Our Top Picks
If you are looking for a solid board to start out, Element's Section Complete is a great choice and a great size for teens, kids, and some smaller adults. We found the high level of quality we have come to expect from Element, a well-respected and dependable brand in the skate industry for decades. Many brands that will sell completes that have generic parts and a respectable deck, but notably, this Element model has quality components in every piece. The trucks are responsive when turning, and they grind well on rails, ledges, or coping. The bearings roll quickly and maintain speed, while the 'all-terrain' wheels keep the ride pleasant and fluid. It comes with grip tape that keeps good traction when applied correctly without any air bubbles. Testers were also able to get a high level of pop out of the deck when doing tricks.
Our main complaint with the purchase of this Element complete is the incorrect deck size from what was advertised. We received a deck that was just 7.62" wide instead of the 8" width we expected. Though this size difference may seem minimal, to a veteran skater, your feet can feel a significant shift with just a quarter of an inch size difference in a deck. This board will be good for teens or kids due to its small size but might not be the right fit for an adult with larger feet or long limbs. The wheels on the board are a little slippery, too — due to their small and hard design, which could be good or bad depending on what style of skating you want to do. If you are in a skatepark or on a solid surface, they should work well, but if you're on the street where you might roll over rocks or a crack in the sidewalk, these aren't your best option and might get ensnared on those surfaces. Like all boards, it will begin to show wear and tear with use, and it is possible to snap it if you land on it wrong. All in all, it has great parts and a complete professional setup, so compared to others, it should hold up pretty well. The Element Section Complete is a great deck for new skaters to learn the foundations but is a suitable option for skaters of all skill levels.
The Z-Flex Shadow Lurker Pool is a signature model of the late Jay Adams. Adams is a legend in skate history as he became one of the early professional skateboarders in the mid-1970s. So, it makes sense that this board's style is geared more towards an earlier skateboarding crew, boasting a wide 9.5" deck, the biggest board we tested. Every component is this board is made internally by Z-Flex, and the quality is top-notch, like the offerings from Element and Powell. The large wheels make the ride especially smooth and effortless, even on choppy surfaces, while the trucks turn and grind nicely. We found this setup's bearings to roll the quickest amongst any other we tested, with one push sailing past 65 ft on this hybrid board that is somewhere between a regular style and a cruiser model. It's a great transportation board because of the soft wheels; however, the full nose and tail still make it possible to keep good control and manage tricks. This board isn't quite the standard-shaped deck, though. It has a pointed nose and a squared off tail, giving off those 'old-school' vibes. There are also wheel wells on the underside to avoid getting "wheel bite" (when the wheels rub against the deck and stop it from rolling). Along with the dagger style shape, everything on this model is black with minimal branding, adding to Jay Adams' tough, punk rock aesthetic.
When first brought out for testing, the Shadow Lurker Pool board had a large air bubble in the middle of the grip tape. Luckily, this was easily fixed by simply pushing it down, and the bubble completely disappeared once we stepped on and began riding. This was the only visible flaw on this skateboard and was minor. Being that this complete is bigger than the others, it is also a bit heavier, making it less ideal for kids; it's a lot of board to handle. Although doing some tricks is possible with this board, the width and the weight make more technical maneuvers quite difficult. This isn't the best board for someone who wants to do a lot of flip tricks, but it's an excellent setup for rolling around town while throwing in the occasional trick. The Z-Flex Shadow Lurker is one of the most versatile and fun boards we tested.
The Cal 7 Complete doesn't match the quality of products made by a reputable skate brand. However, out of the boards that we tested in this lower price range, this one clearly felt the best and performed far better than the others. Although the deck has virtually no concave, it is not as thick and heavy as the PHOEROS or White Fang models, and it has better pop and higher quality grip tape. The generic trucks on this complete are also much better than the others at a similar price point, as they are more stable, and they turn and grind decently well. The one area where the Cal 7 excels is in the graphics department. While the picture on the deck doesn't affect the board's performance and ends up getting scratched off over time, our testers and friends thought the Japanese Oni mask artwork was really cool. Even though the Cal 7 Complete is in a lower class compared to the models from more recognizable skate companies, it is a decent option for those who want to give skateboarding a try at a low price.
