Despite what many young skaters may think, there is more to choosing a skateboard deck than the graphic on the bottom of the pro skater the deck company sponsors. The best skateboard deck varies from person to person depending on external factors such as the rider’s weight, skate style, shoe size, and budget. Personal preferences can also impact your ultimate decision. For example, you may want to support your favorite pro skateboarder, so you buy their pro deck.
What to Consider When Buying a Deck
The concave of a skateboard deck is how curved the width of the deck is (side to side not front to back). Very few skateboard decks have no concavity and are completely flat as then they would break very easily and be hard to do flip tricks on.
Steep concave decks are the most study and best to do flip tricks on because the slope of the deck catches the skater’s toe or heel more easily and flips the board faster than a shallower deck. Shallow concave boards are better for cruising around and vert skating as they are more comfortable on your feet and more controllable.
In practice, these recommendations are pretty general and it ultimately comes down to personal preference on the best deck concavity. But if you have no idea, following the recommendations or picking a board with moderate concavity is a good place to start.
For skateboards, the length is a pretty standard 28″-33″. You don’t really have to worry much about this number unless you are looking for a longboard or mini cruiser board in which the lengths would obviously be very different.
Skateboard decks width is probably one of the most important factors to consider when buying a deck. Decks typically range from 7.25-8.5″. 7.5″,7.75″, and 8.0″ tend to be the standard widths if most decks and the general rule is that the bigger your feet are the wider the deck you should get.
Thinner decks are slightly easier to flip, however they are harder to land on due to the decreased surface area. This is a tradeoff you have to consider, but the typical rule of thumb for younger guys is that you get wider decks the more advanced and larger you get.
Street skaters typically also like smaller decks as they are easier to navigate and carry around in crowded cities and areas.
Canadian maple wood decks are the industry standard and is what the vast majority of decks on this list will be made of. However, is the seller just says “maple” the deck is typically made in China and the wood may be slightly softer and lower quality.
This is more common among the lower cost blank decks, and most pro brands or higher end blanks are typically 100% Canadian maple.
In my opinion, the difference between Canadian and Chinese maple decks is slight and in many cases, a cheaper Chinese deck may be the better option for you if you have a small budget or tend to go through decks very quickly.
Some newer and trendy skateboard brands are now making their decks from bamboo. Although I’ve never used bamboo personally, it’s supposed to be lighter and stronger than Canadian maple.
I have a few friends who swear by them, so it may be something to look for if you want to try something new and you want the lightest deck available.
In the past decade, I have begun seeing the emergence of skate decks being totally or partially made from carbon fiber or other metal materials instead of solely wood.
These decks typically last longer than regular wooden decks and aren’t prone to chipping or breaking like most made from wood. The drawback to these materials is that they tend to feel “stiffer” than traditional wooden decks and experienced skaters may feel they are heavier and harder to do tricks on.
Carbon fiber decks are also more expensive, but this additional cost may be worth it if you tend to break decks easily. Some brands also offer warranties against breakage under normal conditions for carbon fiber decks if you are worried about breakage.
Number of Plys
Most skateboard decks are made up of 7 “plys” of layers of wood pressed together. Some brands may have slightly more or less for lighter or more durable options, but 7 is pretty much the standard number.
I won’t worry too much about this number unless you see a deck with a far greater or fewer number of plys.
Pro Skateboard Decks
As the name implies, pro skateboard decks are decks made by well-known skateboard brands that typically feature graphics or logos related to a specific team rider.
Usually, pro decks are more expensive than team decks of the brand and much more expensive than blank decks. The increased cost goes to the pro skater and it’s a way for the buyer to support their favorite skaters and brands.
Pro street decks are almost always Canadian maple, besides a few carbon fiber exceptions and they are the most commonly purchased decks see in skateparks and on the streets worldwide.
Blank Skateboard Decks
Want the same great performance and high-quality construction as a name brand deck but don’t have a large budget? Blank decks are your answer. Depending on the brand, blank decks can be similar or better than pro decks and are available in just as many or more shape options.
These decks are perfect for people who love skating and don’t really care about supporting a profession or the graphic on their deck. Blanks are also great for aggressive skaters who go through decks quickly as many blank skateboard decks are sold in bulk packs of 3, 5, or even 10 decks per pack.
Common Skateboard Deck Problems (And How to Avoid Them)
Let’s face it, when you are repeating jumping downstairs and trying new tricks your skateboard is going to take a beating. However, there are a few common signs of wear and tear on your skateboard that can be prevented to prolong the life a deck and save you money and a lot of hassle in the long run.
Nose/Tail Deck Chipping
If you didn’t already know, the “nose” of a skateboard is typically the front and the “tail” is the back. When you fall or slip and your board slams into curbs, fences, or other hard objects, it’s common for the wooden ends to chip or become damaged upon impact.
Over time these chips can make it harder to preform tricks and even just cruise around. These chips can be prevented by buying a carbon fiber or non-wood deck, or by there are some metal edges available that can be installed on the nose and tail.
Pressure Cracks Around Trucks
Ever notice small vertical or horizontal cracks through your grip tape or by the hardware of your trucks? These are called stress or pressure cracks and are basically mini fractures of your skateboard deck that typically are seen in the areas of the deck that withstand the greatest impact (around the trucks).
