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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Skating a big setup, Part 1: baby steps

I'm a big dude. 6'2" (1.9m) tall, size 14 US shoes, 225 pounds (though it should probably be around 205). I like tech boards in the 8.25" to 8.5" size with 5.5 size trucks that have about an 8.25" axle. However, when I skate bowls and transition in general, I find myself wanting more space for my feet. Bigger boards, though, are usually too wide for my taste, or the width is right but the nose and tail aren't appropriately scaled up in size. I wanted to know what others were skating, so I created a survey to gather data about what other skaters are riding and how big they are. One question I didn't ask but should have was people's inseam measurements, as bodily proportions have a lot to do with peoples' choices. The data gathered was conclusive in certain areas, such as relationship of shoe size to deck size. The data was inconclusive in other areas, such as relationship of height to deck size.

Find Part 2 to this adventure here.

The survey results are shared here. Play with them if you like.

But the real result of the survey is something that emerged from the data. The results gave me a general conclusion that people tend to skate whatever feels most comfortable to them, but wheelbase preference
seems to be the strongest decision factor. People can give or take 1/2" here or there, but they don't like to change their wheelbase much. That is the major factor when deciding on a skateboard.
What I've found is that for bowl skating, I prefer a wheelbase somewhere around 50% of my inseam. My inseam is 34 inches, so that means about 17". And, 17" actually works out really nicely for me in bowls. Turns out width isn't as important, but anything between 8.5" and 9" works great. With a proper wheelbase for my inseam, the width isn't as important because my front foot goes to the right place on the board: the ball of my foot is right behind the front bolts and in the middle of the width of the deck. My back foot, meanwhile, fits nicely into the pocket of the tail. On street and flatland, though, 17" is too much wheelbase, and my front foot is too far back to give me good board control. A 14" - 15" wheelbase does better for street for me. Width can be anywhere from 8.2" - 8.6" on street and I'll feel pretty comfy.
UPDATE 9/6/2013: find part 2 of this article here

All right, so, those are the survey results. Here are some pictures of my big setup, followed by some pictures of some equipment that's going to go through the review cycle soon.

My bowl setup is a 9" x 35" Deckcrafters custom monococh with a 17" wheelbase , 7.25" tail, and 6.5" nose. It took me years to come up with a shape and dimensions that made me feel most comfortable in a bowl. This is it. The Trackers on there perform well enough, but I have since moved them to a smaller board. I ride 8.75" Surf Rodz trucks  on this deck now.

Top view of my Deckcrafters custom. Pretty awesome shape, but of course it is: I designed it! 
Upcoming reviews include high tech decks. Bamboo, carbon fiber, fiberglass, epoxy resin, 8-ply, and more are being tested to see if they feel appreciably different than regular 7-ply water-based glue decks.

I've tested $100+ trucks before: the Theeve TiH. But what about precision trucks? These Surf Rodz TKP (traditional kingpin) 159mm trucks are billet aluminum marvels of close tolerance precision engineering. Skating them is definitely a different experience than typical cast aluminum trucks. More to come on these wonders.
Surf Rodz TKP trucks come in many pieces, just like you see here.

Surf Rodz TKP 159, fully assembled. The blue things on the axles are the spacers that I hadn't removed yet: those are meant to go in the wheels between the bearings.

Surf Rodz TKP 159.
Finally, a word of advice about helmets. If you skate the CPSC helmets, you benefit from superior head protection but have to suffer the nasty helmet liner they install at the factory. The stock foam that comes inside of helmets is an incubator for all sorts of smells and harmful microbes. Plus, it drips sweat all over you. Do yourself a favor and rip out all the stock foam padding and the little velcro patches used to hold the foam padding in place. Replace all that nonsense with a sports headband designed for sweaty brows. Bingo! No more forehead rash, no more sweat in my eyes, my helmet fits better, and I can change headbands during my session if I want a dry one. When I get home, I put the headbands in with the rest of the laundry.
Wear a CPSC helmet with a sweatband. It's much better than the spongy foam they put in at the factory.


  1. I like the blog and the in depth information and tips. Looking forward to the deck reviews. Especially what u have to say about the bamboosk8 board cause i've been riding them for a couple years as you may know.

