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Longboards: Not your kid's skateboard

Sep. 25, 2009 - 05:40PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 25, 2009 - 05:40PM  |  
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Landyachtz Longboards Chinook (ROB CURTIS / STAFF)
Loaded Skateboards Dervish (ROB CURTIS / STAFF)

You've seen them around base. As you drove past what you thought was your neighbor's kid, you realized it was actually your neighbor buzzing down a street on a longboard, soulfully unwinding life's clock one turn at a time.

The crossover point for longboarding is huge. If you've ever skied, surfed, snowboarded or skateboarded, you're in the zone. If you've ever wanted to do any of those but were outdone by terrain or expense, you're also in the zone. Longboarding turns roads into asphalt waves and neighborhood inclines into black-topped mountainsides.

Here's a look at four longboards that will challenge the idea that skateboarding is only for kids in mall parking lots big-boy boards you will love and your kids will covet. Each of these is a great all-around cruiser with a different flavor depending on its deck construction, truck design and wheel characteristics.

What's in a board?

Longboard decks can be horizontally laminated for a solid feel or vertically laminated for a more lively feel.

Trucks, the hardware that attaches the wheels to the deck, control the board's turns. Many longboards have "reversed" trucks, meaning the axle is positioned so the board runs lower to the ground than a regular skateboard.

Wheels vary in size and hardness. Longboard wheels usually run 75-90mm, bigger than short deck wheels, for more traction and comfort on the street. A wheel's durometer, the number that follows the size, tells you how hard the wheel is. The higher the number, the harder the wheel. Hard wheels slide and skid, soft wheels grip and carve. An 85a is middle of the road, offering traction without rattling teeth.

Landyachtz Longboards Chinook

MSRP: $246 as shown

Deck: 41" x 10"; Wheelbase: 35.75"

Trucks: 852 Bear Grizzly Trucks

Wheels: 76mm 80a Monster Hawgs

Complete board: 10 pounds, 6 ounces

The Chinook's modern deck shape is all business; those swoops and angles look cool, but they're there for a reason. The front is a half-inch lower than the rear to keep your weight forward, and the asymmetric drop-deck geometry makes pushing easier. The 9-ply maple deck is thick and solid for speed. The 852 truck's hangers can be flipped upside down to increase stability for downhilling. The Chinook is at home going fast, but will also make a short, hilly commute to work a lot more fun.

Loaded Skateboards Dervish

MSRP: $329 as shown

Deck: 41.5" x 8.5"; Wheelbase: 33"

Trucks: Paris Adam Colton 180s

Wheels: 75mm 83a Orangatang In-Heat

Complete Board: 7 pounds, 6 ounces

The Loaded Dervish brought the bamboo core to longboarding. Its vertically laminated construction gives it a snappy feel, and its drop-through trucks allow harder, snowboardlike edging as you roll the board harder, it absorbs and returns energy during turns. Sliding is also easier on the lowered board. The tips are cut back Indy-car style to eliminate wheel-bite, which happens when a spinning wheel contacts the underside of the deck, stopping the board. The stock In-Heat wheels on the Dervish grip well for carving, but the optional Durians inspire sliding. The crushed-glass urethane grip surface makes regular grip tape feel like an ice rink.

Original Skateboards Custom 35

MSRP: $239 as shown

Deck: 35" x 10"; Wheelbase: 28.75"

Trucks: S8 200mm

Wheels: 70mm 78a Retro ZigZagsComplete

Board: 7 pounds, 7 ounces

Relatively short for a longboard, the maneuverable C35 is a commuter's dream board, pumping on the flats and turning on sidewalks like Tron's lightcycle. It's got light and lively vertical laminate construction, wide-tracked spring-damped trucks and a reverse camber deck. The sum is a super responsive board that lives to go edge to edge. The Original S8 200mm-wide trucks offer a stable ride, while the single-spring damper offers control more like a steering wheel than handlebars.

Seismic Skate Systems Cameron

MSRP: $279 as shown

Deck: 42" x 9.5"; Wheelbase: 33.5"

Front trucks: 45-degree, 180mm extra light springs; Rear trucks: 30-degree, 180mm medium springs

Wheels: 78mm 79a Seismic Blast Wave

Complete Board: 8 pounds, 4 ounces

Seismic is known for making technical gear that's ahead of its time. The concave bat-tail deck has a vertically laminated poplar core with extra fiberglass at the tail for a finely honed snap-flex and supercharged pumping power. The wheels have vented cores to save weight and improve rebound and acceleration. Seismic's trucks are unmistakable since they replace urethane grommets with more predictable, and tunable, springs as the heart of the steering control system.

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