What IS a Custom Longboard Deck?
You see the phrase “custom longboard” being thrown around quite a bit in the longboard world. But what exactly makes it custom, if it is? What levels of customization exist? Note that there are differences between a custom longboard deck and a custom longboard complete! And if a board is customized, does that make it better? Read on to go through these concepts and learn about what levels of customization are actually making a difference to your ride.
Types of Customization – Custom Graphics
Many “custom longboard decks” I see on Instagram or through Google are just custom graphics being placed onto a generic pintail, drop-through, or street deck. Your own custom graphic can look great, make for an awesome wall-hanger, maybe advertise your business, and make you feel cool while the deck isn’t in use. But the graphic will most certainly not affect the way the board feels. It’s only an advertisement while the wheels aren’t on the ground. And some “custom graphics” won’t even be a paint job. They’ll just be a big printed vinyl sticker stuck to the bottom of a board, which–trust me–does not look even close to as good as paint.
Most of these generic shapes are made from shop or stock molds from a board manufacturer. This requires very little investment from the company–most importantly, they’re not investing in the way the board actually feels. So a painted “custom” longboard deck from a stock mold really doesn’t have any intention or attention placed toward the way the board rides. For a generic skate deck, sometimes this is more acceptable, but for a longboard, it’s likely that you’re going to feel like you’re missing something, as most stock molds are lacking that bit of something special. Because if a product is for everybody, it’s not really for anybody.
Custom Longboard – Complete Setup “Build-a-Board”
Many companies will tell you to “design your custom longboard” on their website, and what they often mean by that is that you get to pick the trucks and wheels and bearings. There is a lot of value in choice, for sure, and it sort of depends on what you’re doing on your board whether or not you’re going to end up with the ride you want. But it will be the ride you picked.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: Such and Such Board Shop is selling the Pantheon Ember Complete for $179.99 with Thunder 149mm Street Trucks and 66mm cruiser wheels. This is your basic complete and it is “AWESOME”. I mean…okay, compared to your basic generic cruiser board, maybe they’re right. But all things in life are relative. We literally designed the Ember around 149mm Street trucks and 85mm wheels like Orangatang Caguamas or Seismic 85mm Speed Vents! You think 66mm generic cruiser wheels are going to ride ANYTHING like that? Hint: no. But yea, a double drop on smaller cruiser wheels is still easier to ride than a 14-inch wheelbase cruiser board without any real space to put your feet.
I don’t want to talk you out of getting one of our Ember decks, but I do want to show you explicitly, the difference between a “custom longboard complete” and a longboard deck that was designed specifically around a custom setup to give you a perfect, very specific, custom ride. The word “custom” is coming from the design end, not the sales end. Our double drop Trip longboard was designed around 150-160mm RKP trucks and large offset wheels. If you put street trucks on it, it’s going to push the axles away from the board. And yea, it’ll be great, but not as great as we designed it. The board was MADE to ride this way, so do yourself a favor and set it up right! And the fact that we go through the trouble to design so specifically for a purpose-built ride, well, please take our advice! It will be worth it.
Custom Longboard Shape
Another level of customization is a board with a custom shape cut out of someone else’s mold. This can be a pretty cool process, and it’s one that we have experimented with in the past. We even did this a bit in 2017 during that period of time that we helped start a manufacturer in Denver, making new shapes in molds that we had already created for ourselves. That was a fun process!
The quality of this type of custom shaping is going to be a reflection of the quality of the mold you are working with. A good example would be the Robert Burns Sacrifice shape that we made out of the Sacrifice mold. It had a tapered back end and a little bit wider body up front. It was a killer shape and people definitely loved it, but the added width in the front ended up making the concave feel just a hair too heavy for my tastes. We really designed that mold with the specific shape and width of the Sacrifice in mind. With this technique, it’s likely that you will end up with something that is unique and totally awesome. But as a designer–and remember, it’s my job to be picky–it may not be quite perfect. That’s fine for many people, but we have always strived for continual improvement and eventual perfection.
Pantheon’s Version of the Custom Longboard – The Board / Mold Handshake
As Pantheon has progressed through time, we have begun getting more and more specific with our molds and shape combinations. This is because if you truly are designing a custom longboard deck, the mold and the shape have been designed for each other. You can’t shake someone’s hand that isn’t shaking back. Or you can, but it’s weird, isn’t it? This is the relationship between a longboard deck and its mold, though it may be less obvious than a limp hand.
For true longboard perfection, the board shape has to be custom fit to its mold. When it’s done right, it is likely that it will be a subconscious effect. You won’t know why you feel so strongly about your longboard, but you will feel it hard. This is not a generic feel at all. The board is made to be that specific shape from the ground up.
It has taken years of design experimentation to get it to the level that we are doing this today. To the point where you get to feel that extra sensation that you can’t really pinpoint. That is the feeling we want you to enjoy every day with your Pantheon longboard quiver. Check out our longboard deck archive page to see our products, and keep an eye on what it is about them that makes them seem so special! It takes a lot of intention, attention, and love, but we are happy to put it into this art form! We realize that the concept of a custom longboard is an attractive one. Nothing matters more to your experience than the board’s feel. If you’re a beginner, consider reading our longboard guide to gain some understanding on the things to look for in a longboard. Don’t get fooled by flashy marketing terms. Invest yourself in the experience and find a longboard builder who has done the same!