  2. Merry X-Mas bro,

    the Deckcraft deck looks awesome... for me (who prefers deep bowls & pools) is 17" WB and the length of the board a little bit to big... but I bet you've got a real stable standing on the board with 17"WB + the long deck size (while standing on the tail with your back-foot).
    But I also found decks comfortable that got 15" WB (so not the "normal" street decks with 14 - 14.25" WB) and are 32 - 33.5" long.

    The surf-rodz looks interesting... reminds me about Bennett Vector (hanger design). Currently I'm down with Independent Trucks (bones bushings). But After back and forward between thunder and indys I've to say that it was more easier to do 50-50s, axle-stalls etc. with Thunders. But Indys gives you more "quickness" in turns... so it was easier to turn with 'em in bowl/ pool. Also I found my luv in 58mm SPF wheels. 56mm was okay - but a little bit too "small" and 60mm is a little bit to big (and needs risers). 58mm with Indys and Bones bushings works perfect without any risers.

    All in all - I'm excited to follow your blog in the upcoming year and also I'm looking forward about a continue of your interesting and awesome articles.



  3. I'm also learing bowl skating on a deckcrafters deck.
    So far I'm fairly impressed, and as a larger skater enjoying their larger sizes.
    (I'm riding a 33x9.25x16in wheelbase ).
    Please post if you end up liking anything in particular about their monococh coating.



  4. That Deckcrafters board looks awesome. I might get to the point where I can "read" my own riding well enough to go custom, but that's probably another year now. In the meantime, I've been trying different 8"+ shapes -- esp. Welcome, Antihero, Creature -- and keep coming back to the Minilogo 8.5, which has a full 15" wheelbase.

    Those trucks are mind-boggling. Looking forward to more details.

  5. I really love your blog! I liked the trucks comparison the most and everything about Theeve trucks, very informative and great photos too! Thank You! BTW: What are your feelings about Elephant skateboards and will you do a deck review? Best regards, David A - Israel :)

  6. OK, finally finished my Surf-Rodz review:

  7. Please compare your Deckcrafters deck to your 8.5" Powell-Peralta shape 181.
    I have trouble finding a home for my front foot when carving bowls on the 181, and I often get pitched off when my weight isn't right. It never feels comfortable. I feel like I need something wider than 8.5. I am 6'1", with a size 12 shoe.

    I ended up moving my trucks forward an inch on the 181 (went from 15“ wheelbase to 16”). I feel more comfortable, but still not perfect. I still end up covering all but one bolt with my front foot when carving. Have you experienced anything similar?

    After getting the Pool King Pirate (10.25” wide, 16.5" wheelbase), I realized that my front foot may not agree with the K15 concave on the 181, which continues as far forward as they can get it before bringing it down just before bending the nose up. On the Pirate, the middle is the deepest and gradually gets flatter toward the nose and tail. The Pirate has a mellower concave for my foot at the front bolts, which feels more comfortable, though perhaps it doesn’t have quite enough concave there.

    I have been looking at other 9-9.5” K15 decks, but since they all have basically the same contour, I fear the concave at the front bolts will still have me feeling uncomfortable, despite the deck being wider. Have you compared your 181 K15 to wider K15 decks? I have my eye on the 9.5" Daggers K15 Shape 135, but I’d like to stand on it before buying - and no shops carry it around here that I can find.

    This brings me to Deckcrafters. How would you compare the concave to the shape 181 K15? What types of concave does Deckcrafters offer? I am considering the Deckcrafters 750four.

    I think what I am looking for is a 9.5 inch wide deck - about 15.5 to 16.5 inch wheelbase, with concave at the front foot mellower than K15. I also think I'd want a squarer tail. I also do like the slight concave on the nose and tail of the K15. Any suggestions?

    To recap my questions:
    1. Are you comfy on the 181 when carving bowls? If so, where do you place your front foot?
    2. Have you ridden wider K15 decks? How do they compare to the 8.5” as far as front foot comfort?
    3. What do you recommend I consider for my next deck (9 to 9.5 inches wide).

    Thanks for your excellent blog!

    1. Wow, thanks for writing, you've shared some really great information.
      On my Skateone 181 decks, the ball of my front foot is right over the bolts. However, I don't find the 181 shape very fun when I'm carving bowls. I always felt the wheelbase was too short for my long legs, but I think you're on to something with your observations about the K-15 concave. You and I must be drinking the same coffee, because just yesterday I was planning on redrilling one of my 181 decks to give me more wheelbase. There is enough flat beyond the front bolt holes to move the front truck forward.

