So, you’ve just bought your first skateboard and you’re ready to figure the thing out. By this time, you should be familiar with all of the pieces of a skate setup (trucks, wheels, bearings and deck) and the other gear that will keep you safe while riding (pads, helmet and proper clothes). If not, check out these articles before you get ready to go skate for the first time.
Ready to ride? Let’s take a look at some of the basics.
No brand new mountain climber would, in his right mind, attempt to scale K2 as a first ascent. Nor would a first-year medical student be asked to perform a cutting-edge heart transplant. Part of becoming an expert in something is working your way up – starting with the basics and progressing into the tougher stuff only when you’re ready.
The same is true with skating: lay a good foundation and you’ll see the results as you become a better and better skater over time. These steps may seem elementary, but take your time with them and get a solid grip on the basics – these are the tools that will eventually take you to the next level.
FINDING YOUR STANCE
Skateboarding, like all board sports, requires that one foot be in front while another goes in back. Your front foot provides balance, while the back one steers and powers the board. Before you do anything on your skate, you need to nail down your stance. If you have surfed or snowboarded in the past, you may already know which position is more comfortable.
Still unsure? Try this trick to figure it out: ask a friend to push you gently from behind and then note which foot you step on to catch your fall. You’ll probably find that this foot is the most comfortable front foot when skating. If it’s your left foot, you’ve got a “regular” stance. If it’s your right, you ride “goofy.”
In the spirit of progression, the first step in learning to skate is getting used to the feel of the board. To do this, set your board on a soft, cushy surface (think a grassy lawn or a patch of carpet). Stand on your board and become comfortable with your stance. Make sure that your front foot is over the front truck bolts and your back foot is over the back truck bolts. This will provide balance and is the way you’ll place your feet under most circumstances (of course, several tricks require shifting your stance).
Try bending your knees and jumping around a little. Rock back and forth, from your toe edge to your heel edge and back, getting a feel for stiffness of the trucks and the general motions of skating. You might even try balancing on just the back wheels, then just the front wheels. Once you have an idea of the way the board moves, you’ll be prepared to ride on a harder surface.
HITTING THE PAVEMENT
Now that you have a general feel for your skateboard, it’s time to take it to the streets. In an empty parking lot or another safe practice area, step onto your board and get your stance and balance figured out while you’re at a standstill. Once again, you’ll want to get comfortable with the way your trucks flex; lean your weight forward onto your toes and backwards onto your heels. If you feel brave, try jumping just a bit – you don’t even need to take your feet off the board at first- just bounce.
Essentially, you want to get to know your board. If you can balance on your board without thinking about it, the following tricks will be much easier to master.
Foot Position: Set up with your front foot placed over the front truck bolts. Since you’ll be moving in a forward direction, your foot should be angled toward the nose of the board, your toe pointing roughly in the direction you’re heading. Your back foot should start on the board as well, in its usual position over the back truck bolts (this foot will be straight across the width of the deck).
Directions: Pushing off isn’t too complicated; it’s simply a matter of balance. Keep in mind that all of your weight shifts over to your front foot when you’re pushing, so focus on maintaining stability over just that one foot.
Start off at a standstill, with both feet on the board in the position described above. To push, take your back foot off of the board, and as you lean forward onto your front foot with a bent knee, push off the pavement. Once you begin to roll, replace your back foot and turn your front foot so it too is straight across the width of the board. Now you’re cruising!
Once you get the hang of it, try pushing a couple times in row before replacing your foot. After a little while, you should feel confident in the way it feels to push and roll. It’s then time to take it up a notch.
Foot Position: You should have your feet set in the “standard” position. Place both your front and back feet straight across the width of the deck, over the front and back truck bolts, respectively.
Directions: To make a mellow turn, you need to start by rolling in a straight line. With a little speed behind you, the turn will probably come fairly naturally. Simply lean in the direction of the turn – forward for a toe-side turn, backwards for a heel-side turn – and let the slight shift in your weight turn your skate. This will cause you to make a long, sweeping arc. For sharper turns, read on.
Foot Position: Place your front foot across the front bolts. Set your back foot on the tail of the board, where it slopes upward. This back foot will provide the leverage necessary to make a sharp turn.
Directions: Push off and begin to roll. Set your feet in the proper position. Cock back your shoulders in the opposite direction of the turn you’re about to make. Apply pressure to the tail of the skate, raising the front portion of the board off of the ground. Swing your shoulders around and follow the momentum with the rest of your body and the skateboard. If your weight is balanced correctly over the tail, your board should rotate and you’ll complete the turn.
Foot Position: The foot position for stopping is the same as for pushing off. Set up with your front foot placed over the front truck bolts. Your foot should be angled toward the nose of the board, your toe pointing roughly in the direction you’re heading. Your back foot should start on the board as well, in its usual position over the back truck bolts (this foot will be straight across the width of the deck).
Directions: There are several ways to stop, but the easiest for most new skaters is the foot brake. While balancing over your front foot, remove your back foot and let it run along the ground as you roll. It’s important to keep all of your weight centered over your front foot, just like you did when pushing off. Put pressure on the ground with your dragging shoe, but don’t stomp down thinking the board will automatically stop. The trick is to apply even pressure over some distance to slow you down smoothly.
Foot Position: Your front foot will be across the width of the deck, right behind the front truck bolts. Your back foot will cover most of the tail of your skate. (Your feet should look about the same as when you ollie.)
Directions: Busting manuals is all about balance. Like walking on a tightrope, you’ll need to constantly adjust and shift your weight in concert with the movement of the board itself. Your first manual practice should be on the grass or some carpet, where your wheels won’t slip out from under you as easily. Put your weight over the tail of the skate, trying not to touch the deck to the ground. The nose of the board will lift up and you’ll have to focus on keeping your balance. The most important thing to remember is that as soon as you shift your weight too far back, your skate will shoot out from under you. So keep your weight over your back foot, but lean your body forward a little to stay stable.
Once you get the hang of the feel of a manual on your practice turf, try it on the pavement. Choose a long, smooth, flat area to start out with, and don’t forget your helmet!!!
Foot Position: Start off in the pushing stance – front foot facing forward, back foot on the ground. After you push off and start to roll, bring your back foot onto the board (across the rear truck bolts) before you start heading downhill. Now, rotate your front foot so that it is across the width of the board over the front truck bolts.
Directions: Skating down a small ramp and skating on a flat surface are actually pretty similar. The only real difference is that, when hitting the ramp, you need to pay particular attention to your shoulders. Your focus throughout the run should be on keeping your shoulders parallel to the ramp/ground. Bend your knees and lean into the angle of the ramp, but be careful no to exaggerate this – leaning too far forward (or too far back) will likely leave you on your butt. Start on the smallest ramp you can find and practice until you feel ready to go a bit bigger.
Keep practicing those tricks and check back with Tactics now and then to see what’s new in the skate store!