The Ultimate Street & Park Skateboard Deck Buying Guide
Contrary to the expansive landscape of different longboard shapes and sizes out there, the world of street and park skateboard decks is far more simplified and standardized. However, with an equally diverse community of riders, the street and park side of the industry has similarly engineered different shapes sizes and specifications to accommodate skaters of all sizes, riding styles and preferences.
To provide an overview, we went through each of the main features that newcomers to the streets and skateparks should keep an eye out for when buying their first deck
Anatomy of a Street/Park Deck
Anatomically, a street/park deck is completely the same as a longboard, cruiser or any other skateboard out there. If you’ve seen our Ultimate Longboard Deck Guide, this may sound familiar. Every single street/park deck is going to have these basic features, regardless of brand. These are as follows:
Though many people in the world envision a rounded, symmetrical board when they think of the word "skateboard," there are obviously other iterations of standard street/park skateboard decks that serve different purposes based on the terrain they are designed for.
Popsicle - The popsicle has become widely accepted as the standard shape for most street and park decks. This shape features a double kick nose and tail designed to be symmetrical to one another for consistency when flipping or spinning the board. With an even shape on both ends of the board, the popsicle shape ensures that riders will feel prepared for their next maneuver, whether they end up riding regular or switch.
Examples of Popsicle Shape: Stoked Ride Shop Blank Skateboard Deck
Old School / Fishtail - In the most general sense, a board referred to as “old school” is commonly takes the shape of many of the boards from the 1980’s. These boards often feature some sort of an oblong nose that eventually bows outwards towards to a fishtail in the back of the board. While these boards were used for all types of skateboarding in the 80’s, these boards are usually only used for transition and pool skateboarding in the modern age.
Examples of Old School/Fishtail Shape: Powell Peralta Classic & Re-issue Skateboard Decks
Modern Shapes - The modern “shaped deck” can refer to any street or park deck manufactured in the present day that deviates from the standard popsicle. These boards are molded to have atypical tapers and widths that give the nose and tail of the deck unique sizing. Due to their distinctiveness, the label of a “shaped deck” should be applied loosely as manufacturers all have their own specific designs. These shapes have become increasingly popular in recent years for experienced skaters looking for a challenge or skaters simply looking for a change from the ordinary.
Examples of Modern Shapes: Powell Peralta Caballero Ban This Skateboard Deck
Width - As far as measurements go, the width of the skateboard is undoubtedly the most significant. Though variations between widths may only be fractions of an inch apart, their impact is massive. The width of the deck is an important determinant in the rider’s overall comfort level and in their subsequent ability to perform tricks.
Measured at the board’s widest point, the width of the skateboard largely dictates the riding style of the skater and subsequently, the tricks they are able to pull off. For example, boards that are smaller in width are easier to flip than wider decks and thus lead to more technical street-oriented skateboarding. On the other hand, wider boards give the skater more room to work with and are often used with more transition-oriented terrain, including pools, pipes and walls. Of course, there are exceptions to these generalizations for riders experienced enough to experiment and find success with nonconventional setups.
Length - With the length of your board determining different elements of the its performance factors, including ability to pop, ability to slide and overall board control, the length of your board is a critical part of the board’s responsiveness and the tricks you are able to pull off on it.
The length of a skateboard is determined by a three interconnected measurements: nose length, tail length and wheelbase:
- Nose Length: Measured between the middle of outer bolts and the nose of the board and is usually 6-7 inches
- Tail Length: Measured between the middle of outer bolts and the tail of the board and is usually 6-7 inches
- Wheelbase: Measured from middle of inside bolts and is usually 13-15 inches
Kids / Micro - Below the spectrum of standard skate decks that start at 7.75”, there is a spectrum for decks that are more appropriately sized for children and young skaters. For boards in this category, differentiations in size are based solely in reference to the size of the rider, rather than on specific disciplinary preferences being that it is assumed that these boards are designed for those just learning how to ride. As such, a relative size chart is as follows:
- Ages 5 & Younger / 6.5-6.75” x 27.2-27.5” / 3’4” or Shorter / Shoe Size 4 or Smaller
- Ages 6-8 / 7” x 28” / 3’5” - 4’4” / Shoe Size 4-6
- Ages 9-12 / 7.25 x 29” / 4’5 - 5’2” / Shoe Size 7-8
- Ages 13+ / 7.5” x 31” / 5’3” or Taller / Shoe Size 9 or Larger
Old School & Modern Shaped - For some old school or shaped Decks, It is not uncommon for the width to exceed 8.5 inches and climb into the range of 9-11” wide. As mentioned, since there decks are not designed for technical skateboarding, their uncommonly wide builds work well for carving, pumping and grabbing.
Explanation - If you ask the average street skateboarder their opinion on a board’s “concave” most will respond with an answer that alludes to the curvature of their board’s nose and tail. If you brought up this same topic to a longboarder, they would probably respond with an answer that references the longitudinal shape of their deck. To clarify this discrepancy, it can be determined that depending on the person, the concept of “concave” in skateboarding carries two different meanings.
In Regard to Longitudinal Shape - A radial concave is the most common form for both skate and longboards that gives the decks a circular shape with grades ranging from low to high. These differences vary from company to company, depending on the specific molds used by their wood shop of choice.
Typically, boards with low radial concave possess a slight curvature that increases stability but takes away ease of flipping the board. Inversely, boards with a high radial concave often feel easier to flip but come without that same sense of stability when rolling.
