Buyers Guide: Best Cruiser Skateboards for Summer
Cruiser boards, made for the simple act of cruising, were often seen as the one-seated minivans of the skate world. About as applicable as one-seated mini-vans are to most good times, so seen was the cruiser.
Somewhere in the last decade or so, with the advances in truck and wheel technology in full-fledged downhill skateboarding and longboarding, it's been discovered that shorter boards with surf-like handling can change any terrain into a feature to be pumped, planted, tricked, or turned on.
Now add that idea into the standard trip across town and errands become a reason to celebrate. Waves are just an expression of energy, after all.
Surfboards today come in five common categories:
- Short board
- Fun Board
- Long Board
with each style designed for certain wave conditions that can all happen in the same place depending on the day and weather. After you read this, skateboards with wheels will too.
Cruisers have a presence in all categories, but not every board from every category is a cruiser. It might be fun getting to the store on a Landyachtz Evo 36, but good luck with what comes next. That Loaded Coyote, however, was given its name for a reason.
On the other side of the curb, the standard popsicle shape skateboard most of us are familiar with today happily fits mostly in the fun board category. It takes turn-y trucks and soft wheels to stand out from the crowd here.
The cruiser “goes” more than it “gets,” which is why boards like the dinghy occupy the much coveted shortboard space instead of the popsicle. Under the right skater, shortboards are capable of the most radical maneuvers in the most places.
Today's cruisers are less soccer van and more modern SUV. Capable of getting rowdy with the right driver, the right ride is stylish, comfortable, and safe-ish for everybody else.
That being said, asking what cruiser is the best is still going to cue laughter—just the nervous kind, because that's as complex of a question as you want to make it.
Thankfully, we've done the research to get you started in the right direction...
If you're not sure which category to pick from, or you'd just like to piece together your own ride, consider the following:
First and foremost, know what kind of budget you are working with. From the ever-present plastic mini at the dollar store, to complete custom rides, keep in mind that crashing feels the same no matter how much cash is spent on the skateboard!
The standard seven-ply maple laminated deck works for nearly every circumstance, but experiments in everything from Baltic Birch to super sci-fi wonder wood goes into making boards behave differently.
Go check out our Ultimate Guide to Longboard Decks to see where you'll stand after you've spent your money.
In the world of cruisers, “size” itself is a big word. Size can refer to overall length of the board, the length of the wheelbase of the board, the width of the board, width and height of trucks and/or wheels.
There's no correct way to set size. Just know that bigger numbers usually mean drawing thicker imaginary lines on the planes you surf--or maybe just thicker locker space requirements. Longer wheelbases usually mean more stability or wider turns, but that's only part of the story.
Typical cruiser board size is around 29-33 inches and does not have much of a nose, allowing for a longer wheelbase. The longer wheelbase makes the overall board feel a bit bigger than it really is.
Cruisers can come with any variations of nose/tail or none at all. It is a feature to consider when picking up your set up.
The first thing to decide on is the tail of the skateboard. It’ll help with the maneuverability and allow for ollies and other beginner tricks. However, it will take down the wheelbase a bit making the board feel smaller (not always a bad thing).
The nose of the skateboard will allow for different tricks and allow for a place for feet to catch during ollies and flip tricks.
Most cruisers do not come with much of an upturned nose as they are usually directional skateboards and mainly keep all four wheels planted. Nonetheless, it is something to consider when picking one out.
There are three types of trucks that you will find on cruiser boards: TKP, RKP, and Surf.
Traditional Kingpin Trucks (TKP)
These are the most common and found on most shortboards. The design lends well to grinds and tricks, but not the best at carving.
They also add a little length to the wheelbase and sit lower to the ground, so they’re frequently found on smaller cruiser boards. This is aimed to keep the deck platform low and maximize the wheelbase for stability (since the deck is already short).
Reverse Kingpin Trucks (RKP)
This style of truck came into being mostly for longboards and downhill as the design offers the best carve.
RKPs are used when max wheelbase is not an issue and the board can stand a bit taller without worrying about the board feeling unnaturally high.
Surf Skate Trucks
The newest type of truck to the market, this brings surfing to the streets in a way TKP and RKP just can’t match.
Surf Skate Trucks are designed for lower speed hard carves and getting pitted, so pitted on your favorite concrete wave. Don’t expect these to be stable with speed.
For more info about trucks, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Trucks.
The biggest discovery in skateboarding is sure to leave a mark wherever it has to slow down. Ever since Frank Nasworthy started making skateboard wheels out of urethane, the ability to prolong each ride has only expanded exponentially.
