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In addition to roller skating and patience-testing puzzles, skateboarding was among the activities that saw an unexpected boom last year — and not just because the sport was slated to make its debut in the Tokyo Olympics (which has been postponed to this year). As cities went under lockdown in 2020, house-bored citizens seeking al fresco activities found themselves dusting off their old deck or hopping onto a board for the first time.
“Skateboarding is the perfect pandemic activity,” Yeah Girl founder and Australia-based creative director Sarah Huston tells Rolling Stone. “It’s as social or individual as you want it to be — or in this case, need it to be. You don’t need a coach, you can do it outside in the fresh air. And without getting too deep, it’s just a fun thing to do. It’s a form of meditation, and a way to tune out from everything. Everyone is looking for that escape.”
A study published last year in the Journal of American Medical Association found that Google searches on anxiety hit an all-time high from March to May. The unsurprising news comes after a Gallup poll the year before found that people in the U.S. were already the most-stressed population in the world.
It comes as no surprise that Americans sheltering in place sought solace through skateboards. In addition to the fun factor, the anti-sport was found to improve the mental health of 13 to 25-year-old respondents surveyed in the Tony Hawk Foundation-funded Beyond the Board study, which was conducted by USC’s Pullias Center for Higher Education and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Los Angeles-based creative director Zach Moldof, co-founder of progressive skate culture magazine Stoke Much, says that the skateboard industry wasn’t prepared for the booming business. Gear sold like hotcakes and U.S. stores struggled to restock inventory as the pandemic delayed international shipments, and “manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand,” he says.
That USC study also found “a significant number [of] skaters who identified as female and/or as a skater of color.” Huston and Moldof credit social media and the visibility of diverse skater crews in attracting shredders of all identities, for whom inspiration and connection to a wider skate world is just a tap away.
Long gone are the days when white hetero male skaters represented the culture. Even the fashion world has been infatuated with the skate scene in recent years (remember when Thrasher tees were off-duty model uniforms?), with cult-cool label Imitation of Christ even staging a skate park runway show last summer starring teenage skater girls.
“Having those [diverse] voices amplified online has made it a safer and more accessible space, especially for the BIPOC community,” notes Huston. “And there’s a much smaller barrier [when you’re] learning at home instead of at the skatepark, and might be a lot less intimidating for minorities, girls, non-binary, and trans [people].”
Moldof says the reasons that brought him and other aspiring skaters in the early Nineties in South Florida (“which was totally separate from skate culture,” he points out) remain the same for all generations today — the difference is the 24/7 access to skate content.
“We had no reference for anything except for videos and magazines like Thrasher; we didn’t even know about [veteran skater] Christian Hosoi,” he says. “At that time, skateboarding was [more of] a container for people who got rejected. I didn’t fit in [elsewhere] because I was Jewish; others didn’t because they were Cuban or Italian or Black. Some of us liked punk rock and hip-hop and we didn’t ‘fit’ with each other, but skating made it all okay.”
“Skate culture goes beyond the act of skateboarding,” adds Huston. Pandemic or not, Huston says Yeah Girl has seen an uptick in male followers on its Instagram account, which regularly posts content of pros like Mariah Duran and Lizzie Armanto alongside everyday women skaters. “I think that content is engaging a lot more people, not just skateboarders. Even people who don’t skate are likely to engage now more than [ever],” she says.
How to Choose the Best Skateboard For You
It’s worth noting that the best skateboard for a commuter might not work for someone who wants to improve their tricks. Choosing the right skateboard for adults depends on your height and foot size, where and how you plan to ride, and personal preference. If you’re a beginner, a complete board might be the way to go as you can always upgrade your parts when you find your skating style.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most common pre-assembled skateboard types:
Standard: The symmetrical pill-shaped board is the most versatile and typically comes with hard wheels, making it ideal for skateparks and riding on pavement. Standard skateboards come in a range of deck widths; generally speaking, you’ll want to go with something that’s proportional to your foot. Deck widths of 7.25 to 7.375 inches are ideal for men’s sizes 6 to 8, and boards 7.5 to 9 inches are best for shoe sizes 9 and up. You might want to go with a narrow board (regardless of shoe size) if you plan on using it for technical tricks, while commuters might want a wider board for comfort and stability.
Cruiser: If you’re just looking to get around, cruisers (and the soft wheels that come with them) are best for rolling on rough sidewalks and roads. Decks are similar to standard skateboards, and cruisers vary in shape depending on how you ride.
