A Quick Look at The Wripper Skate Tool “The Wripper” is an all-stainless steel, three-way pocket skate tool that's burly but features softly rounded corners that are far more friendly to one's...
It's been a fast year. We hardly noticed it go by and boom, now it’s 2014. Our editors have kept a pretty close eye on the emergence of new products and refining of products down the pipe. This is Silverfish Longboarding's annual "Top Ten of Longboarding Gear". "The List", as it's called around the workbench where we build-out boards and take photos of gear, is more of a "discusssion" than an an exhaustive analysis of whether particular items of gear are more "influential" than others but we do endeavor to keep it to stuff that was "new" in the last year. After all, there are wheels, trucks and decks that remain "best" for years in a row... we'll mention a few examples below, but this Top Ten List is really about stuff that captured our attention, and yours, over the past twelve months. As you'll see, we talked about trucks, a lot, but the overwhelming supply of board shapes and designs didn't make for many "big picture" pronouncements. So, a few years back, it was definitely the Year of the Wheel. What was 2013 for you?
Before we get to that, let us say we're pretty stoked that the tide of faddism from 2012 seems to have broken and we really did see some pretty amazing innovations and market trends this year that really could affect the riders' experience in a positive way. It seems technology is on the rise and the age of the garage builder is continuing to expand into other aspects of the sport -- which we think is a damn good thing for everyone. While technology adaptation is on the rise, there have been some pretty monumental changes in the industry itself: company acquisitions that, while unknown to most skaters in the street, illustrate a consolidation and a shoring-up by industry leaders as they look to continue to fill the market, and to the betterment of all involved - with quality gear. This may help in the short term to give stability to some of the industry leaders and in the long term, hopefully set a standard toward quality-focused equipment.
Looking forward and setting out to get The List written out, we actually came across comments and feedback about gear or companies that were mentioned last year and that are still pushing the envelope for skaters who "discover" the gear as they get more into longboarding. Zealous is still drawing a following for durability and affordability and These Wheels are still living up to their parent brand's reputation. Drang has not stopped with their ability to deliver advanced shapes and another garage builder, Nelson, is still a strong fan favorite. With QC issues a distant memory, the very "imitable" Randal RII remains a perennial favorite of longboarders, truck designers and... well, knock-off casters. We took a great deal of rider feedback to build this list and the above companies were mentioned over and over. So – respect where respect is due.
But now let’s take a look at 2013's gear:
There was a time when precision trucks were basically relegated to one discipline, and that was speedboarding. You shell out a few weeks' pay, you get a tight tolerance, high speed, rock-solid truck that can help you get that tunnel vision and speed fix you crave. One issue out there is that not everyone willing to shell out the big bucks for CNC-machined truck-tech is in it to train for Teutonia. Some people really want a freeride fix, to get a bit of distance between themselves and where they started or, believe it or not, some skaters still slalom. (No really, it’s still a thing and these guys have cash). Just to be fair, we know you still want to hit the park, too, so options for everyone right? Sounds like some far-flung longboarding dream, well… now comes the crew at Don't Trip, making a full-on line of trucks that popped in '13.
Six sets of precision trucks that provide you with whatever you want to do, on a truck purpose built just to do that. Euphorias for your street surfing soul carving delight, Lucys for the fattest of the fattie standies for your freeriding fixations, Poppys to get your push on, Shrooms for when you want to go straight downhill, Slalocybins for your cone avoidance needs, and Trippins for pretty much everything you want them for. Whatever your need, Don’t Trip has your fix.
So you want a helmet that looks good, is aerodynamic, doesn’t weigh the same as a horse’s head, is "rated" and can take daily riding without ending up trashed after a few sessions and can actually perform as a helmet? Slim pickin's, my friend… How about you make one yourself?
Well New Olders decided to do just that, a small company from Brazil that self-sourced the helmets and got them certified, all while being designed to rider specifications and needs. Not to mention they look – really good. At the end of the day you will spend a bit of money to get your hands on one and shipping from Brazil can be nerve racking, but hey... "small price to pay" for something that will literally save your life. Yes, there are other new, dedicated speedboard lids that came out this last year, and that's great. We deserve great helmets designed for our sport and the special needs and concerns for speedboarders and freeriders. This is one of the new generation of helmets made for longboarders by manufacturers with the ability to meet and exceed third-party, industrial standards designed to protect that mushy pink stuff between your ears and was an easy call for The List.
We've listed Chris Chaput's Fyre Trucks as the more exotic version of the related and compatible Liquid trucks that comprise the CNC-machined components of his three new truck lines and, simultaneously, proof that all those prototypes, open-sourced design concepts and false starts that inspired a host of longboard truck ideas which made it to market in the "meantime" over the past six years have finally come to fruition. The Fyre Trucks turn deep, they turn smooth, they work, fit and skate flawlessly. They function as a single-pivot truck and have details that deal with issues you might not ever think about, and quality forged in way too many years of prototyping. Pull the "Fyre Arm" off of them and they're a Liquid Truck with a dual-pivot turn and compatibility with parts off of your cast Attack Trucks. The most long-awaited trucks in longboarding history (and that's a easy win with these), the Fyres are the most-expensive of the series and still under $300 the set. Seriously? For skateboard trucks machined in Huntington Beach, California, with Abec11 bushings and a liberal sprinkling of magic pixie dust by the genuine, cackling mad scientist that designed them?
