Skateboard Deck Materials: Pros and Cons of Wood, Plastic, and Bamboo

Skateboard Deck Materials: Pros and Cons of Wood, Plastic, and Bamboo

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on skateboard deck materials, a topic that often doesn't get the attention it deserves but plays a pivotal role in your skateboarding experience. Whether you're a seasoned skateboarder looking to replace your worn-out deck or a newbie eager to assemble your first board, the material of your skateboard deck is a crucial factor that can significantly impact your performance, durability, and even the environment. In this article, we'll delve deep into the world of skateboard deck materials, focusing on the three most popular options: wood, plastic, and bamboo.


Importance of Deck Material


The deck is essentially the backbone of your skateboard. It's the platform you stand on, the surface you grip, and the base that supports all your tricks and movements. The material of the deck influences not just the board's longevity but also its responsiveness, weight, and even the ease with which you can perform tricks. Different materials offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, affecting the board's flexibility, strength, and grip. Therefore, understanding the nuances of each material can help you tailor your skateboarding experience to your specific needs and preferences.


Scope of the Article


In the following sections, we'll take a detailed look at each of the three primary materials—wood, plastic, and bamboo. We'll explore their historical context, delve into the types of wood or plastic used, and discuss the pros and cons of each. We'll also provide a comparative analysis to help you weigh your options more effectively.


This article is designed to serve a broad audience. Whether you're a beginner trying to figure out the best deck for learning basic skills, an intermediate skateboarder aiming to level up your game, or an expert looking for a specialized deck for specific tricks, there's something here for you. Even if you're just a skateboarding enthusiast interested in the technical aspects of the sport, you'll find valuable insights here.


What to Expect


By the end of this article, you'll have a thorough understanding of:


  • Durability: How each material stands up to wear and tear, and what that means for you in the long run.


  • Performance: How the material impacts your ability to perform tricks, cruise, or tackle different terrains.


  • Environmental Impact: The sustainability aspect of each material, an increasingly important factor in today's world.


  • Cost: An overview of the price range you can expect for each type of material.


  • Customization: How easy or difficult it is to personalize a deck made from each material, from graphics to coatings.

So, whether you're looking to hit the skatepark, cruise along the beach, or navigate the urban jungle, the right deck material can make all the difference. Read on to find out which material aligns best with your skateboarding goals and lifestyle.

Wooden Skate Decks

Historical Context

When it comes to skateboarding, wood has been the go-to material for skateboard decks for decades. The origins of skateboarding can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s, when surfers in California wanted something to do when the waves were flat. They took wooden boards and attached roller skate wheels to them, creating the first rudimentary skateboards. Over the years, as skateboarding evolved into a sport and a form of artistic expression, wood remained the primary material for decks. The reason is simple: wood offers a combination of durability, performance, and customization that's hard to beat.

Types of Wood

While wood is a broad category, not all types are suitable for skateboarding. The most commonly used wood for skateboard decks is North American maple. Known for its durability and resilience, maple wood has a fine grain and high density, making it ideal for withstanding the wear and tear of skateboarding. Birch is another option, although less common. Birch is lighter than maple but offers similar durability. Some manufacturers also experiment with hybrid wood types, combining layers of different woods to optimize performance and durability.

Pros of Wood Decks


One of the most significant advantages of wood decks, particularly those made from high-quality maple, is their durability. These decks can withstand heavy use, from basic cruising to complex tricks and high-impact landings. The natural fibers in wood give it a level of flexibility and strength that is hard to replicate with other materials. This means that a wood deck is less likely to crack, chip, or break compared to decks made from other materials like plastic.


When it comes to performance, wood decks are often the first choice for both amateur and professional skateboarders. The natural texture of wood provides excellent grip, which is crucial for performing tricks and maintaining control of the skateboard. The density and flexibility of wood also contribute to a skateboard's 'pop'—the snap you get when launching off ramps or performing tricks. This level of control and responsiveness is why you'll find that most professional skateboarders opt for wood decks.


Wood decks offer a canvas for artistic expression. Whether it's through intricate graphics, laser etchings, or even hand-painted designs, the porous nature of wood allows for high-quality customization. Additionally, wood decks can be coated with various finishes to improve their lifespan, add extra grip, or simply make them look unique. This level of customization is not just aesthetic; it allows skateboarders to create a board that reflects their personality and skateboarding style.

