For most beginners, getting their first skateboard is a moment of mixed feelings. Of course, everyone is delighted with their first board, but it can be scary too. Perhaps you have been to a skate park and seen the tricks possible on a skateboard, and this experience is what made you purchase your board. However, the moment you step on your board, you suddenly realize that there is far more to skateboarding than meets the eyes.
Skateboarding is not as easy as people make it look, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated either. Learning how to skateboard is so much fun if you know what to learn first. That’s what we are going to look at in this article, what to learn when you are first stepping on a skateboard. These tips will help you learn how to control and balance on your board and then, with practice, you will be ready to start learning tricks.
Street, park and bowl/vert skating
Before we look at the basics of skateboarding, we first want to discuss different styles of skating. There are three kinds of skating, Street, Park and Bowl/Vert. Many moons ago, people would stick to one style of skating for most of their skating life. However, nowadays, a lot of people dip their toes into each style each time they skate.
Street skating is where people find obstacles in the streets and try and skate them. These obstacles aren’t as nice as the obstacles at skate parks, and so this adds another level of challenge to these spots. Street skating is all about tricks and trying bigger and better stuff than the day before. It is where many of the gnarliest tricks nowadays are happening. Most of you reading this will at some point skate street. Please be respectful to people that are using the obstacles as they were intended but also go nuts and try and Ollie the biggest thing you ever have.
Park skating is a mixture of street, bowl and sometimes vert. It is where you can practice any style of skating you want and learn all of your tricks. Parks are designed so that they have obstacles for everyone, and park skaters typically use all of the obstacles. They may focus on the street section of the park sometimes and then the bowl, but most park skaters can skate every obstacle at the park. A lot of street skaters use parks as a training ground. They perfect their tricks at a skate park where the obstacles and the ground are a lot nicer than the streets and then take them to the streets. However, most bowl and vert riders stay at the parks and perfect their tricks in the bowl or on the vert ramp.
Bowl and vert skating typically involve bigger risks from the beginning. Street skating has lower risk because you can’t get into too much trouble if you can’t Ollie. Bowl and vert skating, on the other hand, don’t have these restrictions, if you can stand on your board, you can skate a bowl or a vert ramp in some way. Some bowl riders come over to the street section every so often, as do some vert riders, but for the most part, they are dedicated to that style of skating because they find it the most fun.
The style of skating you choose is really up to you. There are no bad points to any of them. Of course, there will be a style of skating you prefer, but these change as you grow up and your skateboarding style develops. Throughout our teens, we skated street, we loved jumping down big stair sets and gaps. Nowadays, we skate parks. Parks are a great place to go for a chilled skate or a gnarly one. You don’t need to worry about getting kicked out of a spot or rough ground that tears your body up. We just find it more fun to skate parks now, but everyone is different. So, don’t worry about which style of skating you want to do, just go for it. And if you don’t know which style of skateboarding you want to do, give them all a go! You’ll find the one that you want to do!
The Basics of Skateboarding
Now, some of the basics that we are going to discuss below may not seem relevant to the style of skating you want to do. For example, pumping on transition. If you don’t want to skate transition (quarter pipes, mini ramps, and bowls), this information may not sound helpful, but it is! Being able to pump on a mini ramp can help you in every corner of a skate park and even in the streets. Knowing when and where to bend your knees to get speed or reduce your speed will help you set up for tricks anywhere and it is invaluable for every skater in the world.
So, although some of the skate tips here may not seem important to you, they truly are, and you will need them all if you want to start learning tricks and growing your abilities on your skateboard. So, please make sure you read all the skate tips below. Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s start with the basics.
Standing on your board
Right, you have just got your board out of the box. It is shiny and new, and you really want to stand on it and get going down the street. You first want to find the correct position to stand in on the board. Now, comfortable positions for tricks vary for everyone, but for most people, the position for rolling on your board is the same.
You want to have your feet shoulder-width apart, one on the tail and one just below the truck bolts of the nose, with your body facing to the side and your head looking forward. This position gives you the most amount of control possible. Now, for younger kids, this position can be hard to reach because of their height. If this is the case, you may want to buy them a smaller board to start with. These boards are a few inches shorter than a normal skateboard and will help them achieve this position without needing to spread their feet too far apart. The further apart your feet are, the less control you have.
It is worth standing in this position for a while to get used to it. This is the position you are going to be in for much of your time on your board. This is the position you are going move back to after tricks and from when you set your feet up for tricks. Practice this position and you will have your first level of control of your skateboard.
Regular vs. Goofy
These are the two stances that skateboarders stand in. Regular means that your left foot is forward and goofy means your right foot is forward. For most people, their stance is just dictated by how they feel comfortable on their board. Although a lot of people take great pride in being goofy or regular, it really doesn’t matter at all. As long as you are comfortable on your board, that is all that counts.
How to Push on a Skateboard
Pushing your skateboard can be tricky to start with, but stick with it. To start with, only try a few pushes at most. You don’t want to go too fast too quickly as you want to feel comfortable and happy, not scared.