      But let's return to the K-15 concave. It is steep, for sure, and the nose and tail angles feel great on the street but overly stiff on kick turns in the bowl. The Deckcrafters deck, in comparison, is relatively mellower on both concave and on nose and tail angles. I requested a mellow deck, but from my understanding most of the Deckcrafters decks are mellow.

      I have indeed ridden wider K-15 decks. I've ridden an 8.75 and a 9.25. Neither deck felt any better when carving. The 8.75 felt a little better, but not by much. The 9.25 felt like I was locked down too much and it took a lot of effort to tap that tail for an ollie. Dropping in on a K-15 deck is never very fun, because I'm never sure if the deck will forgive an errant foot placement or allow me to correct my feet quickly to rebalance. The Deckcrafters deck, with its more mellow concave and greater flexibility, is forgiving and even helpful in my skating.

      On my Deckcrafters deck, my front foot covers the back two front truck bolts. Perfect. I also find myself more confident with my back foot, placing it more in the middle of the square tail instead of on the bend like I do with so many round tail decks. I feel like I'm in a far better body partnership with the Deckcrafters deck when I have my back foot up the tail a bit. It isn't really control, although there is tons of that, it is a feeling of excellent feedback from the deck and a willingness to help me get where I'm going on my lines.

      My recommendation to you is to consider about a 9" shape, plus or minus .5", with mellow concave and a wheelbase around 15.5 or more. I think the Deckcrafters Riot Stick might be a good one, and there is room on the nose to redrill the front truck holes to get extra wheelbase:
      A lot of skaters on Silverfish like the 750four, so that might be a good one, too. It looks a little boxy, like it might not be the most lithe companion when carving a bowl, like it may be more for technical sliding or the kind of back-and-forth that a lot of half-pipe skaters do when they get into a bowl.
      Also check out the Pocket Pistols decks. Pocket Pistols is not afraid to give you some wheelbase on a slender shape. They're also good about not letting the concave get ridiculously steep.
      This one is actually my favorite Pocket Pistols shape:

      As an aside, what trucks are riding for bowl carving?

      I hope this helps!

    2. Thanks for your thorough and prompt reply! Yes - it helps. I won't go after the larger K-15 decks. I almost pulled the trigger last night just so I could at least try it and learn first hand - but fortunately socal sold out. :)

      I agree that K15 is great for street, and even mini ramp, but not carving a bowl.

      I'll check out the decks you recommend, and let you know the verdict after I get one.

      I have 159 Indys on my 181,stock bushings, 1/8" risers, Ricta Superpark 86mm, with Bones Swiss 7. I might have looked sketchy because a fellow skater recommended Bones Hardcore mediums, saying everyone in his circle was riding the Bones bushings. I bought them but haven't put them on yet.

      On my Pirate I went with the 215 Indys. I decided to try out the Independent 7 bearings, and SPF 60 Bones wheels. I have 1/4 inch risers, and had to go with Bones Hardcore Hard bushings. Again, I only had about 3 runs on it, and think I'll like it, but I think I'll have to get used to it. I was slower and not as nimble. When I got home, I spun the wheels and after 3 rotations one wheel went backwards! Bearings messed up? Do they need a break in period? Was the spacer messing things up? Bearing not in straight? I have fixed everything up for my next run so see if I like the Independent 7 Bearings. When I went last, I found my Swiss 7s to be much faster, but I need to go back again to make sure it was a fair compare.

      I had tried some Tensor trucks on a 7.5 inch deck a few years back. They didn't turn like I wanted. I decided I better not leave the Indy path, although I am considering other trucks now, based on your blog.

      I am in the market for Indy 169s or equivalent for my 9-9.5" deck I am soon to get.

    3. Spacers sometimes bind, but wheels will reverse direction because of dirt in the bearings or because of corrosion. In SPF wheels, it is really important to get the bearings seated square, and SPF is especially difficult for seating bearings. Try removing the spacers and see if that helps.

      Tensors are really different from Independents. The newer Tensors, however, carve tightly and respond really well with Venom bushings or Bones bushings. They also grind really well, too. Tensors compare well to Venture trucks with regards to geometry.

      If you want to try some new trucks, Bear Polar Bears are one of my favorite 8.75" trucks. The new Stage 11 Indy 169s are really nice, too.

