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CALI Strong Basic Skateboard Buying Guide

CALI Strong Basic Skateboard Buying Guide

Whether you are an experienced skateboarder or just a beginner, you need a skateboard that matches your level and will allow you to progress. Your skateboard needs to match your skateboarding style, experience level, price range, and physical attributes.

Below is a basic skateboarding guide from CALI Strong that will help you figure out the best skateboard for you. It details the basic categories and decisions that you need to think about before buying a skateboard.

CALI Strong Skateboard Series
CALI Strong Skateboard Series

Your Experience Level

Some skateboards are made for experts, while others are designed for beginners. You need to discern your skateboarding skill level before you can decide what kind of skateboard to buy.

  • Beginner – Beginners are those who just got on the board and are working on the basics. If you’re a beginner, you need a super supportive board that will help you learn your balance.
  • Intermediate – Intermediate level skaters are those who are more comfortable with the basics, and are just starting to work on more technically advanced moves. You should find a board that is still supportive, but geared towards tricks.
  • Expert – Expert skateboarders need boards that can withstand the rigors of fancy tricks, both in a closed environment and out on the road.
The Word Ambigram Rasta Skateboard
The Word Ambigram Rasta Skateboard is the world's first ambigram rasta deck

Your Skating Style

The type of terrain you ride on determines your skating style. Though you may fit into more than one category, you should choose a board that is designed for your typical style and terrain.

  • Vert – Vert skaters are riders who use vertical structures to get air and do tricks. This is usually done on ramps or in empty concrete pools. Vert boards are light and easy to maneuver.
  • Technical/Street – Street and technical skateboarders both usually ride outside on ramps, rails, curbs, benches, and streets, so they need boards that can hold up to the elements while still providing technical ease. They both need a maneuverable board that is tough enough to survive the outdoors.
  • Longboard – Longboard skaters use boards that are extra long. This design makes for a fluid and smooth ride that is perfect for travel or just cruising around.
  • All Around – Most skateboarders are considered all around skaters as these are the skate anywhere and everywhere. Doing all types of styles, all around skaters need sturdy and reliable boards.

Your Physical Attributes

Your basic size has a lot to do with what type of board you need. No matter what your style or experience level, you need to pick a board that fits your height and weight. Ask a professional in your local board store to help you match sizes.

Skateboard Deck Size Chart
Skateboard Deck Size Chart

Your Budget

Obviously, different styles, brands, and makes of boards come at different prices. Pre-assembled boards range from $75 to $245, while custom board prices vary as you decide what parts to buy. Keep in mind what you can afford before you go shopping for a skateboard.

Understanding Your Skateboard Tech

Basic Parts of Your Skateboard
Skateboard Truck Part Diagram
Skateboard Truck Part Diagram

Parts of a Skateboard

  • Deck
  • Wheels
  •  Bearings
  •  Trucks
Skateboard Wheels
Skateboard Wheels
Skateboard Bearings
Skateboard Bearings
CALI Strong Original UCLA Skateboard
CALI Strong Original UCLA Skateboard

Skateboard Decks

Skateboard decks fit into two broad categories:

  • Trick or Street is under 33 inches long
  • Longboard is anything over 35 inches

Traditional street decks are the most common, and most versatile, while long boards are generally used for cruising and provide a very “surfy” feel.

Most trick decks (except for some longboards) have a raised nose, tail, and sides. The bend across the width of the deck  is called the concave. The depth and overall shape of the concave has a dramatic effect on the response of the skateboard to the skater. The deeper the concave, the more aggressive the skater can be with their tricks. The shallower or mellow the concave, the more forgiving the deck is for newer skaters.

Skateboard Concave Diagram
Skateboard Concave Diagram
Concave Deck Full Example
Concave Deck Full Example

The average width of a skateboard deck is 7.5″- 8.25″. Width is influenced by the size of the rider and the type of riding. Bigger riders and those skating ramps and vert typically prefer a wider deck. Street skaters usually choose a smaller deck. Choose your skateboard deck according to the width, not length.

7.5″ to 8″Standard for skateboarders taller than 5’3″ with a shoe size of 9 or up skating streets or doing more technical tricks
8.0″ to 8.25″Skating pools, ramps and parks
8.25″ and largerVert, pools, cruising and just going old school
5’3” to 5”8”31.5” to 32” long
5”8” to 6’1”32” to 32.5” long
Over 6’1”32.4” and up
How to measure skateboard dimensions
How to measure skateboard dimensions

Average board length is 28″- 32″, but length is only referred to by advanced skaters.

HeightDeck Length
Under 4’29” or smaller
4’ to 4’10”29” to 30” long
4’10” to 5’3”30.5” to 31.5” long
5’3” to 5”8”31.5” to 32” long
5”8” to 6’1”32” to 32.5” long
Over 6’1”32.4” and up
Skateboard Parts Diagram
Skateboard Parts Diagram

The wheel base of a skateboard is the distance between the inside mounting holes on a skateboard deck. The distance between the closets points of two mounted trucks.

The higher your center of gravity or the taller you are, the wider you’ll want your wheel base.


Ply refers to the thin layers of wood that are tightly pressed together to make the skateboard deck. The higher the ply count the more durable and stiffer the board at the cost of increased weight. The typical street skateboard is seven-ply, and most boards aren’t over nine-ply.  Maple is considered the best wood for making skateboards. Canadian maple in a deck is prized for its strength and durability.

7-Ply Maple

The classic skateboard deck construction, 7 plies of Canadian maple bound together with glue. Some of our decks use resin glue which is stronger and makes the decks stiffer.

