The skateboard deck is the very heart of the skating experience. It is the part of the board that the skater is most intimate with, depending on every curve and twist for the deck to be there for you. Contact with the skateboard deck defines success or failure: missing the deck means bailing, much to the amusement of your so-called friends.
Skaters therefore take their deck very seriously. More than just a place to plant your feet, the skateboard deck has become a billboard to broadcast your musical taste, favorite skate paraphernalia brands and personal philosophy by applying stickers or simply painting tags on deck.
The modern skateboard deck evolved from surf boards in the 1950’s, pioneered by inventive wavehounds who wanted a way to fly dry between high tides. Typical of the laid-back, anarchic subculture of the day, there was no standard for shapes and sizes until industry entered the picture in the early 1970’s, when the first widely distributed manufactured boards started to appear.
Until manufactured skateboards become common in the early 1970’s, skaters literally had to build their own boards, using recycled roller skate wheels and whatever plank of wood struck their fancy. Some old-schoolers still wax nostalgic for the time when just to skate at all you needed enough ingenuity, commitment and courage to construct your own board and then trust your body’s safety to you handiwork.
Canadian Maple is the material of choice for modern skateboard decks. Each deck is made of 5-9 ply (usually 7) of the premium lumber. Recent designs using aluminum and synthetic materials may be lighter or more durable, but for most serious skaters, nothing but maple will do.
The shape of the deck will depend on the degree of your experience and daring. A deeper concave, with steeper nose and tail kicks, allows the expert more precision, power and speed when executing tricks. The noob will want a more shallow concave shape, which allows more room to recover from errors.
Skaters of all skill levels may choose a longboard deck with a flat nose for utility transportation. With a more aerodynamic streamlined shape than trick boards, the longboard is best for getting around on a schedule. Prior to the revolutionary concave design of inventor Richard Stevenson, who created the kicktail, the longboard was the only style available on store shelves.
The length and width of skateboard decks are, of course, also critical to the performance a skateboard offers. Most street and vert decks are between 7.5 and 8.25 inches wide, although length can vary a great deal, from as short as six inches for the specialty “shoe-board” up to 46 inches for a true sidewalk-surfing experience. As you would probably imagine, the term, “longboard”, is generally reserved for decks 35 inches or longer.
Choosing a skateboard deck which is right for you is largely a matter of personal taste. Whatever deck you choose, you can be sure that your choice will be with you through every ollie and slalom-and not there on every bail, sack and slam.