While it seems to difficult to buy your first skateboard and make the right choice, it really isn’t. Because of all the different wheels, trucks and sizes, it’s easy to get confused. The paradox of choice, the more options you have the harder it is to make a choice.
There are just a couple of basics you should stick to when buying your first skateboard as an adult. You want something that provides stability and rolls smoothly. Just get a basic skateboard deck, trucks, bearings, wheels and you’re good to go.
- Don’t spend too much.
- Start with basic trucks that fit your board.
- A deck between 8″ and 8.5″.
- Wheels that aren’t too soft or too hard.
Now before we go into the 21 tips, here’s how the anatomy of a skateboard looks like. This might be helpful if you’re completely lost when it comes to the names of the different parts. Also, keep in mind that there are many old skaters out there, you’re not alone!
Note that this article contains affiliate links which earn me a commission from qualifying purchases
1. It’s All About Stability and Balance
I’ll start with a general tip. Skateboarding is all about finding your balance. I can really feel the difference between a somewhat wider skateboard deck and a narrower one like 8 Inch. I just feel more confident on a wider deck, but one can argue this is a personal preference.
For beginners, I recommend going for an 8.5. Wider decks provide more stability when you’re a newbie. When you know the basics, you could always move on to a narrower deck. Wider boards don’t flip and pop as easily as a narrow deck, but don’t worry about that for now. However, you’ll also be fine with an 8″ deck, don’t think too much about it. Just make sure the trucks you pick fit the size of your deck.
Many skateboarders start out learning ollies before they can even ride. Don’t be that guy, get the basics first, you’ll progress much faster later on. Not to mention it’ll increase the risks of injuries. I just wish I did this when I was younger, maybe my ankles wouldn’t look as goofy as they do today.
2. Don’t Worry Too Much About the Length of Your Deck
It doesn’t really matter, just pick a regular deck and go with it. Medium and smaller decks are supposed to be for kids but even then it isn’t really necessary. Unless you have to make a full split to set your feet on the bolts, just go with a regular size.
If you really want a longer board you should probably go for a ..eh…longboard, not a regular skateboard (sometimes referred to as popsicle skateboard). This post isn’t about longboards.
3. Picking the Right Width
Somewhat important as a beginner. Like I mentioned, a wider deck provides more stability for beginners which you’ll need when you just start out. This doesn’t mean you can’t learn skateboarding on a smaller deck. I personally prefer wider decks, mainly because they feel more stable.
If you’re not convinced go with an 8.25″, it provides a little more stability than an 8, but you’re not going to do kickflips anytime soon. The truth is that you’ll probably get used to an 8″ if you decide to buy one. I just recommend wider boards because this may help you keep your balance more than a smaller deck. As an older skater myself, I try to avoid injuries as much as possible.
4. Go for a Medium or Mellow Concave
The concave is the curved shape across a decks y-axis. More concave makes your deck flip faster but makes your ride less stable. Go with a medium shaped concave, also called mellow concave.
A less steep concave means you’ll need more force to ollie but generally gives you more control when performing tricks. It comes at a cost of stability so avoid steep concaves until you decide you want to learn technical tricks.
5. Picking the Right Wheels
Because you’re just about to begin skateboarding go with some medium hard wheels. Anything between durometer (hardness) 96a and 99a is fine if you want to skate the street and plan to do tricks. Go for wheels between 78a and 87A if you just want to cruise. A smoother ride will help you keep your balance. It will help you learn to push, ride fakie or even skate switch much faster.
You can go for harder wheels when you feel like you’re in control. For now, you just want to avoid cracks and rocks blocking your wheels. Softer wheels won’t be affected by small obstacles as much as harder wheels.
There’s also the size that matters. I won’t go into this too much because I’ve already written an extensive post about wheels. If you’re interested, check out my post to learn everything there is to know about skateboard wheels.
In general, bigger and softer wheels will make you go faster but are harder for technical stuff. Smaller and harder wheels accelerate faster and are better for technical skateboarding. Here are the wheels I recommend, I listed a few that are perfect for street, skate parks or just cruising comfortably.
Get some decent bearings. They don’t have to be expensive. Don’t go all out on Swiss top-notch bearings. Just buy regular Bones Reds bearings and you should be good for a while. Just avoid dirt and water to make them last longer. Beware of cheap Chinese knockoffs that are available on Amazon! Go to a trusted skate shop online or your local shop.
Oh and if you’re wondering. ABEC has nothing to do with the performance of your skateboard wheels. When I was younger we always thought the higher the ABEC number, the better the bearings. Turns out this wasn’t the case. Just get some Bones Swiss reds or Bones reds.
7. Spacers to Safeguard Your Bearings
Spacers are small tubes to fit between your bearings. Spacers are small, hollow and pipe-shaped. They protect your bearings from damaging as you attach the nut to the truck axle. Some wheelsets have them included, make sure you check before you buy. Spacers are really cheap by the way and don’t have any negative impact on performance.
If you assemble your skateboard yourself be sure to first put a bearing on your wheel, then the spacer and then the other bearing.
