Getting your first freestyle/dance board
What to look out for when getting your first longboard dancer? (Part 1)
By: Mello (IG: @Mello_ChillVibesOnlySG)
One of the longboard disciplines I specialise in is freestyle and dance longboarding, so if you have come to the right place if you are looking for more information about longboards for freestyle and dance.
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at parts and components that make up a freestyle dance longboard. Even though I have only been skating for a short period of time, I have gleaned much information and I would like to share them with you. Trust me, it beats googling and spending hours sifting through a ton of information on the Interweb.
Let’s first start with factors to consider before getting your first longboard. The question you should ask yourself before heading down to our skateshop is “What exact discipline would I like to focus on in the medium to long term?”. You see, longboarding has several discipline like Freeriding, downhill-ing, long distance pumping/pushing and dancing/freestyling. In majority of my post, I would be referring to longboard dance/freestyle unless otherwise stated.
My advice for your first freestyle dance board is get something you really like e.g the design or the construction or how it feels when you stand on it. Don’t just go for a board just because you can save some money and end up with a less than perfect setup for yourself. Here are some factors I used when I was purchasing my first board, brand recognition, board construction and company history. We will go more into details in the next few sections.
When I first started getting interested in longboarding, I started looking around for a single “hybrid” setup that would allow me to skate various disciplines. But soon, I realised hybrid boards being jack of all trades, master of none, takes tremendous effort to practise a certain discipline often results in injury. Specialise boards especially those from reputable brands can be pricey and range upwards of S$300.00 to S$600 for a complete setup. But for the best experience when learning a discipline, this would be my recommended route after my initial experiment on hybrid boards. Do visit your local board shop and speak with their staff to find out what suites you best. Alternatively, you can hit up Carousell for some decent second-hand setup although that is only highly recommended only if you know your stuff.
Ed: A word of advice on budget boards. Not all budget boards are built the same. We understand that not everyone has the budget to splash down on a $500 to $800 custom setup. But when considering budget boards, make sure you purchase them from your local shops so at least you have somewhere to head to when you run into problems. Purchasing budget boards online from overseas platforms comes with inherent risk and we have seen customers come into our shop time and time again with poorly fitted completes out of the factory. So, talk to us if you are not sure, we have a wide range of decks and components across different price points that will suite your need and budget.All About Freestyle Dance Decks
Lets get started and talk about decks, specifically, the construction, shape, material and layups. These factors greatly influence how well you perform in the freestyle dance discipline.
When it comes to length of the deck, you will need to first consider your height. A shorter person e.g. a child of 1.2m will find it difficult to manage decks that are longer e.g. 46” making it difficult to pop tricks.
Even within the genre of freestyle dance there are sub-disciplines that you may like to focus on. This again will be a determining factor when it comes to deck length.
Shorter boards are generally more reactive and make popping tricks faster. Such boards are great when you are more skewed towards freestyle tricks. The downside is you will not have ample deck space for dancing. Shorter boards are anything below 42”.
Conversely, longer decks tends to have a slight delay when popping them making it easier to learn freestyle tricks. This delay slows down the reactivness of the board and will give you time to react making it easier to learn specific tricks. With a longer deck space, dancing on these boards will also be much easier since you have more space to play around with. I designated anything above 45” as a longer deck.
Anything in between are a good mix of both freestyle and dance and will have decent deck space while still providing a balanced reactivity time. I personally tried all 3 classes of deck lengths and by far 46” decks are the most suitable for me.
Above: 46inch Travelol Black Marble With White Air Trucks and Lucky Wheels
In today’s longboard world, the 3 major material used for board construction are wood, fiber glass, carbon fiber and sometimes even urethane. Occasionally, you will also find exotic material used like basalt, cork and even aluminium.
The flex of a the deck is usually determined by a confluence of factor including material used, layup, deck shape, deck length, and your weight. Deck flex is important because some riders like flexier decks while others like riding a stiffer one. Generally for riders more focus on freestyle, a stiffer deck is better and dancers tend to like more flexier deck.
