Skateboard Design: Tail Length
Note: at the time of this article, there is not a clear industry standard for skateboard dimensions. This article presents the “SK8CAD” Standard; please note that other manufacturers and distributors may use alternative definitions than those presented here.
The “Tail Length” spec of a skateboard refers to the distance between the tip of the back of the board (the tail) and the board's back wheels. More specifically, for a deck that doesn't yet have wheels mounted, this is the distance between the tip of the tail and the centers of the rearmost truck holes.
There are actually two common definitions of tail length. In SK8CAD, tail length is defined as the projected distance between the tip of the tail and the rearmost truck holes. “Projected” means we're looking at the distance from directly above the board, and ignoring any bends in the board.
The other definition is that tail length is the distance along the board's surface between the tip of the tail and rearmost truck holes. In this definition, we must consider any curvature of the kicktail in our measurement.
Longer tails provide more space for your back foot behind the trucks, so you can more easily pivot your board, pop it up, or secure your back foot past the trucks, which is needed for tricks like tail slides and dropping in. A longer tail will also reduce the pop angle, which is the angle your board makes with the ground when you pop it up during an ollie. This can create a more responsive feel, where it takes less effort to do tricks and pivot.*
Shorter tails make the board shorter overall, a little lighter, and increase the pop angle. A steeper pop angle will create a more powerful feel, which can help make it feel easier to pop the board up higher off the ground.* Also, if you’re building boards, reducing your tail length can give you more space for your wheelbase, without needing to use longer material to cut your boards from.
Comparison of pop angle with different tail lengths. Board on left has shortest tail and steepest pop angle; board on right has longest tail and smallest pop angle.
*A quick note on pop angle: there is a limit here; a tail length of only 1" will not give you enormous pop! Similarly, a 12" tail will not make your board feel more responsive and pop faster. Use these notes about pop angle more as a way of fine-tuning your setup, perhaps only making tweaks of 1/4" at a time. (For example, if you switch from a board with a 6.75" tail to a 6.5" tail, you may find your ollies feel a bit higher.) There are also other ways to change pop angle, including altering the kick angle, changing truck height/geometry, use of risers, and changing wheel diameter.
Typical tail lengths:
Street decks: 6.3" - 6.9"
Transition decks: 6.5" - 6.9"
Longboards: 2" - 6.5"
Surf Skates: 6" - 6.75"
Cruisers: 6" - 6.75"
Freestyle: 6" - 6.5"
Recommended ranges for goals:
Maneuverability (flip tricks, pivoting, quick movements): 6.3" - 6.9"
Stability: 3" - 7"
Dancing: 5.5" - 6.5"
Pop: 6.3" - 6.7"
Speed: 3" - 5"
Start designing: https://sk8cad.com