8. Don’t Overspend on Trucks
Don’t spend too much on trucks, you won’t feel the difference between hollow light trucks or just solid standards. Make sure you get the right width, your wheels shouldn’t stick out (trucks too wide). Make sure the width of your trucks matches your board.
Here’s a table of my personal top 3 truck brands, types, sizes and which board you’ll need for them. I wrote a short article about the differences between these brands. Venture and Independent are great for transition skateboarding and provide more balance, Indys last the longest. Thunders are better for technical street skating. They turn better but are less durable than Venture and Indys. Ventures are the cheaper trucks and last in between Indy and Thunder.
|Brand||Brand Size||Axel Width (in)||Suggested Deck Width (inch)|
|Thunder||145||7.62||7.4 – 7.9|
|Thunder||147||8||7.9 – 8.2|
|Thunder||149||8.5||8.25 – 8.4|
|Thunder||151||8.75||8.4 – 9.0|
|Venture||5||7.6||7.4 – 7.85|
|Venture||5.25||8||7.75 – 8.25|
|Independent||139||8||7.75 – 8.25|
|Independent||149||8.5||8.25 – 8.75|
|Independent||169||8.9||8.75 – 9.75|
|Independent||215||10||9.75 and up|
Go for low or medium trucks. They keep your center of gravity lower and this helps you keep your balance. High trucks allow for more steering but that’s not going to help you to learn skateboarding. Make sure that the wheels you pick aren’t too big, this can cause the wheels touching your deck (wheel bite).
Low trucks help you do tricks once you progress a little. They flip more easily and are lighter. They’ll benefit you more in the long run. Here are a couple of trucks I recommend. Don’t forget to include bolts to attach your trucks to your board!
9. Riser Pads, Yes or No?
Not everyone agrees that riser pads actually do anything but at least they provide some dampening when you ride the street. Riser pads are placed between your trucks baseplate and your deck.
If you want larger wheels (58-60mm and up) you’ll need some riser pads to prevent wheel bite. There are different pads out there, the thinner ones are mainly for dampening and the larger ones put some distance between your deck and your wheels.
Just pick a pair of 1/8″ shock pads to be sure. They can reduce pressure cracks caused by impacts from the truck’s baseplate. In general, you need a smooth ride so I would get them. They are really cheap anyway.
10. Standard Bushings Are Fine for Now
Don’t worry too much about bushings. Softer bushings allow for more steering where harder bushings keep your trucks tighter. Most of the trucks come with bushings that are fine for beginners. If they feel too loose, just tighten the nuts on your truck’s axles. If you’re a bit bigger or heavier you might want to consider harder bushings.
Many skateboarders argue about bushings, but it comes down to personal preference. As a beginner, you won’t feel the difference.
11. Grip Tape, Fancy or Basic
Grip tape keeps you from slipping off your deck. It’s the black sandpaper-like material on the top of your deck. There are different types of grip out there but standard grip tape is just fine! I personally recommend Jessup grip tape, it’s not too gritty and still offers lots of grip.
There are some really cool print nowadays, I wish these were available when I was a kid but oh well. Wouldn’t go for it now, anything too fancy and people start expecting me to jump 12 stairs. I’ll just stick with the basics, though I like the laser imprinted custom grip tapes available on Etsy.
Don’t get the cheapest tape though. You don’t want it to come off, removing the old grip and putting on a new one is a tedious job.
12. Shoe Size Doesn’t Really Matter
It doesn’t really matter how big your shoe size is. There are some out there that claim you need a wider deck is you have larger feet. This really isn’t true. I know tall skaters with huge feet that ride small decks, and short skaters that have small feet that ride wide deck. You guessed it, it’s just personal preference. I do recommend skate shoes though and here’s why.
Just look at some of the kids out there. They ride adult-sized boards and still flip their decks. They adapt and keep their center of gravity low by almost assuming a crouch position.
It only matters when you have basketball player sized feet. In situations like that, I would recommend a wider deck. Not only because of your shoe size, you probably are heavier than average so a sturdy deck isn’t a bad idea.
13. Brands Don’t Really Matter, to Some Extent
It really doesn’t matter which brand you pick as long it’s a pro board. Many of the brands get their decks from the same manufacturer though shapes may vary. Make sure it’s made out of compressed maple wood and has at least 7 ply’s (compressed layers).
I see many people claiming their brand is the best and they stick with it because they had one deck that broke after a day. That’s mainly on the skateboarder and not the brand. You can be unlucky and break a board after a day, though this isn’t something to worry about when you’re just starting out. Just be careful not to buy cheap Chinese fake decks.
When you get the basics first and move on to tricks later, you won’t break a deck as easily as someone how starts to learn kickflips right away. Because you have more control it’s less likely you land a trick with both of your feet in the middle of your deck.
14. Graphics or a Cheap Blank?
While it’s true that blank decks are way cheaper, you won’t support the sport buying one. The money brands make of graphics goes back into developing new technology, providing for the pros and contests. Buying decks with a graphic supports the industry.
