Imagine the scene.
It’s a beautiful blue-sky day.
And here you are, cruising. Your shirttails and hair blow in the breeze as you weave your way down the boulevard.
Envious looks follow you.
You even hear an odd ‘wow’ here and there as you dismount effortlessly and flip the board up into your hand.
Since they first appeared in the 1950s, longboards have epitomized cool.
Surfers, looking for a way to practice on calm days, hit upon the idea of longboards. They made early models themselves from old surfboards. But as skateboards gained in popularity, their older cousin stayed in the background.
In the 1970s, the Sims Board Company, headed up by Tom Sims, began to manufacture longboards. And a few other businesses followed suit. But the smaller, tricksier skateboard still held its place in the spotlight.
Then, in the 1990s, the tide turned.
The bigger, more flexible boards finally began to make a real impact on consumers both in the US and abroad.
All round easier to ride than a skateboard, longboards are perfect for cruising, commuting, carving, and even shredding downhill.
Check out this video of Ben Stiller (as Walter Mitty) longboarding in Iceland – the action starts about 1 minute in. It’s one of my favorite sequences in the film.
That road has to be on the bucket list of any self-respecting longboarder, don’t you agree?
Yes, a longboard is driven the same way as a skateboard (by pushing off the ground with one foot)…
So, that’s longboards. But what about bamboo longboards?
What Are Bamboo Longboards?
The decks of longboards have long been made from one type of wood: Canadian maple.
But with more focus than ever on environmental impact, manufacturers of the mythic longboard have begun using bamboo as an alternative longboard deck material.
To construct a bamboo longboard deck around 7 layers of veneer are glued together and pressed into one solid piece in a mold. The deck is then cut to shape and sanded before the application of finishing such as paint or varnish.
Using bamboo veneer for some, or all the layers makes for a deck that’s more flexible but just as strong as a maple longboard.
The minimal impact of bamboo farming on the environment was particularly attractive to companies such as Bamboo Skateboards.
They’re also planting one tree for every board purchased!
Take a look at this crazy strength test they filmed…
Is Bamboo a Good Material for Longboards?
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of bamboo longboard decks…
- Strong – you saw the strength test right?
- Natural shock-absorber – as bamboo boards are so flexible they naturally absorb bumps and dips in the road surface for a smoother ride.
- Lightweight – bamboo is super light, so if you’re in love with a 44” pintail board, you won’t need to break your arm carrying it around.
- Responsive – the weight and flexibility of a bamboo board combine to give great straight-line speed and smooth turns.
- Eco-friendly – this fast-growing resource is kind to the planet too. Find out more about why we love bamboo on our Why Bamboo page.
- Looks amazing – plain varnished or painted, bamboo decks look fabulous.
- Long-lasting – bamboo is super durable, meaning your longboard will last for a very long time.
- Less choice – at the moment, fewer manufacturers are using bamboo in their boards than traditional materials. But at Bamboo Goods, we predict that won’t be the case for long.
- Flexibility – if you prefer a stiffer board then a bamboo deck could take some getting used to.
- More expensive – at the moment you might find that your model of choice is more expensive than other alternatives. But considering how long they last, a bamboo longboard could be a good investment.
Alternatives to Bamboo
The original longboard material, maple is strong and long-lasting. The sheer strength of the material has kept these longboards popular for decades. Less flexible than bamboo, maple is great for skateboards as the stiffness makes them perfect for doing tricks.
Still the most popular material, maple longboards are available in a dazzling array of styles and finishes.
the maple wood of choice is grown in Canada, where trees can take up to 80 years to mature. And, with longboarding and skateboarding being so popular, demand is far exceeding sustainable supply.
Plywood and Fiberglass
Plywood boards are the choice of the DIY longboard enthusiast.
Paired with fiberglass sheets to add some rigidity, plywood is a viable material. Without fiberglass, it’s far too flexible. But making your own board is a labor of love.
You may need to learn some new skills first, including woodwork. Check out this video to see what I mean…
We all know that plastic is no longer a material of choice due to its environmental impact.
One company that’s turned that concept on its head is Florida-based youth start-up, Tonga Boards. The company makes longboards from recycled ocean plastic. It uses around 125 old plastic bottles to make each board.
Manufacturers such as Madrid are playing with layering fiberglass, bamboo, and maple. This combination of flexibility and strength makes boards both lighter and more responsive. These boards are perfect for dance and freestyle use.
For further reading, see this article about making a maple and bamboo board at home.
What to Consider When Buying a Bamboo Longboard
There are loads of different longboards to choose from. And finding the right board for you depends not only on your level of experience but also on what you’ll be using it for and of course, how it looks.
Do you need a pintail or a kicktail, a drop-down or a drop-through? Check out this longboard shapes guide from Longboards USA that explains the main differences.
Or, if you’re looking for a super in-depth explanation, take a look at this Skating Magic article covering different types of longboards.
Care and Maintenance
Sometimes you can’t avoid getting your longboard wet, or dirty. But when that happens make sure you clean it and dry it out as soon as possible.
Regular inspections are a must. Picking up issues early can save you lots of time and effort later on. Don’t forget to check fastenings regularly too – that’s safety critical.
For more details, see this article covering longboard maintenance from Shred Shack.
Store your longboards undercover and away from direct sunlight. This helps protect their shape and finish.
At Bamboo Goods, we love these bamboo board racks by Grass Racks. They look stylish, and they’re lightweight and incredibly strong. Perfect for showing off your prized possession!
References and Continued Reading
I bet you'll find this Skateboarding for Sustainability article from Forbes insightful.