A skateboard is a narrow wheeled platform used for recreation and transportation. Though the exact date of invention of skateboards is unknown, it was in the 1940s and 1950s that children participated in 'soap-box derbys', where they would race soap-boxes attached to wooden planks on rollerskate wheels. During events like this, some of the soap-boxes became detached from the planks, leaving the rider with what was a skateboard.
The first skateboards were made by taking a roller skate apart and attaching it to a two-by-four. These early skateboards were often used by surfers as a substitute when the waves were low.
The skateboard has evolved a lot since the first mass produced models in the 1960s. Boards in the past were often in the shape of a surfboard, with no concave and constructed of solid wood or plastic. The wheels were usually made of a 'clay' composite or steel and the trucks (axles) were less sturdy and initially of a 'single action' design compared to today's 'double action'. Skateboards can even be used as and are now considered weapons, as airports ban skateboards from coming aboard.
Parts of skateboard
Skateboards are composed of several key elements.
The deck forms the body of the skateboard and provides a place to stand. It is covered with grip tape (silicon carbide grit on a self adhesive backing), which provides traction for the skateboarder's feet. The first decks were usually made from solid oak or ash, and hand-shaped by their owners. Shelves, drawers and table-tops were often used by the first teenage skaters to build their decks.
Most decks are constructed with a seven ply, cross-laminated layup of North American maple. Sometimes other, more exotic materials, such as fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fiber are incorporated into deck construction, usually to lighten the board or increase its strength or rigidity.
Modern decks are 7½ to 8½ inches wide. The width of a deck depends on the personal preference of the person who uses it. Most people use 7.5-8 inch wide decks for street, and wider for vert. Skateboard decks are usually between 28 and 32.5 inches long. The longboard, a common variant of the skateboard, has a longer deck. "Old school" boards are boards made in the 1970s-80s, or a modern board that mimics that shape. 1970s variants often have little or no concave, whereas 1980s models have deeper concaves and steeper tails.
Most decks are pressed with concave in the body, i.e. the area of the board between the nose and the tail kicks. A concave is where the deck dips inward on the top side (where the skater stands), to cup the foot for more control, and to add strength by stiffening the flex.
- The wheels attach to each hanger. The wheels, usually made of polyurethane, come in many different sizes and shapes to suit different types of skating. Larger sizes like 65-90 mm roll faster, and also move more easily over small cracks in pavement. Smaller sizes like 48-54 mm keep the board closer to the ground and require less force to accelerate but also make for a slower top speed.
- Wheels also are available in a variety of hardnesses usually measured on the durometer 'A' scale. Wheels range from the very soft (about 75a) to the very hard (about 99a). As the scale stops at 100a, any wheels labeled 101a or higher are harder, but do not use the appropriate durometer scale. Some wheel manufacturers now use the 'B' or 'D' scale, which has a larger and more accurate range of hardnesses.
- Modern street skating requires small wheels (usually 48-55mm), as small wheels make tricks like kickflips and ollies easier. Street wheels also need to be quite hard, as small soft wheels absorb too much energy to even roll along.
- Vert skating requires larger wheels (usually 55-65mm) as vert skating involves high speeds that smaller wheels are unable to sustain. Vert wheels are usually very hard, so they can roll faster. As they are only used on ramps and parks that are smooth they never need be soft.
- Slalom skating requires even larger wheels (60-75mm)to sustain the highest speeds possible. They also need to be soft and grippy to make the tight and frequent turns in slalom racing.
- Even larger wheels are used in longboarding and downhill skateboarding. Sizes range from 65mm right up to 100mm. These extreme sizes of wheels almost always have cores of hard plastic that can be made thinner and lighter than a solid urethane wheel.
Attached to the deck are two metal (usually aluminum alloy) trucks, which connect to the wheels. The trucks are further composed of two parts. The top part of the truck is screwed to the deck and is called the baseplate, and beneath it is the hanger. Between the baseplate and the hanger are bushings, also rubbers or grommets, that provide the cushion mechanism for turning the skateboard. The bushings cushion the truck when it turns. The stiffer the bushings, the more stable the skateboard. The softer the bushings, the easier it is to turn. A bolt called a kingpin holds these parts together and fits inside the bushings. Thus by tightening or loosening the kingpin nut, the trucks can be adjusted for steer.
A new innovation by James Morris soon to emerge in the market uses a magnet configuration to provide a power assist.
A skateboard wheel uses two precision ball bearings of the type '608' (8 mm internal bore). Many skateboard bearings are graded according to the ABEC scale, which goes from 1-9, in odd numbers. It is a common misconception that higher numbers are better for skateboarding. The ABEC rating only measures tolerances which does not necessarily apply to bearings used for skateboarding. The ABEC rating does not determine how fast or how durable a bearing used for skateboarding will be.
Mounting hardware is a set of eight 10-32 bolts, usually a truss head, and matching self-lock nylock nuts. They're used to attach the trucks to the board.