Skateboarding is not just a hobby. Skateboarding is art. Anyone who has seen skaters throw themselves down stairs to balance a precarious grind on top of a handrail, who has seen airs twenty feet above concrete vert-ramps, or who has seen the effortless beauty of carving a pool knows this. Skateboarding will give to you as much as you put into it: self-confidence, balance, mobility, and enrichment of your soul.
Right now, I have the following injuries sustained from skateboarding: a large "swellbow-" skate slang for a massive hematoma on the elbow, which creates a bump about a centimeter tall and a bruise about ten inches square; a nasty bruise on my left thigh (I can't sleep on my left OR right side because of this and my shoulder); cracking and oozing road rash on my left shoulder and both knees, which I got from longboarding down a steep hill, getting "speed wobbles," and attempting to run out; extremely sore and inflamed knees from the same injury; and a deep cut and scab on my left hand, along with numerous half healed scabs.
I cherish every one of them- I earned them all. Let skating be your Fight Club. Do you want to die without any scars?
With that melodramatic introduction out of the way...
The skateboard itself consists of four parts: deck, trucks, wheels, and bearings. You will need all four to begin your skateboarding career.
Decks cost around fifty dollars for a pro model or twenty to thirty dollars for a blank shop model. The differences between the two are negligable- although pro models may be lighter or have a better shape. Nearly every skateboarding company and skate-shop makes decks.
Today's boards usually range from a little over 8 inches by 32 inches to 7.25 inches by 29 inches. The board width and length you choose usually depends on the size of your feet, so just choose the size that feels best to you. Smaller size boards for young riders and fat boards for gnarly pool-slashers are also sold, along with longboards that are designed for transport.
Board shape also varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some boards have a deep concave, while others are relatively flat. Others have deep, scooping tails and noses. Different shapes can help you to perform the flip tricks that are popular today.
Deck graphics may be an important factor in selecting a board. Graphic styles vary from company to company, and pro riders usually have their own graphics.
Decks almost always come with free griptape- the "sandpaper" that keeps your feet on the board and allows you to perform sophisticated flip tricks.
The trucks are the "axles" of the skateboard. They connect your wheels to your board and allow you to turn. Trucks cost about 18 dollars a piece, and unlike the board, brand name may play a factor in the truck's durability and turning. I reccommend Independent trucks for their durability and the longevity of the company, but others may prefer different brands.
Your trucks should be as wide as or a little skinnier than your board. Truck height varies, but the height can be modified by risers- chunks of plastic that go inbetween the base of the truck and the deck to increase the height. Truck height is important because a short truck can allow your wheels to contact your deck when you take sharp turns, causing "wheelbite"- a dangerous phenomenon that can pitch you to the asphalt in a hurry.
Trucks consist of a base, a kingpin, two bushings, and the axle. The kingpin holds all the parts together and allows you to adjust the truck's turning ability- it's "looseness" or "tightness." The bushing is the rubber piece that squeezes to allow turning. By tightening the kingpin the bushing can be compressed and the board's turning radius increases, and vise versa. The tightness or looseness of one's trucks depends on personal preference and style of skating. Ultra-tech tricksters probably prefer tight trucks, while pool-carving hessians probably prefer looser trucks. Both have their advantages and disadvantages: with loose trucks you can easily turn just by leaning, but are more succeptible to speed-wobble: trucks that become unsteady at high speeds. Tight trucks make it harder for you to turn, but increase stability.
The development of the wheel has probably been the most important part of skateboarding's evolution. Although deck shape has endured a more visible change, the wheel material plays a more vital role. The first wheels were made of steel or clay- extremely slippery and basically terrible. It was the switch to urethane wheels that allowed skating to adapt to more terrain.
Wheels generally cost about six dollars each. Like the deck, wheel brand is usually inconsequential. Even the most deciding factor in choosing a deck- the graphic- is useless with wheels, as the graphic is rubbed off after only a few days of skating. Thus, it is wheel diameter and hardness that matters.
Wheel diameter depends, as usual, on preference. Smaller wheels are preferred for tech street skating because small wheels slide better, while large wheels, which allow you to roll faster, are preferred for bowl and vert skating. The size of your wheels and the tightness of your trucks contribute a lot to how often you get wheelbite. Large wheels and short, loose trucks may be a bad combination.
A wheel's hardness is measured by its durometer. Numbers like 99 or 95 denote durometer, with higher numbers indicating increased softness. Softer wheels are more stable and give you a smoother ride, but decrease your ability to slide. Thus, soft and large wheels are good for bowl or vert, while small and hard wheels are good for street.
Bearings allow your wheels to spin. Most cost about twenty to thirty dollars for a set of eight (two for each wheel), and since graphics don't play a part in selection, it is basically brand loyalty that accounts for purchases (although companies attempt to lure purchasers with rad packaging). Bearings are rated on the ABEC scale, with numbers ranging from 3-7 or higher. Higher numbers supposedly denote faster bearings, but professional skaters know that Bones makes the best bearings, hands down. Their Swiss series, though costing around forty dollars, are amazingly durable and super speedy. Bones Ceramics cost upwards of 100 dollars, but are basically indestructible and are so fast that they are used by professional luge riders and downhill racers.
Technically, you are supposed to clean and oil your bearings (NOT using WD-40, as all the bearing companies are sure to warn you) after every use- and although this will certainly keep your bearings new and fresh, it's a bit of overkill. Most bearing companies sell cheapish bearing lubricant for such purposes.
Safety gear is a controversial topic in skating. While helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads are almost part of the dress code for ramp and bowl skating, street skaters, who compose the bulk of today's skateboarders, shun safety gear. In fact, one literally never sees a street skater in full pads. Whether you choose to wear gear or not is a personal choice, but helmets at least are often required to ride in skateparks.
Perhaps more is to come, but until the next installment...
SKATE OR DIE!