If you’re a bit heavier consider decks like Powell Peralta Flight, Santa Cruz VX or Dwindle Impact. These boards are stronger and reinforced with fiberglass, they last longer and you will have a hard time breaking these decks.
15. Just Want to Cruise?
Just cruising is a great way to start out. It’s really important to learn the basics before you even think of doing an ollie. Going straight into tricks will waste your time and it will only take longer to learn skateboarding.
Get a board about 8.5 inches and some medium-soft wheels around 96A if you still want to be able to try some tricks after a while. Go for softer wheels if you really just want to roll. The size of your wheels should be about 60 millimeters. Anything beyond those sizes will require riser pads or high trucks. I own a couple of cruisers that I absolutely love, check them out on this page.
16. Wear Protective Gear
Not really about a skateboard but you really need some protection. At least wear a helmet and knee pads. As an adult you’ve probably got responsibilities like a job and family and keeping yourself safe should be your number one priority.
While skateboarding isn’t really dangerous (compared to other sports), about one-third of skateboarders that get injured are beginners. I always wear my pads and put on a helmet when I try skate my local mini ramp. Though I don’t always use my brain, I still need it.
Until now I never hit my head, but recently after 25 years of skating it happened. I was so glad I was wearing my helmet, it only has to happen once. The day before this happened:
I was testing out a cruiser and trying to blaze through a patch of grass, not exactly normal use and the error was entirely on me. Should have worn pads…
17. Never Ever Buy a Penny Board
You should never get one of those plastic penny boards to learn how to ride. They are too narrow and too small to learn anything. It will make learning skateboarding a difficult and frustrating experience.
While they are great for commuting if you know how to ride one, they are terrible for tricks. I think these are great for introducing kids to skateboarding but not for an adult. You can get a way better board for the same price.
18. Don’t Spend Too Much on Your First Skateboard
This is your first skateboard. Don’t go all out on expensive equipment like hollow trucks, top-notch wheels, ceramic bearings and $90 decks. You can get a complete setup for about $100 to $140.
Once you get the hang of it just slowly replace the parts one at a time. While I personally ride the more expensive trucks and wheels, it’s mainly because of experience and I just like buying cool skateboard stuff.
Visit a reputable shop like Stoked Ride Shop. They offer a selection of complete skateboards, longboards, and cruisers. Make sure to pick a complete board between 8.0″ and 8.75, wider boards offer more stability.
19. Avoid Walmart, Target, or Toy Stores
Nice, a $25 complete skateboard which looks like the real thing! Well, they suck. Big time. They can break after even just one ollie, they have fake plastic wheels and cheap material trucks. Not to mention the quality of the ‘wood’.
Don’t ever get one of these skateboards. Real skateboards last 10 times longer and probably way more. It’ll be frustrating to learn to push and you’ll probably get sick of it after half an hour.
20. Still, Confused? Just Get a Complete
If you can’t be bothered by picking out components you can go for a complete setup. I’ve taken the time to assemble a few decks for different circumstances and budgets. Take a look at my complete skateboard recommendations which are just right for beginners.
Completes are fine when you’re just starting out, this will help you learn to know what you like and don’t like without spending a lot of money on expensive components.
CCS logo completes are recommended if you’re looking for a decent and affordable skateboard. Once you get the hang of it, you can slowly upgrade (start with upgrading the wheels). Check out my review of why exactly I recommend this skateboard. Update: Since I wrote this post I tested more boards and I no longer recommend the CCS complete.
You can get better completes for a lower price. Stoked Ride Shop offers a street complete ($75) and and $85 setup for cruising and tricks (links to Stoked Ride Shop). Right now this is the cheapest board you can get with quality components but they may not always be available due to huge demand.
If you just want to ride without doing tricks, consider a cruiser. I tested a bunch of them and you can find a summary over here some are great for heavy or tall riders and beginners, others a fast and nimble for the more experienced rider.
21. Don’t Feel Awkward
So now that you know what to get it’s time to go out there. This might feel a bit awkward but that’s perfectly normal. Just look for a quiet place, start out on a patch of grass to practice balance. After that, look for an empty parking lot or anything that isn’t too crowded. Once you feel a bit comfortable visit a skate park early in the morning. Most of them are pretty empty which helps you feel more confident.
Real skateboarders won’t judge you anyway. They often will gladly help you out if you ask. Make sure not to get in the way and learn about skateboarding etiquette when you visit skateparks.
Some Additional Tips
So I’ve gone through 21 tops now but there are some tips unrelated to buying a deck. I already sneaked protective gear in there, but also think about your clothing. At least wear decent skateboard shoes. Think about your pants, you’ll need some freedom of movement, so skinny jeans aren’t an option.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear baggy pants exposing your underwear, that’s a 90’s thing. Just get something that can stretch and still keeps abrasions to a minimum. Also, think about socks. Your feet will sweat a lot, just buy a pair of running socks to keep your feet from getting soggy.
That’s it for now. If possible, team up with someone to help you get started. Consider getting some lessons, but make sure you practice on smooth surfaces and stay safe. Here are some tips to get you through the first hour. Glad you got to the end! Have fun out there and remember, you’re never too old to skate!