Best Santa Cruz Longboards [2021 Reviews]

Longboarding has endured some pretty significant changes since first emerging on the surfer’s oceanfront sidewalk decades ago. Very few of the brands that pioneered skating as an industry have managed to survive into the modern era of skating. Most of those that helped define the “skater” subculture were eventually compelled to scale the size of their operation up, which too often carries a consequence of bringing quality down.

One of these iconic pioneers, however, has proven to be an exception to the rule — Santa Cruz Skateboards. This is a company, team, and brand that has been around since the beginning. And since those early days,  they’ve maintained a reputation for offering pro-quality “completes” that skaters love and parents trust.

It’s largely the team’s dedication to quality that has kept the Santa Cruz brand at the forefront of the skating industry. In fact, people commonly describe Santa Cruz boards as “uniquely high-quality” compared to companies with similar scope of sales and distribution.

The rare negative comment you manage to find is never from an owner of a Santa Cruz board, but is too often instead the result of assumptions. A mainstream audience and decades of tenure equal legitimacy in the minds of everyone – except the average young skateboarder. 

Santa Cruz “Screaming Hand”  

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The “Screaming Hand” image was created in 1985 by Santa Cruz graphics artist Jim Phillips. Over the last 3 decades the howling appendage has adorned skateboard and longboard decks, t-shirts, stickers, beanies, and tons of other merchandise — all over the world!

This iconic graphic has become a timeless part of the skating subculture itself, and seeing it displayed so dominantly on a longboard deck conveys a lot of meaning and message. It’s a respectful nod to the sport’s street skating roots and simultaneously serves as a tribute to the powerful vibrance of the street & deck art of the 80s. 

The deck is a drop-down style, which translates into greater stability and smoothness of ride. We didn’t see anything that gave a specific flex rating, but we’re going to call it a medium-flex based on the comments in forums and reviews from skaters with this specific longboard. It has no trouble accommodating skaters weighing 250+ lbs., yet lighter riders don’t report any stiffness, either. 

Like all of Santa Cruz’s completes, the Screaming Hand is finished off with high-quality trucks, wheels, and bearings that culminate in a smooth, enjoyable ride. This is an excellent longboard for anyone looking to make a confident entry into the world of longboarding, as it brings top-quality at an affordable price-point and timeless graphics that somehow manage to be unique and prolific at the same time.

Santa Cruz Skateboards “Impact” 

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The “Impact” longboard complete, by Santa Cruz Skateboards (SCS), takes about as modest an approach to deck graphics as you’re going to see from SCS. 

We’ve chosen the Impact as one of the best freeride longboards this year as well.

It is important to point out that this particular complete is designed with competitive cruising in mind. This will mean softer bushings, and possibly even “flipping the hanger” which we’ve written about in our longboard vs skateboard post. It also means that if you are closer to a beginner’s skill level, you might consider stiffening things up a little before riding. This can be easily (and affordably) accomplished by grabbing some harder bushings.

With pro-level performance right out of the box, this cruiser complete is an ideal choice for riders looking to commute. It follows, then, that it is just as good a choice for cruisers looking for an enjoyable ride that stays that way – even after some time on the board!

Santa Cruz Skateboards “Floral Decay”

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The pintail longboard’s alluring curves and timeless design have always been seen as something of a respectful nod to the surfing roots of longboarding. This entanglement of subculture is well-illustrated in the members of the Santa Cruz Skateboards team, and it manifests in the designs and graphics of the brand as well.

Featuring one of the most beautiful color prints we’ve seen on longboard grip tape, “Floral Decay” expertly combines the “roses and bones” theme with subtle pastel hues to convey the power of beautiful danger. Skater girls are beautiful, every one of them, and like the thorny rose, at least part of their beauty comes from knowing they pose a certain degree of danger.  

Also available in Gold Pinstripe and classic Red/Black, the SCS pintail longboard is perfectly suited for cruising your local boardwalk or city’s town centre (which seem to have replaced the shopping malls, generally speaking). While the board featured here is a complete and comes ready to ride, we do recommend upgrading to some Orangatang Wheels and maybe even firmer bushings, depending on your riding style. 

