Setting Up a Slide Deck for Downhill Longboarding

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Setting Up a Slide Deck

Setting Up a Slide Deck
Slider - Setting Up a Slide Deck. Photo:

Sliding can be one of the most enjoyable facets of downhill skateboarding. Few things simulate the feeling of slashing a wave or throwing an edge into deep powder like sliding can. Besides the fun, there’s utility: a well-placed slide in a moment of danger can save your life. One of the best things about sliding is that so much can be done with a simple deck, some hard wheels, and bearings that can take a beating. From a technical standpoint, there are some basics for tuning your board setup that I’ll cover here. So, get your deck, we’ll do a few tweakers and it’ll be time to screech on the street.

The primary issue is your basic ride. Take a look at what you feel comfortable skating and work from there. The fact of the matter is, you can slide any deck and any setup but your deck should allow you a comfortable, shoulder-width stance. With the variety of longboard-style slide decks out there, it should be easy to find something that not only conforms to your height but agrees with you as a ride.

For real manipulation of your board in slides, you’ll want a deck with some concave, good pockets, and comfortably accessible nose and tail kicks. This will help to lock you in with rotations and pressure the deck during slides. At 5’10”, the Earthwing 35.5” fits my body size just fine. Earthwing, Gravity and a number of other companies make decks in a variety of sizes and concave styles, so you should be able to find something that fits you. Like Michael Bream once said, “The most important factor of a slide deck is that you feel comfortable with it”. This is too true: to pull multiple rotations one need not only to be able to get up to speed but to maintain control, once you slide.

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Grip Tape and Trucks

Setting Up a Slide Deck
Slide Gear - Setting Up a Slide Deck. Photo:

For the top of the board, you need the most horrid, aggressive grip tape you can find. Broken glass and sharks teeth, with a thin layer of poly, tend to work quite well! If you’re short on shark teeth, Jessup or the leftover “gnarley grip” Gravity has both and works quite well.

The truck choice is all about your preference, but most people tend to run conventional trucks such as Tracker, Indy or Orion. They’re lower to the ground and provide a more reliable transfer from edge transition to slide. However, some people do quite well with Randal-style trucks. No matter what you use, ensure that the axle width is such that your wheels lay flush with the edge of your deck. Add risers to minimize wheel bite, if needed. If you like running it loose, that’s fine; if you like a tighter bushing combo, go for it. Finding your personal sweet spot should translate from how you usually ride your trucks. The more comfortable you are, the faster you can go and the better the slide.

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Wheels and Bearings

Setting Up a Slide Deck
Skateboard Deck - Setting Up a Slide Deck. Photo:

Wheels are just behind the deck in how the ride will affect your slide. For sliding wheels, you should be looking for stuff over the 90a mark. The lower duro slide wheels, such as No Skoolz 92a, will give you a strong transition when the deck breaks into a slide -- allowing you greater control over the beginning and ending of the slide. The higher duro wheels, such as Sergio Sliders, Lush Cannonballs, and Earthwing Superballs, will give you faster entrance and exit to the slide with a minimal loss of speed. The size, lip shape, and core setting matter a great deal for your slide wheels: a solid sliding wheel is center set (to allow rotation as they wear) and has double radiuses for reliable release and return when sliding. You will usually find slide wheels in the 60mm range with larger slide wheels at around 65mm. Smaller wheels tend to lack the feeling of transition when sliding. Larger wheels carry more speed into and out of slides.

Bearing choice is simple: you want something that will last and is easy to clean. Sliding is hell on bearings. You need to run speed rings and spacers or run a bearing with a core. Common choices on both sides of those would be Bones Reds or Abec11 Biltin Bearings. Killing as much slop on your axle as you possibly can prevent side-load from smashing your bearings into grits. It’s not uncommon for sliders’ wheels to get molten cores and puked right off the trucks at the worst moment. This is all due to bearings that seize under side-loads.

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Gloves and Pads

Setting Up a Slide Deck
Puck and Pads - Setting Up a Slide Deck. Photo:

Okay, we’ve gone over your slide deck setup, now let’s talk about gloves. You need them. Gravity, Lush, Timeship, and Loaded all make fine examples with the primary differences being price and durability. You’ll want a sturdy glove with a quality puck. UHMW or Delrin are both a good call. On a budget? Snag a cutting board, some old leather gloves and make your own gloves! You’ll be going through pucks in no time, so expect that.

Think what you will about helmets and pads, I for one am less worried about my core factor and more worried about skating another day. However, beyond personal bias, pads and a solid helmet can actually enhance the sliding experience. Solid kneepads designed specifically for sliding, such as the 187 Sliders, allow more traction with drop knee slides and insanely long “perolitos”. A reliable helmet can become an anchor point into no-hands slides, as least as long as the helmet lasts!

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Final Help

Setting Up a Slide Deck
Slide Pack - Setting Up a Slide Deck. Photo:

So we’ve covered setting up the deck, selecting some wheels and armoring you like a warrior. Now you are off to slide! There are multiple places you can get tips on sliding, but like all things getting out and doing it will teach you the most. In no time, you’ll be ripping slopestyle slides. So, Go Skate!

Want to learn to Coleman Slide? Check out these easy step-by-step Coleman Sliding instructions.

Some links to help you find some of the gear mentioned in this article:

All Photo Credits
Written by Malakai Kingston