Skateboarding is an awesome sport and doing tricks can be very fulfilling. I figure you came here because you want to learn about exactly what skateboard is best for tricks so let me try to summarize it for you before we dive into the details.
A skateboard that excels at tricks should have a deck width between 7.75 and 8.25 inches. Wheels need a durometer between 99A and 100A and have a high rebound. Get conical-shaped wheels with a narrow contact patch preferably with a diameter around 52 mm. Trucks should match the width of your board.
Before you go on, this post is not about listing and trying to sell you a bunch of skateboards. It’s about what factors play a part when performing tricks on a skateboard. In order to get the best performance, you need to assemble a skateboard yourself. I’ll give you a few suggestions at the end of the article. Let’s take a look at what exactly makes a skateboard suitable for tricks!
There is a wide range of wheels but there’s also a pretty big difference in quality. Skateboard wheels are made of polyurethane which is a mixture of plastics. Higher quality wheels have an almost perfect mix that has been researched and refined over decades. Bones and Spitfire, for example, have perfected their polyurethane formula over the years and offer the best wheels for tricks.
Cheap wheels may seem appealing, but ill-poured polyurethane or a mixture that doesn’t set properly when molding is a nightmare.
There are many factors that make wheels suitable for tricks. I’m going all-in will explain exactly what to look for when picking wheels. You need to look at the following:
- Bounce rate or rebound
Here’s a graph that shows why smaller wheels perform better when it comes to tricks. There are exceptions though, this post is about street skating and skating in parks. Not about bowls and verts, these require larger wheels.
This image is to show how speed and acceleration correlate to get the concept across. The smaller your wheels are the more responsive your skateboard. For tricks, you need smaller wheels and a good size to pick is 52mm. Smaller wheels are better for tricks because of the following reasons:
- Faster acceleration
- More responsive
- Less mass makes your board flip and pop easier (technique probably has more to do with this)
- Easier to grind rails
Diameter is just a part of it, there is much more to it. Let’s look at rebound, hardness, shapes, and friction.
Rebound or Bounce
Though harder wheels are more uncomfortable on streets and less forgiving when you encounter obstacles, they are excellent for skateboarding tricks because of their low bounce rate. Rebound or bounce is what physicists refer to as deformation. Your wheel gets knocked out of shape when they bounce and quickly snap back into their shape.
Softer wheels have more friction and a higher rebound, it takes longer for them to snap back into shape. So when you try to land a trick on wheels with a low bounce rate it will be harder to successfully land a trick. Landing primo (landing on the side of your board and wheels with both feet) ofter occurs when you do tricks on low rebound wheels. This doesn’t always end well, except when you actually do it on purpose as part of your trick.
You can actually test this yourself and see how a skateboard bounces when you drop it. Depending on the surface you can even hear the difference. Check out this short video I made, nothing fancy just making it more clear.)
Wheel shape plays a part in performance. Rounded wheels have less surface friction where ‘square’ wheels make full contact. If you want a set of wheels that are best for tricks, go with radial, conicals or classic shaped wheels.
Full conical and conical are great for skate parks and rails. They lock in perfectly and ‘unlocking’ them doesn’t require much effort and feels natural.
The classic shape is also pretty suitable for tricks, they offer less surface area and are very responsive. At least ty to stay away from wide wheels, they don’t respond as fast as the shapes mentioned.
A contact patch is an area that makes contact with the surface when you ride a skateboard. It’s easy to overlook but it actually plays an important part when performing tricks. You need responsive wheels with a narrower contact patch, though it also means you have less grip.
Trucks and Performance
This is where we get into a highly opinionated territory and I’ll do my best to guide you through it. The age-old debate, Thunder or Independent. The community is very divided and again, it’s personal preference. In short, from an economic perspective, Independent are the best because they last longer.
Thunder Trucks are lower and probably the best choice for technical skating. People like them for their grinding capabilities and responsiveness. You can also argue different bushings can make trucks more responsive. Responsiveness helps you to make corrections at the last millisecond. Go with Thunder trucks if you want the ultimate trucks for tricks, go with Independent if you want longer lasting trucks and mostly skate transition.
I already covered this subject, and learned a few new things that actually surpised me. Let’s move on and see what trucks are best for tricks. There are a couple of factors that make trucks perform better in different circumstances. For technical skating, many skateboarders prefer low trucks. Low trucks are generally for tech skating as they sit closer to the board and ground, creating a tighter center of gravity. This makes flip tricks and popping your board a bit easier.
