There are a ton of articles on the web about which skateboard is best for your child, but how many of them have been written by actual skateboard instructors?
Instructors who’ve taught thousands of children and seen firsthand how certain skateboards help them get ahead and others, leave them stuck in the cracks.
Sourced from over 5,431 GOSKATE instructors worldwide, we’re here to break down what is the best first skateboard for your kid. Additionally, we’ll go over the different types of skateboards and certain factors like age, skill and skate goals to consider before shelling out your hard earned cash.
At GOSKATE, we want to help your child get off to the safest, most fun and most productive skateboarding experience possible with a skateboard they’ll be sure to love. Additionally, we want you to understand what skateboards are out there and where is the best place to buy them.
So without further ado, here is what we’re covering in this article:
- What Are the Different Types of Skateboards?
- Skate Shop versus Amazon versus Retailers
- Free Skateboard Size Calculator
Need help identifying and understanding certain skate terms like bushings, grip tape, or abec-7? Check out our GOSKATE Skate Terms Dictionary!
What Are the Different Types of Skateboards?
Parents might be surprised there are actually several different skateboard types to consider for their child. But how do they know which skateboard is right for their kid?
For starters, each skateboard type is either better or less equipped depending on your child’s skateboarding goals. Additionally, it’s the size of the skateboard, the materials used in making the deck and skateboard parts, and the size of the wheels and trucks that determine the type of skateboard.
No matter what, we understand you want the safest and most fun skateboard for your kid. So let’s help you figure that out.
Penny Boards: If you’ve been on a college campus you’ve probably seen a Penny board or two by now. Penny boards are like Kleenux. They are a brand that has since eclipsed the type of product as a means of identification.
Penny boards are mini cruiser boards more akin to the original Z-flex boards of the DogTown era. Made from a plastic deck, the deck is 22-27 inches long, which is why many parents will be attracted to these tiny skateboards for their children.
But parents might want to think twice about these boards when it comes to safety!
Since Penny boards are less than two feet long, and have wheels from 59-69mm, these little boards are quite high off the ground and provide little surface area for your feet to maintain your balance. With the large wheels and small surface area, these boards are often hard to turn on to avoid collisions or debris.
Most young kids will succumb to skating in straight lines, like an arrow shot from a bow with little ability to turn or avoid another skater. While they can be a lot of fun, Penny boards are also not made for skate tricks. Most kids will eventually just sit on the board or scoot along with one foot and one knee on the board.
Penny boards are generally less expensive than a normal complete skateboard, so they can be a great introductory skateboard to see if your child catches the skate bug but they also might not be the best skateboard if your kid wants to be a real skater some day.
Longboard: Most people right off the bat can spot a longboard because of its length but there are many important factors to consider when considering a longboard as a kid’s skateboard or a beginner skateboard.
A longboard is quite a bit heavier and is built for cruising and for fast downhill speeds. That’s why a longboard is typically four-feet to even six-feet in length.
Some longboards omit the nose and tail altogether, which for a beginner skateboarder means less room to put your feet. This also means it is nearly impossible to produce and ollie on a longboard. So if your child wants to eventually do tricks, a longboard is probably not for them.
The wheels of a longboard are substantially larger as well and are not made of the ratio polyurethane of normal skateboard wheels. Thus, two things: you will reach much faster speeds quickly with a bouncier, stickier wheel, and your board will be a lot heavier to make lifting your nose and turning harder.
That being said, longboards are some of the most fun skateboards to ride but you should generally know you can maneuver a board by leaning and maintaining your balance even at high speeds. Longboards are also generally not skatepark friendly, so if your child wants to eventually hit the skatepark with their friends, a longboard is not for them.
Cruiser Board: A cruiser skateboard is similar to a longboard as the name describes – they are built for cruising. However, cruiser boards are much shorter in length, generally the same length as a normal skateboard but with the benefits of a longboard.
These boards are generally used by seasoned skaters who might want to take a cruise but without the hindrance of having a 5-foot board on their hip when they pop into the store or get to class. They are also more maneuverable since they are more akin to a normal skateboard, so skaters can even sometimes pop ollies up curbs or produce a sharp turn without relying on a heavy lean.
The one thing about these skateboards though, is they are not skatepark friendly. They still have longboard wheels, which means a stickier, bouncier ride that becomes extremely challenging when trying to skate up a quarter pipe or lock into a ledge trick.
These boards are not fully exempt from trick skating, but if you want to learn tricks or do more than cruising, you probably only want this board as a happy medium between a trick board and a longboard.
That being said, a cruiser board is a good board to learn the foundations of skating. Just be clear about your skateboard goals and don’t be afraid to purchase another board down the line.
Shortboard (Normal skateboard): The best way to explain why a normal skateboard or shortboard is the best skateboard for you kid, is it’s kinda like buying your child’s first car. You want the safest car possible, but also one that teaches them how to drive correctly while offering certain amenities.
A shortboard can be exactly that, as it’s the board that if your child continues to want to learn tricks and skate skateparks, and who knows – maybe one day become a sponsored skateboarder and make it to the Olympics – a short board is ultimately the only board capable of fostering these goals.
Additionally, shortboards do not have longboard wheels or lifted trucks. So they won’t go skating off at high speeds or be weighed down by a huge longboard. While a normal skateboard might seem like a longboard to your kid because of their height, just remember you wouldn’t want your kid driving a go-kart on the street. But a full actualized vehicle of transportation.
Remember, a skateboard is a tool not a toy!
When asking any of our GOSKATE instructors the first thing they will say is: get your child whichever skateboard they have the most fun on. As this will inspire and motivate them to keep skating. After that, we always recommend getting your child a normal skateboard as this will eventually allow them to participate in all of the richest aspects of skateboarding.
