Of late, Powell Peralta has been fighting it’s way back out of the history books, ironically partly with their 80’s reissue decks but also with awesome team riders and importantly for the purposes of our little chat, Flight decks.
These decks are important in a couple of ways.
Firstly, for the user, you have a skateboard that is lighter, stronger and longer lasting.
Secondly, for the industry, specifically the Powell bit of the industry, you have a deck that is elevated above the standards and performance of typical 7 ply decks. This creates a barrier to entry that larger brands really need at the moment. If shop boards and branded decks are the same wood, which one is the average cash-strapped skateboarder going to go for? Unless they are committed to supporting there favourite brand or pro, they are going to save their pennies and go for the shop deck.
Some brands have tried to combat this by pressuring stores into not producing their own shop boards but this hasn’t really worked and the industry has continued to fragment into smaller and smaller brands, teams and crews. As most brands are essentially marketing companies putting their graphics on the same few wood shop’s blanks, are they actually far different than shop decks? After all, if you have a shop with a great team, having their boards made in the same wood shop as the official brands, the major difference is local marketing versus global marketing and maybe rider skill level….maybe. As the big brands become small brands and theirs marketing budgets shrink, so does the difference between shop decks marketed locally and brand decks marketed not-so-well globally.
Powell has the real answer, which is to create a unique deck that gives the consumer reason to spring for the more expensive board.
OK, pseudo market analysis over. What makes a Flight deck worth the extra money? A very different construction – maple hard wood with a top laminate of high strength fiberglass, AirLam fused with epoxy resin, thats what. This results in a deck that according to Powell, is as thin as your phone (I’d say it’s a little thicker but its close – check the pics), making it lighter and with more pop, so in theory ollies will snap higher, for longer into the board’s life cycle.
I have to admit the thin rails were a little bit of a worry to me initially as my brother observed “imagine that scything into your shin!”. I imagined just that and was scared. The concave also seemed very steep – I now realise that this is partly a trick of the eye played by the thin rails. The black fiberglass resin top layer appears reinforced over the truck bolt holes, so you can see seemingly raised squares that might be visible under the griptape. Powell also says to give yourself a couple of hours to get used to how the board feels.
Faced with a new shape deck (nose and tail on the 8 inch 242 shape is almost identical), an apparently deep concave, weird markings over the bolts, scary thin rails and a ‘bedding in period’ during the freezing English winter, I put off setting this board up for months. It sat on the coffee table in the Supereight office for ages, driving Sam nuts.
I finally took the plunge in April, with 2 contradicting thoughts which I imagine a lot of people will think:
Thought 1: What if I set it up and I can’t skate it? What a waste of money!
Thought 2: What if I set it up and it is in fact awesome and I find myself never able to go back to basic decks? What if Powell then stop making them? Argh!
It turns out thought 2 was the one to go with. So far, this Flight deck is genuinely great. It is indeed extra poppy. It is indeed lighter. The concave is actually just right and flips that left my repertoire years ago have made a happy return. There is no square reinforcement markings on my grip and so far, my shins are no more bruised than usual.
Happily, Powell show no sign of retiring these decks and have actually started to produce more shapes and sizes, whilst adding to the single Flight deck graphic they have been using and introducing all sorts of pro rider graphics to the line up. It even sounds like switch stance pioneer Salman Agah is getting a pro Flight deck soon.
Are these decks worth it then? My first impressions are an emphatic yes, absolutely.
I’ll skate this one until it’s dead and will report back on Powell Peralta’s other claim – longer lasting pop and rigidity. Part 2 coming soon…..or maybe not so soon. We’ll see, eh Powell?