A few pressure cracks is generally no big deal and you won’t even notice them while skating, but they can compound and grow larger and make your deck lose “pop” and increase the chance of snapping. To avoid pressure cracks, you cant use riser pads underneath your trucks to reduce the level of impact your deck takes.
You should also avoid over tightening your hardware and storing your skateboard in a very humid place as both of these practices can also make your board weaker and more susceptible to pressure cracks.
Skateboard Deck Warping
Rarely you make notice your deck to lose concavity or flatten over time. Although this isn’t very common, it’s typically due to water damage and is a sign of many other problems.
Wooden decks are not meant to get wet and they will warp, crack, and break if they get soaked. It’s pretty simple and straightforward to avoid this problem. Keep your skateboard in a dry place, and don’t skate in the rain or through puddles.
Skating through water will also destroy your bearings if deck warping and breaking wasn’t a good enough reason for you to not do it.
A “razor tail” is the term for when the tail of the skateboard deck becomes sharpened and worn due to regular use and scraping the tail of your skateboard on the ground to stop. When your deck gets razor tail, its becomes a weapon against you and anyone need you while you’re skating as being hit with a sharpened tail is very painful.
To avoid this from happening, you could buy a carbon fiber deck that may be more resistant to wear, but more importantly, you should not scrape your tail to stop. Instead, you can lightly place one foot or toe down to slow your speed or powerslide to a stop.
Best Skateboard Deck Brands Reviewed
Although there is not much difference between the majority of pro brands besides logos and branding, I still wanted to share my thoughts on how I perceive each brand and what to look for in decks.
1. Element Skateboards
Element is of the most mainstream brands in the industry today that has sponsored legends like Nyjah Huston and Bam Margera.
There are many pro decks to choose from with some amazing tribal designs and they have introduced a “featherlight” technology that allows Element to have some of the lightest boards on the market today. Some may call Element “too mainstream” or “sellouts”, but at the end of the day, they produce quality products in a variety of artistic designs.
Quality products and long-standing brand history define Enjoi Skateboard. The iconic panda logo is seen in a variety of situations and positions across the colorful line of graphics options. Enjoi is great for skateboarding pop art or panda lovers who want to add some humor and color to their setup.
Created by Tony Hawk, Birdhouse is a classic brand that’s still going strong today. Unlike many of the other brands on this list, Birdhouse has many more options than just the ordinary street skateboard deck. Old school cruisers, longboard decks, and mini penny decks are just some of the other shapes Birdhouse makes.
4. Baker Skateboards
Baker is a classic good old-fashioned, anti-establishment skateboard brand. Baker has a great professional team including founder Andrew Reynolds. Reynolds is also heavily involved in other well-known skateboard brands like Deathwish, Emerica, and Shake Junt. Notable street artist Neckface has a limited edition line of Baker decks that is one of the coolest in skateboarding in my opinion.
Founded by the original technical street skaters Daewon Song and Rodney Mullen, Almost Skateboards always pushes the envelope with fun, artistic cartoon graphics paired with high-quality materials. Almost was one of the first brands to implement carbon fiber layers to their decks in the “Impact” deck line to increase the deck’s life and better maintain its shape.
Founded by George Powell and Stacy Peralta in the 70’s, Powell-Peralta remains an iconic brand in the skateboard industry today. They still offer tons of unique old school cruiser options of the past combined with modern, standard street deck options.
Fun Fact: George Powell is also the man behind Bones Bearings.
7. DGK (Dirty Ghetto Kids)
A rugged street inspired brand founded by Stevie Williams and Troy Williams, DGK has been a favorite of inner-city kids for years. Interestingly, this brand has found its way into mainstream streetwear culture through famous skateboarding rappers such as Lil Wayne and others. An overall solid brand with great products and street inspired logos and graphics.
8. Toy Machine
One of my personal favorite brands due to both the quality deck construction and Ed Templeton’s dark and creative graphics. These decks have always seemed to last longer than other brands and they provide excellent customer support and interaction if anything goes wrong post-sale.
9. Bamboo Skateboards
Bamboo offers a line of completely of bamboo made decks. While the graphics aren’t the best, the bamboo adds a unique look and many performance benefits. They claim to last 3 weeks longer than the average pro deck and bamboo decks are very affordable which makes them an attractive option.
Another long-standing brand in the industry, however blind decks tend to be priced slightly lower compared to most other pro brands, which makes them a great choice for beginners. Blind also is know for very detailed graphics decks if you appreciate skateboard cultural art.
Best Blank Skateboard Deck Reviews
If you’re going to ruin the graphic on your pro deck with frequent grinds and slides, why not just save some money and buy blank decks.
Moose boards are very solid in all categories. They are low priced, available in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and have been around for a while so they’ve built up a reputable brand name. You won’t go wrong buying a pack of Moose blanks if you’re the type of guy that goes through decks quickly or is looking to resell them at your local skatepark.
Bamboo also offers low-cost blank versions of their long-lasting lightweight decks.
Another very sturdy blank deck option. I really like Forestone’s 8.0 decks as they are very slightly concave and are blessed with a very sturdy construction material and process. These decks are tanks and will last forever.
Very, very popular on Amazon, and sold at an unbelievable price. Not the highest quality or the most durable but amazing for what you pay. Definitely a great deck for beginners or casual skaters.