To begin with, stand in the golden position of control we talked about above. Then, rotate your front foot so that it is facing in the same direction as your board. Next, take your back foot off of the board and put it near your front foot, but on the floor. Now you are ready to take a push, just slowly drag your back foot across the floor so that the board starts to move and then place it back on your board returning both feet to the golden position of control. Just take your time with this, as long as your shoulders and hips are centered over the board, you will not fall off, so keep them centered.
As you get more comfortable with pushing, try to push a few times and then get back to the golden position of control. This will mean that you are moving faster, but, once again, as long as your weight is over the board, you’ll be fine. The thing that makes people fall when practicing pushing is their weight. It is all about where your weight is and why it is where it is. If you try and push and don’t put your front feet back into the golden position, your weight will not be over the board properly; it will most likely be too far back, this means you’ll fall off the back and hurt your bum. The reason for this is because in the back of your mind you know your front foot isn’t correct, so you try to overcompensate with your back foot and put too much weight on it. So, always remember the golden position of control and practice getting back into that position after you have taken a push.
So, the above was how to push if you push “normally”. Now, some people like to push with their front foot, this is called Mongo. There isn’t anything wrong with pushing mongo, although many skaters disagree with that. However, it is a little trickier to learn how to push, but if that’s that way you feel comfortable, then go for it.
If you feel like you want to push mongo, it is the same motions as above, just in reverse. However, your back foot with still be on the tail which can make the whole pushing situation a lot scarier. If you notice your board starting to lift when you take your front foot off to push, stop. You need to bring your back foot up a little bit more so that your weight isn’t on the tail. Once you have finished pushing, you can then put your foot back to where it should be on your tail. Pushing mongo isn’t too tricky, there are just a couple more steps to take sometimes.
A quick lesson in skatepark etiquette
The best place to learn skateboard basics and tricks is the skatepark. Skateboarders are a great bunch of people who are always willing to help beginners learn. Every skateboarder gets excited when a beginner learns a new trick because that is exactly what skateboarding is all about. So, find out where your local skatepark is and grab your board and get down there! Before you go, though, there are some unwritten rules about skateparks that you should learn first. Of course, many local skateparks have their own rules too which you should always follow. The unwritten rules are more like a skater’s code to make the skate park a happy and safe place for everyone. Here is a quick breakdown of these skatepark rules.
Don’t cross the stream
If everyone is using the skate park in one direction, do not start skating it in the opposite direction. If you do, you may collide with someone else.
Don’t be a snake
A snake is where you skate in front of someone when they are about to go. It may not seem like it, but most skateparks have a cue of people waiting to go, this is particularly true when people are skating the same obstacles. So, when you get to the skate park, take a minute to look around and see what people are skating and if there is a cue, find your place in it
Respect the trick
If someone is trying a very difficult trick, perhaps now isn’t the time to go up and ask them how to Ollie. Instead, sit back and watch the awesome trick, you never know, watching may actually answer your questions anyway.
Don’t comp people
This rule is for later on in your skating life. Comping is where you see someone trying a trick and decide to do the trick too. That just isn’t cool. This person may have been trying this trick for hours, and you come along and do it first go, not cool at all! Give people some space to do their tricks and then try it elsewhere if you like. Or ask if you can session the trick, they may need a little help with it, and you may just make a new skate mate.
That is just a brief breakdown of skate park etiquette, there are more things to learn, and your local park may have other rules that you need to learn too. Don’t let these rules put you off, these are put in place by skaters all over the world so that we can all have as much fun as possible. Although skateboarding is one of the most freeing things in the world, it is only as freeing as it is because of these rules. So, please respect them and have loads of fun! Right, now you know a little bit about skatepark etiquette, let’s learn a trick that can help you get around the skatepark!
How to kick-turn
Right, now you can push comfortably, it is time to learn how to kick-turn. Kick-turning is useful for many things, not just to turn around on quarter pipes. It teaches you valuable control techniques and helps you make your way around skateparks more fluidly.
To begin with, you’ll want to practice kick-turning on the smallest flat bank you have available to you. If you start small, there is less fear and so the easier it all becomes. Just go slowly toward the flat bank at first, you can build up speed as you get more comfortable with turning your board the 180 degrees.
So, as you reach the bank are start going up it, you want to start turning your board. This means that you have to slightly lift up on your front foot and put more weight on your back foot. Now that you have more weight on your tail, your board will be easier to move, start turning it back the way you came. Start turning your shoulders in the direction you want to go and your hips and legs will follow. You may find that it helps to split the 180 degrees into sections. You may find that a few movements are a lot less scary than one. That’s fine, whatever gets you around is totally okay right now. You can learn how to do the full 180 degrees in one motion once you are comfortable with doing it, for now, get your board round, however, is best for you.
Once you get comfortable with doing kick-turns on flat banks and you are building up your speed, start trying them on quarter pipes. They are exactly the same, just a little scarier because of the curve in the ramp. Don’t worry about the curve, for now, start off low down on the quarter pipe and work your way up slowly. Something that may help you with learning kick-turns on quarter pipes is pumping.
