The Penny Skateboard isn't new, actually it has a thirty year history since it first ollied into the Australian homeland market in 1983. But these retro contraptions seemed to suddenly vanish, that was until 2010 when they re-emerged and have become a blazing cultural hit since. The Penny board we have here isn't the Penny Original Skateboard, it's the Nickel. The newer bigger brother with 5-inches of additional foot platform.
One of our initial questions was whether this board is a skateboard or really a longboard? It's not long and looks similar to a skateboard deck but it also shares longboard characteristics such as its trucks and wheels. It appears a new category of board has emerged because of this, known as the shortboard.
The Nickel's deck is 27-inches in length and 7.5-inches at the widest point, in comparison it's a little shorter than the Original Skateboards Derringer 28 Longboard. The deck was initially severely unfamiliar, it wasn't so much the length that knocked us off our game though, it was the narrow width. Our feet overhung the sides and it was very foreign. After about half an hour on the board our foot placement and confidence were adapted. This diminutive size and weight spawns qualified portability, it easily fits into a medium-large sized bag or backpack and is excellent to walk around with.
The small and thin design is very charming, of all the boards we've ridden this is the one that attracts the most attention in public. It's a fashion icon, it breaks away from the rest of the skate pack by being made out of plastic and coming in an alluring rainbow of colours. Well, to be more specific, the decks, trucks and wheels come in a rainbow of colours, each stock board is equipped with different coloured wheels and trucks that suit the decks.
What's remarkably striking before even stepping onto the board is the non-existent grip tape. The Penny simply has a textured plastic surface and straight out of the box it was slippery. We expected that we'd have to apply grip tape, but after a few days of usage the slippery plastic became rougher and in turn more gripping. The grip is satisfactory and yields a locked-in ride. Not having grip tape means it accommodates bare foot riders too. Having to apply grip tape would have degraded the overall look but the deck is left to get very dirty because it's not smooth. It cleans itself off while riding but mud getting stuck into the cavities of the textured deck isn't attractive.
Penny mould the deck using a special and secret plastic formula. It results in a deck that comes close to being indestructible and one that can stare down wooden setups. This thing can slam into walls at high speeds and according to YouTube it can even be run over by a car. However, it scratches rather easily and it's pretty much unavoidable, friction and plastic aren't a good combination. The deck is not at all rubbery in flex and is rigid. This leverages a definite feel which we think is essential for its dimensions.
The trucks are custom A grade 356 cast aluminium powder-coated 4-inch Penny own branded ones with 87A soft bushings, they're unyielding and deploy fantastic loose manoeuvrability. The steering capabilities are outstanding, infusing a surf-like feel. They make the board genuinely fun to ride around on the flat for hours on end. This has a great deal to do with the stock Penny Abec 7 stainless steel bearings, which succeed to conserve speed smoothly. Penny own-branded 59mm 78A wheels are what's attached on each corner and are extremely soft and behave well on wet ground. Reading 78A on the spec sheet concerned us, but in practise they're exemplary and cook up a universal experience with the rest of the attached hardware. We couldn't have asked for a smoother riding board.
The Nickel is a dazzling cruiser and commuter board. It can be mellow and give a convivial ride. Short tedious journeys are transformed into enjoyable spurts of fun. Waggling in and out of obstacles and pedestrians is gratifying and feels liberating. We think the board holds some bewitchery because we see it sitting there indoors next to our vast collection of longboards and we can't help ourselves jumping on it and having a ride. We're addicted!
Downhill riding is a skill that has to be attained, it's possible and can even allow for diplomatic carving. We'd recommend that the trucks are tightened before undertaking this though. But hills that have a serious steepness that would be bombed on other boards shouldn't be attempted, this board isn't designed for this sort of usage and austere death wobbles will incur.
Tricks are something the Penny is capable of due to its kick tail. Ollies, flips, shredding bowls, ramp usage, sliding (hair raising when travelling at rapid speed) and much more is all achievable. This is a space where those soft wheels are effective in defusing hard landings. We suspect that harder wheels would be mildly harrowing on the feet and legs in conjunction with the plastic compact deck.
Penny have created a much better learner's board here with the Nickel when compared to the original version. The extra foot platform will help stability - something first time riders need masses of. The package also produces a mellow ride that can be further tapped into as experience is gained.
To put it simply, the Penny Nickel Skateboard delivers a joyful package of actuality for experienced and novice skaters. It defines the meaning of fun.