright dangerous situations with cracked wheels in the worst case. This is a case where brand recognition and reputation can come into play.
A “real” longboard wheel will typically have the manufacturer’s name, the wheel’s diameter (in mm) and the wheel’s durometer (hardness) indicated on the wheel itself. A quality set of longboard wheels will typically cost between $20 and $40 depending on the brand and possible additional features.
3) Quality Bearings.
Quality wheels won’t mean much if you don’t have nice bearings which allow the wheels to spin freely on the axle of the longboard truck. A quality set of bearings will spin well right away and actually get even better once broken in a bit. If quality bearings get dirty, they can typically be taken apart and cleaned relatively easily. A good set of bearings typically runs between $10 – $16.
A lower quality bearing typically won’t allow the wheel to spin well and performance can degrade quickly. It sounds harsh, but the low quality lubricant used in these bearings can quite literally stink. Most low end bearings weren’t designed to be cleaned and re-used and should just be thrown away and replaced.
– Paradox Complete longboards ship with bearings made by the industry leader in bearings – Bones (makers of both Mini-Logo and Bones brand bearings) – and yes, they even smell like good bearings should!
4) Proper Trucks.
The trucks are the metal components that provide the axles of the longboard. The trucks are responsible for a huge part of the board feel, how it turns and how it responds to the skater. Trucks should also be sized correctly with the longboard deck allowing for the outer edge of wheels to align with the outer edge of the deck.
We have unfortunately seen low quality longboards that even try to use plastic trucks (please avoid). However it can be really hard to spot a poorly made metal truck without skating it. Brand awareness can come into play here again. The manufacturers name should be marked on the trucks. A quality set of trucks (2 per board) could start out as low as around $30 and will go up from there.
5) Good Grip Tape.
Without good grip tape, skaters have a tough time staying on top of their board. The main complaints about poor grip tape tend to be that it was never very grippy or lost its grip really quickly. Once again, we recommend trusting in name brands with years of experience supporting longboarders. Unfortunately, if you are buying a pre-made complete longboard, you probably won’t have access to the brand name of the grip.
6) Professional Assembly
Ultimately we believe the best longboards are assembled by longboarders. A real skater will make subtle changes during a build such as adjusting trucks and make sure wheels are spinning just right. It is just unlikely that a longboard made on an assembly line is going to have had the benefit of a skater’s eye.
In summary – recognizing a real longboard isn’t rocket science, but it does take some amount of brand awareness and ultimately even trial and error. We tried to take the guesswork out of it by starting SkateXS and openly sharing and celebrating each and every component we use to build our longboards. Hopefully we have been able to share the values and priorities we put into those design decisions.