The Cal 7 will allow for beginners to develop their balance, get comfortable riding, and learn basic tricks. However, since the overall quality is lower, some aspects can hold the skater back from progressing. The deck is not as crisp as a pro-quality board. Although it's better than some, it has a rather dull pop, which requires more effort for tricks. The deck is also slightly bigger, at 8" wide, so it's a good size for teens or young adults, but it may be harder for younger kids to control. The bearings on this setup do not roll very fast or far and don't maintain their speed very well. When the rider stops pushing and has both feet on the board, the bearings start to lose their speed rather quickly. The Cal 7 performed the worst of all during our bearing test and only rolled about 30 feet from a single push on a smooth flat surface. In summary, the Cal 7 Complete is a decent introductory model for anyone new to the sport who isn't sure if a pro-quality setup is necessary quite yet.
The Baker Complete is a standout option for someone just starting, as well as a more serious and dedicated skateboarder. The setup that we ordered came with a 7.8" wide deck, which can be used by kids, teens, or adults. However, this model is also available in a handful of additional sizes going up to 8.5", which may be more ideal for a bigger person. This deck is very crisp and has a steeper concave than any of the others we tested, allowing for more control and giving it the most pop of any board we tested. This board is fun to ride. The bearings, made by a brand called Amphetamine, have an ABEC-5 rating, but they roll better, faster, and farther than some of the others with much higher ratings. The wheels are of average size and hardness, which allows them to deliver a smooth ride on most surfaces. While the grooved lines on the wheels make them a little slick at first, they lose their slickness and grip the ground well once the lines are worn off. This complete is one of the best we tested. The deck is great, and this model will assist riders in developing their skills.
The Baker Complete is the only model in our test group that doesn't come already assembled, and there are no tools included. For anyone seriously interested in skateboarding, learning to put your board together is necessary as one progresses and develops their personal preferences, which could be a positive point for some. Assembling a skateboard can provide a sense of accomplishment, along with the opportunity to get creative and customize certain parts. There are numerous videos online for how to assemble a complete, or you can take it to your local skate shop and have them show you how it's done. Baker is a popular and reputable skate company with great quality parts, but the majority of the other parts included are from lesser-known brands and are of varying quality. This won't make a noticeable difference for anyone new to skating, and this is still a suitable option for a wide range of skill levels. The main part of this setup that was a little disappointing was the Core brand trucks. These trucks were extremely tight, and the bushings were quite stiff, so they did not initially turn very well. Fortunately, some minor adjustments made a big difference, and after loosening them up, they started to turn better. New trucks often require some breaking in, and the more you ride them, the better and more responsive they get, so this wasn't a huge surprise. Overall, the Baker Complete is a great skateboard for all skill levels and can help any rider improve their abilities.
The Golden Dragon Complete from Powell-Peralta Skateboards is a great quality setup, similar to the Element or Baker. It's smaller in size, making it the best option for younger kids interested in learning tricks. This is a mini version of a signature model from legendary Powell pro Steve Caballero. Every part of the setup is made well and has a dragon motif throughout, so the function keeps up with the fashion. This complete is ideal for ages 5-12. The smaller size will help young ones find their balance and learn the basics and allows for progression and more advanced tricks. The deck is nice and poppy with good grip tape that provides excellent traction but isn't too grainy. The wheels and bearings for this skateboard are top quality. The wheels are pretty small, so they work best on smooth surfaces, but they are slightly softer and, therefore, less slick than the others of similar size. The bearings are good and maintain their speed well, giving the board a smooth ride that will help the rider build confidence as their legs grow. The Golden Dragon trucks are solid and reliable. They respond well while turning, even for those with less weight, and also grind smoothly on all suitable obstacles.
The Powell Golden Dragon did show more signs of wear than the Baker or Element after enduring our testing process. This was likely due to having full-grown men riding a kid-sized board, which put more stress on it. However, the deck didn't crack or break. The fact that it felt less crisp after rigorous testing wasn't too surprising. The trucks were a bit tight initially, but any adjustments made to the kingpin (the biggest and central bolt on the trucks) were reflected immediately and made them more responsive. Like with all of the non-cruiser options, rougher asphalt will make for a bumpier ride, and the smaller wheels can get caught on rocks or cracks. But all in all, the Golden Dragon Complete is a professional quality setup and our top recommendation for kids who have a serious interest in skateboarding and a desire to not only ride but learn tricks as well.
