Since the late 70s, the basic construction of a skateboard has remained the same. Despite some interesting attempts to alter or change the materials, skateboarders always seem to revert to laminated, cross-grained maple boards. Shapes have evolved over the years, but except for graphics, it’s now almost impossible to distinguish one board from another.

This is the problem many premium board companies face today. While skaters are trying to figure out the difference between a 30-dollar blank and a 55-dollar pro board, some premium brands are busy clarifying that difference.

Giant With its own woodshop and testing facilities (not to mention some formidable talent on its teams), Giant Skateboard Distribution has developed two new board constructions to add to its already popular I-Beam layup. Vice President Steve Douglas says with the standardization of the seven-ply skateboard, premium brands need to differentiate their products from the rest. “If a kid’s gonna pay full price,” he says, “he should get something more than a different graphic.”

Each of Giant’s new boards have specific characteristics for different types of skateboarding, and each of Giant’s teams were involved in the development of the constructions they choose to ride.

I-Beam Construction was introduced three years ago. These boards feature an extra-thick center core made from a laminate of over 70 alternating vertical and horizontal veneers. This crisscross core is designed to maximize strength, and because they’re so labor-intensive, I-Beam boards are available in limited quantities from New Deal, Mad Circle, and Element skateboards.

One of the most promising new constructions is the Featherlight layup. Lighter than most boards, Featherlight boards use thinner cross-grained veneers and a more careful gluing process. Exclusive to Element skateboards, Featherlight has helped the company’s line become one of the most popular this summer.* Based on that success, Element introduced its Twigs line of Featherlight boards, shaped for smaller skaters.

New Deal’s Armorlite Construction is designed to be stiffer, stronger, and lighter than other boards-using two ultra-thin laminated veneers instead of one regular veneer in two places. The result is a nine-ply skateboard that’s thinner than regular seven-ply boards.

NHS NHS introduced one of the first laminated maple skateboards in 1975, and has been experimenting with different shapes, compositions, and layups ever since. Currently, NHS offers three types of maple-laminate boards in its Santa Cruz line, and two in its Creature line, which feature the Creature logo and board size printed on the rail.

Xtra-Light boards use slightly thinner veneers than most boards and a new concave construction designed to increase strength. Xtra-Light boards are available in the Santa Cruz line with printed rails displaying the Xtra-Light logo and the board size.

Introduced two years ago, PowerPly skateboards are now available in an updated version with a new concave and bends designed to increase strength. As before, they feature slightly thicker veneers than most boards (by .004 inches), and a slightly steeper nose, PowerPly boards have a symmetrical pop from either the nose or the tail. PowerPly is available on Santa Cruz decks with printed rails featuring the PowerPly logo and the board size.

In 1990, NHS introduced Everslick, the original PBT slick-bottom skateboard. PBT bottom-skins provide greater protection for boards and are fully printable, allowing a wide range of graphic possibilities. While more popular when first introduced, NHS has continued to develop the Everslick technology and still offers the boards in popular shapes and graphics for the Santa Cruz and Creature lines.

Alien Workshop This spring, Alien Workshop set out to design a line of boards that would stand out both visually and through better performance. The result is the EXP pro-model line, featuring Alien’s Ultra-Lite LOK construction.

TThese boards feature slightly thinner veneers for reduced weight and a new box concave for increased strength. The EXP finish is a phosphorescent coating with increased sliding characteristics and bright rails that are more visible during critical maneuvers.

The EXP line includes limited-edition whitewashed pro models and a silver-emulsion pro series.