Modern longboarding is in a really cool place right now. A small band of rebels seeking an individuality and freedom of expression is now a growing movement of creativity and camaraderie. With omnipresent creeds like "no helmet, no respect" and "buy local", the counter-culture morality of the sport is inherent in everything we do.
Even most of the larger brands understand that their notoriety stemmed from the handmade quality of their products and don't seem ready to abandon it any time soon.
Better still is how well small brands can do almost entirely on the strong embrace of the local community. This list is about those guys.
Behold, the top ten most unique local brands and the industries best kept secrets. Be warned though, this is very sensitive information and yes, your computer may self destruct.
BRAND #10 - AUTOBAHN
If you skateboard (short board) you may be a little more familiar with Autobahn. Though not quite an industry giant, they're well known for relentlessly testing and producing high quality skateboard wheels.
While their expansion into the longboard market might not have been breaking headlines, those who already knew the brand expected great things. They weren't disappointed.
Glow in the dark skate wheels from Autobahn. How rad is that?!
Autobahn Wheels slide smooth and dump thane. Then again, so do a lot of brands, so why should you bother checking out Autobahn?
Because they have glow-in-the-dark wheels! Which may seem like another light-up wheel gimmick that ruins the formula in some way… but nope.
Autobahn makes longboard and shortboard wheels. Here is The Beast.
Instead the wheels feel comparable to other ghost thane mids and yes, they lay fat thane lines that also glow. If that's lame then I don't want to be cool.
BRAND #9 - MOONSHINE LONGBOARDS
The distillery is a really cool place. It’s one of few factories we mortals regularly see inside of. The guys at Moonshine aren't shy about taking a shot of a board next to the very press it just came from.
They’re proud of their construction, and they definitely have reason to be. Born in the same factory that produces Slingshot Wakeboards, Moonshine is the result of several passionate skaters willing to work long hours off the clock to perfect a very unique and ambitious new product.
Welcome to The Moonshine Family: Max Watson
What comes of longboards being built like wakeboards? Thin and frail? No. They’re light, snappy, waterproof and extremely durable (specifically curbing-resistant).
100% waterproof Moonshine decks gives pool skating a new meaning.
Moonshine boards are already on the shelves, but I’d keep an eye out for what’s to come… These guys are out to do some weird and wonderful things.
BRAND #8 - LIQWOOD
Liqwood is one of those companies that seems to have a deep seeded moral objection to taking themselves too seriously...like, at all.
Their name alone is clearly designed to make us immature skaters giggle uncontrollably. The media section of their website greets you with a parody of over sexualized commercials (in their version, it's the product that's all sweaty and seductive).
Liqwood recaps a successful 2014.
That's just it though, their decks really are quite sexy. If nothing else, then they clearly take their manufacturing very seriously. Every single one of their boards is hand crafted and custom built to order.
They're high quality performance decks that shred hard and look amazing doing it. If you long for the days of the classy surf esthetic but still want those modern features and functionality, you need to check out Liqwood.
BRAND #7 - RAINSKATES
Rainskates have been making wheels for a while now. They are one of those brands that never quite rode the hype train into stardom, but still managed to survive via a core group of die-hard fans.
For them, profit is isn't a priority when fun is an option. Heavier skaters and garage/ditch riders alike have long understood the allure of a higher duro wheel that still manages to have a smooth sugary slide.
Rainskates offers a huge variety of wheels for longboards and shortboards.
Freeride is getting increasingly more technical. Advanced skaters are looking to harder wheels and formulas to last longer while sliding longer. Rainskates gives these riders what they seek, while staying precise and controlled.
I suspect Rainskates will soon have to be removed from this obscure list once more skaters discover this amazing company.
BRAND #6 - SUBSONIC
One could easily argue that modern longboarding has gained so much popularity through one major distinction: Both skateboarding and classic longboarding are defined by their lack of definition.
With hundreds of different disciplines to mix and match and boards to boot, it takes a very special team of builders to tackle as many of these needs.
Subsonic truly has something for everyone.
Subsonic has done this flawlessly. They offer boards in the disciplines of downhill, freeride, hybrid/freestyle as well as slalom, push, and LDP.
Subsonic clearly doesn't have plans of retiring to the one-note production of some much larger brands, which is exactly why we love them.
You could build a quiver with only Subsonic and be stoked.
