"A manual is a skateboard trick where, while rolling, the front wheels of the skateboard are lifted off the ground, but the tail does not touch the ground." via Skateboarding Dictionary
So your kid wants to skateboard! Of course he or she does, it's fun and looks cool. After 10 years as a Skateboard Mom I have learned a thing or two, and this is the first of three skateboard posts sharing those lessons. As a parent my priorities are different than my child's. I want my son to be safe, and I do not have an endless budget, so before you spend your hard earned money on a cheap (meaning quality) skateboard from your favourite tire store here are a few things to think about!
Skateboarding is a sport, and cheap boards bought at a department store are toys, not proper equipment. Just like a plastic ball painted to look like a soccer ball, is not a soccer ball. Investing in quality skateboarding equipment that is right for your child, will reduce frustration; increase their success, which leads to increased confidence and enjoyment. In the long run it tends to be cheaper to invest in better equipment from the start. Buy from a place where the staff actually skateboards. Let them help figure out the best equipment for your child specific size, age, and skill level.
Eric Dionne, a 22 year skateboarding veteran, Top's Skate Team manager, buyer and part owner of Top of the World Skate Shop was kind enough to share some guidelines about buying skateboarding equipment. He has been with "Top" for 17 years, and for skaters and parents he is the face of Top, and a great example of local small business community involvement.
Top of the World was kind enough to give my readers a chance to win a Top Prize Pack (ARV - $90)
Can you tell me how Top decks are made, and why it makes sense to invest in a good board versus a board you buy from a department store?
(Mom speak translation: Board is the complete package deck with wheels etc, the wood part is the deck)
"Top decks are made of 100% Canadian Maple purchased from Quebec, and pressed at the same manufacturing facilities as Pro decks like Baker, Deathwish, and Element. We pay a little bit more than most shops to get our decks made to ensure the best quality. Decks made from good wood and glue, and dried properly, makes for a deck that lasts longer and feel lively."
You sell Top Decks and Pro Decks, why is the Pro Deck more expensive?
"Top decks are $50 and Pro decks are $70 (Grip tape included at Top). The extra $20 on a Pro deck gives a variety of graphics, shapes, brands, and you are paying the Pro most of the time. Also companies from the U.S. charge more to make up the margins on shipping and duty." (Another reason to buy local - costs less!)
What size deck do you recommend? Are some better for vert vs. street?
(Mom speak translation: Vert refers to vertical drop you find in a ramp or half-pipe. Street skating refers to tricks done using items found in the street such as curbs, stairs, rails)
"The most common size deck these days is 8" and the width really depends on your size, and skill level. If you are a beginner, we usually put you on an 8" or smaller. Smaller decks are lighter and easier to throw around, while a wider deck (8.2" - 8.5") offers a little more stability, and less breakage, and could be better for someone with bigger feet." (No judgement on the feet size... honest... Sasquatch.) "The vert guys will generally use a wider deck to skate transitions, but it comes down to a personal preference."
Let's talk wheels! What size wheels do you recommend? Are some for better for vert vs. street? What difference does the width of the wheel make?
"The most common wheel size is 52 mm. It is a good general size for any street or park riding you want to do. If you like to skate more bowls, or ramps we recommend a little bigger wheel, like a 54 mm and up. If you want a little more "grippiness" get a little wider wheel. While a skinny wheel will slide better and lock into tricks a little easier."
What about how hard or soft wheels are (Durometer/Duro)?
"Harder wheels (Duro 99-101) is a true street wheel. They are made to last longer against flat spots. Most transition, ramp, or bowl skaters will use a 97 - 100 Duro wheel with a wider footprint. The width will grip to the ramp easier, and the softer duro will make for a smooth ride. Top wheels are 100 duro. We use Mini Logos Wheels make by Powell-Bones. They are great wheels and cheaper than pro wheels."
Moving onto to trucks. What do they do, and what should look at when buying trucks?
(Mom speak translation: truck is the thing that attached the wheels to the wooden thing you stand on)
"All pro trucks are basically the same quality. (They are) all aluminium alloy with steel axles running through them. Independent, Thunder, Venture and Ace are some of the bigger brands. What you should look for when you're buying trucks is Height Weight and Turning. If you like to skate a bigger wheel and want a smooth turning truck, get a mid or high truck. I you like a lighter setup, more stability, and to be closer to the ground, grab a mid to low truck. It is that simple."