The Magneto Mini Cruiser is another versatile model and our favorite for use as transportation. Even though it's called a mini-cruiser, it's slightly bigger than the plastic cruisers we tested and has more options for use. This one has a larger deck of maple, with a longer wheelbase (the space between the trucks), which allows for a wider stance and gives the rider more stability and control. The deck has a kick tail and a very short nose, increasing the maneuverability and allowing for some basic tricks. The top side has a clear sandy grit finish in place of grip tape, which shows off the wood grain underneath. The wheels are thick, soft, and wide, and the bearings are fast, enabling them to roll smoothly and maintain speed on any ground, whether concrete or asphalt. The soft wheels also grip the ground well, so even at high speeds, there's a lower likelihood of slipping out or losing control. The bearings on the Magneto Cruiser were among the best in our test group and were able to roll about 60 ft. from a single push. Similar to a longboard, the trucks on this cruiser are wider than the deck and stick out from the sides, but they respond well to any shift in weight and have an excellent turning radius. The Magneto cruiser also comes with an all-in-one skate tool to make adjustments or replace any parts. This cruiser is a lot of fun to ride and is a great option for anyone who's looking for something to get them from point A to B, but it also gives them the ability to ollie up curbs and do some simple tricks.
While there isn't much to criticize about the Magneto Mini Cruiser, there were a few things that took some getting used to. The bushings in the trucks are very soft, which helps them to turn well, but they were so soft that it also made them somewhat sticky at first, causing the trucks to pull one way or the other, similar to a car that's out of alignment. This improves over time, but it caught one tester off guard when stepping on during one of the first rides and caused him to jump off and go for a tumble. The wide wheels also reduce the surface area of the hangars on the trucks, so while some tricks are possible, doing any grinds is not very likely. The gritty finish on top of the board has a very thick grain to it, much thicker than an average grip tape. So, while this does provide good traction when riding, one must be cautious when carrying this board, and it can easily tear through shoes if tricks are attempted. All in all, the pros greatly outweigh the cons with the Magneto Cruiser. If you're a kid or an adult looking chiefly to cruise around town, this is our recommendation for you.
The Retrospec Quip is a "Penny" style cruiser and a fun option for all ages, but especially for kids. This cruiser is much smaller than any of the other boards we tested, which gives it excellent maneuverability and the greatest ease of control while riding. The plastic deck is only 22.5" long and 6" wide, so it's ideal for kids, but most teens and adults will still be able to have fun with it. Fortunately, for anyone who needs a little more board to hold onto, these cruisers are also available in a 27" model. Both sizes are offered in a large number of color combinations as well. The flexible plastic deck is molded with a textured pattern on the top side for traction, which won't damage shoes like boards with grip tape but also doesn't allow for much aside from simply rolling. The bearings maintain their speed quite well, and the big and rubbery wheels roll over cracks easily, providing a smooth ride on any type of surface. While the trucks are very small and aren't meant for grinding, they do perform well and can turn on a dime. With its compact size, this cruiser is great for transportation and can be stored in nearly any space.
As its name states, the Retrospec Quip is a cruiser and is not designed for doing tricks. There is a kick-tail to assist with control, but the small size and lack of grip tape make getting this skateboard up into the air extremely difficult and landing back on it nearly impossible. While the textured pattern does provide some traction, the plastic can still be a bit slick, so use caution when adjusting your feet while riding. Being that this cruiser is so compact, even the larger model may be too small for anyone with larger feet. Also, having such a short wheelbase requires the rider to keep their feet close together, making it harder to lower their center of gravity, which decreases one's stability. While these plastic cruisers are very agile and are the most affordable models that we tested, they are only meant for transportation and do not have the ability to get off of the ground or up a curb without the assistance of some sort of ramp. Overall, the Retrospec is a very fun option for zipping around and is great for kids improving their balance and learning how to ride.