The Fyre Trucks make The List because they are exactly what we wouldn't expect. Aside from the joke we all see coming (yeah, again) about them being here in the first place, it's that they turn out to be "simple" and --by CNC-truck standards-- very affordable. True genius is in the elegance of a simple design that works very well and we're going to give the credit where it's due: these trucks work very well and seem so simple. It turns out there are plenty of concepts and ideas in the design that make simple minds like ours spin in confusion, but everything from the myriad of baseplate angles, axle widths and bushing options just turns out so intuitive and simple that we feel like geniuses when setting them up. Anticipation, hype, spite and hoo-hah all aside, one day setting up and skating the Fyre Trucks and you will be ready to ace the SAT or GMAT.
You know what we like, technology, and you know how we like it – in our skateboards.
Sure, this tech has been seen by us in other boards before and it definitely was not created on the shamanic altar at the Comet Skunkworks. However, it can’t be disputed that this technology (based on "multiple hollow torsion boxes" that look like corrugated cardboard) sandwiched between solid plies of hard maple will provide a lighter and stiffer board. The first time we saw this on an Element popsicle-stick at the Crosstroads retail show outside the ill-fated ASR we thought, "you know where this would really deliver a benefit, on a longboard" – well there ya go! Comet's doing it.
Don’t misunderstand: we’re sure that you benefit from that pop with a short deck but really, capitalizing on the weight savings a longer board can only maximize on its benefits. Now, does this that deliver a deck that can stand up to the use and abuse that a longboard goes through? We don’t know, why don’t you go buy yourself one of the new decks from Comet featuring the Air Frame technology and let us know? Alternatively, head into our Board Building Forums and check out how you can do this yourself with a vac bag and some stoke.
So you've got a dilemma: you need food to survive, but you really want a set of Ronins to actually live and don't have anything you can pull with that "reverse mortgage" deal shown on billboards in your town . No problem, now that Ronin has released the Cast Ronin Truck . There really isn’t much to go on about, Ronin is known for flawless manufacturing, entirely interchangeable parts with their richer cousins and the geometry and dimensions are damn near identical. The only real difference really is whether you are going to be eating some bacon, or the box your preci$ion trucks came in, because they work exactly like the top-o-the-line versions.
So, for under a hundred dollars you can get damn near precision quality in a turny, stable speedboard truck and yet you don't have to spend a couple more hundred dollars to get it. Not a bad deal, and one hell of a kick in the pants to the cast truck market.
Pivot Cups are like the "race bushings" of 2013. They went from being a much-discussed topic of only the most overly-obsessive skaters and gear whores (you know the type that polish their speed rings and meticulously clean their grip tape after every session and can tell you exactly how many hours a specific set of wheels have been used), to something that... well, we can all agree that replacing worn or skanky pivot bushings on trucks you ride just make your ride that much better. Yea sure, your trucks did come with a perfectly fine set of “pivot cups”. Those OEM cups, however, are made from recycled soda bottles and colostomy bags... but I am sure they work just fine!
Well, actually they might not. Some of them suck, squeak, crack, wiggle and simply don’t do the job they're intended for that well. So hurrah for the new masters of the urethane market, purveyors of pivot cups, the salesman of your skateboarding salvation and the drivers of better-performing trucks for everyone. Okay, so are pivot cups really one of the most important innovations in skateboarding this year? Well, maybe not. However they sure as hell will make for an all-around nicer ride and, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. So who's your favorite flavor of pivot cup manufacturer? Khiro, PNL, Riot, Rip Tide? One or more of these will do the trick.
We don’t get excited about much in regards to deck materials and design anymore, it’s mostly "seen that – ridden that". It’s rare when a manufacturing process not only sounds innovative but actually is. In our offices, we have beautiful, honeycomb, closed-cell construction versions of the Motion Bigfish that break our hearts every time we look at them. While the standard Bigfish deck was, hands-down, one of the very best and functional pins to ever be designed, the closed-cell construction was... how do we put this delicately – prone to catastrophic failure.
However, Hydroflex has taken the design elements that Motion reached for but failed to realize and not only made it work, but made it work amazingly. They call it "3D-Glassing" and the combination of epoxy, triaxial and PET foam delivers a rigid board with solid torsional strength and amazing responsiveness. Now, granted this technology has existed in other industries (these guys make high-end, post Clark Foam surfboards) for a while but this application, know as the VARTM (vacuum assisted resign transfer method), is new to skateboarding and definitely something to keep an eye on in the future. We’re pretty sure you will seeing as their kickstarter project just owned it, big time.