Being top-mounted, the pintail longboard is also suitable for certain downhill riding scenarios. We always recommend a thorough inspection of your existing setup, and an honest reflection on that setup’s readiness for downhill intensity. In other words, this board is ok out of the box for beginner downhill riding, just as long as someone with the savvy goes over the longboard first and checks the tightness and viability of everything.

best santa cruz longboards

FAQ

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Are Santa Cruz longboards good?

The longboards from Santa Cruz are a good choice for beginners looking for a quality “complete” that can be ridden out of the box. Santa Cruz longboards are especially good for beginners interested in cruising, and are generally considered to offer a “softer” ride that is praised for its smoothness and sturdiness.

Like any complete longboard, you will want to upgrade at some point. Seasoned skaters are known to keep a variety of trucks, bushings, and wheels available to themselves at any given time, so as to tune their longboard to the anticipated riding conditions. Developing the knowledge and inventory to do this takes time, and is the ultimate means of ensuring the most enjoyable ride, every time.

Still, as out-of-the-box performance goes, Santa Cruz longboards are often described as “unique”. What is important to remember is that Santa Cruz Skateboards is owned by the larger NHS-inc., alongside other big skating brands like Independent, Mob Grip, OJ Wheels, and others. 

This has given Santa Cruz the luxury of doing things their own way, in a manner of speaking. They can use brands like Bullet Trucks; brands that are owned by NHS and may or may not be marketed to the mainstream consumer. Too often people mistake their own ignorance of a brand for “cheapness” or inferior quality, when in truth it may be a gem that is exclusive to its sister company’s products. 

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How much is a Santa Cruz Longboard?

Prices fluctuate, of course, but right now a single Santa Cruz longboard “complete” runs for between $150-$200 USD. The “complete” means that the longboard comes essentially ready-to-ride, requiring only double-checking of the hardware’s tightness before riding; no assembly required. 

The higher-priced models will either feature a signature graphic artist’s work on the deck, or the longboard complete will be especially designed for a specific kind of riding, such as downhill. As some styles may require modifications or upgrades to the hardware, these changes can reflect in the price. 

There is also a fairly robust market for vintage Santa Cruz decks; longboards and skateboards alike. Vintage decks still in good shape can commonly fetch between $1,500-$3,000 on ebay and other sites dedicated to vintage deck art. Artists of note that were with Santa Cruz in the mid 1980s include:

  • Jeff Grosso
  • Corey O’Brien
  • Steve Olsen
  • Rob Roskopp

You can also find reissues of many of the popular deck designs from these artists, if you look. The prices for this will vary, but generally speaking, the price of an art reissue deck-only will be comparable to the price of a Santa Cruz complete.

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In Conclusion

To wrap it all up, we found that Santa Cruz longboards are a great all-around cruiser for beginners, and are also the board of choice for a good number of pro-level skaters too. They are built with a level of quality that is above and beyond that of any competitors at a similar price point, which translates into being “uniquely exceptional” for most. 

While the Santa Cruz longboard completes might benefit from certain upgrades, such as bearings and bushings, these are incredibly inexpensive and their benefit is somewhat subjective and dependent on rider experience. 

We found that the majority of detractors and negative reviewers were either fanboys of other brands, with no real experience on a Santa Cruz board, or were customers with legitimate (albeit infrequent) concerns. These issues were things like products being lost or damaged during shipping, which the company seems to have always resolved to the immense satisfaction of the customer.

Ultimately, the Santa Cruz longboards are certainly worth investing in. They provide a reliably enjoyable skating experience that is backed up by a company with a reputation for quality. A company that has been involved with skating since the beginning. As you continue your longboarding journey, you will surely acquire other longboards made by other brands – but we promise you’ll always have a spot in your heart for your Santa Cruz.

Thanks for stopping by and reading today! We appreciate your support and encourage you to have a look around at the rest of our guides, reviews, and articles on longboarding. Until next time, stay safe, and stay skating!

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