The BELEEV Mini Cruiser is nearly identical to the Retrospec Quip in size, looks, and performance. The most notable difference is that the wheels on this cruiser light up when rolling. The light-up wheels are a fun, unique effect that none of the other models have. The wheels have bright, multicolored lights inside that begin to glow as soon they start to roll, and there are no batteries to insert or electrical components, so they don't require any charging. This mini cruiser is even smaller than the other "Penny style" board, with a length of 22" and a width of 5.5", so it's meant for smaller kids, around 5 - 8 years old. The molded pattern on the top is slightly deeper on the BELEEV, giving it a little more traction, and the deck is also not as flexible and bouncy as on the Retrospec. The wheels are big and very soft, providing a smooth ride and excellent shock absorption, and the bearings outperformed the other plastic cruiser, going 45 ft. from one push. The BELEEV also includes a T-tool for minor repairs and adjustments, as well as some extra nuts and bolts, just in case any fall out or become damaged. With its light-up wheels and compact size, this cruiser is ideal for young kids who want to develop their balance and roll around.
Like the other plastic model, the BELEEV Mini Cruiser is meant to be used as a mode of transportation. It has a high level of maneuverability, but it is not designed for tricks or technical skating, so anything more than cruising isn't very likely. While the light-up wheels are a fun and added draw for this board, they aren't nearly as enjoyable for the rider as they are for a spectator. In fact, the wheels have the potential to divert attention away from what's ahead of the rider. The trucks on this cruiser weren't as responsive and didn't turn as well as the one's on similar models, but some small adjustments helped, and they will get better as they break in. This mini cruiser doesn't come in any larger sizes, but it is offered in a handful of colors and at a very reasonable price. Being the smallest board in our test group, the BELEEV Mini Cruiser is an option for kids who are starting to explore their interest in skateboarding, but that doesn't mean that it won't be fun for slightly bigger or more advanced skaters.
The White Fang Complete is an example of a model that would be sold at a big box store. So, while the quality is far lower than anything from a recognized brand, this is still a suitable option for any kid that's still figuring out if skateboarding is for them or not. This board will help beginners learn the basics of riding, build their confidence, and assist them in developing their ollie and possibly some tricks. The deck is 7.8" wide and 31" long, so it's a decent size for most ages, but it may feel a bit short for anyone that's fully grown. Both ends of the board are symmetrical, so it doesn't matter which way you ride it, and there is a mellow concave throughout for added control. The wheels are the same size, shape, and hardness as those on similar setups in this price range that we tested, so there isn't a noticeable difference there, but they were among the hardest of all the wheels, which made riding on rougher surfaces more difficult. The White Fang bearings rolled better and farther than the other two budget boards but still were only mediocre at best. This board won't be seen under the feet of your favorite pro on the X-Games, but it is a decent starting point for those with a desire to learn.
While the White Fang Complete did not arrive flawed or damaged, the packaging was suspect. The White Fang arrived fully assembled with just the deck wrapped in plastic, which is fairly standard for toy store boards. However, to fully remove all of the plastic, one would have to take the trucks off, so we just peeled it off the best we could, but there were little bits of plastic wrap left sticking out on both sides of the deck. Like the Cal 7, the deck is not as crisp and snappy. This one is also quite thick and heavier than a pro board. These trucks' material seems softer than any of the others, and they are not very stable or responsive while riding or turning. Although they seem capable of grinding, the instability makes it hard to reach any obstacle to grind it. When compared to those on the Element or Powell, the wheels are skinnier, harder, and slicker while riding. So, even though this complete did not receive high marks in any area, the White Fang is still a passable model for anyone that's just starting.
The final board in our test group is the PHOEROS Skateboards Starter Complete, which is the last of the modestly priced setups we tested. What sets this board apart from all of the others is the additional goodies that it comes with, including a tool, two extra bearings, a sheet of stickers, a set of different colored paints, and a carrying bag. While we understand that this product is meant for kids, and we appreciate the encouragement of creativity, these bonus items didn't make up for the low quality of this model. This starter complete is similar in size and quality to the White Fang, so it will help a novice-level skater develop some basic skills. However, this product arrived damaged and performed worse than any other during testing, so we don't recommend it.