Cons of Wood Decks

Environmental Impact

One of the significant downsides of wood decks is their environmental impact. The production of wood decks often involves cutting down trees, contributing to deforestation and habitat loss. While some companies are moving towards sustainable forestry practices, the skateboard industry as a whole still has a long way to go in minimizing its environmental footprint.


Wood decks, particularly those made from dense woods like maple, can be on the heavier side. This added weight can be a drawback for certain styles of skateboarding, such as freestyle or street skating, where a lighter board might offer more agility. However, the weight can also provide stability, which might be preferable for ramp or vert skateboarding.


High-quality wood decks, especially those made from premium maple, can be expensive. While you do get what you pay for in terms of durability and performance, the initial investment can be a barrier for some, particularly beginners or those on a tight budget.

Ideal For

Given their durability, performance, and customization options, wood decks are ideal for a wide range of skateboarders. They are particularly well-suited for those who are into professional or competitive skateboarding, as well as those who prefer complex tricks and high-impact styles. However, if you're someone who is particularly concerned about environmental impact, or if you're looking for a lighter or more budget-friendly option, you might want to explore other materials.

Plastic Skateboard Decks

Introduction to Plastic Decks

In the world of skateboarding, tradition often takes a backseat as innovation drives the sport forward. One of the most significant shifts in recent years has been the introduction of plastic skateboard decks as a modern alternative to the classic wooden decks. While wood has long been the go-to material for skateboarders, plastic decks have carved out their own niche, offering a unique set of advantages and disadvantages that cater to specific skateboarding styles and needs.

Types of Plastic

When we talk about plastic skateboard decks, it's essential to understand that not all plastics are created equal. The most commonly used type of plastic for skateboard decks is polypropylene. This material is known for its strength, flexibility, and resistance to moisture. Some manufacturers also experiment with composite materials that blend plastic with other substances like fiberglass to enhance certain properties. Understanding the type of plastic used can significantly impact your skateboarding experience, from the deck's durability to how it performs on the street or at the skatepark.

Pros of Plastic Decks


One of the most noticeable advantages of plastic decks is their lightweight nature. The reduced weight makes it easier to carry your skateboard around and can also make certain tricks easier to perform. For beginners, a lighter board can be less intimidating and more manageable, providing a more enjoyable learning experience.


Plastic decks are generally more cost-effective than their wooden or bamboo counterparts. The materials and manufacturing processes involved are less expensive, making plastic decks an attractive option for those on a budget. This affordability also makes it easier to replace a deck if it becomes damaged, or if you simply want to try out a different style or size.

Water Resistance

Unlike wood, which can warp or deteriorate when exposed to moisture, plastic decks are highly water-resistant. This property makes them ideal for skateboarding in damp conditions or areas where the deck might come into contact with water. It also means less worry about leaving your board outside or skating through puddles.

Cons of Plastic Decks


While plastic decks offer several advantages, they generally do not provide the same level of grip and performance as wooden decks. The material's smoother surface can make it more challenging to execute advanced tricks that require a high level of board control. Additionally, the flex of a plastic deck is different from wood, which can affect how the board responds during tricks and high-speed maneuvers.


Although plastic decks are strong and flexible, they are not immune to damage. In fact, they can crack or break more easily than high-quality wooden decks, especially under the stress of advanced tricks or heavy use. The lifespan of a plastic deck may be shorter, requiring more frequent replacements over time.

Environmental Concerns

Plastic's environmental impact is a growing concern. Unlike bamboo, which is biodegradable and rapidly renewable, or wood, which can be sustainably sourced, plastic decks are made from petroleum-based materials that are not biodegradable. This means that once a plastic deck reaches the end of its life, it's likely to end up in a landfill, contributing to environmental degradation.

Ideal For

Given their unique set of pros and cons, plastic decks are best suited for specific types of skateboarding and skateboarders. They are an excellent option for beginners due to their lightweight and affordable nature. Casual skateboarders who are not heavily invested in performing advanced tricks might also find plastic decks to be a convenient choice. Additionally, if you're looking for a skateboard to use as a mode of short-distance transportation—perhaps to commute to school or work—a plastic deck could be ideal due to its water-resistant and lightweight properties.

