Electric skateboards are a relative newcomer to the market, though they're steadily transitioning from an expensive novelty to a viable personal transportation device. Thanks to advancements in battery and electric motor technologies, an increasing number of manufacturers are offering reasonably priced options that promise real-world practicality. Outdoor Master is one of the brands competing in this space; while this brand is typically associated with ski goggles and helmets, their Booster electric skateboard has emerged as one of the more solid options in the budding electric skateboard market.
Disclosure: Outdoor Master provided us with this electric skateboard to review.
Before we begin discussing the merits of the Booster, I'll start with some relevant background information. I have been skateboarding as a hobby for at least 25 years, as well as snowboarding for over 20. It's also important to note that my experience with electric skateboards is rather limited: the only other interaction I've had with another electric skateboard was a short 5-minute ride on one that belonged to a friend. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I wasn't overly impressed with the Booster at first glance. I felt that the board was heavy and cumbersome, and the initial ride just didn't provide the type of fluid movement that I'm accustomed to with my vert style skateboard. I'd soon find out that electric skateboarding is a whole different animal in and of itself, and it should not be compared to anything non-electric. It's an exhilarating new way of riding around the city.
The Outdoor Master Booster board sets itself apart out of the gate with an interesting design choice: there's a pair of 450W hub motors embedded in the rear wheels, and the board offers four progressively faster forward speeds as well as a reverse gear. Outdoor Master claims a top speed of 24 MPH and a fully charged range of 27 miles. To test these figures, I rode the Booster around my neighborhood as it provides nice and smooth asphalt in a 0.3 mi loop.
The owner's manual recommends that riders place their feet at the widest part of the board to maximize stability. Due to the way in which electric motors deliver their power (instant torque), the power output comes on surprisingly strong. In my opinion, learning to balance yourself on the initial forward jolt is the most important thing to get right. I would advise riders to bend their knees and lean their head forward as well; if you are caught in an upright standing position while accelerating, it has enough acceleration to sweep you flat on your back with lots of injury potential - protective gear is a must.
To ride the Booster, you interact with a wireless remote control. The controller itself is lightweight and ergonomic, and there's even a loop to thread your index finger through so it won't slip in your hands. Acceleration and braking is controlled by a thumb wheel, and the LED display shows all relevant information such as your speed, gear choice, mileage, and battery charge.
On the first ride, I felt comfortable to move up to speed 3, which is certainly fast enough to get you excited. I quickly deduced that riding an electric skateboard is akin to snowboarding - because your feet are planted in place, you end up using the same hip carving movement as you would on a snowboard to turn and maneuver. One major difference is the presence of a braking system, which can be adjusted to three different levels of stopping power. There's smooth, quick deceleration on demand even at the lowest level, and I didn't feel the need to increase the braking intensity. It does take time to learn to stop, especially in sudden situations. You train the body to relax as it feels an opposite jolt while stopping, and I find it helpful to bend the knees to maintain balance.
On a perfectly smooth concrete surface (this obviously varies from city to city), the Booster could literally replace your car if your commute isn’t far and weather is nice all year. I came home with a big smile on my face due to the endless fun I just had on the first ride and couldn’t wait to ride it again.
Later on, I had the courage to take it out further into the suburbs and through the many park walking paths. Still comfortable on speed 3, I had the chance to face unexpected hazards such as uneven concrete slabs, pebbles, seeds, pine cones, and many fruits that fall from the trees in the neighborhood. Because the Booster is equipped with big wheels, most of these urban hazards can be shrugged off without much concern. The irregular concrete slabs (caused by tree roots pushing up on them from below) were easier to run over at slower speeds. Same with going up driveways or crossing the crosswalk section (basically transferring from asphalt into sidewalk concrete). Little pebbles that would “wheel munch” your traditional skateboard are not an issue, and I wasn't thrown off the board when I accidentally ran over bigger items such as a pine cone and guava fruit. At one point, I went through an area where the sidewalk was covered in bean-sized seeds. Although I successfully rode through it, I felt the board skid and, at times, had little to no control under my feet. This board is recommended for flat surfaces only, but some of these hazards are inevitable and riders should be ready to face new challenges as they come.
After this ride, the board showed it had lost two bars of battery charge. A full charge from a drained battery will take roughly 4 hours, and the remote control will display charging progress.
On a separate day, I arranged an outing with some fellow riders and had the chance to directly compare the Outdoor Master Booster to boards from other manufacturers. They carried a competitor’s brand with the vert style shape. A few things stood out right away: the wheels on their electric skateboards were noticeably smaller than the Booster's, and the remote controls lacked the index finger opening. Their boards also offered 4 speeds, though the Booster delivered a slightly higher top speed. On the other hand, their electric skateboards have a tail, which provides extra maneuverability and the option to make sharper turns. However, being a shorter board, it forces you to stand in a less comfortable position with your legs positioned just a bit too close to each other. The design of the Outdoor Master is much safer, comfortable, and suitable for long rides.
We went on a 6-7 mile ride over mostly smooth concrete. Both of the other riders have put over 500 miles on their boards, so they brought a lot more experience to the table. This also meant that their battery packs were pretty worn, which became a minor annoyance later. The Booster never dropped below an indicated 3 bars of battery charge (out of 4) the entire time, while the other two riders had to charge their boards half way through our ride to be able to continue. Another neat feature that allowed the Booster to excel is the braking system - it operates like an EV's regenerative brakes, adding miles to the estimated range. We had a car waiting to take us back, although the Outdoor Master could have easily done the ride back without any additional charges.
As impressive as the Outdoor Master Booster is, there are some drawbacks worth sharing. Some of these are inherent to the design, while we hope that others will be addressed in future product revisions. As with any other electric skateboard, your feet will inevitably lose circulation and start tingling from the ankles up after riding for a long time. This happens after about 3-4 miles of continuous riding in my experience. It's a common issue according to fellow electric skateboard riders, and it's one that can be easily remedied by taking a break every now and then and walking a few steps to wake your feet back up.
The other criticisms can be leveled at the remote controller. Although no accidents happened throughout any of our rides, it occurred to me that the plastic material of the remote seems a little flimsy and could potentially sustain damage if you fall off the board. Likewise, the speedometer is set to kilometers out of the box, and the instruction manual doesn't mention how to change it to miles, or if such a conversion is possible at all. That said, these are both minor nitpicks, and they hardly detract from how enjoyable the Booster is to ride.
Consider me a convert. I was wary at first, but my tune changed almost immediately after the very first ride. The Booster is endless fun, and being able to go uphill on a skateboard without paddling or kicking is a game changer. The ability to ride concrete like I’m riding down a mountain without having to wait for snow that never comes is priceless. The learning curve is short, and it's easy for riders of any skill to get going. It offers more power and speed than you'll ever reasonably need. For a company that has no prior experience with electric skateboards, Outdoor Master hit an impressive first-try home run with the Booster.