With the PHOEROS, you get what you pay for. The damages we found upon unboxing included numerous air bubbles and a dirty, wrinkled up spot in the grip tape, along with some scratches already on the deck. The grip tape was also applied with the graphic facing the wrong way, so the skater often ends up riding this board backward. Like the White Fang, the deck is thick, heavy, and lacks the snappy nature of a good board, and also came preassembled with the deck wrapped in plastic, so there were bits of plastic wrap left sticking out under the trucks on the bottom side, as well as around the bolts on the grip side. On top of the damage and poor packaging, there are aspects of this complete that actually make it harder to ride than any of the others. For starters, we found that the trucks are squirrely and hard to control, and somehow, tightening them didn't seem to make a difference. The rider can lean to one way or the other, but there's a better chance of getting "wheel bite" than actually getting the trucks to turn correctly. Also, the bearings were among the worst we tested, as they lost their speed almost immediately after pushing and only rolled a little more than 30 ft. from a single push. If price is your main concern, there are other options with better value available at a similar price. All in all, the PHOEROS Starter Complete is an option for a kid that has never stepped on a skateboard and wants to learn to ride, but it is the lowest caliber model that we tested.
Why You Should Trust Us
As a dedicated skateboarder for the last 24 years, our lead tester Adam Yee is a total skate nerd and has ridden skateboards from countless brands of all sizes and shapes. As a teen and young adult, he had several sponsors and traveled for demos and competitions in the local circuit. As he got older, Adam began to teach skateboarding lessons privately and as a skate camp counselor. He continues to share his love of all things skateboarding with people of his generation and the next. As the sport and skate lifestyle has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon, more people are getting into it, and more companies are making products for skaters to try. Adam is always at the forefront of new technology in the latest boards and passionately follows all things skate.
To find the most fun and functional models, our lead expert spent weeks testing boards of various shapes, sizes, and materials to determine the best model for each skill level and age group. Some are designed strictly for transportation, others are meant for learning tricks, and while most can be used for both, there were a couple more versatile models that excelled in all areas. After researching over 40 skateboards and strongly considering 22 potential options, we purchased 10 of the most popular models for testing. They were all purchased as a complete at their current retail price, so there was no mixing and matching of parts to create a custom setup. Each was tested on the sidewalk, street, and in a skatepark to see how they performed on different surfaces. Our testing methods were consistent in all areas to keep the process as objective as possible. After all of the research and a few bumps and bruises from testing, our experience and test results make us confident in our recommendations.
Analysis and Test Results
The best boards are easily maneuverable and should be versatile enough to be used for transportation, as well as for basic tricks. A great setup should have trucks that are stable and responsive while riding, wheels that roll smoothly, bearings that maintain their speed, a crisp and snappy deck, and be durable enough to take a beating. Each component serves a specific purpose, so we based our tests on the performance of each of its parts, along with how well it performed as a whole. We spent hours with every board, rating them on these features to determine our recommendations for any age and ability.
The deck is the main feature of any skateboard and should be sized according to the height and shoe size of the rider. Although the deck usually doesn't last as long as the other parts, having a good quality deck makes a huge difference in the skater's ability to develop their skills. We rated each deck on its size, weight, flexibility, and the amount of "pop" or recoil it produces, which affects how easily and how high tricks can be done. We also included the quality and application of the grip tape in this metric.
The deck quality varied considerably between the boards in our test group. Like the Powell, Element, and Baker, some are the same caliber as the pros use. Some were molded plastic, which could last a lifetime, but didn't have the same amount of capabilities, while others were thick and heavy or arrived in poor condition.
Our favorite deck overall comes with the Baker Complete. Its steep concavity gave our testers excellent control, and it felt crisp and poppy under our feet. It allowed us to get higher on our tricks and withstood our landings, too. As the most fundamental component of any setup, the quality of the deck is a good way to gauge the overall grade of any complete.
Quality of Wheels & Bearings
The wheels and bearings have the greatest effect on how smooth and how fast a skateboard rolls. Bigger and softer wheels grip the ground better and provide a smoother ride, while smaller and harder wheels are better for tricks but can be more susceptible to getting caught in cracks or slipping out. We tested the wheels by trying each set on different surfaces: sidewalks of variable roughness, asphalt, and at a skatepark. For the bearings, we tested how far each board could roll from a single push on a smooth flat surface.
