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Skaters are often passionate about their preferred boards.
The first skateboards were crude affairs: roller skates attached to a wooden plank. They appeared during the late 1950s in the hands of surfers who wanted to surf on both land and sea. As "sidewalk surfing" became more common and began to emphasize style and expression, skateboards evolved to reflect different needs. Longboards are suitable for skaters seeking greener transportation, and these boards reach speeds of up to 60 mph, while wave boards have separated front and back halves for more agile movement.
Longboards typically run between 35 to 50 inches long and roughly 8 to 10 inches wide. Because longboards are suitable for freeriding, trick riding and cruising, their sizes and shapes vary more than those of other skateboards would. Some longboards include additional materials in their decks to provide lightweight strength and stiffness. If you want a longboard for commuting purposes, a board with a flexible deck that dampens jittering from rough pavement is more suitable. However, if you're looking for a board for freeriding, look for a stiffer deck for increased stability and control.
Wave boards -- also known as caster boards -- are composed of two decks connected to each other with a rubber handle. The front deck has rubber spikes on it to hold your foot in place, which minimizes the number of accidents. Wave boards are named in part for their distinctive motion as you ride and do not require a propelling motion, instead drawing speed from the back and forth shift of your body weight. Although they are trickier to master than longboards, the wave board's unique shape allows for much more complex, precise tricks and turns.
Because skaters who opt for longboards generally prefer freeriding or downhill riding -- a form of freeriding that involves high speeds and hairpin turns -- they wear protective gear. Slide gloves with plastic pucks, which allow riders to slide their hands across the road, are a bare minimum; racers often wear full-face helmets and bodysuits in case of spills. In contrast, wave boarders rarely wear more than the standard helmet, as scrapes and bruises are accepted hazards of the sport.
Skateboards are only safe to ride if you know how to dismount or stop. The wave board is relatively simple -- jump off to absorb the momentum and stomp on the end to bring your board to a halt. If you're traveling too quickly, you can also slow down by riding up a hill, allowing gravity to bring you to a natural halt over the distance. While these methods will work on a longboard as well, skaters often travel too quickly to make jumping and running a safe tactic and it can have painful results. Dragging your foot on the ground to slow yourself to a stop is a basic braking technique, though it will damage your shoe over time. Another way of stopping is to turn suddenly and pitch the board sideways, coming to an abrupt halt. Slide gloves are especially important here to protect your hands, as many skaters use their hands to catch or steady themselves.