I mean, without the hands on approach of a smaller operation they wouldn't be able to provide cool personalized orders like custom shaped speed boards and foam core push decks.
If you don’t know Subsonic, it’s time you gave them a look.
BRAND #5 - DON’T TRIP
Let's face it guys, slalom riders were getting geeky about skating before most of us were even born.
The only thing that tops the look of Don't Trip Trucks is their performance.
If you're like me and you love absorbing all the physics and mechanics information there is available about skating, then you probably have slalom skaters to thank.
So, like Autobahn, Don't Trip is another one of those cult favorites for the crossover skater. They’re not quite a secret anymore as just about any core longboarder knows to pay attention when they find the mad scientist behind industry standard slalom trucks.
TKPs and RKPs means there is a precision truck for everyone at Don't Trip.
Ears especially perked up when Don’t Trip announced their own version of a downhill oriented product and delicious treats like the fully adjustable freeride trucks and precision cut TKPs.
BRAND #4 - PHAT DEANZ
Phat DeanZ is one of those brands that, in any other market, might look like they don't know what they're doing.
Jeff Stewart and Chris Kearns shred for Phat Deanz.
Even in skateboarding their website seems unpolished, at least on the surface. Which may be why they aren't better known. The fact of the matter is their lack of appearance may be the best thing about the company.
Quite frankly, they can’t be bother with web design when they are too busy putting insane amounts of thought into their products or out skating them to make sure they're perfect. With offerings in freeride, downhill, tech slide and a few inbetweeners, Phat DeanZ is definitely a "labor of love".
Phat Deanz have a huge variety of top notch wheels.
They are the only wheel brand I've ever found that even considered how coloring effects the slide characteristic of a wheel and made sure the dye used compliments the shape and duro. Just take a look at the Dollz line and see for yourself.
If that isn't going above and beyond, I don't know what is. Definitely check out Phat Deanz
BRAND #3 - MAXXSPEED
Maxxspeed is another one of those companies out to prove innovation is what it’s all about. So far only two decks have been offered up by the brand, but they are polar opposites of each other and both executed perfectly.
The Garuda is the most successful MaxxSpeed deck to date, and for good reason.
The amount of thought and foresight that has been poured into each curve and angle of the current lineup is impeccable and each new board is drastically different than the last. Clearly, the challenges of balancing diversity with perfectionism are such that the only remedy is time.
So while it might be a while before we see another Maxxspeed product, when it comes launch time, it will certainly be something to watch out for.
BRAND #2 - NEWTON
If the name didn't already give it away, Newton is one of those nerd-centric skate brands that openly and outwardly rejects macho jockism in longboarding.
Newton Trucks sit far lower than anything else on the market.
Never the "cool kids" and totally ok with it, Newton instead prides itself in using FEA optimizing technology to provide the lightest, lowest, and quite possibly the strongest cast truck on the market.
Sure, you might have to use risers to top mount them, but that's just a fun excuse to play around with wedging/dewedging. Plus, as a growing company, one of the first riders they chose to sponsor was an extremely talented female thrasher.
Multiple colorways add form to the function. Photo from Silverfish Longboarding.
I know this shouldn't be such a huge comment on the integrity of a company, but with the sexism and elitism that's found its way into the longboard scene lately, it's exactly the kind of thing you hope to see.
BRAND #1 - METALBEE ARTIFACTS
There are several reasons why Metalbee takes the number one spot on this list.
What is still a decidedly small-time operation (by choice) didn't even begin with the hopes of obtaining profit. It was the pet project of a guy named Hamid intended for the enjoyment of friends and acquaintances, a sentiment that continues to influence the brand to this day.
Metalbee Artifacts nose and tail guards.
Found and embraced by the infamously loyal fans of the original underground longboard company Soda Factory, Metalbee Artifacts developed a cult status all their own.
Creating nose guards, tail sopes, adjustable risers and pretty much any other setup accessory you could want, Metalbee makes just enough profit to reinvest in the longboarding scene through charities, events, sponsorships and by providing gear for the children of low income families.
Metalbee Artifacts rolling with Phat Deanz.
So while a few years ago Soda Factory would have been the quintessential number one spot on this list, that honor now goes to their friends over at Metalbee. Not quite a "business" of you ask Hamid, but still some great products and the chance to contribute to an amazing cause.
Do you know of a brand we should have added? Who would you include in your top ten list? We want to know! Give us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org!Stoke out your friends!