Types of skateboards
First, there are basically three types of skateboards. The first type of skateboard was first commercially sold in the 1950's. This is a basic skateboard that is uni-directional, shaped like a surfboard, and made to ride on a sidewalk. Shortly after the commercialization of the first skateboards, came longboards. Longboards did not really catch on though, but a few surfaced in the 1960's and occasionally made an appearance or two for the next two decades. The original skateboards that had been around since the 1950's, however, all but disappeared, giving way to the bi-directional, concave, "popsicle" stick shaped boards as these were easier to do tricks on, if not as fast or smooth for riding on sidewalks. For the last decade or so, however, the original uni-directional,surfboard shaped skateboards have made a comeback. They are now referred to as "cruisers", or mistakenly as "pennyboards", or the oxymoron "mini-longboards". I shall refer to these original style skateboards as "shortboards", as they are thinner and shorter than the previously popular popsicle boards, and are similar to the popular longboards,, only shorter.
The 411 on Materials:
Solid Wood - strong, does not have a lot of flex, which helps to make it difficult to turn. Solid wood is a really great board for an older adult, or anyone ranging up near the 200 lb mark. Up around that weight area, these boards are flexy enough! There are some really beautiful solid wood boards being made, some of them custom boards, by independent wood working skateboarding enthusiasts. Google "solid wood skateboard" for some of them.
Plywood: Plywood has been the medium of choice for skateboards since the 1980's. Wood, in general, is possibly THE best overall material for skateboard decks. It provides the best combination of flex and strength. Plywood, specifically is especially flexy compared to solid wood. It is also more apt to breakage however.
Aluminum: Not really a very good deck material. Aluminum does not have as much flex as wood and really is just for show. The anodized colors of some boards were really enticing to young kids in the mid 70's. Banzai aluminum boards were some of the most expensive boards in the mid to late 70's and all the rich kids had them. Because it is so dense, aluminum is pretty rough to ride on. Virtually no shock is absorbed by the deck material, so thick rubber risers are suggested to help absorb shock.
Fiberglass: Underrated for the most part, fiberglass is perhaps the second best material overall for skateboards. Fiberglass is much stronger than wood, has a little bit less flex than plywood (depending on how thick the fiber plys are and the overall construction of the board) overall, but is a strong sturdy material and is also waterproof. Many fiberglass boards have survived the test of time and survived since the 70's with just a few chips and dings. The downside of fiberglass is scratches, and chunks taken out from crashes... as well as cracks which usually occur around the trucks and bolts - solution, rubber riser pads and rubber 'o' rings for the screws. I'm not sure of this, but I think that the rubber riser pads were developed because of fiberglass and aluminum boards (skateboards didn't have riser pads until the aluminum and fiberglass boards did in the mid to late 70's).
Plastic: I once thought that plastic boards were a joke. They would bend so easily... why would anyone want one. Then I got one. I got it because I REALLY wanted some of those smooth polyurethane wheels that were out at about the same time that plastic boards appeared in the mid 1070's... the entire board only cost a few more bucks than the wheels alone... so I got the board. It was a GT something or other. After getting this board I realized that different materials have their place. This board cut, carved, and turned better than anything around. It turned on a dime, and was an awesome board for slaloming. The hard plastic boards (clear or translucent plexiglass) were not as flexible as the regular plastic. These boards were more on the line with fiberglass boards as far as flexibility and strength. They were just a bit more flexible, but also a bit less strong. They were also more prone to stress cracks (around the bolts). But plexiglass, especially for older or heavier (over 130 lb) adults is a viable option for a skateboard deck.
So, basically, the best deck for an older adult is probably solid wood, fiberglass or plexiglass. The best deck for a child is plastic. Solid wood and fiberglass can handle an adult weight. They are flexible enough when weighted by an adult. These materials would be harder for a child to turn on. Although the trucks (the wheel axle unit, uncluding the bushings - rubber spacers to aid in axle up and down movement= turning), have a lot to do with turning, the flex of the board equally is involved. A child cannot flex a solid wood board and would have difficulty doing much with a fiberglass board. A plywood deck would be easier for a child. Plastic would be the easiest. I have all types of boards except aluminum. My favorites are the solid wood and the fiberglass with the plexiglass close behind. The plastic boards just don't have enough absorption for me... they ride really rough on cracks and bumps as compared to the solid wood and fiberglass. My longboards are plywood because for boards that long and wide ( 9" x 42") flex is of the essence to ease in turning and carving. And although the solid wood and fiber are my faves on the old school/retro boards.... the plastic ones are awfully fun...
The size of your feet and or your height have NOTHING to do with deck size. Perhaps it is important with popsicle boards - vert and tricks - but for old school/retro boards -cruising and carving - it is all about flex, stability, wheels, bearings, bushings, and what type of skateboarding you want to do. I have heard and read many many young people in skateboard shops say that if you have large feet you need a large deck. As I said, maybe this is true with trick boards, vert boards or street, but it is NOT true with shortboards. How a shortboard cruiser handles is largely a matter of deck length and width. About 70% of the handling of a board is based on the length and width of the board. When you get a shortboard, you want one that is going to react the way you want it to react, and if you get a wide deck because you have large feet, that board is not going to respond the way you want it to. How a shortboard responds is based on the deck size. So, ignore people who were raised on popsicle boards and listen to people who were raised on shortboards... get a deck based on response, not on how tall you are or how big your feet are.
You MAY choose a board based on your weight, but again, not length or width, in this case it would be based on thickness, sturdiness, and flexibility of the deck.
If you find that a board is too unstable - has too much side to side rocker - or is too hard to turn, then consider changing out the bushings. I have medium 94a durameter (hardness) bushings on my solid boards (solid wood and fiberglass), but harder bushings on my plastic boards. So the durameter of the bushings is based on your weight and the stiffness of the board. 94a durameter bushings would be too soft for me on a plastic board due to the added flexibility of plastic. Likewise if I used a harder durameter on the solid wood boards, I wouldn't be able to turn at all due to the less flexible solid wood. If you are building your own board from scratch... that is, buying components to put a board together, keep these things in mind. Start out with medium bushings and work from there. And don't be put off by the stiffness of a more solid board. Softer bushings can help with turning and you will find that solid wood and fiberglass will give you a much smoother ride.
The more flexible a board is, the less it can absorb shock and therefore the harder of a ride it will be. Solid wood and fiberglass absorb shock the best and therefore give the smoothest ride. Again, I've read some YOUNG skateboard shop employees say just the opposite. Their claim is that because a board is more flexible that instead of you feeling the shock the board will flex when it hits something like a crack in the sidewalk. No, this is not what happens. What happens is that the board hits the crack, it MAY flex down, but chances are you have already flexed the board to the max with your weight. Even if the board did flex when you hit a crack, you would go down with it and as the board hit the bottom of the flex curve you would feel the jolt. It is contrary to Science and Physics in general for a thin flexible board to give a softer ride. A softer ride is gained from a thicker, absorbent material that actually ABSORBS the shock such that there is no shock to you. I've been skateboarding for over 40 yrs.. .Again, I've owned them all except aluminum... and I weigh more than those young kids (about average for an athletic 50 yr old woman) the heavier you are, the more weight on the board, the more you feel every crack in the sidewalk... believe you me!). Thicker absorbent board = softer ride! Experience is everything (and some knowledge of Science and common sense)!!
If you have any questions about cruiser skateboards, and or want to know more about a vintage board that is up for sale, just message me through ebay. I will be glad to help you pick out your shortboard and get you going.
Thanks,... now go out and CRUZE!