This one is pretty straight forward. Take a bunch of elements that comprise a basic precision truck design, throw them all in together. Provide styling elements that are sleek and clean. Slip in a killer idea to provide precision without the rough ride of a spherical bearing in the hanger and then build them with the best possible components and materials. When it’s all said and done charge a reasonable price (by precision standards) and there you are: guaranteed profit and happy longboarders.
Well, it also helps if the truck is designed and tested by Zak Maytum and then produced with his connections at Madrid. It’s really not hard to make a good truck, but it takes some doing to make a good truck better. While some have argued there isn’t much about the Rogue trucks that really stands alone in a market filling up with quality offerings, we think the Rogues are worthy of the list for their hanger element designed by a top rider who knows how to deliver on quality equipment.
What is old is new again. The "C-Series" Kryptonics are an old friend to many of us and these are the Kryptonics Star*Trac Wheels reissue. Three duros and three sizes, in shapes that are spot-on to the OG 1970's world-changers. The original red 78A's from the 1970's are why many of the wheels you ride are the shape and durometer they are. Now, whether this is a legitimate continuation of the Krypto lineage or another cashing-in attempt by a long-gone brand is easy to determine: skate 'em. We have, and with the help of a crew of grom shredders, gear-sluts and a few crusties familiar with the original stuff, we've nearly cored all three duros. If you're not talking about these, or skating on them, we have two reasons you should be:
1) Our skate crew loved them. We've carved 'em, slid 'em, rolled the skate park with 'em and cruised 'em. The reds are fast and smooth, the blues are fun and the green ones are all on-order from a shop local to the groms and gear-sluts that put down cash to get their own sets. The Kryptos roll smooth, slide fast and are durable. They're fun to skate on.
2) They're the first wheels not poured in California that are this good, and they're damn good. Look, we've skated wheels from Italy, China, Australia and "elsewhere", and we've skated crap from California. The deal here is that the wizards of urethane formulas and the best 'thane houses in the skateboard world have all been right in SoCal for decades and attempts by others to make great stuff has always fallen short --sometimes a little, often by a lot-- of the best urethane wheels, all of which come from California. The Kryptonics Star Tracs shatter the paradigm: they're excellent wheels and these are the ones we see marking the next evolution of wheel manufacturing. It's not without a tear or twinge of bruised nationalist pride that we tell you wheels are gonna blow-up in '14.
Rojas breaks the mold in this list of great trucks we're discussing. These trucks are not "just a really bitchen Randal", as the really bitchen trucks above in fact, really are. The Rojas are single-pivot, torsion trucks and the first of that variety we've seen that depart from the essential design of the Mattell Magnum, which utilized a tall, urethane bushing shaped like a beer can and, like their intellectual successors (Baku, Kapu,, Exkate, Revenge) resulted in a very tall truck with "occasional issues". The Rojas use that giant disc of 'thane you see in the pic, use no metal-to-metal contact for turn-stops and have a lower axle height than an R-II. You haven't seen or skated anything like them before.
We are somewhat torn on the Rojas. Some on our staff think that torsion trucks are without a doubt the worst of the terrible and would rather die than ever ride anything that could even come close to being a descendant of the “Nuclear Pickle” or a truck from Mattell. Others on staff have skated every torsion truck ever made and appreciate the deep, plush carves, single-pivot accuracy and positive return-to-center that the good ones offer. We've skated on the Rojas Trucks at events where the contractor who makes the urethane shows off the trucks his discs are for, and plenty of you have skated and posted about them in the 'fish forums. The Rojas make The List because they're different, a truly new design that seems to work great. They do carve deep and plush, and they have a nice return to center. While "torsion trucks" have a decidedly terrible reputation for epic failure, we all have to admit that this design is unique and without comparison to anything we have seen before. They've just hit our workbench for torture testing and we'll report back how they hold up to genuine, malicious on-road abuse by a variety of skaters. In the meantime, are they amazing? Make no mistake, good or bad, the Rojas Trucks deliver hands down the most unique and technically-driven elements to longboarding we've seen in the last year. That’s saying something.
This is where "you" are, right now.
You may or may not have noticed but, in December some things really changed around here. We had a major site overhaul and literally all of our content was rebuilt into a new delivery system. While all in all this really might not seem like much, it's been a project years in the making by a few longboarders in SoCal that split our time between skating, coordinating skaters and product reviewers on four continents and keeping the server techs happy. That’s over 5,000 articles, almost 3,000 product listings and over 11,000 community-driven gear reviews all updated. The overall transition happened with only 5 minutes of downtime and put Silverfish in place to advance and continue to serve the greater community for many years to come. We hardly ever go on about ourselves, because at the end of every session it’s about the riders, the greater community. This time we think it’s appropriate to just say, yea – that was intense!
Skate fast, Skate Safe and Go Skate!