Each skateboard distributor manufactures decks with specific molds to form a board. The features of a skateboard deck we commonly select are based on width, and concave. For myself, a size 8″ with mellow concave has been my go to for years.
One problem that nobody seems to discuss is skateboard concave. Anytime I browse decks online, I begin filtering through size, brand, unique graphics, and reasonable prices. Some online retailers provide only width and length, others have more detailed listings.
Whenever I stop a local shop to purchase a deck, I always stand on each one to feel them out. It can take me up to 30 minutes trying to decide upon what I like. This is the BEST way to single out a board you like.
The point I’m trying to get across is the fact concave plays a huge role in board performance, and so many variations are available.
Tim Piumarta, is an iconic figure and pioneer in the skateboarding industry. Known for being the first to put concave curves into a skateboard. In addition, has been the director of innovation at NHS (Santa Cruz Skateboards) for over 40 years.
“There’s two shapes you talk about when you look at performance: of a skateboard: number one is the concave, the 3-dimensional curves are in the board itself, nose, tail and side to side concave. Every manufacturer has their own style or philosophy.
I base mine on actual functionality; what your foot feels like when molded into the concave itself. To get there, I do a lot of prototyping in foam cutting, letting all of our pro and amateur riders have a say in what feels good and what works before we cut tooling to make skateboards.
So our approach is based on the functionality first, the second, when no one’s looking, I slip in curves and bends engineered into this 3-D curve, the concave, that makes the board stiffer, stronger, and makes it last longer.”
What Is Skateboard Concave?
Concave is the soul of a skateboard. During the development process, thin sheets of wood or “veneers” become pressed and molded to form decks. Each wood shop has their own mold blueprint on how they design boards.
There are 3 levels of concave, which gives a pronounced curve throughout a board. Various levels of depth present a shallow or deep appearance.
They design decks with minimal concave that is relatively flat. This gives a lower center of gravity, which enhances stability, but reduces agility (control of the board).
One frequent problem despised by all skaters is wheel bite. Low seated trucks or bigger wheels cause this to take place. Before removing or upgrading trucks/wheels, double check to make certain they fit.
The most popular deck preference is a “medium” or “mellow” concave. This design provides a sweet spot that’s not too flat, and not too steep.
This creates a board that’s easy to catch, and flick without sticking to your feet. A medium concave is the favored variety for flip tricks and street skating.
Deeper curves establish a high, or “steep” concave. To recognize this, step on a board, and notice how your feet sink and grab onto the board.
A more pronounced dip improves deck rigidity. The “pockets” of deck concave may produce better leverage (for flip tricks or turning) or more solid grip for feet near the nose and tail.
Steep concave works well for transition skaters who like full control of their boards around sharp corners as this provides increased board feel. Are you looking for a poppy board? Then this design may suit you well.
For older skaters out there, I’ve heard that steep concave may cause soreness and pain in the knees and back. My suggestion switch to a less aggressive shape.
A kicktail is the end of a skateboard and designed with double-kicktails to pop tricks.
Other types of skateboards, such as, longboards, cruisers, and penny boards for instance, may have single kicktail to allow function over curbs and cracks.
Steep profile kicks provide superior pop learning flat ground tricks. Although this requires using greater force with your back foot to pop tricks. Since this requires using more leg energy, you may find yourself getting tired pretty quick.
I’ve found it easy to lock into, and pop out of grinds, and slides quicker. Although this depends on the trick, for example, when I started learning backside tailslides, popping into them is much simpler than a flat kicktail.
A huge disappointment was manuals, my go-to favorite trick warming up. A steeper kick requires a greater force to pop, and lock my front foot into a nose manual. This just takes time to get used to.
There are many that like a flat, mellow kicktail for the shorter distance and power needed to pop the board and flip tricks. This is true, and tricks are more consistent.
The downside is being a taller guy (6’2”) with long lanky legs, a flat Kicktail doesn’t inspire as much confidence in the ability to pop tricks, and tweak them to a certain degree.
Mellow boards provide less stiffness, which allow for smoother rides for cruising as they absorb vibrations better. The way to best determine your preference is by standing on a couple decks at a local skate shop.
How To Locate Concave Reference Guides
I’m OCD about how my board feels under my feet. When browsing online there are very few places that list detailed technical specifications. For example, when I find a sick deck that catches my attention, there is only limited details such as width and length offered. This leads to disappointment when nobody else carries the board.
I had to find out why some retailers have this information, while others don’t. So, I emailed customer care over at Warehouse skateboards.
Another concern I’ve always had was how shapes are identified. Are mellow/steep concave designs from Dwindle the same as others like NHS? Probably not. So, I contacted Dwindle for a reference guide.
From here I gathered:
- Some shops go out of their way to provide precise details such as whether decks are cold pressed, concave depth, and construction.
- Manufactures specify molds in various ways that provide more concrete details on their shapes. In some instances, details are vague, with little information.
Should Beginners Worry About Concave?
When you first skateboard, only focus on learning how to ride, and become one with the board, like a Jedi. The more time spent on a board, trying other brands and sizes your awareness on what feels best becomes clear.
- Remain simple and don’t over complicate things. Get a board you like, and a size that fits.
- I recommend a size 8” board to start. For those with kids, or smaller feet, a 7.75” works well.
- Start with a mellow concave (most common), or get yourself to the shop.