Updated December 2017
[removed some sexist language - thank you to Madeleine]
[updated budget search information]
[updated how to buy a $50 plastic skateboard]
[updated Super Kaye says no apostrophe]
This rule can NOT be broken, and it is not a skateshop vs department store fight. DO NOT buy those toy skateboards that look like real skateboards from major shopping malls. I'm not talking about plastic skateboards, I'm talking about those cheap ($20) wooden ply completes that are usually plastic cling wrapped. I will give the rules first, but I just wanted to be clear on this point before we get started. More kids have been turned off skateboarding because parents buy a cheap crappy skateboard that is designed to be cheap and not designed to work. The bearings are filled with grease and do not spin. Constructed cheap with less ply, makes thin and breakable. The trucks are cheap caste metal and will break with normal use. Wheels are not urethane, usually a shiny plastic.
With that out of the way. Here are some simple ideas and rules to help you, the parent, look like a legend and stoke your kid with a skateboard present.
Younger Children (3 to 9)
Do any of their friends skate?
If so, and these are the friends they want to skate with, find out what type of skateboard or longboard they have, and where they bought it, how much it cost. This will be a good guide on what your child expects. Kids learn faster when they skate with other children. They will push themselves to reach the level of the other kids. If your child has a board that is not the same or equivalent, they will find it harder to learn.
How old is the child?
If you child is pre kindergarten (under 5) then consider buying a complete from a skateshop with no griptape or a plastic skateboard. Why? The first thing a young child does is sit on the board and go down a hill. Griptape will wear holes in pants! If they do sit on their griptaped skateboard then put an old towel on the griptape.
See the "where are they skating" below on a guide on what sort of skateboard they will use. Every child is different. I have seen 4 year olds drop in on a mini ramp and I have seen 12 year olds only want to buttboard on a skateboard.
Generally, a child can have fun on a skateboard when they start to walk. Be careful with fingers, they get them caught under wheels when they are young. My daughter was balancing and rolling on a skateboard at 2. Between 3 and 5 kids can learn the basics of pushing and balancing. As children get older and head towards double digits, they will start to get interested one of the types of skating, either longboarding or more traditional skateboarding.
Is there a budget?
You need to be realistic here, how much money are you expecting to pay? A decent skateboard will cost at least $100. Minimum should be $150. This should get you a decent double kick, entry level mini cruiser. We use to have a budget filter on our website, this has been removed because we are selling our boards a bit different. We have grouped completes and decks together. All decks can be assembled into a complete choosing components. So a budget filter is not appropriate because a high end deck at $200 will be grouped with a $200 entry complete. You can filter products by price, and then scroll to the price range you are interested in.
Where will your child be skating?
There are two types of skateboards: longboard or a skateboard. On our website we classify mini cruisers and cruisers as longboards. A mini cruiser is 22 to 29 inches long. A cruiser is 30 to 32 inches long. Both types are usually a single kick style board, cruisers can also be a double kick style. What makes them cruisers are the types of wheels, they have longboard style wheels that are soft and roll easily. This makes them easy to learn on, and also perfect for uneven ground like driveways and bike paths. So if the child will be skating driveways, roads and footpaths then consider a mini cruiser or a plastic skateboard (see tips below)
The classic type of skateboard is a double kick. They are used for tech/street skating, tricks and skateparks. Most double kicks are a similar length - around 30 inches. It is the width that defines the type of skating. A standard skateboard is 8 inch wide. If your child wants to learn tricks, and flip the board then try to find a board between 7 and 7.75 inches. If they want to roll in a skatepark or bowl then choose something between 7.75 and 8 inches. The current standard size is getting wider, from 7.75 to 8 inch because skaters find a wider board easier to catch with their feet when flipping.
Where to buy?
We would love to have you purchasing your child's skateboard with us, we have a website that can help you filter and find a great board easily. You can email and ask our staff questions.
If you want to buy local or don't have the budget or we don't have what you want, then here are some expert tips:
* Surfshop are good places to find good quality skateboards. Billabong has a large network of shops and affiliated shops and they distribute some of the best skateboard brands on the market: Element, Plan B, Sector 9. Around Christmas they have some great deals on skateboard completes, if you stick to those brands you can't go wrong.
* If you have found a sports shop with a skateboard you like the simple test of quality is wheels. If they spin for at least 30 seconds to a minute then the board is likely to be ok. If you spin the wheel and it stops, then it usually means the bearings are cheap greased bearings and it is an indication of the quality = poor. If you are looking for a longboard or cruiser then the wheels should be soft and the edge of the wheel should indent when squeezed. If the wheels are shiny and look plastic then do not buy.
