Whether you just got into longboarding or you are an experienced rider, you’ve probably heard or seen someone riding Penny board. Quite often people would think ‘why would someone want to ride that toy instead of a normal longboard?’ So here I’ll try to present some background information on these little boards, what are their pros and cons and how they compare with ‘traditional’ longboards. Hopefully this will help you decide if you need one too.
Let’s start with some history. The very first plastic skateboards were created back in 1973 by Larry Stevenson under his brand called Makaha. In 1990s such skateboards became widely popular and many different manufacturers started to make them such as Krooked Skateboards, Globe and Stereo Skateboards. Penny board was created in 2010 by Ben Mackay who then established his brand Penny Skateboards. Penny board was inspired by Mackay’s first ever plastic skateboard which he got as a kid. He experimented with various plastic prototypes and created a really durable and flexy formula for penny board. That’s what mainly differentiates Penny from other plastic boards. Actually these boards have ability to survive the full weight of a car and return to its original shape. So, it’s really not a kids toy as you may think when you see one – it’s a really sturdy and fun board to ride.
Penny boards come in an array of colors and you can also mix and match the deck, trucks and wheels of different colors to create your own style. The deck is only 22in long and instead of griptape features a non-slip “waffle” texture. The trucks are very similar to the usual longboard trucks (and made from cast aluminium) however smaller in all dimensions. Wheels are sized at 59mm and the durometer rating is 83A which is ideal for cruising smooth roads.
Now that you know a bit about Penny boards, let’s get into Longboards. Longboarding history dates way back to 1940s and 50s as an alternative for surfers when waves were too low. However, the popularity had mostly died by 1965. It made a comeback in 1972 when the urethane wheels were invented, which granted much greater speeds and stability. In the 90s came the reverse kingpin truck, deck wheel wells and other improvements which let the different longboarding styles emerge, such as freeriding, dancing, downhill, freestyle and so on.
Nowadays there’s a huge variety of longboards to choose from, starting with different types, shapes, manufacturing materials, length etc. The deck length could vary from around 33in to 59in, it could be made from wood layers (maple, bamboo, birch, koa, oak), fiberglass or plastic. Different flexibility decks are used for different riding styles, for example downhill decks are usually as stiff as possible to ensure stability at high speed, whereas cruising boards are a lot more flexible to ease pushing and to add a surfing feel. The trucks are usually the reverse kingpin type, could be casted with molds or machined with cutting edge CNC technology – those are called precision and are used mainly in downhill by professional riders. Trucks can be top-mounted (traditional way) or could go through the deck (drop-through) to lower the center of gravity and increase stability. The wheels are nowadays made from urethane and come in various sizes (they range from around 2.5in to 4.2in in diameter) and shapes. The durometer scale is used to indicate the hardness – the average is 80A. Wheel durometer should be chosen according to rider’s weight and riding style.
OK, so how do Penny boards vs longboards compare? I’ve decided to distinguish 4 different factors:
In terms of usability longboards could be a lot more versatile. For example, you can get a freeride longboard and use it for a few different riding styles whereas Penny boards could be used only for cruising and some tricks. Also, you can replace the trucks and wheels on your longboard of your liking or to suit different riding styles and surfaces, which is not really the case with Penny board – non-standard size parts will likely make Penny board unusable. Also, traditional longboards are a lot easier for beginners to learn on as on Penny board it’s a lot more difficult to hold your balance – shorter wheel base, smaller deck and narrower trucks vastly reduce stability.
Longboard takes the win here in terms of usability.
Although the size of Penny board is a disadvantage in some cases, it could be a huge plus in others. For example, if you’re flying away for the holidays and would love to do some cruising – not a problem, you can easily fit a Penny board in your hand luggage. Not possible with a twice as big longboard. Another way it proves to be a better choice in case your commuting distance is too long to ride by longboard but you’d like to do some riding from let’s say a bus stop to your workplace – again, not a problem, just throw the Penny board in your backpack. It’s not very convenient to drag a longboard around.
I’d say that the small size of Penny boards is overall the best advantage in terms of mobility, against longboards.
If you love riding at high speeds, Penny board is really not a good choice. Due to the deck’s flexibility and narrow trucks you can easily get speed wobbles and fall even at moderate speed. Cruising speeds are fine but I would not advise bombing hills except if you’re a really experienced rider.
Longboard take the win here, especially downhill ones as they are designed to be stable at high speeds.
Well style is the most subjective criteria however Penny boards are somewhat iconic and always catches eyes due to their bright colors and the whole image of disproportion between rider’s size and the board’s. However, the longboard selection nowadays is huge and you can find a really cool looking boards as well.
I think it’s a tie between longboards vs Penny boards in terms of style.
If I still didn’t answer your question ‘Which one shall I get?’ there’s only one suggestion – get them both. In terms of price Penny boards are not very expensive and you can get some good budget longboards as well. You’ll find some of our picks here:
Top 10 Longboards under $100
Best cheap Longboards under $50
Best Longboard for beginners
It’s not easy to pick one winner as both Penny boards and longboards are fun to ride and have different advantages. So get them both and enjoy the ride!