October 22 2020 – Sam Blondeau
Making boards is an art. With such an enormous variety of different shapes, styles, and technologies at your disposal, choosing one is just as much an art. Of course, it goes to say that as a rider, you can select any board you like based on whatever catches your eye! If a graphic is calling out to you, go for it! You like the shape of the board and how long it is or how it feels under your feet when you try it out at the shop? All the better!
Art is like an onion: it has layers. To the every-day Joe and Joanne, there’s no need to understand all the different types of brushstrokes to appreciate a painting or the different instruments to judge whether a song is good or not. Nevertheless, someone who spends the time it takes to learn all these things will understand art even better and could refine and enrich their experience to things they know will serve in terms of creative appreciation.
Much the same, understanding longboard technology and choosing the right board for your type of riding can make the difference between wanting to longboard forever or going out for a week or so of cruising then feeling miffed about the sport. These days, the art of the board is profound and tailors boards to riders in order to give them the optimal ride, whatever their style may be. So please, join us as we take you though a journey through the basics of the longboard.
The length of a longboard is usually one of the first things that grabs a future rider’s attention. Ironically, longboards can start off a few inches shorter than your typical skateboard but can work their way up all the way to 47 inches. You might even see a cruise liner of a board that’s above 60 inches!
It should be said that the length of the board is not everything, although it plays a huge part in the general enjoyment and comfort of the ride. Someone above six feet tall might find a board like the Wave or the Vapor quite small, while someone closer to five feet tall might find that there’s a perfect amount of platform for their feet. The opposite can be said about a dancing board above 42 inches. Furthermore, it’s important to keep the type of riding in mind since something with a super small turning radius might not be extremely stable at high speeds, and something with a huge turning radius could hinder your ability to weave in and out of foot traffic, otherwise known to skaters alike as human slaloms.
Short boards are anything below about 34 inches long. Boards like the Cat Nip, the Vapour, and the Morning Wood are referred to amongst others as cruisers these days; easy-to-carry boards that work great for getting around campus or from point A to point B. Freestyle is always an option. They are lightweight, easy to push, and quick and nimble under your feet. A smaller wheelbase means that your turning radius is much smaller and allows for sharper carves and more reactive turning at lower speeds, and their length means that you don’t have to walk far up and down the board to set your feet up in the proper position to drop a curb or for a quick speed check.
Medium boards range from about 34 to 42 inches and are super versatile. Our Marble collection falls in this range, along with the Tero. Medium length boards are ideal for all around riding since they are long enough to accommodate some dancing and fancy footwork, but they’re still short enough to keep carves energetic and not weigh you down while transporting them or while doing some freestyling. This size range is great for those who want to start longboarding but don’t know what kind of riding style they’ll eventually want to progress into. It’s even better for more experienced longboarders who want a board that can do everything since they’ll have a reliable board fit for almost any truck/wheel set up imaginable.
Long boards are anything longer than 42 inches. Boards like the Jig, the Joe and the Judo are ideal for dancing because they are specially designed to have an extra-long platform that provides all the room needed for your stylish board walking. They shouldn’t be constrained to this category, however, since they can also be used as comfy cruisers with flex that makes you feel like you’re gliding along the road on your own magic carpet. The big wheelbases make it more difficult to turn as sharply as you would on a shorter wheelbase at slow speeds, but they make going down a mellow hill feel like snowboarding. Carrying them around isn’t as easy as the medium and short boards though, so best to let them carry you wherever you can.
In this 3D world that we live in, the second dimension is just as important as the first. A lot of riders have no problem riding narrower boards whereas those that ride wider boards might fret at the idea. That’s all a matter of taste. And yes, just like art, a matter of technicality as well.
In the skateboarding world, a narrower board means techier tricks, and a bigger board means more landing surface for transition. While this definitely holds true in longboarding, there are a few key differences, mainly that a street deck wouldn’t be the best for dancing, let alone bombing a hill at 100km/h. Hats off to all you skaters who do that though, cause you guys are gnarly!
In the longboarding world, there’s a lot more freedom for width because of the different types of boards that exist. Here, we focus on Zenit’s four different categories of boards, but the general principles that are discussed can be applied to other types of boards as well.
In terms of a shredding and pusher boards, you’ll want to be looking for something that makes your feet feel nice and secure. Most of our shredders sit at nine inches wide. Our philosophy is to make boards that can cater to the average rider whatever their shoe size may be, and especially for them to feel locked in. Because this type of board is often used as a cruiser, nine inches feels great. The Wave and the Vapor, for example, have a wide platform with radial concave that keeps the feet locked into the board for sidewalk surfing. At 9.1 inches, the Morning Wood is just the same but a tad bigger. For the more experienced rider, you’ll be able to tear through bowls and pools with the confidence that your foot won’t go hanging off the board and catch you up.
When it comes to our two long distance pushing decks, there’s some variety to choose from. The AB 2.0 is the wider of the ABs, 9.5 at its widest and 9.1 at the narrowest. The wider part at the front allows for the rider to have a bigger margin of error for their front foot to move around on, or even to switch feet for pushing in both stances. The taper gently moves its way away from the pushing foot and adds sleekness to the shape. It’s perfect for distance and welcomes those with bigger feet. Meanwhile, the AB Maze has a uniform platform that’s 8.75 inches wide. It’s the better option of the two for those with smaller feet because there’s less bulk to the board and you don’t have to stretch your pushing foot too far away to make contact with the ground.
