By Janelle Randazza for USA Today
Skateboarding has long been considered a niche hobby, but it’s about to blow up. For the first time ever, the sport that’s best known for adrenaline-fueled tricks and for floppy-haired kids taking over drained swimming pools, will go mainstream as it makes its Olympics debut.
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If your kid has been begging for a skateboard, or even if they’ve only expressed a passing interest as they graduate from their scooter or grow bored of their bikes, that interest is likely to be kicked up a few hundred notches very soon.
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If you’re looking to help them buy their first skateboard, or if they are ready to upgrade to something more substantial, here are some tips for what to look for, as well as a few boards we think are great.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to always make sure they have quality protective gear, like a skateboard-specific helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads. After you’ve got safety checked off the list, here is how to find a terrific, highly reviewed kids’ skateboard. All of these are complete with trucks and wheels, and are ready to roll.
What to look for when buying a kids’ skateboard
When shopping for a kids’ skateboard, you’ll find that there are two types of wheels to choose from: hard and soft. Hard are made from plastic, and soft are made from PU (polyurethane). We confirmed it with some experts, but—truthfully—anyone who has ridden a skateboard more than once will tell you that soft wheels are the only way to go.
Think of it like this: Soft wheels are like taking a ride in a car with quality tires. Plastic wheels are like going for a drive on your car’s rims. Plastic wheels give a jarring experience and make every maneuver more difficult. Soft wheels absorb the bumps in the road to make for a smoother ride, they also allow for a smoother stop, and for easier turning. When shopping for a complete board (one that has wheels, trucks, and a deck), make sure you get one with PU wheels.
We’ll let you in on a secret: Marketing aside, there is basically no difference between a kids’ skateboard and an adult skateboard. Most kids’ skateboards are about 6” wide but, truth be told, it’s going to be easier for kids to learn on a wider, standard 7.5” board. A wider board gives them greater stability and something to grow with. We spoke with Lamar Betts, of The Skateside skateboarding school in Los Angeles, California, and he says he always recommends a 7.5 for kids to start. They are easier to start with and they’ll last for much longer.
If your kid takes out their board and the wheels feel unstable, or turn too fast or too slowly, know that skateboarding is a visceral sport that’s all about customization and personal feel. All you need is to make a few adjustments with a skate key to get just the right fit. A skate key is a small wrench that may or may not come with your skateboard, but it’s a must-have for adjustments. Keep in mind that a tighter turn will make a board easier to learn on. Once your kid feels comfortable and wants to try out their tricks you can loosen it to their preference.
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