  8. Hi Bertrand, I got back skateboarding 2 years from now and i skate mostly bowls and pools ( first, sorry about my english, Im writing from Brazil).

    Iam about the same size and weight as you and Im turning 35 years this year.

    This is what I tried so far:


    earthwing 39X11 19.5 wheelbase (Thruster deck)
    gravity pool model 36X9.25 17.50 wheelbase
    custom board 35x10 16 and 16 1/2 wheelbase (double drilled).
    alva dogstar pool king 33.5 x 10 16 wheelbase
    Real 8.85X32.5 14.5 and 15.125 (double d)
    powell peralta 8.75X 33.25 15 wheelbase
    pocket pistols 9x33 15.5 wheelbase.
    powell peralta 9.37X 33.87 15.5 wheelbase
    deckcrafters 9.5 X 33.5 16 and 16.5 wheelbase (D.D)
    carver trucks

    Ace trucks 55

    wheels: bones 62mm, 60mm, 58mm.

    type-s : 60mm ( regular shape and hosoi model)

    Powell:64mm bowl bombers and 60mm bombers.

    Bushings: khiro, venoms and bones hardcore.

    What I have found out:

    For me, what works are decks without a very steep concave ( like powell K15) with the width on the 9.25/8.85 range(best 9.0) 33/34 size (I dont really like 9.25 plus boards) About trucks, depends really on the deck but for me is very important that the back trucks dont stick out , so If the width of the rear truck is 8.5 and the front 8.75 being 9 inches the boards width, I will go for 149mm. I realy like indies and will try anytime polar bears.When comes to bushings, bones hardcore all the way hard on back trucks and medium in front. I dont use the top washers but use the bottom ones ( i really like this way and tried after seeing Salba using it)
    Wheels: for me 60mm bones Chris Miller.The fastest wheels I tried so far and they grip nice on crete ( there is no way I can find Rons wheels here or the BDS wheels).Not really recommended for wood. Type-s are great wheels too, specially the Hosoi, since the contact patch on the regulars is 17mm and the Hosois have 21mm.

    For now im using: 9X33 15.5 wheelbase ( 16 would probably be better)with indies 149mm trucks, bones hardcore bushings, bones swiss ceramics bearings and bones millers 60mm.

    Thanks for all the reviews you put in here, help us a lot.

    1. Wow, thank you, this is really great information! I find that I like a 16" wheelbase best in bowls, too, on a 9x33.5 board. Mellow concave has always been a favorite of mine, too, and I like it as mellow as I can get on my street boards and my bowl boards. I like shaped decks, especially punk points, for bowl skating. The Bones SPF are indeed nice, but stay tuned for the results of a park formula wheels test!

      Have you tried Thunders in a bowl yet? Which bearings are your favorites?

    2. Hi Bertrand,

      I havent tried thunders in a bowl yet. Would that be a good idea? I have tried few trucks on bowls and pools.Carver Trucks C7 are to instable but are nice if you use them in a longboard ( at least 20 inches of wheelbase), Ace Trucks are really good too but the problem is that the 44s are 8.25 ( I have the 55s) and for the board Im using 149mm feels better (8.5).In the beggining I thought they were instable ( 55s)but after putting bones hardcore bottom bushings board side and road side the problem was fixed (using bottom and top washer)and they still turn better than indies.

      About bearings i have tried a few too. My first set came with a longboard I had from sector nine ( I didnt like that board,I ended up changing to bombsquad)and it was the sector nine cosmic series.It was ok but even chinese red bones are much better. I tried super reds then and ended up with bones swiss ceramics.

      The ceramics are great bearings. Their roll is very smooth compared with the other bearings, their feeling is great but i really dont think they are much faster than any good steel bearing ( maybe bones swiss?). For us heavy riders they are great and make us go faster beeing easier to gain and mantain speed. I dont recommend them for downhill sliding , just for speed, because they dont last that much if they are used that way ( as a friend told me).

      I wish I could try Rons ceramics but they are hard to get.

      When comes to wheels, the fastest i tried are the 64mm bowl bombers from Powell Peralta, but they only work on big trainies/bowls/snakes. They are too big for pools and small and tight bowls because they dont accelerate fast, so , on these conditions I prefer 58mm. The other problem is that 64mm wheels are huge and you need risers and the skateboard gets really tall. So Im using 60mm spfs.

      Im really iterested on the results of the wheels test.