To the untrained eye, a person riding a board sideways with four wheels would be considered a skateboarder. And a board with four wheels would be called a skateboard. Looking a bit more closely at how the skateboarder is riding and the shape of the skateboard will determine whether the activity should be called skateboarding or longboarding. Confused? Don’t be. Read on!
What is a Longboard?
Generally speaking, a longboard is, well, longer in length than a skateboard. The cutoff between a longboard and a skateboard is usually 91 cm, or approximately 3 feet in length. Longboards are commonly as long as 130 cm, or 51 inches. The extra length of a longboard gives it more stability and makes it easier to find a comfortable stance. Adding to the fun factor, longboards are designed with transportation in mind. Think cruising to class, rolling to grab a coffee or perhaps bar hopping. Longboarders can cruise for miles and enjoy smooth uninterrupted journeys through cities, paved paths and even the countryside. Longboards can gain momentum by shifting weight back and forth from toe to heel when riding. Unlike a skateboard, this creates a thrusting force without the feet leaving the board. Longboarders can often cruise indefinitely on flat or downhill surfaces with both feet planted solidly on the board.
What is a Skateboard?
Skateboards have evolved over the years for specific niche activities like skating in skateboard specific parks, riding vertical ramps, pool skating and urban skating. A skateboard is going to be easier to maneuver for tricks like a kick flip or sliding rails. It is propelled by pushing the board with one while the other remains on the board. Skateboarding requires better balancing skills than a longboard.
Varying types of terrain defines one of the major differences between longboarding and skateboarding. Unlike a skateboard, a longboard rides quite well on rough asphalt terrain. The softer wheels and extra length add comfort, shock absorption and stability to the ride. Extreme variations of longboarding involve riding downhill at breakneck speeds on courses that are lined with bales of hay. Such longboarders even wear special gloves to lay their hands on the pavement while carving hard. Skateboarders utilize specialized facilities that feature ramps and rails. Many skateboarders perform tricks on urban obstacles such as handrails and stair sets.
Both longboard and skateboard wheels are made of urethane, but the diameter is different. Street skateboarders prefer a wheel with a 49- to 54-mm diameter, while ransition riders opt for a slightly larger wheel that has a diameter of 55 to 60 mm. The diameter of a longboard wheel often ranges from 60 to 90 mm. The larger dimensions of the longboard wheel provides increased traction at high speeds.
With just a few pushes, the bearings used in longboarding and skateboarding allow riders to increase the speed of the board. Skateboard bearings are often constructed with stainless steel, which is extremely durable making them suitable for high-impact tricks and hitting rails. High-end longboard bearings are made from ceramic materials. Get this – the lightweight ceramic bearings allow you to hit top speeds of over 35 mph! The Annular Bearing Engineers Committee rates skateboard and longboard bearings based on speed capabilities. Skate bearings have a speed rating of 5 or 7 mph, while longboard bearings can go up to ABEC 9. There you have it. There’s a whole lot more going on than the difference in length between longboards and skateboards.
You might also be interested in our Skateboard Buyers Guide.