Updated: Nov 16, 2017
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In the 14 years I have been skating, there are two things that have come as a shock to me: First, regardless of skill level, not every skater knows how to apply grip to a board. Second, the ones that do know how have incredibly odd habits. They do not know how to do it efficiently, and they often leave air bubbles — large and small — poking off the surface. They also tend to leave rough edges, often with large chunks of griptape missing.
This step-by-step guide to applying griptape is the method I’ve stuck with for years. It leaves a clean surface without air bubbles, so that your board looks as new and pristine from the top as it does from below. Of course, it won’t stay that way. As you skate it, the decks edges will gradually tear away, but that’s nothing a griptape replacement cannot fix. It’s not just for double kicks, either. My method works equally well for skateboards and longboards.
Step 1: Make sure you have all the tools available to you beforehand!
You will need a box cutter — or any decently sharp blade — to trim the edges of the griptape once you have affixed it. A single-edged razor blade works nearly as well, but a box cutter gives you a safe handle to hold onto, and it keeps most of the blade hidden for safety. Whatever you use, just be sure it is razor-sharp. Dull blades cause more injuries than sharp ones do.
Obviously, you will also need enough griptape to cover the surface of your deck. Yocaher griptape is gritty and grippy without being sharp, and it is available in precut, 9-inch by 33-inch sheets that fit most skateboards. There are several colorways and patterns to choose from, just in case black’s not your thing.
You will also need a hard item to scratch the edges once the grip is stuck to the board. This step presses the adhesive to the edge of the board and gives you a line to follow when trimming the griptape. I use an old truck hanger, but the edge of a screwdriver works fine. Lastly, you’ll need a truck bolt or similarly shaped object to punch the bolt holes through the grip tape.
Step 2: Use my proactive technique. Working with the board top facing up on a flat surface, peel the backing from the griptape sheet. Starting from the center of the board and slowly press down as evenly as possible to avoid bubbles). Some skaters may start from the side and work in, but I have found that can lead to bubbles near the nose and tail, and it never ends up as straight as when starting in the middle.
Remember that when I say start in the middle, you’ll still be working from the tail to the nose. You’ll simply be pressing along the middle axis of the board toward its edges. There is also no need to slide your finger back and forth, getting all scratched up in the process. Just press straight down and gradually move across the entire deck surface, chasing the air bubbles away. Don’t forget to press into the concave and the spoon on the nose and the tail. You should be left with a smooth, even surface when you’re done.
Step 3: Know how to properly cut the griptape.
Once the griptape is stuck down, use either your spare truck hanger or screwdriver to mark the line you’ll cut. To do this, place the hanger perpendicular to the edge of the board and rub it on the top side. The grit will rub off, leaving a white line that marks the edge of the board so you can see it from above.
Before you begin, make sure you stick the blade in from the underside! You should press the blade up from the sticky side, so that it is touching the edge of the deck. As you slice along the line you created with the hard object, angle the blade TOWARD the center of the board to prevent any excess griptape from folding over the board’s edges. Aim for doing this in one continuous motion, but it’s okay if you make mistakes. You can always fix them!