How Skateboarding Works

The Basics of a Skateboard

Longboards are often used for street skateboarding.
Longboards are often used for street skateboarding.
Image courtesy Consumer Guide Products

A skateboard is made up of three main components: a deck, trucks and wheels. The deck is the part of the board that you stand on. The typical skateboard deck today has both an upturned nose and tail, and a concave shape through the middle. These features give a skateboarder greater control over how the board moves when doing tricks. Decks vary in width, and your choice depends on what kind of skating you want to do. Typically, wider boards are used for vert skating, and narrower boards are used on the street. But really, it all comes down to personal preference.

Let's take a quick look at how skateboard decks are made:

  1. First, maple wood gets planed down to thin layers called veneers.
  2. The veneers are laminated, and have adhesive spread over them by a special machine.
  3. Next, the veneers get glued together and placed into a mold.
  4. Once in the mold, a hydraulic press compresses the layers to form the nose, tail and concave shape to the deck, and makes the deck very strong (many skateboards have had their boards run over by cars, only to find they were unharmed).
  5. Finally the shape, or outline (also known as the "plan" form) of the deck is cut with a band saw. The holes for trucks are drilled and the edges are sanded.
  6. The deck is sprayed with a sealant, to protect it from moisture and warping.
  7. Graphics are added through a screen-printing process, similar to the process used when screen-printing t-shirts.

­­A skateboard deck is slick and hard to stay on while riding. To remedy that, skateboarders cover the top of their boards with special sheets of sand paper bought in skate shops, called grip tape.

Trucks are the T-shaped axles attached to the front and rear of the board. In addition to allowing wheels to spin, trucks give skateboarders the ability to turn. The wheels of a skateboard are are typically made of polyurethane (a flexible medium in the rubber family), and come in a variety of sizes and hardness. But for a wheel to roll smoothly on the axle, it needs a bearing. These are small rotating disks that sit inside both the left and right side of each wheel. The outer ring snugly fits inside the wheel, while the inner ring turns on the axle as the beads inside rotate. To learn more about bearings, check out How Bearings Work.

Now that we know the basics of the skateboard, let's take a look at the different types of skateboarding and how it's done.