Bearings are next, what do they do and what is ABEC rating?
(Mom speak translation: things that go in the wheels and allow the wheels to spin on the truck axles.)
"ABEC ratings are the biggest BS" (meaning Bull Smiles of course) "of the skate industry. ABEC is a rating given to machinery bearings on how much load they can handle. The ABEC is measured at 65 mph, so it becomes irrelevant to a skateboarder, we don't go that fast." (plus the rating does not account for the bearing's ability or strength to withstand side impact which is important in skateboarding) "You want to look for a good skate bearing like Bones for example. Bones Reds ($25) are a good quality bearings that have a service shields on the inside, so you can clean or oil the bearings easily. Super Reds ($40) have higher grade steel ball bearings and a little more precise fit that make them smoother. Swiss bearings are actually made in Switzerland ... they are the most true sphere ... add that into a precision casing and you get the truest roll you can get out of a steel ball bearing. Ceramic bearings are $100." (If you are buying ceramic bearings you already know what you are doing.)
Let's talk about grip tape and hardware.
(Mom speak: hardware is the nuts and bolt things, and grip tape is the sandpaper stuff on the top of the deck.)
"Grip tape comes in different "grit". Jessup (brand) is regular grit, while MOB (brand) grit is more course. It really depends on how much you want your feet to slide around on your board. This is a personal preference. When it comes to hardware, there are different sizes to fit either a riser or flush on the board. Regular 1" hardware is most common and comes in Allen Key or Philips head. We like to use Allen Key... it is a lot harder to strip and that is better for kids to tighten their bolts."
This conversation would not be complete without a bit about skate shoes. Be honest, does it matter what kind of shoes you wear?
"It really does. You need a good flat bottom shoe to skate so you can feel your board ... and stop you from rolling your ankles. Skate shoes offer more impact support for your heels, and the front of the sole (ball of the foot) are thinned out a little so you get better board feel and contact for flip tricks. A skate shoe is also designed to protect against wear and tear (you are scrapping them on sandpaper (grip tape) all day long). so they are designed to have re-enforced toe caps, Ollie protection, and a longer lasting sole."
(Mom speak translation: Ollie- skate trick of popping your board in the air)
Eric are the people working in the Top skate shop skaters? Meaning, have they tested, and know about the products they sell? Do they know how to put grip tape on properly?
"This is so important, and that's what we've always strived for at Top. Growing up, I was "played" by so many (people) selling me stuff I really didn't need. When I started working at Top of the World I wanted to create an honest, informative shopping experience. We'll tell you if you really don't need new bearings, etc. All of my staff can walk you through what is best for you. No stupid sales pitch ... we test and believe in everything we sell."
My two cents worth: I have shopped for and with my son at many skate shops, both chains, and independents in the U.S. and Canada, and I can tell you my service and experience at Top of the World has only ever been a positive one. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. You will find them the same at any of the Top of the World skateboard events. They are parent friendly, and involved in the community. That includes the skaters that ride for the Top Team. I have never found them to be too cool to talk to a Mom, or a younger skater! You can stay on "top" of all the latest skate info by following Top on Twitter and Top on Facebook.
The second post in the series will cover the importance of using proper safety equipment, safe skating practices, and the benefits of skateboard lessons.
*NOTE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS OPEN TO ONTARIO & QUEBEC. TOP OF THE WORLD IS LOCATED IN OTTAWA, AND WINNER MUST PICK UP THE PRIZE IN PERSON AT STORE LOCATED ON RIDEAU ST.*
- How to Choose a Skateboard the Top Blog has a link to an excellent article from SBC Skateboard Mag.
- Things My Kid Learned at the Skateboard Park by Cathy Canton - PTPA
- City of Ottawa Skate Camps - presented by Top of the World Information.
- Skateboard Tricks and Terms via SkateHere.com
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about skateboards.
Note: I received a Top of the World deck free of charge for the purposes of these posts. All opinions are my own, and reflect my experience with Top of the World Skate Shop.