How to Buy a Kid a Skateboard
Since everyone who knows me knows I skate, and since many people around my age (~40) have kids or know one, I get asked fairly regularly what skateboard they should buy for a kid. Here is the advice I give.
What Skateboard to Get for a Beginner
When shopping for a skateboard, you will find “completes” or you can buy the components separately. Either way, here are the essential components of a skateboard, which are what you will get when you buy a complete:
- Deck (the wood part)
- Grip tape
- Trucks (the part with the axle for mounting the wheels)
- Hardware (the bolts that hold the trucks to the deck)
If you order a skateboard, you can order a complete skateboard or separate components and assemble the skateboard yourself. Or if you buy a skateboard at a local skate shop, they will probably help you pick out the components and assemble it for you. If your kid keeps skating, they will probably start assembling their own skateboards by the time they get their third deck.
You don’t need to keep buying completes, though! You can replace components as they wear out. The deck gets the most wear and tear, and will need replacing once it has some big chips or missing grip tape or the tail is worn to a sharp edge (“razor tail”). Wheels also wear out, but will usually survive at least a few decks unless your kid is really into power slides. You can reuse trucks, bearings, and hardware many times as long as you don’t leave the skateboard out in the rain. If you do, the bearings will rust and they will need to be replaced.
Now for sizing. As a general rule, here’s what to get:
- An 8″ wide popsicle stick–shaped deck is a fine starter size for most kids (plenty of experienced skaters like 8″ popsicle decks, too).
- Grip tape is sold in standard sheets sized for most common skateboard decks. Black is fine, but there are lots of cool options.
- Truck axle length should match the width of the deck, but you may have to translate from centimeters to inches. If it’s within about a quarter inch either way, it’s good enough.
- Start with 53mm wheels. Or 52mm or 54mm. It’s not all that important. Get really hard ones, like 99a. They will slide more easily when your kid wants them to. (Which is a good thing.) Or if your kid is going to ride mostly on rough roads and uneven sidewalks, here are some suggestions for bigger wheels.
- Get bearings. It’s not all that important which ones, as long as they are skateboard bearings.
- Get skateboard hardware. It’s not important which hardware as long as it’s meant for a skateboard. For a typical setup, 7/8″ bolts are just right.
Feel free to deviate from this if your kid knows what they want or you get different good advice. Skateboarding is about creativity and individuality, not rules.
Where to Buy
Buy local if you can. I’ll explain why it’s a good idea. But if after reading this you would rather buy online, that’s okay. It’s more important that we get your kid a good first skateboard. Just be careful buying from Amazon. And whatever you do, don’t buy a skateboard from a department store.
The easiest and best way to buy a kid a skateboard is to go to a local skate shop and ask them to help you. You can pick out a deck with graphics your kid will love, and the staff will help you pick out components that fit together. Then they can put it all together for you.
Before you leave, ask them where to find good skate spots for beginners!
I know it seems old school to go to an actual brick-and-mortar store, but trust me on this.
I do feel the need to point out, however, that skateboard graphics can be R-rated. In a typical skate shop you will probably see some skulls, some drugs, and some scantily clad women on the skateboards. That’s probably because skateboarding is, unfortunately, still dominated by 14-year-old boys who seem to particularly enjoy that sort of thing. But don’t let that stop you!
Or Buy Online
If I haven’t convinced you to buy from a local skate shop, that’s okay. Your kid will start haunting the skate shop on their own if they get hooked. For now it’s more important to get wheels under their feet.
There are plenty of places to shop online, but since you’re here why not support one of the board companies listed on this site? They sell kick-ass boards your kid will love.
Okay, okay, if you just want cheap and easy but good enough, go ahead and get this complete from CCS. It’s fine. And once your kid falls in love with skateboarding you can teach them the value of supporting local and women-owned companies. (Although you could just do that by buying from local or women-owned skateboard companies in the first place. Just saying.)
Don’t Buy from Target or Walmart
Department store skateboards suck.
There’s a reason they cost a fraction of the price of a real complete. The decks are flat and flimsy. The trucks don’t turn. The wheels don’t spin.
Can you imagine what it might feel like to ride a bicycle made entirely of cheap plastic, frame and all? That’s what skating a department store skateboard feels like. Only buy them for kids you hate.
Be Careful Buying from Amazon
Some of the skateboard equipment on Amazon is great. I buy skateboard stuff from Amazon sometimes. But some of it is the same crap you can find at Target and Wal-Mart. The reviews aren’t very helpful because they are often written by well-intentioned but clueless parents or grandparents.
If you know what you want and you want to buy it from Amazon, go ahead. But if you aren’t sure, don’t guess.
Get Them a Helmet
What teaches you how to skate? The fuckin’ concrete.Jake Phelps
I always wear a helmet if I’m doing anything more advanced than cruising around, and so should anyone whose brain is still forming.
Here’s the thing: your kid is going to fall. They are going to get bumps and bruises and scrapes, and every once in a while when your kid falls they are going to land on their head.
Protect their melon. Get them a helmet.
Take Them to a Skate Park
Skateboarding on the sidewalk out front is fine, if it’s all they have. But take your kid to a skate park for the first time and you will blow their mind. Many cities and towns these days have at least a few skate parks. You can usually find them on Google Maps (try searching “skate parks near me”).
Go with your kid and be a voice of encouragement. And when they fall (because they will) help them get up and try again.
Published on April 21st, 2019. Last updated March 13th, 2021.