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Buying Your First Skateboard


Buying Your First Skateboard by Adam Bunn

So you've decided to start skateboarding. Good for you. You've probably seen some cool skate videos, played a bit of Tony Hawks pro skater or just hung around with other skaters at your local skate spot, and decided it's time you got in on the action yourself. By its very nature, skateboarding is a very creative and individual sport, and you can take it in a lot of different directions, but there is one thing you will need and that's a skateboard.

I'm going to run through the major things you need to consider when buying a skateboard so you can make a better decision about what you buy and where you buy it from. This information is aimed at people interested in street skating and flatl and tricks. I am not familiar with the requirements for vert skating.

1. Cost
One thing you should know straight off is that skateboards can be extremely expensive. Straight off the bat you can pay triple figures for a pro deck and that doesn't even include wheels, trucks and bearings (all of which also come at a premium if you want quality gear).

You should try and blank your mind to all that great stuff. To begin with, you need something basic and functional. Something fairly disposable is ideal so if you decide skating isn't for you or you end up ruining the skateboard in the process of learning (which you probably will) you haven't paid the earth for no reason.

Aim to pay around GB Pounds 40 ( US Dollars 75) for a complete brand new beginner setup - any more and you're paying for something you don't need, much less and you are buying junk.

2. Deck
By far the best kind of deck to go for is a 'blank' - a deck with no graphics. The graphics and the branding are what make pro decks so expensive, and if you do any decent amount of skateboarding on it they will scratch off pretty quickly. You will usually get these with grip tape already on, or you can get any skate shop to do it. It's not even very difficult to do yourself.

Try and get a 7-ply deck - this means it's laminated with 7 layers of wood. 9-ply decks are heavier and more unwieldy, and a good sign that they are cheaply made. Try and also pay attention to the shape of the deck. If it's quite flat and straight it's no good - you need a decent amount of curve to the kicktails.

3. Trucks
The trucks on the first deck I bought snapped the first time I tried to ollie. Watch out for this - buy from a proper skateboard dealer (whether online or in a shop), not a high street sports shop/department store! If you look at the trucks on skateboards in these kinds of shop you can tell that the metal is of bad quality because it seems overly shiny and light. As tempting as the prices may be, walk away.

4. Bearings & Wheels
Bearings are what keep your wheels spinning when you stop pushing - they determine how fast your skateboard is. Bearing speed is measured by the ABEC value. The slowest bearings are 'AA' bearings, skateboards from high street shops come with these and they are BAD! With AA bearings, you will probably not be able to roll down a hill let alone on the flat. From there, you've got various bearing ratings including ABEC 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Go for ABEC 3 or ABEC 5 bearings at the absolute maximum. Though you want to be able to roll quite freely, getting bearings that are too fast is a bad idea for beginners. It makes riding more intimidating and landing tricks much more difficult as the skateboard is more likely to slip from under your feet.

For beginners, wheels are less of a consideration. Fairly standard wheels of 55mm will suffice until you decide which direction to take your skating. The wheels that come with a basic complete set are fine.

To summarise your ideal first skateboard will be a complete consisting of a blank 7 ply deck, strong trucks, basic wheels and ABEC 3 or 5 bearings. But before you go out and buy brand new, ask around among skaters you already know -often, a second hand deck from an experienced skater will be even better, as it will have been comfortably worn in and there is a fair chance you can pick up a bargain.

Copyright 2005 Adam Bunn is the author of Board Crazy, providing all your skateboarding news.

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