Softer than standard skateboard wheels, at around 80-90 durometer, cruiser wheels range from 55mm - 72mm and are designed to tackle obstacles, bumps, cracks and even small rocks, without taking your feet from the grip tape.
Wheel shape also plays a part, with two main types: square and rounded. With square edge wheels digging into surfaces for max grip and round edge lips prone to sliding.
Personal preference is huge, so be sure to think about what kind of ride you are looking for, and be sure to check out our complete guide to wheels for more info.
Pre-Built vs. Custom Build
For most new riders, we would recommend just getting a pre-built board from a trusted brand like Arbor or Landyachtz. These are already set up and tested by pro riders from various brands to make sure you’re getting a quality set up.
Once you have the base of the pre-build, you can always swap stuff out later to your liking. It’s not hard to do with a skate tool and a couple YouTube videos.
If you can’t find anything on the market you like and custom is definitely what you need, give us a shout and one of our riders can help you build a dream board.
Now, for the completes. Everything here on out is pre-built and ready to ride.
Shortboards / Mini-cruiser:
Shortboards, or mini cruisers, might be the most controversial category in skateboarding. When people hear the word “cruiser”, an experience crashing on a red plastic penny board comes to mind. They come off as “clever” with the idea that distilling away all excess creates functional fun.
To the uninitiated, riding a mini still comes with full-sized danger. Thankfully, with practice, shooting though town on a mini awakens stylistic speed after just one kick. Tools like this translate to trust elsewhere, like trying to trick in steep places on bigger boards—if that's what you're into.
Most minis have directional, high-quality decks made from wood, snub (shaved) noses, and plenty of kick tail. They tend to be mounted on narrow (110-130 mm,) traditional king pin trucks...but that's only how they tend to be.
If there's one place where wheels might make the most difference, it's on the mini. The ratio of deck space to contact patch is the closest. All that said, here are a few of our favorites:
The benchmark for mini cruisers everywhere. With models coming in multiple shapes to fit multiple personalities, and a combination of premium parts to take care of handling duties, Landyachtz says it best, “Dingy Does”. Check out our article “12 Reasons You Need a Dinghy” for further convincing.
Clever enough to catch a roadrunner, the Coyote comes packed with features in a small space. For starters, it's got rocker shape, which translates to comfortable pushing, and wheel flares, for deep turns with the biggest wheels. Complete, the Coyote also likes to be mounted with traditional or reverse kingpin trucks, making the comfy kick tail ready to pop over or slide across anything in it's way.
Fireball Artist Series (Currently OOS)
Sure, because of its price, it might be your first short board. But it won't be your last. A no-nonsense cruiser that provides no excuses. Combine the pop of a working kick tail with Paris trucks and Fireball wheels, and all of the fun of a bigger board shows up for a lot less in a smaller package. Plus you'll own something special as they only make limited runs of each graphic!
What might be the most recognizable shape in surfing becomes perhaps the widest variety in cruising, once wheels are added. In the water, fish shapes are made for the most radical maneuvers in some of the strangest places. Short of committing to absolute style though, riding a fish gets a little choppy. This is where some of our favorite cruisers live too.
Surf-skate style setups belong here as well. Beginning riders might gain false confidence in a handling experience well above their current level. If the skater already understands how to move a board around, the fish's advantages for moving in water become a little too easy to over-influence.
We recommend one less shot of espresso before a session for beginners and two less for advanced surfers so as not to spook the fish.
To say that this is Landyachtz first foray into the surf-skate series is to deny the heritage of skateboarding itself. That said, non-matched trucks are still a relatively unexplored concept as the ability to ride switch is extremely valued in skateboarding.
The Canadian company has been exploring sidewalk surfing for decades now, so the new Banger Surf Skate system is said to be more stable than most at slow speeds.
For a very long time, the side profile of a skate deck was a flat line with upward angles at the tip and tail. Turn shape came from the top profile, which to most of us looks like a popsicle stick.
Recent advances in technology have been made proving that if the flat line in the middle is converted into a smile, the same thing happens to whoever is riding it, regardless of the top profile. This swallowtail thruster makes good on slashing banks, powering down any line, or carving tight pocket turns
The closest comparison to a standard skateboard, fun board cruisers tend to be the broadest of the in-betweens. With functional kick tails being the first most important part of the platform, there's plenty of standing room over the trucks and the occasional big nose, fun boards have everything it takes to set high expectations, and then, hey, did you see that koala bear?