If you do however think a short board is too large for your child, there is an alternative in our next skateboard type.
Mini skateboard: A mini board is different from mini cruiser skateboards, as they are miniature short boards, or literally – miniature skateboards. These boards are designed specifically for 12 year old skaters or younger with customized board lengths and board widths. Just like normal skateboards, they are constructed out of a 7-ply maple wood deck and have the same iconic popsicle shape.
Many of our students who are 8-year olds or younger will sport a mini board and eventually skate a normal board when they are older kids. But it should be noted these mini boards generally have to be bought as a complete skateboard – as in all the parts together – since they will also require special sized aluminum trucks.
Be careful to spot cheap skateboards!
Usually a good skateboard is easier to spot since they are a pro skateboard made by a brand with a skater’s name on them. But these boards are made for kids so just make sure they are made from 7 layer maple and have high quality components. Or as you will see in our next section, be diligent in where you’re sourcing a skateboard.
All this being said, generally a mini skateboard is generally the best beginner skateboard for your kid.
Deciding which skateboards are the best kid’s skateboards have to do with your child’s skateboarding goals.
If your child wants to have fun cruising, reaching high speeds and not focusing on doing tricks, a longboard, penny board, or cruiser board might be right for them.
If your child wants to learn tricks and skate skateparks, then a normal board or mini skateboard might be right for them. Either way goals are the same: have fun and skate safely!
Skate Shop versus Amazon versus Retailers
There are many factors to consider when choosing where to buy your child’s first skateboard.
Skateboards are a lot like any product, cheaper skateboards won’t be made from high quality components or a skateboard bought online might be harder to tell if it is actually a good skateboard.
But also, arguably more importantly, certain skateboards purchases will directly go back to supporting actual skateboarders and the skate industry.
So here are some of the Pros and Cons of shopping with Skate Shops versus Amazon versus Retailers so you can find what avenue is right for you.
Supporting Your Local Skate Shop
There is no way more directly connecting your purchase to supporting skateboarders than from buying your first skateboard from a skate shop.
Skate shops are increasingly rare as a global online market makes skateboarding purchasing as easy as a click of a button. But skate shops are also cultural centers for their local skate scene providing everything from a safe space for kids to hang out, to local skate teams and contests that foster a healthy local skate scene.
So although you might be shelling out a few extra bucks, you get to directly support your local skate scene. And hey, if you’re already searching for an article on what first skateboard is best for your child, you can get some extra advice from the skater working behind the counter.
The only con besides paying an extra ten bucks or so, is you are limited to what skateboards are in supply. However, many skate shops offer full complete beginner skateboards with a local shop deck for big savings.
Highly recommended from all GOSKATE staffers and instructors!
Shopping off Amazon
Shopping from Amazon comes with its own ethical debates and we do recognize the benefits of shopping locally, especially when it comes to your local skate community.
However, not everyone is situated in a part of the world where there’s a local skate shop. In this case Amazon is a big help!
Also keep in mind some Amazon retailers are actually skate shops or even skateboarders running a business through their garage. Just do your best to always support skateboarders.
That’s what we’re all about at GOSKATE! Founded by skateboarders, for skateboarders.
Also, one of the great things about buying from Amazon is the reviews left by other parents. Without a doubt you’ll read firsthand how parent’s bought a certain skateboard for their kid and how they either had countless hours of fun or found it too challenging. They’ll often mention if the board was meant for old kids versus younger kids too.
Buying from Retailers
When we mention retailers here, we’re talking about the big boys like Big 5, Target and Walmart.
For decades, Pro skaters have told the tale of how they got their first board from Walmart. There’s literally terminology surrounding these boards and while many a pro admits this was their first board, they do so to distinguish from their first real skateboard.
This signifies how these retailer boards are not ‘real skateboards’ and for several reasons: the first being the skateboards are generally never made of Canadian maple deck or even polyurethane wheels. They might not even have the sand grit finish of grip tape or aluminum trucks.
That being said, these skateboards are sometimes the first ones a young child might see and get them interested in skating. It should also be mentioned how these boards have come a long way since they first started popping up on the shelf.
Element Skateboards, an actual skateboard company, came out with a Pro model skateboard with Jagger Eaton. After decades of retailer boards never featuring a pro skater on them, this was a big step in raising the bar on these skateboards which have generally been at the bottom of the totem pole.
Ultimately, even while these boards have gotten better over time, they still generally lack high quality components and should be used as more of a measuring stick of your child’s interest to continue skating.
At GOSKATE, we’ve been offering a free skateboard size calculator for years now, combining the knowledge from decades of skateboarding instruction with the practical calculations of shoe size, age and skill level.
The whole reason we wrote this article is for our readers to understand how skateboards are deeply custom and certain people will need certain boards.
It’s a beautiful precursor to the tool of self expression skateboards will eventually become to those students who stick with it.
Click Here, to start using our Free Skateboard Size Calculator and find the exact skateboard you’ll need to GOSKATE!
Now that you and your loved one are all set with the perfect first skateboard for your kid, you’ll need someone to show them the ropes. Well, not just anyone. How about one of the world’s leading skateboarding instructors, proven to not only foster your child’s love for skating but help them discover something inside themselves they never knew they had.
AT GOSKATE, We’ve watched countless children land their first ollie or roll away from their first drop in and the expression of joy on their face is second to none.
Our GOSKATE instructors are available 7 days a week and will meet you at any skatepark! We also do more than just 1-1 lessons. Contact us today for fun events like birthday parties and gift cards.
Contact GOSKATE today and find out which skateboarding lessons are in your area today!