I decided to write a few posts about specific setups for different styles and the first one is the best setup for skating in bowl or pools.
First I’ll dive a bit into what works and what doesn’t. I’ll explain what to look for when it comes to decks, trucks, wheels and a bit of tweaking to optimize your setup. Since you’re probably looking for setups, I’ll recommend a few wheels and trucks I use myself when riding bowls. Here’s a general setup that is great for bowl skateboarding.
- A wider deck, preferably 8.5″
- 56-58mm hard wheels around 100A or even 84B
- Independent (stage 11 – 149) or anything that matches your decks’ width
- Trucks should be loose
Now let’s dive a bit into why this works and why it will help you to get the most out of your bowl skating experience. Keep in mind that this is a general guide, everyone has their personal preferences but I’m confident I can get you in the right direction.
Setups for bowl and Pool Skateboarding
In order to skate efficiently in a bowl (or pool) you need a wider deck, loose trucks and relatively hard wheels with a diameter between 56 and 58mm. 58mm sounds huge but it really helps to gain speed and keep momentum.
You don’t want to drop in and immediately lose speed, you need some good equipment and it will make life easier. Skating bowls is all about timing, flow, knowing where and when to ‘push’, and not wasting too much energy.
I personally love skating bowls, it requires a lot of focus but it’s just really satisfying. In order to be prepared and not to get frustrated, here are some recommendations that will make your ride easier.
Go for a Wider Deck
Since I already covered the exact setup you need I’ll dive a bit into why exactly you need a wider deck, larger wheels, and loose trucks. But just like photographers, the best setup for bowl skating is the skateboard you carry.
For real though. It’s not about brands, a good quality deck has more to do with where it’s made (woodshops) and how they are pressed. Some brands, even popular brands, press them 12 a time. You don’t want that, it leads to deformation and warped boards. You need a single pressed deck with a mellow concave. Mellow concaves are great for bowls, it means more stability but still lots of control.
Go with a deck that’s at least 8.5″ wide. This may sound crazy if you’re coming from a street background but it just works. A wider deck provides a lot of stability, I had a hard time adjusting coming from a 7.75″ and I had a hard time adjusting.
Once I learned how to ride that board I was in love. The awkwardness I felt skating it the first few times quickly went away and I noticed it behaved really different from what I was used to. Sure it’s a combination of the right trucks, deck, and wheels but it feels much more stable.
You can still do flips, shuvits etc but most of all ride that bowl with confidence. I have a friend who rides and old school deck. It’s big and bulky but I must admit it really feels stable, but not everyone likes old school decks. Fortunately, they aren’t hard to come by anymore and made a comeback a couple of years ago. So if you’re feeling nostalgic, it’s something to consider.
Trucks for Bowl Skating
I only ride Venture and Indys. Venture when I use my friends’ board and Indys when I ride my own setup. I used to ride Thunders which are great for street skating but arguably less suitable for bowls. Still, it’s a matter of personal preference. You’ll also need high trucks which makes it easier to turn.
If you ride your trucks tight it’s a good idea to loosen the kingpin nut a bit. This will help you carve the curbs of the bowl more efficiently. Your trucks need to be a bit more responsive to anticipate the curvature of your local bowl.
Make sure the trucks match the width of your deck. An 8.5″ deck requires trucks with an axle width of 8.5″. Independent stage 11 – 149mm (Amazon link), for example, fit perfectly.
Get Large Wheels
If you’re a dedicated bowl rider or aspire to be one go with Bones or Spitfire. You need 58mm wheels with a durometer of at least 100A or 80B. I personally ride Bones P5 – 84B size 58mm (link to Amazon), and I wonder why I didn’t get them sooner. They never failed me, revert like a charm and still I feel they are grippy. It’s all about quality.
It took me some time to get used to them. Coming from 53mm wheels and changing to 58mm means you get a lot more speed. I am used to pumping hard which isn’t required when you ride new bigger wheels (and new bearings). I actually had to slow down at first and took me some time to adjust.
