The boards are long, but the time is short. Let’s jump right into our 2020 Longboards Retail Buyer’s Guide by SOURCE Skateboard Editor Dirk Vogel.
Forget the rumours. Downhill speed racing and longboard dancing are definitely NOT part of skateboarding’s debut at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Then again, these two styles of riding attract vibrant communities of riders and present a solid baseline for retailers, now that the big longboard hype has come and gone. On that note, how’s business? As Bob Carlson, Founder & CEO of Arbor said on the eve of his brand’s 25th anniversary: “We’ve seen a sustained turn-around in the US for all types of lifestyle skateboards and have seen indications that the same upswing is happening in Europe.”
Over at LA-based Loaded Boards, also home of Orangatang Wheels, Paris Trucks and the new Unlimited x Loaded e-skateboards, Pablo Castro said: “We’ve found the European market to be relatively steady for our brands in the past year with slight overall growth.” Asked about major growth drivers, Andreas ‘Maui’ Maurmeir, Retail and Marketing Manager at Sector 9, makes an interesting observation: “Skateparks and pump tracks are in construction everywhere. That reflects a lot in the demand of boards that suit those terrains. That can be shorter and more park-like boards or longer, even the 36-inch barrier breaking boards that we always had a fable for. We will even launch a specially dedicated line for these skate playgrounds.”
Keeping a finger on the pulse of what the market wants is key these days, Javier Cantera, International Brand Manager at Miller Division says: “Innovation, sustainability, and competitive prices are also a real must to keep a brand in this business.” What exactly constitutes ‘competitive’ price points is debatable these days, but the formula that works in retail is offering top-notch quality – including bamboo deck constructions, premium trucks and wheels – around the magic benchmark of €249. Sure, endemic brands offer entry-level completes around €169 while others seek out premium offerings up to €499. Ultimately, retailers need to know their audience and its comfort zone.
Those looking to know what’s next in the segment should keep an eye on our 6 Most Important 2020 Longboard Trends:
- SHAPES: SKINNIER BOARDS
What’s happening with current trend towards stubbier, shorter longboards? It’s about to pull a full 180-degree turn on us, according to leading brands. “In Europe, shorter board styles were very popular and good sellers. As the US and Euro markets are not really synced 100 percent, we count on a stronger demand for longer boards for 2020 again,” said Maui at Sector 9. Loaded Boards have been riding this wave with the 97.5-centimetres long Icarus model as their flagship carving board and Mindless just dropped the Hamu II dancing board at a solid 48.5 inches in length.
One more surprising turn among deck shapes: “Downhill boards are getting both narrower and shorter as riders are progressing to more narrow truck setups for increased manoeuvrability,” said Shane Maloney, Brand Manager at Madrid Skateboards while pointing out the The Dominant by Max Dubler model. Going into the 2020 season, drop-through boards are declining, while pintail models like the Miller Division Sliver or Sector 9 Beach Break Bonsai are trending.
- COMMUTING: GREENER TRANSPORTATION
As major European municipalities are taking serious steps towards banning automobiles from their city centres, longboards emerge as a vital choice for greener transportation (also see our report on E-Mobility in this issue p45). “The greenest thing is to leave your car at home and ride along the sidewalk with your board. Plus, it’s much more fun!” said Maui at Sector 9. Loaded Boards make a strong proposition for mobility with the 85cm-long Omakase model: “Originally designed around the Unlimited e-skate system, the Omakase stands on its own as a highly user-friendly analogue board. Short, wide, stable, and nimble, the Omakase is a palate-pleasing performer for cruising, commuting, freeride, and freestyle longboarding alike,” says Pablo Castro.
The sustainability focus also extends into materials, with all brands confirming bamboo as the way forward. Arbor is about to celebrate its 25th brand anniversary in 2020 and has been leading the charge since day one. “All of our wood and bamboo is sustainably sourced, our finishes and grip are environmentally friendly, our premium wheels are made with bio alternatives, and all boxes are constructed from recycled materials,” says Founder Bob Carlson, who announced two Limited Edition skateboards made with sustainably sourced Hawaiian Koa wood to celebrate. Miller Division is following an action plan towards ‘greening’ their footprint, including initiatives like the Miller x Ocean collection benefitting environmental conservation efforts.