All of the popsicle-shaped boards, like the Powell, came with wheels that are 52mm in diameter and 99A durometer, which is an average size and hardness for many boards that are sold as a complete. However, even between these models, there was still a difference in the width and amount of grip of the wheels. All of the cruisers had wheels that were much bigger and softer. The Magneto Cruiser has some of the widest wheels of all, but only the BELEEV had wheels that lit up while providing a smooth and gentle ride. Most bearings are rated on the ABEC scale, with the lowest being an ABEC-3 and the quality ascending with the number. Unfortunately, this alone didn't strike us as a very reliable system of measurement, as some of the ABEC-5's outperformed those listed as being ABEC-11's.
Quality of Trucks
The trucks are a crucial part of a skateboard's anatomy, as they are what give the board stability and allow you to turn. Many skaters will keep the same set of trucks for years and hate to replace them, as nothing changes the feel of a board more than changing the trucks. During testing, we rated each pair of trucks on their stability and responsiveness while turning, as well as if and how smoothly they were able to grind. While some cruisers aren't designed for doing tricks or grinds, their trucks had a better turning radius and a quicker response time. Overall, only a few boards with trucks covered all of the bases, which was quite surprising.
Virtually all trucks take some breaking in and getting used to. The Z-Flex Shadow Lurker and the Element Section Complete had the highest-rated trucks due to their stability, response time, and grinding capabilities. The Magneto Mini Cruiser was another model with good trucks that performed well and had the best turning radius of all, but using them for grinds isn't very likely. Some of the trucks didn't turn very well at first but were easily fixable with minor adjustments, and others felt wobbly and unstable no matter how much you tighten them. Regardless of one's skill level or size, having good quality trucks makes a huge difference.
Overall Quality & Durability
The durability and overall quality of each model produced the widest range of results. It was interesting to find that these two features weren't necessarily connected or reliant on one another. For instance, the plastic mini cruisers are more durable than any skateboard with a wood deck, but they are also limited to simply rolling, so they don't have to put up with the same demands that a regular skateboard does. We gauged the durability based on each skateboard's condition after jumping on and off various obstacles (where possible) and putting each through intense impact scenarios. We assessed the overall quality by the sum of each of its parts and performance. Although this metric yielded some surprising results, it wasn't shocking that the higher quality boards held up the best.
As previously mentioned, the plastic boards, like the BELEEV Mini Cruiser, have limited capabilities but are virtually indestructible. So, you might break a bearing sometime, but since it's only designed for transportation, the deck, trucks, and wheels will last for many years. All of the wood boards will soften up over time and lose their pop the more they're tossed around, but the possibilities for use are far greater. The Cal 7 was unique in that it obviously wasn't at the caliber of the Element or Baker, but it proved markedly higher quality than the other popsicle boards in its price range. For a beginner, the quality of the Cal 7 suffices. As one progresses and gets more comfortable on a skateboard, having good quality equipment makes a world of difference.
Each complete was rated according to the skill level that it is most suitable for. While a toy store board may work for a beginner that doesn't know how much the parts can vary, an experienced skater very likely knows how much of a difference a good pair of trucks or the right size board can make. This metric was heavily based on the size of each board, as it's important to have a deck that one can control and will support them. We also considered how many uses each model has, which correlates to the amount that each allows the rider to progress. Even though most skaters can adapt to varying setups over time, some boards are definitely better for certain skill levels than others.
The ideal skill level is directly related to each model's size, materials, and overall quality. A mini-cruiser, like the Retrospec or BELEEV, can be an excellent introductory board for small kids that are just learning to ride but won't be trying tricks quite yet. Many beginners start on a budget board, such as the White Fang, and graduate to a higher quality setup if they decide to continue. However, any board from a respected skate company, like Element, Baker, or Z-Flex, will provide more options for use and be easier to ride and develop tricks with from the start.
As one of the most popular activities amongst young people today, skateboarding is growing at a rapid rate. It's even one of two new sports recently added to the Olympic Games. Our lead expert spent weeks reviewing numerous styles of completes to deliver our best recommendations. Many people think that skateboarding is only for kids, but the truth is that people of all ages are picking up a board for the first time or getting back into it after a hiatus. So, no matter your age, size, or budget, there is a skateboard to help you have some fun.
— Adam Yee
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