Banzai’s Iconic Aluminum Skateboard Is Back and Better Than Ever
It's been more than 40 years since its Dogtown-era debut
Fact: I no longer have enough (see: any) hair to take pleasure in the wind whipping through it, but I’ll be damned if carving turns down the streets of my neighborhood on a skateboard isn’t the highlight of my day regardless.
I grew up skateboarding, and am old enough to have counted Tony Hawk as an idol long before the video game cemented his name in the consciousness of younger generations. And while my days of kick-flipping down stairs (the five-stair at Denver’s Skyline Park being the crowning achievement of my young life) are long behind me, I still enjoy the hell out of skateboarding, and wholeheartedly endorse it as a leisure/fitness activity for middle-aged dudes, whether they have any youthful experience with it or not.
First and foremost, skateboarding is fun. It’s hard to describe to the uninitiated, but the feeling of zooming across a stretch of open asphalt, of guiding the board from side to side with subtle shifts of your weight, is enjoyable on a very visceral and universal level. Additionally, while this is probably not the reason that most rubber-boned youngsters get into it, it turns out that skateboarding is actually a pretty great workout — solid cardio, great for legs and core, and according to a professor of exercise science at Auburn University, capable of burning up to 12 calories a minute.
What’s more, it’s way easier to pick up than most people think, as evidenced by my recent testing session of Banzai’s handsome new Series #01, a re-imagined skate classic that looks as good leaning against the wall in the house as it does out on the streets.
Banzai rose to prominence in Dogtown-era Southern California, where the brand’s near-indestructible anodized aluminum decks featuring a double kicktail gained favor with the surf/skate communities and soon resulted in a cult-like following in sunny locales across the nation.
Over four decades later, a cabal of design-minded cats have resurrected the Banzai brand, giving it a slick update from both a construction and aesthetic standpoint. The board comes in two sizes and five eye-catching hues, each limited to 50 pieces. When the package arrived, I felt like I was unboxing an objet d’art as much as I was a tool for recreation, which seems very much intentional: with bold colors and an artfully brushed aluminum finish featuring Banzai’s iconic logo, this is a board that’s almost as fun to look at as it is to ride.
Setting up the Banzai was a relative breeze — I will say, however, that while the included mini-tools (contained within a handy magnetized leather pouch) are awesome and will accompany me on future sessions for adjustments, nothing beats a socket and electric screwdriver to get a board mounted as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Once assembled, I took to the streets and was digging the setup immediately. A Banzai deck is slightly smaller than what I typically ride, but the width and softness of the wheels coupled with the included set of top shelf ceramic bearings made for a pleasantly smooth and stable ride. And while I was slightly wary re: a deck with no grip tape on top, the aforementioned brushed aluminum surface (coupled with my trusty Nike SB Nyjah Free 2s) kept my feet firmly glued to the board. (Ed note: Banzai does include grip tape strips in the event you want extra traction.)
Before I knew it, I was slaloming down hills and grinning like an idiot:
And lest you think that it requires years of practice to get right, my wife — a brand-newbie to the world of skateboarding — was up and cruising in under an hour with minimal coaching. All it takes is a bit of patience and a modicum of balance, and you’re off to the races.
While certainly not cheap (the smaller deck will run you $555, while the larger size goes for $645), I’d say that the Banzai is not only an excellent investment from a collector’s item standpoint, but also rock-solidly built, and should, if properly cared for (life experience dictates that wet bearings are soon-replaced bearings), carry even the most aggressive sidewalk surfer for the rest of his/her skatin’ days and be ready to do the same for the progeny to whom it is ideally bequeathed.
Lord knows that if I ever have kids, it’s a feeling I’ll want them to experience, too.
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