Choosing the best skateboard deck is probably the most important part of buying your first skateboard. Getting the right wheels, bearings and trucks combo is crucial too, but really it's your choice of that deck that will make the most difference to how your board feels to ride.
This is partly because a skate deck offers the most different variables. The most important things to consider are:
The width of a skateboard is probably the most important factor to consider when deciding what would be the best skateboard deck for you. Decks can vary between 7.5 and 9 inches wide (19.05 to 22.86cm).
Wide decks are obviously better for taller skaters with bigger feet, while shorter small-footed skaters may find them harder to ollie. But it's not just about the skater's height and shoe size - narrower decks tend to be easier for doing tricks so are generally preferred by street skaters. Vert skaters tend to prefer wider decks. Fashion also has a part to play.
"It's not just about the skater's height and shoe size - narrower decks tend to be easier for doing tricks."
What difference does the length of a skateboard deck make? Well, consider the difference between how actual longboards and conventional skateboards handle and you'll have some idea. Of course with most skateboards the variations are far less pronounced - they usually vary between 31 and 32.5 inches (78.74 to 82.55cm) - but you'd be surprised how much difference that can make. Longer boards tend to be more stable at speed, but harder to spin.
Of course it's not just about the length of the board. The length of the wheelbase - ie. the distance between the inner set of mounting holes for the trucks - in fact makes more of a difference to stability. Wheelbases usually vary from 13 to 15 inches (33.02 to 38.1cm).
4) Concave shape:
How concave your deck is also makes a difference to how it performs. Deeper concaves can help your feet stick to the board, where as more mellow concaves are often preferred by technical skaters. There are different types of concaves too, with some downhill skaters even opting for convex boards, but as a beginner you'll probably be looking at a choice between a deep and a mellow concave.
5) Nose & Tail Shape:
If you're buying your first skateboard you will probably be looking at conventional rounded nose and tail shapes, with a slightly more pronounced kicktail at the back than the front of the board. There are of course all kinds of other specialist shapes available, especially when you get into longboards, or re-issues of old boards, but for first time buyers, the regular shape is normally best.
Of course these are just guidelines. Skateboarding is a very individual sport and really the deck you choose is all down to your personal preference. Once you've owned (and snapped) a few skate decks, you'll work out what works for you.