The important thing to know about riding fast is that every single movement’s reaction is amplified at high speeds. If you have to adjust your foot for a slide at 70km/h on a board like the Rocket or the Marble 38 V2 which are 10 inches wide, you might start wobbling, even if theoretically a wide board means more stability. Wider boards are fun for freeriding though since there are several different stances you can set your feet up for depending on the direction and side of your slide. As for narrower boards, you don’t really have to move your feet at higher speeds since you’re technically already set up for slides or pre-drifts in a tuck, a feature you can find on boards like the Mini Rocket 33 or the UFO.
Finally, our dancing boards were designed for different sized riders, keeping in mind that the boards are already quite big. The Tero and the Judo are the two smallest at 9.25 inches, which means you need less torque to flick a kickflip. The trade off is that there is less room on the board for people with bigger feet. The mid-ranged boards are the Jig and the Dino which are both 9.5s, the perfect in-between. There’s enough room on the platform for some peter pans and cross steps, and it’s not too heavy to kickflip. The Joe is the big boy board. At 9.75 inches, it’s best for people who wear big shoes and big socks since the platform was designed for big feet. You know what that means: It will be a bit harder to spin a kickflip, but it will feel like you’re dancing on an absolute surfboard!
The flex of a board is how much it bends under the weight of the rider. The outcome of the flex for each rider will be different because of their weight, although our boards will remain consistent.
The dancing boards are the most flexible boards. The bounce makes dancing and walking along the board much more playful as you can really dig deep into carves, and even use the spring of the board to your advantage to pump or hippie jump. What’s more, it dampens street imperfections and makes cruising feel groovy.
Boards like the Morning Wood, Wave, or the freeride/downhill boards are stiffer to maximize control at higher speeds. Not only that, but it helps give the board more pop for flip tricks and hopping up and down curbs or obstacles in the skatepark.
Wheel Flares, Wells, and Cut outs
Longboard wheels vary in size, anywhere from about 60mm to 90mm, and so our boards have to be able to house an average 70mm wheel with as little chance of wheel bite as possible. The height of the truck comes into the picture here as well, but ultimately it is the board that touches the wheel.
The most radical way to eradicate wheel bite through board specs is to make wheel cut outs. Created by literally cutting out the part of the board that would otherwise be over the wheels, this is an excellent way of giving the wheels room to roll. You’ll see cut outs on the Cat Nip, Dino, and Tero. One trade off is that the kicktails are not as wide, and so a greater precision is needed while executing tricks and pushing to not step on a wheel, cause if you do, that bites. I speak from experience.
Wheel flares can be found in boards like our downhill collection, The Marble 40 V2, and the Mini Marble SK and DK. These are created while pressing the board and are engineered into the mould itself since they curve over the wheels, adding a little more space between the wheel and the deck without cutting out any of the board. They can also serve as reference points to know where your feet are at high speed without having to take your eyes off the road.
Wheel wells are where the board is shaved away overtop of the wheel. Sometimes combined with wheel flares, the wells are the most mellow option for wheel clearance at the board level. You’ll see them on the Marble 35, Marble 38 V2, the Judo, Joe, and Jig, and the Morning Wood.
Rocker…it rocks, dude. A lot of boards are relatively straight from nose to tail and use only concave width wise to increase grip. With rocker, there’s a slight banana shape throughout the length which cradles the feet even more, adding confidence to slides and making pumping more active.
Non, t’es pas un con cave, c’est pas ca qu’on dit. Concave is the curvature of the board across its width. As opposed to being flat, concave is what helps keep your feet in place while cruising around or going fast and provides a bit more leverage for flip tricks. There is radial in the dancing series, the Marble Series, and the Morning Wood, Vapor, Wave and Cat Nip, and progressive concave in the ABs, the Rocket V3, the Mini Rocket 33, and the UFO.
Drops and Microdrops
Drops and Microdrops are useful for foot positioning and bringing the board lower to the ground. You can rest your foot against them and have more friction to engage in a deeper, more controlled slides. These reference points are ideal for freeride decks and downhill boards since keeping your eyes on the road is quite important at speed. You can also use drops to your advantage for long distance pushing so you don’t have to crouch as low as you usually would to push.
Microdrops are found at the top of the board inside the range of the trucks. You’ll find them on all the Marble collection, the UFO, and very mellow ones on the Dino. They are smaller that normal drops (hence microdrops) and are small enough to allow your front or back foot to flick the nose and tail for flip tricks.
Drops are a deeper depression in the board that show up most noticeably on the AB collection. They are much deeper than the microdrops and lower the platform of the board closer to the ground.
A vital part of designing a board is the kicktail. It can affect so much on the board in terms of speed, aerodynamics, functionality, control, and pop. You can use the tail to slightly lift the front of the board up when dropping curbs, to pop ollies and flip tricks, or for manuals. There are many different shapes and sizes for different uses.
The kicktails found on the Mini Marble DK, the Marble 40 V2, and all of the dancers make the boards symmetrical, which means that they can be pushed in either direction and the shape will remain the same either side. Directional boards like the Morning Wood, the Vapor and the Wave have a dedicated nose and tail, meaning there is a dedicated front and back.
Some boards only have a kicktail at the tail of the board, like the Marble 38 V2, the Marble 35, and the UFO. These as well are directional. As for the UFO, the kicktail is there mostly to help you pick up the board by popping it into your hands. If you’re game enough to do a manual at 60km/h, then you should probably send us a video of that.
Some boards have no kicktails whatsoever. These include the Rocket and Mini Rocket, and both versions of the AB. Since downhill boards are made to go fast, the aerodynamics of the Rockets were enhanced by having a streamline board without unnecessary drag. As for the ABs, these pushing boards are designed to be pushed far, not to be taken off curbs. Thus, no kicktails. Since they are both drop-through boards, assembly has been facilitated by cutting a space both at the nose and tail which means the truck does not have to be entirely disassembled to be screwed into place.