I personally prefer riding a stiffer decks as I gravitate more towards freestyle tricks and would prefer that my setup doesn’t try to throw me off right after I land a trick. However flexier decks is great especially for dance. The flex of the deck causes it to sink down when you step on the rails (side) of the board bringing you closer to the ground and giving you this sense of stability and lock in effect at your feet. Some brands do offer a variety of different flexes for the same model. A few stiff boards I have tried and absolutely love are the Travelol Bumseok 43.5” and Timber Axolotl 41”.
Left to Right: 43.5inch Travelol Bum Seok, 41inch Timber Axolotl
Ed: Shameless plug – its available at the ThaneLife Longboard Shop
The kick-tails on your deck are important as they are used primarly as a means to kick up and pop your deck. In the world of freestyle longboarding, many tricks starts with initiating pops and kickups. Having a good kick-tail that suits your riding style means you can continously add to your bag of tricks. I have tried riding on both flatter kick-tails as well as more aggressive ones. Flatter kick-tails are slightly harder to locate with your feet without looking down at your board unless you are really used to your board. Aggressive kick-tails gives you a higher pop angle which just makes it really fun to pop tricks.
Left to right: Pepper Boards Flow with a flat kick tail, Timber Axolotl with an aggressive kicktail
Another key thing to note on your kick-tail is the way it is shaped. Some tails are small and slim while others are fat like a platypus tail. Tail shape affects the way you would pop you tricks as you precision is required when placing your foot on a fatter tail. However, fatter tails do give a better sense of stability right before you pop a trick.
Top to bottom: Travelol Slim tail, Timber Tortini Fat tail
Pucks are additional components you can add to the kicktails to preserve the longevity of your deck. Pucks not only provide additional buffer when your deck strikes the floor but reduce impacts when the deck hits the ground due to a failed trick. However popping tricks on a board with pucks may feel slightly different and may take some time getting used to it.
Above: 47 Inch Locus Galaxy with pucks mounted with Air Trucks Raw and Lucky 60mm wheels
Main body of the deck
Deck body is where you stand and grab when performing hand tricks. Often, we fail to pay attention to this part of the deck but when you miss a trick, the deck body will most likely be the point of contact with the ground and will help to absorb the impact.
Having a wider body like 10” would give more leverage when dancing and carving without really needing to stick your feet off the edge the board. Wide deck body gives that added sense of security compared to a 9.5” deck. Even a mere 0.5” can make a big difference depending on your comfort level.
Top to bottom: Timber Axolotl Slim Body, Pantheon Tandeva wide body
When dancing, most of time about half your feet is stick off the edge of the rails. The layer or texture that coats both the top and bottom of your board will determine how slippery your deck is for grabbing hand tricks. A textured surface like a fabric design layer is a lot grippier than a glossy finish, especially when trying to grab your deck with sweaty hands.
Left to right: Luca Textured finish, Travelol Panda matte finish
And finally decks are designed such that their kicktails are almost in line with the rails of the decks. You run a higher risk of destroying the tails of such decks when you miss a trick. This is a point of consideration as the preservation of the kick-tails are really important, more so than the main body of your deck.
Now lets talk about wheel flares. Some tricks involves sliding your board on flatland and having wheel flares gives you a good gauge where your feet placement. Wheel flares also allow you to tuck your to kick out your deck for those nice steezy slide tricks.
Left to right: Travelol Taichi 39, Timber Tortuga
In conclusion, the above are some criteria I look out for when selecting a board. It is impossible to have a single perfect board for everyone so choosing a board that fits you will depend on your personal preference, your current skill level, your style of dance/freestyle and most importantly, something that you can wake up and use everyday. If you love your board, chances are you would want to bring it out often to show it off, be it the awesome graphics on it, the cool grip job or even how it looks when you perform on it while taking that perfect insta picture. Choose a board that brings out the best in you.
Do follow our community Instagram page @ChillVibesOnlySG, we have a chat link in the bio for updates on weekly sessions as well as free lessons.