While the ’70s hosted some minimal art on skateboards, it was really the ’80s that brought the use of the skateboard deck as a graphic medium into play. We decided to take a look back and determine The 25 Best Skateboard Decks From the ’80s. This is obviously a subjective matter and your local 40-year-old fully-padded park dad will probably complain about why the boards he had growing up are not on it. I am sure they are on other’s top 25 lists, but we took a look at the best (graphically), not necessarily the most iconic. Many of these graphics were so far ahead of their time that they could hold their own weight today as great designs amongst the current trend of recycled concepts and logo boards. The ’90s pushed the envelope with controversy and trademark infringements, but the ’80s defined the culture and gave people something tangible to rally around. Hop in the Delorean and let’s take you back to the ’80s.
So, here are the best skate decks from around the world used by best skaters:
Hosoi Monty Nolder
Illustrator Or Designer: Justin Forbes
Skater: Monty Nolder
There was no shortage of Native American imagery in the ’80s, but this arrowhead is one of the best uses, even to this day. This graphic is not typical of most Hosoi graphics too, which is a plus.
Illustrator Or Designer: Wylie Singer
Somebody had to hold it down for the East Coast and that is where Shut came in. While their graphics were very graffiti influenced, it was mostly corny graffiti styling, like their Assault Vehicle, Street Posse, and Zoo York graphics, but the Shut Shark was by far their best (minus the lettering). It is a great graphic, with the perfect addition of sharks teeth bordering the nose.
Santa Monica Airlines Natas Kaupas
Illustrator Or Designer: Jimbo Phillips
Skater: Natas Kaupas
The Natas panther graphic has had many reimaginations. Originally created by Kevin Ancell in 1985, he did some updated version, then Jim Phillips did a couple versions, but our favorite was done by Jim’s son, Jimbo Phillips. He was ahead of the kitty curve, cute-ifying the graphic 20 years before kitties were all the rage.
Zorlac Big Boys
Illustrator Or Designer: Pushead, Tim Kerr, & Randy “Biscuit” Turner
On the flipside of all the happy, neon, party-esque graphics that defined the 80s, there was Pushead. He was holding down the dark side with macabre imagery such as this epic two-headed kid skeleton.
Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp
Illustrator Or Designer: Jim Phillips
Skater: Rob Roskopp
This is one of the most iconic skateboard graphics of all time and one of our all time favorites. With Jim Phillips cartoon/comic style, this graphic turned into a series with 7 progressions of the monster coming out of the target.
Illustrator Or Designer: Andy Takakjian
While this board may not have the celebrity status of some of the others on this list, it is our favorite for pure execution. This looks like something that could be made today and still hold it’s weight. Great illustration and complimentary board shape.
Plan 9 Misfits
Illustrator or Designer: Glenn Danzig
While it isn’t hard to find coffin shaped boards these days, this was an early creative approach to experimenting with shapes to compliment graphics. Even though many other bands (Suicide Tendencies, Metallica, Black Flag, JFA, etc.) were also putting out band board, this Misfits graphic was the best of them all.
Illustrator Or Designer: Bernie Tostenson
Brand-X rarely missed the mark with graphics, mostly due to Bernie Tostenson being on board (so to speak). This graphic is almost as 80s as you can get with so much going on, that it just works.
Tracker Dan Wilkes
Illustrator Or Designer: Garry S. Davis
Skater: Dan Wilkes
A skateboarding raptor?! This is the wet dream of any 3rd grader, and the 3rd grader in all of us not-so-3rd-graders. GSD was killing the graphic game.
Santa Monica Airlines Natas Kaupas
Illustrator Or Designer: Chri Buchinsky
Skater: Natas Kaupas
There were many memorable Natas graphics in the ’80s (and even ’90s), but this was done so classy and bowie-esque that it stands out amongst the rest.
So now lets see how are these decks made,
Most skateboards are made using laminated sheets – or veneers – of hard North American maple, a durable and somewhat flexible wood. Typically, skates are formed using a 7-ply construction, where seven veneers are layered on top of one another, but there are several companies that offer fewer or greater plies to decrease weight or increase strength.
To begin, the veneers are stacked on top of one another with the grains running lengthwise. A few of the veneers may be turned so that the grains run widthwise, a technique known as cross beaming, to add strength across the board. They are glued into place before going under the hydraulic press to be formed. The pressure from the press structures the seven layers of maple sheets into a single, dense strip with an upturned nose and tail and a concave center. After the glue sets, holes are drilled into the deck for the trucks. Now the wood is ready to be shaped.
The deck-to-be is shaped using a band saw. The saw cuts the wood into the shape of a skate deck before it’s routed and sanded smooth. Unlike the hydraulic press, which can handle several decks at once, the shaping process takes a little longer because each deck must be dealt with individually. Once the deck is glued, formed and shaped, it is then sealed to protect it from elemental damage.
Finally, graphics are added to the underside of the board. Screen-printed skates are most common, but there are boards that are hand painted, too. (Slick-bottom boards are the exception. In this case, manufacturers add a printed sheet of plastic to the bottom ply before it is laminated and glued.) After the graphics are finished, the decks dry completely before getting boxed up and sent into the waiting arms of skaters around the world.
The width of most skate decks falls between 7-1/2” and 8-1/4”. To choose the best size for you, consider your stature and the type of skating you do most. If you are into vert riding – going off ramps or shredding the pool – wider boards perform better. The same is true for larger skaters, who need more room for their feet and a larger surface area to counteract their higher center of gravity. Narrower boards make tricks such as kickflips much easier, so if you are into riding street, opt for a smaller board width.
The length of a skate deck is measured from the nose to the tail and tends to fall between 28″ and 32″. (Of course, there are also longboards, which can be much longer than the typical small skate.) The shorter the board, the more narrow it will likely be. Conversely, longer boards tend to be wider. Therefore, the suggestions from above come back into play: smaller boards work better for technical street tricks, while bigger boards are more appropriate for vert riders. If you just enjoy cruising around, you might consider getting a longboard or a longer, wide board to improve your stability and balance.
The nose is the front end of your deck and tends to be thicker and a bit longer than the tail.
The tail is the back end of your deck and tends to be thinner and a bit shorter than the deck.
The sunken indentation in the deck’s surface is its concave. The sides of the board between the nose and tail are curved upwards, giving riders more control and stiffening the flex for added durability. The amount of concave that works for you is best determined through trial and error; judge the way it cups your foot and how much control and feel it lends to your riding.
The wheelbase is the measurement of the distance between the two sets of mounting holes drilled into the deck for the trucks. It is usually about 13″ to 15″, with the preferred distance dictated both by the rider’s height and personal preference. Taller people will likely be more comfortable with a wider wheelbase, which lets them widen their stance while skating.