Most quality trucks are fine for tricks and much comes down to what you like. Someone who learned to skateboard on higher trucks is more likely to prefer them over lower trucks. This makes people biased to a brand or type of truck.
Truth be told there isn’t really much of a difference, but trucks are the most important parts of your skateboard. Both are the best you can get and people rock the streets on Thunders and Indy’s. Thunders for street, Indy’s for transition is the consensus, so let’s leave it at that. Just make sure you don’t cheap out when picking trucks. Better to save some money on wheels or bearings.
Bushings and Hardness
Bushings are made of polyurethane and choosing on the right ones depends on your weight. Bushings come with your trucks and often you need to break them in a little. Many street skateboarders prefer Bones Harcore bushings because they’re the most responsive.
Anything on the durometer A scale around 87A, 90A, or 92A is fine. Tightening or loosening bushings has an impact on responsiveness. You can go higher or lower on the durometer A scale.
If you want to know everything about bushings I suggest to read this post.
Decks and Shapes
This is where I try to come up with a decent answer but can’t. Sure the width and size of a deck makes a huge difference. ‘Pop’, stiffness and how decks are pressed is about it. Most decks have great pop and most lose their pop over time.
Narrower decks are more responsive, wider decks provide more stability. Short answer; go with an 8.0″. This is the standard for technical stuff. 7.75″ seems old nowadays but it’s still a good choice. Go for an 8.25″ when you also want to skate transition (parks, ramps, bowls). Make sure it’s made of quality maple wood. Still, some people are rocking their 8.75’s on the streets.
Single Pressed Decks
Quality is real. You need a deck that’s single pressed. The mold and quality of the wood are important and cheap decks just suck. Blanks are cheap but you better know where they were produced and how. Some woodshops press eight decks at a time which guarantees deformations. If multiple decks get pressed at once, it’s a bad quality deck.
Another thing is shipping. Even though a deck is made of 7 layers of quality Canadian maple wood, and they ship out of China. What do you think sometimes happens during transport? They are at risk of being exposed to moisture, and you’ll end up with a waterlogged board.
Go for a single pressed deck, but how on earth would you know if it’s a cheap rip off or the real deal? I did some research a while ago and this is what I came up with, it’s probably outdated by now. Still worth the read because it gives you some good insight in deck quality.
Ask your local skate shop where it was made, and how that deck you like ended up in the shop. Make sure it’s a single pressed deck!
Nose and Tail
The nose and tail shape and height help you to pop and flip your deck. The nose is higher and pointier than the tail of a skateboard. I can’t really tell what is best here because that depends on what you like. You need some experience before you know what type of nose and tail you like best.
The concave is the curvature across your deck and affects how your board feels and responds. Concave varies, some brands offer mellow concaves that other brands call steep. There isn’t really a standard here. Just go with a mellow concave. It’s easier to move your feet around and find your preferred position when attempting a trick.
Suggested Setups on a Budget
When I started writing this article I really wanted to give you a few solid options but the problem is, the moment I put them down it’s outdated. I want to keep this piece timeless so you can make up your own mind. That’s what this whole article is about, you to make the right choices.
What I recommend is to visit your local skate shop and ask them to help you out. They gladly help you make the right choices according to your budget. use what you learned here to ask more questions, and (in general) local skate shop employees love talking about skateboarding.
Avoid ‘articles’ that list a few boards and promise they’re the best for tricks, it’s nonsense. These people never touched a skateboard in their lives.
I do have a recommended page listing a few complete skateboards at a reasonable price. You can get a fairly good complete skateboard under 90 bucks. Sure, they don’t really excel at anything but they are the best bang for your buck. They are a solid choice for beginners, and you can gradually upgrade once you progress. Check them out here.
If you want a premium skateboard and willing to spend over $120-150 got to the pros. Here are a couple of shops I recommend. They have lots of good content and great customer support. Don’t be shy and ask questions if you’re unsure. I’m not affiliated with these shops and they have a really good reputation.
US citizens go here:
Europeans go here:
Wrapping it Up
Skateboarding isn’t something you learn in a day. It takes dedication and a lot of time before you see some results. Just don’t give up too soon because you have crappy gear or you hurt yourself once. Always wear protection, especially when you’re doing stuff you’re not ready for. The best advice I can give to avoid injuries is to skate according to your level. There’s no rush; refine your technique, practice over and over again, and you’ll progress. Rushing things is a recipe for disaster.
I’m not a pro but do have 20 years of experience. I have bad ankles, but somehow my knees are still in fine condition. Skateboarding is something that will never get out of your system and you’ll make friends for life.