Bamboo Skateboard Decks

Introduction to Bamboo Decks

In the world of skateboarding, where wood has long been the gold standard for deck materials, bamboo comes in as a breath of fresh air. Not only does it offer a unique set of physical properties, but it also serves as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood or plastic decks. If you're a skateboarder who's conscious about your environmental footprint or someone looking for a different kind of ride, bamboo skateboard decks might just be the thing for you.

Unique Properties

Bamboo is not just another type of wood; it's a grass. This gives it some unique properties that set it apart from traditional wood decks. One of the most notable characteristics of bamboo is its flexibility. Unlike hard maple decks, which are rigid and sturdy, bamboo decks offer a more flexible ride, allowing for a different kind of board control.

Another significant property is its tensile strength. Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel, which makes it incredibly strong for its weight. This strength-to-weight ratio is a key factor in why bamboo decks can offer a lightweight yet robust platform for skateboarding.

Pros of Bamboo Decks


One of the most compelling reasons to opt for a bamboo skateboard deck is its sustainability. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass, capable of reaching maturity in just 3 to 5 years, compared to hardwood trees that can take decades. This rapid growth rate makes bamboo a renewable resource that is far less taxing on the environment. Moreover, bamboo can grow in a variety of soil types and climates, making it a more versatile and sustainable option.


If you're tired of lugging around a heavy wooden deck, you'll find solace in the lightweight nature of bamboo. Despite its strength, bamboo is significantly lighter than traditional hardwoods like maple. This makes it easier to carry around and can also contribute to a different kind of performance, particularly when it comes to aerial tricks and maneuvers.


Bamboo decks offer a unique balance of grip and flexibility. The natural fibers in bamboo provide a good amount of grip, which is essential for tricks and turns. At the same time, the flexibility of bamboo allows for a more responsive board, giving you the ability to make quick, sharp turns. This combination of grip and flexibility can make for a unique skateboarding experience that you won't get with other materials.

Cons of Bamboo Decks


While bamboo decks offer several advantages, they also come at a premium. The process of manufacturing bamboo decks is more labor-intensive than that of plastic decks, contributing to a higher retail price. Additionally, the demand for eco-friendly products has driven up the cost of bamboo as a raw material. So, if you're on a tight budget, a bamboo deck might not be the most economical choice for you.


While bamboo is strong and flexible, it may not offer the same level of durability as a high-quality wood deck, especially when subjected to extreme stress or impact. Over time, the flexibility of the bamboo can turn into a disadvantage, leading to a loss of shape or structural integrity. This is particularly true for aggressive skateboarding styles that involve a lot of jumps and tricks. However, for the average skateboarder, a bamboo deck should provide a reasonable lifespan if properly maintained.

Ideal For

Given its unique set of properties, a bamboo skateboard deck is ideal for a specific type of skateboarder. If you're someone who values sustainability and wants to reduce your environmental impact, bamboo is an excellent choice. Its lightweight and flexible nature makes it suitable for skateboarders interested in freestyle and cruising, rather than aggressive trick riding. Additionally, if you're a skateboarder who enjoys a responsive board for quick turns and a unique riding experience, a bamboo deck could be your best bet.

Choosing the right skateboard deck material is crucial for both beginners and seasoned skateboarders. The material you choose can significantly impact your skateboarding experience, affecting everything from the board's durability and performance to its environmental footprint. In this section, we'll delve into a comparative analysis of the three primary materials used in skateboard decks: wood, plastic, and bamboo. We'll evaluate them based on four key criteria: durability, cost, performance, and environmental impact.

Criteria for Comparison


Durability is a critical factor when choosing a skateboard deck. A durable board will not only last longer but also provide consistent performance over time.


The price of a skateboard deck can vary widely depending on the material and brand. While cost shouldn't be the only factor in your decision, it's essential to consider it, especially if you're on a budget.


Performance encompasses various factors such as grip, flexibility, and how well the board handles tricks and high-speed maneuvers. The material of the deck plays a significant role in these aspects.

Environmental Impact

With growing awareness of environmental issues, many skateboarders are considering the ecological footprint of their boards. The material used can have a considerable impact on the environment, from the manufacturing process to its end-of-life disposal.