How to buy a plastic skateboard for under $50
We will expand this tip into a larger article soon, but until then here is our tips in buying a $50 skateboard (current plastic boards look to be $50, so this means this tip is for a $80 board).
I know I said to steer clear of the ultra cheap skateboards but the exception is plastic skateboards. Plastic is plastic - right? The weak point are the bearings, fix that and you can usually get an awesome plastic skateboard really cheap.
Head down to your big shopping mall retailer: Rebel Sport, Kmart or Target (these are Australian brands, if you are in America try Walmart, and in Europe Aldi).
There should be a range of plastic skateboards. I just went to Rebel Sport at Macquarie Centre (November 2017) and found these plastic skateboards for $49.95.
Wheels are the key. Don't go shiny plastic, you want soft urethane longboard wheels, something that can be squeezed. If they are clear or frosted even better. Avoid solid colours they are usually the plastic wheels. The except to the plastic wheel rule is if the child will be skating in a skatepark or on a wooden house floor, then hard wheels are ok, but soft wheels will be more fun.
You found the board, and this is the hard part, you have to replace the bearings. I'm going to lose a lot of readers here, and maybe buying a $150 complete is a compromise they are willing to make so they don't get their hands dirty. I'm telling you, it is not that hard.
The bearings in these plastic skateboards are no good, they will be filled with grease, low quality and will hardily spin. You need to change them for either a set of Mini logo bearings or a set of Bones Red. Any bearing at a skateboard shop will be fine. If you get the bearing from us, it will be $30 shipped. The plastic skateboard will range from $20 to $40 (the above example is $50), so if you got the $20 plastic skateboard, the plastic skateboard cost you $50.
How to replace the bearings (search Youtube for a video)
To remove the bearings, undo the nut inside the wheel. Keep all the parts together.
Remove the wheel. Now use the edge of the axle to ply the bearing out of the wheel. usually you can move the wheel away from your body and use the axle to pop the bearing out. It doesn't matter if the bearing gets bent, they are going in the bin.
To put the bearing in, best to put the outside bearing in first (each wheel has two bearings). Put the bearing on the truck axle, with the outside bearing shield facing out. You’ll notice two sides of a bearing. The Bones Reds have a red shield on one side and a white plastic shield on the other. Red shield goes on the outside of the wheel, so when the bearings are installed, that is what you see. So outside shield facing down, now get the wheel, face it so the outside graphic if facing down and push it on the bearing, using the axle as support to pop the bearing inside the wheel. It should fit with a small bit of force, and slide into one side of the wheel. Remember there are two bearings per wheel. Take wheel off, and insert the other bearing on the other side using the same technique. Now if you started with the outside of the wheel first, you should be putting the second bearing on the inside of the wheel, so now you don’t have to remove the wheel, it is installed the right way around with bearings inserted. If there are axle washers, make sure you put one on before you add that second bearing. Now it is on, add axle washer, if you have them, add axle nut and slowly tighten. Be careful, you don’t want to tighten too hard and ruin the bearing. Usually it is best to have the wheel spinning, and gradually tighten bearing. When the wheel suddenly stops, you know you have probably tightened too hard. If the wheels does not spin, loosen it up a quarter turn. First wheel on!, now do the rest.
It is not that hard. Should take about 15 minutes. A plastic Penny costs $200, if you can put together one for only $50, you saved $150! Even if the skateboard costs $80, that is still half price. Not bad for 15 minutes work. Lets us know if this is a good tip or bad advice, send us some feedback.
Older Children (10 to 14)
Do any of their friend's skate?
This question is more relevant if the child is older. Usually they want to start skating because there friends are skating. Find out what type of skateboard or longboard they have, and where they bought it, how much it cost. If it is a teenager, they have spent the last few months researching the buy online and will have a good idea of what they want or the brands they want.
Is there a budget?
Your budget and their budget will probably not be the same. It good to have this conversation before they shop online or get a board assembled at a skateshop. You dont want to be standing there expecting to pay $100 when the shop assistant says that will be $300! :-)
Mini cruiser will be $150 to $250
Cruiser will be $200 to $300
Brand assembled skateboard is $200 to $300
Skateshop assembled skateboard $250 to $350
Longboard on sale $200 to $300
Brand assembled longboard $250 to $350
Skateshop assembled longboard $350 to $450
Premium longboard $400 to $600
A lot of the tips above in the younger kids guide can apply here.
We have written a guide on how to buy your first longboard and a lot of the tips are relevant to a parent buying a longboard for a teenager.