I’m way more confident riding those wheels and basic stuff like hangups, 50-50’s, axle-stalls etc just feel more natural. I don’t get stuck behind coping and when I mess up a hangup, my board just follows instead of my lying at the bottom and my board still stuck behind the coping.
What Doesn’t Work
Let’s talk a bit about what doesn’t work when skating a pool or bowl. You might just need a few tweaks to your current setup instead of getting a whole bunch of expensive stuff. If you already ride a wider deck, maybe you just need a new set of wheels. Buying a completely new custom setup can be expensive and isn’t always necessary.
Don’t ride anything smaller than 54mm (still arguable) anything below that requires you to push hard. Sure, it’s not a bad thing if you’re fit and in shape but it requires much more effort and you get tired much faster.
It also means you have less time to focus on your next step. If you’re going for a pivot grind you’ll have less time to focus. This happened to me often because I was still a bit out of balance from pumping hard. 56mm to 58mm is recommended (and quality bearings). Not only do smaller wheels require you to push harder, but it also means less focus on your next trick and increasing the chance of eating sh*t.
I don’t think I need to explain this but just in case you didn’t know you won’t get far on softer wheels. Sure an experienced skater won’t have a lot of problems but I bet lots of those guys will agree: soft wheels are not made for bowl skating. The reason for this is more friction (they stick to the surface) and it costs a tremendous amount of effort to gain and maintain speed. Seriously don’t ride bowls with soft wheels.
I do have a friend who sometimes rides Bones 80A ATF rough riders which are relatively soft wheels for bowl skating. This is also because he likes to do some technical street stuff on rough terrain, sometimes you need to compromise a little.
Narrow Decks (Arguably)
Not the best choice. Sure if you’re used to a deck below 8.25 it’s hard to see why you would go bigger. The thing is I only see bowl skaters riding wider decks (with a few exceptions) and they all tell me it provides much more stability. It’s your choice of course, what works for you may not work for others and vice versa.
Tight trucks are bad, why? I already explained a bit but in order to flow a bowl, you need a responsive skateboard. This is where you loosen your trucks in order to ride efficiently and get the most out of the curves. Finding your ideal settings may take a couple of tries but you’ll know when it feels right for you. Tight trucks just don’t respond as well in bowls and pools.
My Personal Experience Riding Bowls
Bowl skating is awesome! It’s just such a great experience and it’s challenging. It requires experience in knowing how and when to push and finding the right spot to keep your momentum. To be honest I haven’t really mastered this myself, mainly due to a lack of bowls/pools in my area.
When I do get a chance, I’m all over it. In fact, I recently visited Ghent (a small city in Belgium) with a couple of friends. We had a great time and went to bed around 7 AM but were supposed to skate the next day (eh hours).
Long story short, huge hangover, 3 hours of sleep, but I was ready. One of my closest friends knows a guy that owns a local skate park and even though it was closed, we were invited. So no scooter kids, just the two of us in a huge old factory and a sweet wooden bowl.
It was a bit of a shaky ride at first but once I got over it I had such a good time. I know how to ride but bowls require experience and knowing where to hit the sweet spots. Fortunately, the owner was around and could tell me exactly in which direction to go and how to carve the curbs.
The coping was huge so I didn’t do anything risky but just riding that bowl was an amazing experience. After 30 minutes I was all over that bowl, writing this just wants me to go back and do it again.
Skating Bowls Is Perfect for Older Skaters
When you get older you’ll notice it takes a lot more time to recover from impacts. I speak for myself here but street skating isn’t an option anymore. You got a lot more responsibilities than a 20-year-old (work, family, etc). Even though there’s always a risk of falling, riding a bowl is a great experience without even doing any technical stuff.
You can either just ride a bit when your muscles decided to have a day off and do more technical stuff at moments when everything just feels right. Protective gear is recommended of course. I mainly skate mini ramp nowadays and focus on technique instead of risky stuff. Just take it slow and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Stretch a bit before and after you ride.
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