A longboard is a type of skateboard originally built using a piece of wood in the shape of a surfboard sitting on four wheels. While some use longboards as a form of transportation, most are used to perform fun and steezy stunts like in longboard dancing and freestyle.
There are groups and individuals who takes a longboard to travel great distances. Another popular use of a longboard is to go really fast freeriding down hills. So what are longboard decks made of that makes them so versatile.
During the resurgence of longboarding in the early 1990s, longboards were made of the same material as regular skateboards, a few sheets of Canadian Maple veneer glued and pressed together in a mold and then cut into shape.
With new technologies becoming more available manufacturers (builders or shapers) have been experimenting with composite materials to build better boards that can handle the rigorous challenges presented by how the community enjoys the different disciplines they practice.
At the core most longboards are made of…
The best maple for longboards grows up north in Canada they are called Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum) and research shows that maple trees grow tighter growth rings in colder climates because of the short growing season. So the farther north the tree is harvested, the harder the Sugar Maple will be. They can grow to heights of nearly 100 feet and spreading out its incomparable leaves to widths of 50 feet across. Normally each veneer sheet is 1/16″ thick. They are not only good for longboard decks they’re also good with pancakes.
Birch is a popular alternative to Canadian Maple used mostly by DIY’ers. Due to the fact that Birch is not as hard as Canadian Maple veneer and is prone to splintering when the edges hit hard surfaces commercial sized builders and manufacturers stay away from birch.
What’s good about birch is the flexibility, it’s also lighter than maple or even bamboo. It’s cheap and available in most hardware stores or lumbers.
Baltic Birch has that one face usually clear, so this makes for a good bottom layer. And its core veneers are solid with no open knots so it works well with many types of presses or mold.
Most eco conscious builders started experimenting with bamboo because of its greeness. They also found out that its really good for longboards because of its spring back qualities and hardness. Bamboo are native to warm and moist tropical and warm temperate climates. Recently, some attempts have been made to grow bamboo on a commercial basis in Africa and the United States.
Fun fact: Although bamboo is usually compared to trees because of its woodlike properties, bamboo is not a tree it’s technically closer to grass than a tree. It can grow up to 3 feet in a day. It can be harvested in less than 5 years. You don’t need to replant bamboo. It has negative carbon footprint because it can produce 35% more oxygen compared to other trees occupying the same sized area.
Sad fact: The greeness of bamboo is up for debate as some organisations site that the demand has increased so natural forests are now being converted into bamboo farms. And the process of turning bamboo into usable material is almost the same as other types of wood.
Exotic boards are those made from non traditional materials previously mentioned. Materials used by exotics are kind of experimental in a way. Some are designed for cruising or speed these boards may not take the beating of industrial or consumer grade boards. But they may surprise us in the future and to the right rider with the right skills I’m sure they can make these boards flip and slide just fine.
Hardwood, as the name suggest is made from hard solid wood. It can be from one single piece of wood or several vertically laminated pieces for aesthetic purposes. It’s hard to imagine thrashing these beauties but I’m sure they will get the look when you ride them in the city.
With our environmental awakening some builders started experimenting with recycled materials like wine barrels and plastic paint buckets. Some of them are pretty rustic looking in total contrast to the clean looking artsy boards. If you’re into saving the planet while having a really good looking board under you then these boards are for you.
Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. The Jute Lab has been working awhile with Jute Fibers trying to produce proof of concept uses of the jute fiber. One of them just happens to be longboards.
Glass (Plexi & Bulletproof)
I have seen crowd source projects of “invisible boards” before. One boasts of using bullet proof glass (see: Jelly Longboards) and some use regular plexi glass.
Carbon fiber is lighter than fiberglass, it’s 70% lighter than steel, 40% lighter than Aluminum. The nature of carbon fiber is low in weight, rigid, and strong. It is more rigid than fiber glass. So if flexibility is not a priority requirement then this would be the better option.
Electric longboards which carries extra weight from batteries and motors benefit from this construction because of light weight, rigidity and strength.
Although some mainstream longboard builders or shapers add Carbon Fiber to their decks (like Alternative Longboards), there are only a few who uses carbon fiber as the primary component for their longboard decks.
Light weight plain weave fibre glass cloths can provide a smooth finish and are excellent for producing a waterproofing layer over wood or other surfaces when combined with epoxy resin.
Not 100% sure : There are no commercially available pure fibre glass made longboards. Usually fibre glass is used as a composite to make the wooden core stronger. By adding fibre glass to build longboard decks it can use less wood and helps to make a lighter but a more durable construction.
That’s all we have. Maybe you could send us a message if I missed anything? Until next time. Now go out and skate, right now!