In Regard to Nose and Tail - When the term concave is used to refer to the nose and tail of a deck, it typically used to describe the angle of the nose or tail from the ground. Generally, these classification for the general feel of this angle would either be mellow kick or steep kick.
Mellow Kick - A deck with mellow kick is generally considered more preferable for street skaters or skaters who are looking to do more technical maneuvers. This type of kick tail will have a flatter surface area so that riders can move their feet around and set up for a variety of tricks. Since the massive amount of street tricks each require their own unique foot placement, many skaters choose a deck with a mellow kick because of the accessibility it provides them.
Example of Mellow Kick: Element Skateboards Stamina Deck
Steep Kick - A deck with steep kick is generally considered to be better for transition skaters who may not necessarily be doing such technical flip and spin tricks, but can use the extra tail for increased board feel. These skaters tend to travel at faster speeds than regular street skaters so being able to feel the parameters of their deck without needing to look down is a great benefit that a steep kick can provide to riders of this discipline. For those looking to pump bowls, pipes and snake runs, a more pronounced concave is often the way to go.
Example of Steep Kick: Miss Skateboards 'Alice' Deck
Disclaimer - It should be noted that the decision over mellow vs steep kick ultimately comes down to the level of comfort for the rider in question. If you went to your local skatepark, you could probably find street riders killing it on decks with steep concave or transition rippers carving on boards with a more mellow concave. As much as reading about this topic can steer you in the right direction, the only way to truly understand your preferences is to hit the streets, try out different setups and figure them out for yourself over time.
Nose vs. Tail
Nose - The nose of the standard street/park skateboard is typically wider and steeper than the tail, to account for the movement of the ollie. With this trick, the front foot moves up the board while the back foot moves downwards to pop it. As such, the steeper nose provides more surface area for the front foot to catch and help the board in its ascent. This factor however, like many other components of the skateboard, varies from deck to deck depending on the specific molds and formulas used by the manufacturers. To specifically understand the feel of the deck you are looking at, it would be best to look at the specifications provided by the deck manufacturers themselves to understand the characteristics of your deck.
Tail - Generally, boards will either feature a design with double kick tails, a single kick tail or no kick tail at all. Similar to the concept of board shapes, the setup of the tail of the board largely related to the preferred discipline of riding associated with each deck. The distinctions behind these designs are as follows:
Double Kick - Being that the popsicle shaped street/park board is the most popular and is all about symmetry, the most common construction for the nose and tail of the board is the double kick. With this, both the nose and tail have concave that slopes upwards, in order for the board to be popped and flicked, no matter which direction it is rolling. A deck for a double kick design is essential for street skateboarding or for anyone looking to focus on flip tricks.
Examples of Deck with Double Kick: Powell Peralta Charlie Blair Magician
Single Kick - Significantly less common, some street/park boards will feature a single kick design, where the tail of the board maintains a raised concave while the nose of the board remains flat. This design would typically be seen featured on old school shapes and is most preferred in pools where riders are more inclined to use their tails to grind the coping.
In another sense, decks designed for freestyle skateboarding may also feature a single kick design. Since this style of riding is predominantly stationary and features a variety of stall-type of tricks where the rider balances on their board at all kinds of different angles, the single kick design is ideal for the quirks in foot placement from one maneuver to the next.
Finally, aboard with a single tail may be featured many plastic boards styled off of the Penny brand of cruisers that feature this design. Since these boards are ridden in the streets, some may argue that they deserve a spot in this guide. Others may disagree, considering decks like these that are not conducive to executing street style tricks, and regard them in their own category of cruisers. Either way, they are a common single kick board beloved by many.
Examples of Deck with Single Kick: Arbor Sizzler
No Kick - Even less common, boards with no kick tails usually fall into the category as a cruiser style board which, as mentioned, blurs the line between being considered in the realm of street/park skateboards and being considered in its own separate category. Nevertheless, decks with no kick are thus flat and lack any of the functionality for popping tricks or riding transition that double and single kick boards provide. However, these sorts of boards can be a nice change of pace for skaters looking for a more casual option. Boards with no kick are a solid choice for those simply looking to get from point A to point B and have a little fun in the process.
Examples of Deck with No Kick: Arbor Rally
Street/Park Deck Construction
Maple - The most readily available and thus the most common wood for construction of street and park decks. For this type of riding, (usually) 7 plys of maple are pressed together to provide a stiff and sturdy deck. Though the life of a maple deck largely depends on the level of impact that the skater imposes on it, these decks are ultimately subject to wear down and snap sooner or later.
Fiberglass - When used construct a deck, fiberglass is common for a manufacturer to add as a layer within the configuration of wooden plys in an effort to add extra support to the deck. Many different companies label their fiberglass-added builds with different names depending on their specific strategies for implementing it. Most times, the purpose is to provide some area of the deck with added support.
Other - Whether as the main building material of the board or as an added layer, the different components used in constructing street and park skateboards can vary greatly from board to board. With that being said, there are far too many materials and additives in the market to be listed. However, boards that feature these components are generally deemed to be premium products, as compared to standard 7-ply maple decks. Overall, the construction of the board should, like many other elements, be examined on a case by case basis.
Overall, there is more standardization with street and park skateboards than there is with any other type of skateboard out there. However, with the amount of options in the market, there’s plenty of room for trying different configurations and discovering out your optimal setup.
While reading about all of this is half the fun, the other half is going out and trying as many setups as you can, to get a feel for the different decks out there. Shred safe and get stoked.
If you still find yourself with any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to give us a shout here. We're looking forward to getting you out in the streets and rolling.