He skates on the trees.
He skates on the trees.
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a matter of size

Several months ago I stopped in at Kingswell to have a look at the board wall and wound up shooting the breeze for a good while with shop owner D.J. Chavez. Throughout the course of our scattered conversation the topic of wheelbase eventually came up, at which point D.J. rolled his eyes to the sky and recounted the time when a couple of Baker and Deathwish riders first zeroed in on these mysterious incremental measurements and how their synapses immediately exploded into uncharted levels of mind-spinning OCD.

Maddening those numbers may be, but the truth is one's size really does matter when it comes to selecting a board to ride. For myself, prior to what I know now, the idea or notion of a wheelbase never once factored into any of my decisions for over two decades. I just knew that some boards felt right, others felt wrong, and a few felt like what-in-the-actual-fuck. It was only once I started working with Paul Schmitt to produce some "proprietary" shapes that I became hip to facts behind that particular span between the trucks [1] and how it directly correlates to one's height and overall center of gravity.

Enter Timothy Johnson and Monica Torres, two members of our StrangeLove team at opposing ends of the size spectrum.

When Timmy was out in California last summer, I made sure to arrange a meeting with him at Paul's workshop for a hands- and feet-on board-shaping session. Not only because it's a life hammer of an experience to have the opportunity to do so, but he wanted to conform his atypical 9 x 33 model down to an 8.5 width and I didn't feel confident in doing so all by myself. Good thing, too, because most of the tweaking took place on the nose where Timmy had a keen visual interest. In the end, he retained the 14.75 wheelbase on the 8.5 remodel, since it does indeed suit his 6' 2" height and long-legged requirements.

Monica, however, was a different story altogether and one I didn't really understand at first. Soon after she joined the team, we exchanged several text messages trying to figure out what size board she wanted to ride so we could get some samples sent out. Ideally she preferred an 8.125, which wasn't a problem, but then asked for a smaller wheelbase—like a lot smaller wheelbase: 12-inches! She explained about her being only 5-foot tall, but this still sounded like absolute crazy talk to me. I'd never heard of a wheelbase that small outside of say freestyle decks in the '80s or those Micronaut-sized Birdhouse completes my son once skated when he was 3-years-old in the '00s, but I knew if there was one person who would enjoy dialing in a proper wheelbase for her size it would definitely be Paul.

When we all met up last November at the workshop, Monica proceeded to demonstrate the challenges she's dealt with while skating on a traditional 8.125 x 31.75 board with a 14-inch wheelbase. The overly wide stance was the most obvious—it doesn't take much to spot the aesthetic incongruities of a person with shorter stature and/or a lower center of gravity where it looks like they're standing on a snowboard versus a skateboard—but the extra effort required to maneuver such a longer board is where the real issue lies. Then Monica went on to describe how she would have to hold the board up high with a cocked elbow so it wouldn't scrape the tail on run-ups and how conscious she was of the way it looked on video. She adapted to skating whatever was available over the years, but the additional length and weight has also resulted in a physical stress on her hips and shoulder. Taking all this into consideration, Paul started off at 13.5-inches, but after a quick trial spin through the parking lot it was decided to cut another half-inch out of the middle. Following a week out in the streets, Monica came back and had Paul drill another down to 12.5-inches, making her final production model 8.125 x 30.5 [2].

So, there you have it. Wheelbases. Who knew? Sure, not everyone cares or agrees. One gentleman I found via a quick rummage around on the interweb said, "Look man, I just skateboard. I put it on the ground. I push it around. Sometimes it's cool. Sometimes it really hurts. If we are adding math, skateboarding is heading in the wrong direction." That may be the case and the Earth may indeed be flat. All depends on your perspective. Regardless, big or small, we try our best to serve 'em all. —Sean Cliver


1. If you really want to grapple mano y mano with physics, don’t forget to take into account the differences in truck geometry from company to company and how that can affect the wheelbase as well (see Exhibit A below).

2. There's some other technical specs, like "fingers of flat" and a reduced ply thickness that pertain to Monica's production model, but again, please feel free to refer to Exhibit A above… or heck, just go see the Instagram post by @professorschmitt.

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  • Fd on

    I was 3 sheets to the wind and sweating like a whore in church when I saw the caption size matters: it’s not the meat it’s the motion. Wait that might have been my fever dream where I was happy as a dog with bacon balls. Anyhow………
    The professor is smart as a whip and reading this article made me happier than a pig in shit. Props for these shapes that are the bee’s knee’s: they truly are slicker than owl shit! The inverse relationship between deck size and wheelbase proves that to cool for school was a pipe dream and math really is cooler than a polar bears toenails; eg. PS Stix, String Theory, Cost Benefit Analysis or even the 9th century inventor of Algebra. Who knew reading music is pertinent to mathematics? Bueller….Bueller……………..Bueller?
    Seeing the professor’s support for so many great’s makes me happier than a clam at high tide. That Germs deck your wood is printed on is tight as a drum. It’s like a pick up line I heard from a very attractive female at a party last night, “So much wood so little time.” Thank You PS Stix for all that fine wood! Where does all this wood come from? That reminds me of a tune…….
    “Into the tree’s”- A Forest

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