Decks are gender-neutral. Guy, girl or however you define yourself – it doesn’t matter. What matters for slalom decks is your shoe size, your height and the course. It is common not only for myself, but for most upper-level racers to bring between two and four boards to a race.
Board width is a balancing act. Your board should be slightly narrower than your toe and heel at race stance. This gives the right amount of leverage on the board. I am happy with a half-inch of overhang on each side. The narrower a board is, the steeper you can angle your feet to get closer to the cones. Some people like this. The wider the board is, the more leverage you get on the trucks, but you need to draw a wider line through the course. The debate is out on what is better. You will have to try both and make that decision for yourself!
Board length is more straightforward. I think a racer’s first board should be a shorter board, maybe 19” wheelbase – but longer if you have long legs, and shorter if you have short legs. Learning to pump is easiest if your hips allow your feet to stand at a comfortable width. For the longest time, I could pump an 18” or 19” wheelbase up my street, but when the wheelbase got longer, I lost all power. The Sk8Kings Lynn Kramer pro model has both 18.75” and 19.75” wheelbases. People shorter than about 5’5” can get out their drill and move the back holes forward another 3/4” for a super-maneuverable 18” wheelbase.
After learning to pump, a racer can invest in longer wheelbases. As a general rule, the longer the wheelbase, the faster the board will get down the hill, so try to make the course on the longest wheelbase you can.
Bushings are probably the most overlooked but important part of your slalom setup. If you are under 150 lbs., your front bushings will probably never be harder than 77A. I start out lightweights with either Khiro white 73A or Reflex green 74A bushings or a combination of the two, with a barrel underneath and a tall cone on top. Larger, more powerful women may like the rebound of a slightly harder bushing in front. Reflex lime 80A’s have a great feeling to them, and I’m around 165 lbs. of steel. Rear bushings can and should be harder, like a pair of Reflex red 92A barrels, or harder.
Wheels are their own article altogether. The heavier you are, the harder your wheels should be. Someone 200 lbs. or more could ride nothing softer than 82A and be happy. Besides that, the temperature of the road, the surface and the course should dictate your wheel hardness. Find that balance between pumping hard and sliding out. Sliding is slow! Turbo wheels have taken the tall aluminum or composite core to its max, which allow for riding a softer durometer for grip, but keeping the roundness for speed. Other manufacturers such as Abec 11, Orangatang, Seismic and Venom have also begun to use a larger plastic core to keep the roundness of the wheel even when riding a sticky durometer. When starting out, smaller wheels, such as lemon and orange 66 mm Zig Zags, will allow for quicker maneuverability, though with a slower top speed. However, I actually rode 66 mm wheels when breaking the 100-cone world record, so don’t think that smaller is always slower through a course. The added manoeuvrability will show itself in cleanliness.
Trucks for slalom, like boards, should be wider to fit the course. As the downhill audience knows, the wider the truck, the easier those standies are, but again, sliding is slow. Trucks for slalom should match the board. For instance, if you are riding your tight slalom 18” wheelbase, you would probably do well with a truck that’s 90 mm wide (inside bearing to inside bearing). Anything over 130 mm or so, even on a giant slalom board makes you draw a longer line around the cones and also opens you up to sliding out. Universal long axles sold by Sk8Kings fit many trucks with removable axles, and they will allow the rider to widen or narrow the truck easily by moving the spacers in or out. The axles have proven to be stable and fast.
How much should trucks cost? This is a big question with no answer. I ride Radikal trucks, which are priceless because they are discontinued. The feeling of the truck is so ingrained in my brain, it would take a year to change over. I have tried both the Sk8Kings 2x and the Fyre trucks for Super G, as these trucks offer more stability than the twitchy Radikal. They are in the $150 to $250 range. The 2x has an advantage that it actually has 4 geometries in one truck, and may be used on any Randal-compatible baseplate. This, with the choice of spherical hanger bearing or stable hanger bushing, gives the rider freedom to play with their optimal geometry for both front and rear truck. If you just want to try out slalom but don’t want to drop $300 to $500 on a set of trucks, a Tracker RTX in front and RTS in back will do for under $50 per pair. Khiro wedges can change the geometry until you find that happy place.
The toughest part about dialing in your setup is as soon as you do, something newer and faster comes out!
Mega World Champion Lynn Kramer at Loretta GS – San Diego October 2010 – Go to Sk8Kings.com for the hook up on slalom skateboarding — check out Lynn’s pro model too — fastest woman in the world!
Special thanks to Michael Brooke of Concrete Wave Magazine.