Pros and Cons of Each Material

Criteria Wood Plastic Bamboo
Durability High Moderate to Low Moderate to High
Cost Moderate to High Low to Moderate Moderate to High
Performance High Moderate High
Environmental Moderate Low High

Personal Preferences

The 'best' skateboard deck material can vary significantly based on individual needs and skateboarding styles:

For Beginners: If you're new to skateboarding, a plastic deck might be a good starting point. They are generally more affordable and can withstand the bumps and scrapes that come with learning.


For Advanced Tricks: If you're into advanced tricks and professional skateboarding, a wooden deck is almost universally recommended. The grip and durability it offers are unmatched.


For Eco-Conscious Skaters: If you're concerned about the environment, a bamboo deck is an excellent choice. It offers a good balance of durability and performance while being the most eco-friendly option.


For Cruisers and Longboarders: Bamboo can also be a good choice for cruisers and longboarders due to its flexibility and lightweight nature.


For All-Rounders: If you're an all-rounder who enjoys both cruising and tricks, you might want to consider the pros and cons carefully. A wooden deck offers the best of both worlds but at a higher cost.


For Budget-Conscious: If you're on a tight budget, plastic decks are the most affordable, but keep in mind that you might be sacrificing some durability and performance.

Additional Points


Wooden decks offer the most customization options, from the grip tape to the graphics. Bamboo decks are catching up, but plastic decks usually come pre-designed and offer limited customization.


If you're concerned about the weight of the board, plastic decks are generally the lightest, followed by bamboo and then wood.


Wooden decks require the most maintenance to keep them in top shape, including regular cleaning and occasional sanding. Plastic decks require the least maintenance, while bamboo decks fall somewhere in between.

By considering all these factors, you can make an informed decision about which skateboard deck material best suits your needs and preferences. Remember, the right deck for you depends on how you plan to use it, your skill level, and your personal values, such as environmental consciousness or budget constraints.


We've taken a deep dive into the world of skateboard deck materials, examining the pros and cons of wood, plastic, and bamboo decks. Here's a quick recap to jog your memory:

Wood Decks

  • Historical Favorite: Wood, particularly maple, has been the go-to material for skateboard decks for decades.

  • Pros: Known for its durability, grip, and performance capabilities, wood is often the choice for professional skateboarders and trick enthusiasts. It's also highly customizable in terms of graphics and coatings.

  • Cons: The downsides include its environmental impact due to deforestation, its weight, and potentially higher costs for quality decks.

Plastic Decks

  • Modern Alternative: Plastic decks, often made from polypropylene, offer a lightweight and affordable alternative.

  • Pros: These decks are generally more affordable, lighter, and water-resistant.

  • Cons: However, they may lack in performance when it comes to grip and advanced tricks. Durability can also be an issue, and there are environmental concerns associated with plastic use.

Bamboo Decks

  • Eco-Friendly Option: Bamboo decks are gaining popularity as a sustainable alternative to traditional wood.

  • Pros: They are lightweight, offer a unique balance of grip and flexibility, and are more eco-friendly.

  • Cons: On the downside, they can be more expensive than plastic and may not be as durable as high-quality wood decks.

Final Recommendations

Choosing the right skateboard deck material is crucial and depends on various factors including your skateboarding style, level of expertise, and even ethical considerations. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Beginners: If you're just starting out, a plastic deck might be a good, cost-effective choice to get the hang of skateboarding basics.

  • Intermediate to Advanced Skaters: If you're into tricks and professional skateboarding, a wood deck is likely the best option for you due to its grip and durability.

  • Eco-Conscious Skaters: If sustainability is a key concern for you, bamboo decks offer a middle ground between performance and environmental responsibility.

  • All-Rounders: If you're looking for a balance between performance, cost, and sustainability, consider trying out a bamboo deck to see if it suits your style.

Future Trends

While wood, plastic, and bamboo are currently the most common materials, the skateboarding industry is ever-evolving. Composite materials that blend the best qualities of wood and synthetic materials are in development. Technologies like 3D printing could also revolutionize how skateboard decks are designed and manufactured, offering unprecedented levels of customization and potentially reducing waste. Keep an eye out for these innovations as they may offer new possibilities and reshape the criteria for choosing a skateboard deck.

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