How to pump on transition
Pumping is where you gain, reduce or maintain your speed using transition. There is no need to push at all, you can get all your speed from a quarter pipe or flat bank. Now, pumping is an art form that takes a while to master, so don’t worry if you don’t achieve it first go, it can take months to understand fully.
To start with, you’ll want to use a mini ramp for practice, mainly because there are two-quarter pipes, so you get double the practice. So, start pushing from the bottom of one ramp to the other. Just before you reach the bottom of the transition (the transition is the curvy piece between the flat bottom and the vertical piece) bend your knees and push your hips forward (towards the top of the quarter pipe), not too much, you don’t want to reach the top or anything, just push them slightly in the direction you are going. This should make you go up the quarter pipe. As you are coming back down and just before you reach the transition from the other side this time, bend your knees and push your hips slightly towards the flat bottom. This, once again, generates speed and helps you reach the other quarter pipe on the mini ramp. Now just keep going, if you think you are going too high, bend your knees while on the transition but don’t push your hips, that kills all your speed. If you want to get more speed, push your hips harder.
It takes time to learn how to pump, but it is an amazing feeling when you do learn. It suddenly opens up the whole skate park to you and the rest of the world. Once you can pump on a mini ramp, you can pump in a bowl, on a flat bank, around a town and anywhere else. Ask someone to help you with your pumping if you are struggling. It is very much a light bulb moment for most people. Once someone explains it or shows it to you in a certain way, you’ll pump almost straight away!
How to drop in
Right, this is the scariest things we are going to talked about in this beginners skateboarding article. Dropping in is extremely scary until you’ve done it. I still remember standing at the top of a quarter pipe for three hours in the cold with my foot on my tail waiting to get the courage up to drop in. My dad was standing there watching me do this until I decided that I couldn’t get up the nerve to do it and we drove home in silence.
I tell you this because every single skater has been the position you are in right now. We have all stood at the top of a quarter pipe looking down willing ourselves to commit to dropping in and have failed. This is very much the turning point for most skaters. Learning to drop in is the first time for most us that we just have to trust ourselves and go over the edge.
Although we can’t get you over this fear, the fear of dropping in leaves you immediately once you’ve done it, by the way, we can try our best to help you learn the proper techniques of dropping in. By practicing these techniques on flat banks and small stuff, you will be able to drop in a quarter pipe as soon as you are ready to do it.
How to drop in on a skateboard – a step by step guide
Step 1. Find a small a bank to practice on
If your local skate park has a small flat bank that you can learn to drop in then you are laughing. If it doesn’t try and find one in the streets. You can use the disabled access to an office (as long as no one in a wheelchair is using it at the time) or a small flat bank in town. Just try and find a small bank that you are comfortable with rolling in on and kick-turning on.
Step 2. Your back foot
Your back foot is your safety net for the first part of dropping in. It needs to be bang in the center of your tail. You remember the golden position of control from earlier? Your back foot needs to be in the exact same place. Make sure that your back foot is here and you will have a stable base when you are ready to drop in.
Step 3. The front foot position
This is where you are going to put your front foot on your board. Now, before you try and drop in, just put your front foot on your trucks bolts or just behind them (wherever is more comfortable for you). Keep all of your weight on your back foot and just have your front foot in the position it needs to be. Remember this position and practice it. Your front foot needs to hit this position every time you drop in for the rest of your life, so learn it now.
Step 4. The big step
When you are comfortable, it’s time to drop in. Bring your front foot up to your trucks bolts and lean forward. You need to lean most of your weight forward so that your front wheels hit the transition. If you don’t, you will manual down the ramp and fall off the back. So, always lean forward a lot, typically, people do not lean forward enough to fall off the front when they drop in. Most people, do not lean forward enough, but if you lean as far as you are comfortable, this should be enough to get your down the ramp safely.
You’ve got it!
Now that you have practiced all these steps on a flat bank, you are ready to take them to a quarter pipe. Now, when you get to the top of the quarter pipe, all of these steps may seem very different, but they aren’t at all, we promise. The motions are exactly the same, the only thing that’s different is your confidence. Just take your time and when you’re ready, go for it. Don’t keep your board hanging over the coping for too long as this just puts you off. When you’re ready, and you’ve got yourself pumped up, put your tail on the coping, make sure your back foot is secure, put your front foot on the board, lean forwards loads and you’ll be at the bottom of the quarter pipe with the biggest smile on your face in no time!
Now you know how to skateboard – Go Skate!
We hope this article about the basics of skateboarding has been helpful to you if you are just starting out. Please check out our other trick tips when you are ready to progress further with your skating. Also, please check out our other articles about the best skateboarding products available right now! Happy skating!
Scott has been skating since 2000 and has loved every minute of it. He was previously sponsored by a local skate company but now rides for pleasure. When he’s not skating he works as a freelance writer and woodworker.