Thankfully, wider trucks and bigger wheels also come with to help smooth out the confusion. Almost every wheeled board manufacturer makes some version of the fun board, with cruisers coming above 8.5 inches wide and usually including at least 60 mm wheels to smooth out the sidewalks for comfortable kick flips in front of Karen's house.
“The Ultimate All-Terrain Vehicle” is how Landyachtz describes the 9.4 inch wide, 34.24 inch deck mounted to Bear trucks and Hawgz EZ Sliders wheels. With plenty of kick tail, plenty of truck-mounting options to decide between aircraft carrier stability and helicopter-like handling, the relay is a board to run wherever your cruise takes you. And when you get lost playing on the way to work? Well there’s a transit map to exactly where you’re not printed on the bottom.
Translated to English “I’ll leave it up to you,” sounds like the name of a sled we’d happily cruise anywhere with. We know Loaded agrees, pressing the 10 inch wide, 33.5 inch deck with rocker, wheel flares, and a generous tail to stand on.
When onboard, expect all the curves contoured, and all the space needed to handle whatever the day dishes out. With wide Paris RKP trucks and generously sized Orangutang wheels, there’s nothing the Omakase won’t stomach on a night out.
Coming in closet on this list to what most people recognize as a “skateboard”, the house complete comes with the Fireball Tinder wheels for little extra oomph to hold on to whatever it needs to on the way to the store.
The tapered nose and rounded tail makes surfing this multi-directional, seven-layer deck a reason to take the long way, as the 60mm 81a wheels are ready for whatever you might run into.
The street definition of a longboard depends on which street you're on. To be a cruiser in the long board category, it just takes a length over 36 inches. That seems pretty long, right?
Totally. But cruisers are made for cruising and certain longboards, like most drop-decks, are made for commuting. Is there a difference? If you're spending two weeks pay on your ride to work, damn right there is. Long ass cruisers tend to trade stability for style--or trick-ability in places like the dance world, where board and rider aren't always in contact.
Any time traditional trucks show up on something that doesn't look like a popsicle stick, you can guess it's probably a cruiser, because, as always, it's more about go than get.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in a passenger train, watching the world go by as you calmly feel the curves in the tracks slide away below, you can imagine what riding the Ripper is like.
The Ripper looks like a plain pintail, but it’s a sleeper-rocker in the deck with a massive 24.9” wheelbase, the 9” wide deck mounted to Traditional Kingpin Bear 155mm trucks, the Super Chief is designed to ride like it’s on rails.
The right amount of flex, and 63mm Fatty Hawgs wheels make for a calm, confident ride that’s easy to scrub speed with a wiggle in the hips.
Recycled wood and water-based sealers provide an eco-conscious base for one of the most popular longboard cruisers on the market today. The snowboard inspired Axis offers a drop design for those mellow, relaxed and effortless trips carving around town. A perfectly symmetrical deck makes this super comfy for commuting and cruising.
The Classic Sector 9 Longboard. Straight out of paradise to give a chill riding experience. Think of it like your favorite pair of slippers, cush, with Fireball Tinder 81a wheels to soften out the ride, and Paris V3 trucks for silky smooth sidewalk surfing. This is the perfect board for some beach-side action.
It takes incredibly special circumstances for these boards to even begin to awaken, usually in the form of humongous hills and screeching slides. If cruisers in this category seem like overkill, come back in a few seasons. Just short of full on free ride boards, riding a gun can turn streets to snowboard runs with some practice.
Cruisers here separate themselves from designated downhill boards by adding some nose back for trick-ability and slow-speed maneuverability. All that really means is that feet have no way to fly into space when suddenly that's all there seems to be.
Wide trucks, less than oversized wheels, and narrow decks make for comfortable grip between the rider and the road. If your problems seem enormous...
The desire to describe this board by one word: “Rocker,” is strong, but we're still talking about Cruisers. One of the roughest of the bunch, Landyachtz bent 7 layers of maple together in such a way as to include wheel wells, concave, and a kick tail too. Mounted to a beasty pair of Bear TKP trucks and some meaty Hawgz wheels, pull up to the monster truck rally ready to roll.
Something happened to SUV's the year the world met the H2. They started getting away with less attitude, and over time, less abilities. The Slim Jim drives the opposite direction, with looks subtle as such, but packing even more capabilities underneath the tape. Mellow 'cave, and wheel flares that don't have so much—flare—make this board mounted to either TKP or RKP trucks ready to rip anything on the path, or lack of one.
Now that you just read more here than you did during all of seventh grade, go grab a cruiser and see for yourself how much cooler the world could have been if you had just done your homework. Luckily, the world is still here and so are we. Let's go skate.