- CATCH A WAVE: SIDEWALK SURFING
Commuting to work is all very well, but skateboarding has always been about enjoying the moment and sparking some excitement. This is where the rise of surf skating comes in. Brands like Slide Surfskate serve the trend with models like the Swallow Wahine board. “The Swallow model is focused on longboarders and riders that would rather have extra volume under their feet. Its shape will allow you to practice wide turns, move and dance the same way you do it surfing with your longboard,” said Iciar Sánchez, Product Developer at Slide. Sector 9 sells the ticket to a world of sidewalk surfing with the Shacked Shoots complete, retailing at €270 with Gullwing Sidewinder Trucks and 69mm Sector 9 Top Shelf Wheels, while Origin Distribution has the Flow Surf Skate Wedge model in store.
Complete boards will always be a focus, but any board can transform into a surf skate with the right trucks (see below). As Mike Jucker at Jucker Hawaii said: “Retailers should keep the skatesurfer trucks on their radar in general. Surfing is hip and there is no better way to get in to surfing by starting off with a board that has this kind of set up.”
- MATERIALS: LIGHTWEIGHT & SUSTAINABLE
Two major trends are leading the segment into 2020: Product development is focused on achieving a low overall weight – also to keep boards manageable during commutes (see 2.) – by implementing thinner veneers and alternating Canadian maple with bamboo inserts while using less glue. On that note, the ‘less is more’ ethos also extends into graphics. “The best-selling boards are still predominantly exotic wood veneers with a simple graphic to compliment. Let the wood speak for itself!” said Andy King, Brand Manager at Mindless Skateboards.
The second big trend, as mentioned above, is sustainability across all components. Javier at Miller Division commented: “100 percent of Miller Skateboards exotic wood or Canadian Maple of our skates come from responsibly harvested wood that meets the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council according to FSC A000504.” Loaded Boards have, “shifted the vast majority of our epoxy to Entropy bio-based resins and intend to continue to do so for 2020.” Arbor have been revolutionizing their wheel formulas via the Sucrose Initiative Wheels, using a sugar-based curative reducing environmental impact.
- TRUCKS: WELCOME THE NEXT GENERATION
Aside from narrower widths, the big news is that almost all brands head into 2020 with re-engineered truck constructions. Loaded launched the V3 Paris Trucks to an overwhelmingly positive response, Madrid introduced the Caliber X Venom Gangster Gold Trucks, and Slide has the 3.0 Surfskate trucks. Mike at Jucker Hawaii announced: “We are super stoked on our P1 Longboard Truck. We were able to get to the next level due to this truck.”
Catering to the surf skate trend, Miller Division launches the The XRKP II Surf Skate Truck featuring an eight-hole baseplate and a new structural design for greater turning angle.
- WHEELS: BIG FAT WHEELS
The wheel segment is as diverse as ever with a variety of formulas, cuts and durometers for riders to choose from. Putting his finger on the major 2020 season trend, Timothy Mackey, Product Design/Production Management at Origin Distribution (DB Longboards, Rayne, Flow Surf Skates) said: “Big ol’ wheels!” Riders are looking to roll large with robust wheels that crush anything in their way, including Venom Magnums by Madrid, the huge 90mm wheels mounted on DB Longboards’ Mini Cooper complete as well as 74mm Velocity by RAD Wheels (distributed by Sector 9).
“Big wheels continue to be a strong aftermarket purchase for both skateboards and e-skates. Longboard bushings are a great addition and lead to instant smiles,” said Pablo at Loaded Boards, pointing out the Orangatang Caguama 85mm model. At Mindless, Brand Manager Andy King reported a big change for the season: “Our Mindless Viper Wheels are from a new supplier and the urethane quality is next level, for the price and simple design, we’re really hyped on them.” With that said, endemic longboard brands are stepping up their product development for next season, so customers and retailers have plenty of reasons to be stoked for 2020.