The chemistry inside the ride
From the seaside sliders to the downhill dive bombers, all longboarders have two things in common: their enduring love of the sport, and the cutting edge polyurethane in their wheels.
More than anything else, a longboard's wheels determine the style and quality of the ride. This is largely due to each wheel type catering specifically to one longboarding style; carving, sliding, downhill or street. Carvers tend to buy softer, bigger wheels with a sharp-lip, while sliders seek a harder wheel with less grip, and a slimmer contact patch for smooth transitions into slides. Wheel companies alter their urethane recipes to suit the needs of riders, but nailing the perfect formula for “Moon Plastic” can be incredibly difficult.
Longboarders tend to vigorously debate which wheels are best for what, but the discussion over which material makes the optimal wheel is definitively decided. “Polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF, an advanced polyurethane formula) is the only material that guarantees the perfect balance between the ideal rebound effect of the wheels, and a high abrasion resistance”, explains Neal Piper, founder of AEND Industries, manufacturer for a wide range of wheels including the infamous Abec 11s and Seismics. “All other materials provide one or the other, but never both at the same time.”
The rebound effect refers to how quickly the PolyTHF helps a wheel revert back to its original, smooth-rolling shape after being compressed. Like when a rider rolls over a pebble or crack in the cement. The better the rebound, the more coast per kick. Abrasion resistance on the other hand, ensures that even riders who board ten hours a day don't have to hit the shop every two weeks for a new set of wheels.
AEND Industries aren't the only skate company harnessing the power of PolyTHF. Santa Barbara's Skate One (manufacturers of both Bones and Powell Peraltas), use the PolyTHF containing Elastocast in their wheels, and much to the community's delight.
So regardless of whether a rider prefers to carve, slide, or just cruise, when it comes to the chemistry inside longboard wheels, they are in great shape. After all, it's a shame to let all that perfectly good gravity go to waste.