Skateboarding defies definition to many, but if you're just getting into longboarding or classic skateboarding, you might be blown away by the variety of purpose-built styles and construction for skateboards.
It's not all popsicle sticks and teeny wheels, right?
So, here's a quick and general guide to the basic categories of longboards and the disciplines they're designed for.
None of this means you can't skate anything and anywhere.
But for those wanting to figure out what those terms mean, here's an overview of the main specialties, iconic shapes, and wheel hardness setups you might recognize.
1. The Freeride Longboard
Freeriding is a term used to describe any style of skating downhill that includes drifting, sliding, hard carves, and aggressive maneuvers.
Any board a skateboard is comfortable with that affords the handling and agility can work for a freeride board.
However, the current standard is a bidirectional board with deep wheel wells - or cutouts - and often drop-through mounted trucks of either conventional or inverted style.
It's a style that varies with you.
However, it generally involves wheels intended for sliding and thrashing, typically 70-76 mm in diameter, and 78A-89A durometer.
2. The Speed Longboard
Speedboarding is the sport of getting down a hill as fast as possible.
Standard downhill decks are rigid for stability, with moderate concave, no kicktail, and lengths typically ranging from 36'' to 46''.
Inverted-style trucks are used in drop-through and top-mount configurations with wheels 70-100 mm in diameter and a 78A-89A durometer.
You should look for designs intended to eliminate wheel bite.
Prepare to encounter the most exotic materials, ranging from maple to monocoque composites.
3. The Slalom Longboard
Slalom longboarding is a timed sport that involves avoiding cones either on flat land with small spacing (tight), downhill with more varied spacing (hybrid), or steeply downhill with large, spread-out spacing (giant).
Most slalom longboards range in size related to the style of slalom, from 30'' to 36''.
They are equipped with asymmetrical concave (more in front) with a nonfunctional kicktail or footrest at the back and toe-stops on the front of hardcore race boards.
The standard is for wedged, conventional trucks and 65-77 mm wheels with durometers ranging from 77A-85A.
4. The Cruising Longboard
Cruising on a longboard is traveling from one location to another in whatever manner the skater sees fit.
Any board can be a cruiser, and street skaters also use this term to describe any board with soft wheels.
Cruiser boards tend to be medium to larger-sized boards, often with wide shapes that allow many foot positions.
Wheels and trucks are based on rider preference but are often inverted-kingpin trucks with wheels to fit the board in a low to medium durometer.
Soft wheels and excellent turning ability are the hallmarks of a campus cruiser and general fun-hog longboard.
5. The Carving Longboard
Carve longboarding is a way of riding a hill where the skateboarder cuts back and forth in hard turns to scrub off speed and yet maintains control of the board, very much like surfing.
Carving boards are often set up for maximum turning and allow the trucks and wheels to turn as profoundly as possible, with typical board lengths over 36''.
Flexible decks are popular but not required.
Inverted trucks and high-traction design wheels with durometers 75A-85A are typical setups.
6. The Long-Distance Longboard
Long-distance longboarding is a growing style broken into two groups: long-distance skating (LDS), where the focus is the actual pushing over great distances, and long-distance pumping (LDP), where the focus generates momentum by pumping.
Long-distance skating boards typically have a dropped deck for extra low height to the road, and long-distance pumping boards are often similar in shape to slalom boards, yet slightly longer.
Wheel diameters typically run 70-76 mm, and durometers range from 77A-84A, depending on the setup and riding style chosen by the skater.
7. The Boardwalking Longboard
Also called longboard dancing, this freestyle skating discipline focuses on the rider's ability to use the deck to accomplish tricks and maneuvers on the deck.
Boards are typically 40'' to 60'' and may have concave and a kicked nose or tail.
Wheels and trucks are often set up so the rider easily controls the board's agility, and the wheel bite is impossible.
Smoothness is ensured via wheel diameters 70-76 mm, durometers in the 77A-84A range, and any truck you like, either conventional or inverted.
8. The Technical Sliding Longboard
Longboard sliding is a specialized discipline with some crossover to street-skating gear.
It results in the intentional breaking of traction on steep hills to accomplish tricks that modify the board's movement down the fall line.
Much more than power sliding, these tricks can include stalls, rotations, and the use of gloves with pucks for hand-on-the-pavement moves.
The decks are usually 34'' to 38'' with twin kicks and hard, smaller wheels on conventional trucks.
Nevertheless, a variation growing in popularity (see freeriding) uses 70 mm or larger soft wheels.