When it comes to skateboarding, you have many choices on how to start (see our learning to skate article!), and one of the most fundamental decisions is which type of skateboard to choose? From Pennys to longboards, there’s a full spectrum of lengths available. But when it comes to making the transition from 2 feet planted firmly on the ground to four rolling wheels underneath those feet, which board will make that the simplest?
First, you should know that all skateboards are skateboards. Does that sound ridiculous? Yes. But longboards, shortboards, and everything in between are all considered subsets of skateboards. The way to differentiate between the types is by length, so we have created a handy infographic for you:
All of this information brings us to today’s pressing question: which kind of board is most straightforward for a beginner skater to learn to use? Many people assume that a smaller skater means you should purchase a smaller board, and we’re here to tell you that’s not the case! While everyone has their opinion on this matter, we here at Board Blazers wholeheartedly endorse longboards as the board of choice for beginning skaters. You absolutely CAN learn to skate using a shortboard or standard skateboard – some people prefer that! But from an ease-of-use and safety standpoint, longboarding can’t be beaten. Longboarding is so much easier to learn because all of the skills used to skateboard (pumping, turning, balance, strength, etc.) can be broken down and mastered individually before combining them all. Whenever you’re learning something new, breaking it into chunks is the best way to tackle it and learning to longboard does this perfectly for the sport of skateboarding!
First (stick with us, here comes the science!), longboards are more stable because of their increased size, both their length and width. The simple matter is, takes more force to move a longboard along the ground than it does a standard skateboard. This need for additional power to attain speed minimizes the chance that your wobbly beginner pumping results in the dreaded oh-no-the-board-is-no-longer-under-me sort of wipeouts. In general, longboards are more forgiving of wobbles and mistakes than the shorter boards, and when you start out, you will have PLENTY of wobbles and errors. Longboards are also heavier and require stronger and larger pumps to work up speed. The need for powerful pumps means that beginning skaters will move more slowly, and the inevitable falls will be less injurious. There's more to know about the science behind longboarding and we rounded it all up for you here!
Turning is one of the more intimidating aspects of learning to skate. Wouldn't it be great if a board was designed to slide through large, gentle turns without the need for popping or pumping? Boom- enter the longboard! A turn on a standard skateboard would require shifting your rear foot to the back of the board and giving it a slight pop to complete the turn. Maintaining your balance with two wheels on the ground and two wheels in the air is a tough skill to master! Longboards eliminate the need for significant weight shifts and popping. Not only is this less intimidating, but it allows for the rider to concentrate fully on turning without also having coordinate much of their footwork (plus, all four wheels stay on the ground - win!). Longboards can undoubtedly perform pop turns, but it’s possible to learn to turn with both feet on your board first and then add the secondary skill at a later time.
Speaking of pumping, longboards are the only boards where it’s technically never necessary for your feet to push off from the ground (pump) other than the very first step! Just shifting your weight back and forth from heels to toes along the width of the board will pump a longboard. This “S” shaped motion will keep the board's momentum cruising along with no need for your feet to touch the ground. And while pumping is one of the more fun aspects of skating, it’s hard to coordinate just how to swipe the earth with your foot while staying upright on your board. After all, you and the board are moving along, and the ground is stationary; foot-to-ground pumping is rife with difficulty and initially avoiding it will make learning to skate simpler.
Once a skater is comfortable with turning, pumping, and balance, they can move on to more advanced skills like board popping and beginner tricks (ollies, nose slides, etc.). This is also the ideal time to transition to a skateboard or shortboard if that’s the skater’s desired length. All of the skills already mastered will be pushed and tested with a shorter board, but the foundational skills are there, and success is inevitable. If you’re looking for a big adventure, give a Penny board a try! These ultra-short acrylic boards come in every imaginable color, are crazy-portable, and will push your balance skills to the brink. Wear a helmet!
It’s an angsty business watching a person you love roll away on a four-wheeled adventure. But you’ll feel much better knowing your skater is confident and self-assured. And the best way to make sure that happens is to start them out on a longboard. We can’t promise they’ll return without bruises, but we can confidently say that it won’t be long before they’re upright and shredding safely.