8-Ply Maple

A stronger construction than 7-ply, 8 ply is usually made up of 8 thinner plies, that when bound together create a stronger deck.

P2 Decks

P2 or Pro-2 construction decks are the ‘next level’ of deck and feature an oval shaped Kevlar Fibre reinforced maple veneer that when bound together with six thinner plies creates a stronger more resilient deck that has spring loaded pop. A lighter and thinner deck than most – the P2 decks are becoming more and more popular these days.

Technology Decks

Other different technology decks we carry here are Double Impact and Impact Support Constructions. All of these boards are made up of different kevlar/maple & carbon constructions and make a lighter stronger deck. Some of these even come with a breakage warranty, so if you break decks regularly it may be worthwhile checking these boards out.

Skateboard Wheels

Skateboard Wheel Size

All skateboard wheels are made from polyurethane. However, the composition and color of skateboard wheels varies greatly. Wheel size (Diameter) is measured in millimeters. The bigger the wheel, the faster your downhill speed.

Most common skateboard wheels are between 52 mm and 60 mm. Larger wheels (above 60 mm) are mainly exclusive to longboards. Their size makes them fast, and they are usually wider for stability.

52-55MMGood for many uses. Street, skate parks, bowls. Smaller riders.
56-60MMGood for many uses. Street, skate parks, bowls, vert ramps. Bigger riders.
60+ MMSpecialty rides. Long boards, hill riding, dirt boards.
CALI Strong Skateboard Wheel Size Diagram
Skateboard Wheel Size Diagram

Skateboard Wheel Hardness

All street skateboard wheels are considerably hard. Hardness is rated in a measurement called Durometer. Any wheel over 90a is considered hard. The harder the wheels, the more air  a skaterboarder can pop, but they land hard with greater shock to the legs.

Large wheels are also usually soft with less than 90a durometer. The softness of these wheels creates a much smoother ride and offers more traction than harder smaller wheels. Large and soft wheels are what gives a longboard its surf feel.

87ACruiser riding, long boards, hill riding. Very rough surfaces.
95AStreet riding, rough surfaces, smooth, fast, and durable.
97AAll around street, skate park, ramp and pool. Good on smooth surfaces.
100AVery hard with least grip. Not good on rough or slick surfaces. Used by pros.

A good starting point to for you to learn which wheel fits you best is a a diameter range of 52 mm to 54 mm, with a durometer hardness of 98a.

Skateboard Bearings

The preferred China REDS ABEC7
The preferred China REDS ABEC7

Skateboard bearings are found inside small metal rings that fit within the skateboard wheels. Skateboard bearings are rated using the Annular Bearing Engineering Committee (ABEC)  odd number scale from 1 to 9. The scale rates bearings for their precision with 9 being the highest. The more precise a bearing is constructed, the more delicate and vulnerable it is to damage.

ABEC 5 bearings are the norm in skateboarding because you get fair speed at an average cost. The coveted ABEC 7 skateboard bearings are very fast and smooth and tend to be slightly more expensive.

It is good to remember that the ABEC scale measures bearing precision only. It does not take into account a lot of factors important to skateboarding like shear. A bearing can have a good ABEC rating, and suck for skateboarding. Pay attention to brand names and reputation when buying.

Good brand names to look out for are China REDS, Bones, Lucky and FKD Bearings.

Grip Tape

The grip that you want is based entirely on your personal preference and skating style. Grit or AB ratings range from 12 grit to approximately 1000 grit. Grip tape made for skateboarding ranges from only 24 grit to about 80 grit. The lower the grit, the the more coarse and sharp the tape and the better you “grip”. Generally speaking 24-40 grit is for fast freeride and downhill, whereas 50AB-80AB is for slow freeride, technical freeride, freestyle, cruising, etc.

CALI Strong Full Color Skateboard Grip Tape Is Durable & Grippy
CALI Strong Full Color Skateboard Grip Tape Is Durable & Grippy

A low grit for freestyle would destroy your shoes and slice up your hands from repeated use. This is why freestyle oriented or everyday boards use an 80 grit grip tape.

Grit/ABParticle Size MicroMetersBrands
24708Gator Super Coarse XC, Diablo Extra Course
30632Old Black Vicious
36530New Black Vicious, New Clear Vicious, Gator Grip Coarse, Thumb Cutter
40425Red Vicious, Blood Orange, Diablo Course Belt Sander
50348Loaded Course (Chubby Unicorn)
60265Gator Standard (Colored), Bustin
80190Jessup, CALI Strong, MOB, Most Street Board Grip, Iron Horse


The axles holding your wheels to the board are called “trucks.” Some trucks have specials features that add to their cost. Features like a lighter weight or more longer lifespan you will pay extra for.

In picking the right size truck for your deck, you want them to be about the same width as your deck. For a street board, 139 millimeter-wide trucks are probably the most common. Tighten the kingpin bolt on the trucks for flip tricks, and loosen it for carving.

Your life can depend on your trucks, so stick with quality brand names like Thunder, Independent and Venture.

Skateboard Truck Parts Diagram
Skateboard Truck Parts Diagram

Final Thoughts

Your skateboard should be considered an investment, as you will hopefully being using it for years to come. You should put in plenty of thought and research in order to make sure you find the right board for your budget, size, experience level, and skating style. Try out  when you look for your board.

The CALI Strong Wave State Longboard Drop Thru Complete
The CALI Strong Wave State Longboard Drop Thru Complete

Gideon Lupine

I was never here. We never met. This never happened.

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