Longboard: Plan on catching some speed? Longboards offer stability, so they’re good for learning, cruising, and downhill and long-distance riding.
What Are the Best Skateboards?
Can’t make it to your local skate shop? We’ve rounded up some of the best skateboards for adults of all skill levels — read on for completes for beginners and pros alike.
1. Primitive Dirty P Creation 8.25-Inch Skateboard
This 8.25-inch skateboard comes from Primitive, the L.A.-based brand created by professional skateboarder Paul Rodriguez. It’s great for beginners and pros alike, and the company offers plenty of other designs as well as grip tape, clothing, and other accessories.
2. Summit Board Co. Short Longboard
This short longboard features an oval deck made of maple and bamboo, sturdy seven-inch alloy trucks, and all-terrain rubber wheels, making it great for riders seeking stability. Its compact 19-inch-by-nine-inch size makes it easy to carry when you’re not skating.
3. Autonomy Jen O’Brien Rose 7.75-Inch Skateboard
Channel Hall of Fame skateboarder Jen O’Brien with her signature pro skateboard by Autonomy. The 7.75-inch complete features Bronson bearings and 99a wheels for a smooth and speedy ride, while the Ace trucks offer stability and responsiveness.
4. Hiboy S11 Electric Skateboard
Want the best of both worlds? Hiboy’s S11 electric skateboard isn’t designed to grind on rails, but it’ll drive you up to 6.2 miles and as fast as 12.4 miles per hour on a single charge. This lightweight cruiser has four rider modes, an ergonomic remote, and regenerative braking.
5. Lander 27-Inch Complete Skateboard
This lightweight nine-inch wide skateboard by L.A.-based Lander is made of a blend of recycled materials and fiber-reinforced nylon — and its perforated design is guarantee to turn heads. It measures 26.5 inches long and features solid aluminum trucks and smooth wheels, making it a fast and responsive ride. The smaller size makes it easy to carry around with you, and its stable (read: no wobble) board makes it great for beginners too.
6. Penny Postcard Highland 22-Inch Skateboard
Outdoorsy skaters will dig Penny’s 22-inch non-slip waffle skateboard from the brand’s Postcard series, which features designs inspired by iconic National Parks imagery and the vintage postcards of Argentinian artist Alan Berry Rhys. This forest green waffle top non-slip cruiser has polyurethane wheels, aluminum powder-coated trucks, and stainless steel bearings, so it’s great for long rides and bombing hills.
7. Proper Gnar Goddess Skateboard Deck
For those who prefer to personalize their skateboard, Beyoncé-approved brand Proper Gnar has a variety of cool decks ready for you to add your trucks and wheels of choice, like this Michaelangelo-inspired piece. They’re designed by founder and artist Latosha Stone, who works also grace her line of clothing, accessories, art, and more. Multiple deck sizes and designs available.
8. Retrospec Rift 41-Inch Drop-Through Longboard
Retrospec‘s 41-inch longboard promises the control and agility you need for speed and responsive riding. Made of Canadian maple, this board has durable polyurethane wheels, 180mm kingpin trucks, and smooth ABEC-7 bearings.
9. Enjoi Heart 31-Inch Cruiser Skateboard
If you’re looking to fine-tune your tricks on the park and street, this 31-inch Enjoi skateboard is a good option. The 8.375-inch resin deck is lightweight and features carbon steel speed bearings, Tensor trucks, and 95a wheels.
10. Arbor Fish Bamboo 37-Inch Complete Longboard
Arbor’s compact pintail Fish longboard has an extended wheelbase that makes it great for cruising. This 37-inch board made of sustainably-sourced hardrock maple and a carbonized bamboo top, and the flexible deck gives it stability and speed.
11. Hamboards Fish Surfskate Bamboo Wedge 53-Inch Skateboard
Hamboards’ surfer-beloved skateboards let you practice your waveriding skills when you’re on land. The Fish 53-inch board has a durable and wide bamboo deck with a hydrodynamic tail that offers, “flawless carving angles, extreme maneuverability, and a rich cruise experience,” says the brand. It boasts 24mm riser blocks, patented HST aluminum carving trucks, and 90mm polyurethane wheels for a “buttery smooth” ride.
12. Palace Ich Bun Complete 8-Inch Skateboard
Hypebeast-beloved skate brand Palace’s 8-inch complete features a seven-ply maple deck, Ace trucks, 51mm 99a SML wheels, and Jessup grip tape.