Put simply, yes and no! Modern skateboards have their origins in the
late 1950s, when grip tape started appearing in the 1970s the most
commonly available mineral in the US was silicon carbide (also known as
carborundum tape). From the 1980s onwards throughout western industry
aluminium oxide became more prevalent as an abrasive mineral and began
replacing silicon carbide; it was more readily available, more quality
consistent, had the same level of hardness and was cheaper. Grip tape
can be produced with either, with some non slip tape only produced
using aluminium oxide or S2 (a form of silica).
I have heard that silicon carbide is better and tougher?
Completely untrue. As mentioned above silicon carbide was the original
grip material however from the 1980s onwards moves were made towards
production using aluminium oxide. Mineral hardness is measured by the
MOHS scale, both aluminium oxide and silicon carbide register the same
mineral hardness, 9. 1 is talc and 10 being diamond. Silicon carbide
retains its place in grip tape usage mainly as an ‘old school’ remnant,
reminding boarders of its vintage 1970s roots, in performance there is
little difference with aluminium oxide offering better quality output.
What about the adhesive?
Most grip tapes have a lower level of adhesion compared to non slip
tape. A skateboard is an easy substrate to adhere onto, in the worst
case it might have a lacquer coat. Non slip tapes might be applied
onto extremely low energy substrates, the most difficult materials
include PP, PUR and siliconised powder coat. Non slip tapes have to
possess an adhesive capable of permanently and instantly bonding to
these surfaces, this can only be achieved with modern, advanced and
often application specific adhesives. The old system of simply
applying a higher coat weight is no longer seen as an effective
Is the base material different?
Grip tapes typically use a thin PVC base. Anti slip tapes will
normally use thicker PVC and various thicknesses of PVC dependent on
the end application. Other plastics that are utilised which include:
PET (provides extra strength and zero stretch tolerances), PE (full
biodegradability), PP (can easily be hot welded instead of adhered),
aluminium foil (formability and extreme flame retardancy) and PU
(cushioning abilities but very expensive compared to other plastics).
Does the backing liner vary?
At last a simple answer, yes! Most skateboard grip tape will use a thicker backing paper, the reason is unknown but is believed to be historical.