You’re probably here because you’ve started to skateboard or have at least been thinking about trying. Maybe you’re a little overwhelmed and don’t quite know where to start. You may have made some attempts but are unsure of your style or the techniques you’re using.
Whatever the case is, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s hard to learn anything as advanced and intricate as skateboarding without proper guidance. Even the best skateboarders had a mentor and some direction when they started.
There are so many different elements and specific areas of importance for skateboarding knowledge that even good self-teachers have a hard time. Breaking down the learning process into smaller, digestible lessons can make it easier. Instead of learning it all once, master small tasks one by one, and before you know it, you’ll be a master of the basics.
That’s the intent of this guide. You won’t become the next Tony Hawk by using this study guide. However, the goal is to lay out the basics of skateboarding before you worry about the more technical and advanced stylistic elements. You have to crawl before you walk.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Skateboarding
Believe it or not, skateboarding started in the 1940s. Yes, it’s possible your grandfather, or even great-grandfather, tried his hand at skateboarding (especially if he lived in California).
When catching a wave was out of the question, surfers started attaching wheels to wooden boards and riding them on land. “Sidewalk surfing” was the original name for the sport of skateboarding.
Present-day skateboarding has made leaps and bounds from the days of rudimentary skateboard prototypes with flat wooden planks and wheels. Before we get into a detailed skateboarding guide, it helps to understand some of the relevant terms for skateboarding.
Important Skateboarding Terms
You can find a more comprehensive skateboarding glossary here. In the meantime, here are some of the more pertinent terms you need to know as a beginner.
- A skateboard deck is a flat portion you stand on. These get made from wood, fiberglass, and other materials depending on the specific style
- The trucks are the aluminum assembly on the board’s underside, positioned in the front and back. These components fasten the wheels, allowing the board to turn and absorb shock
- Carving is another term for making a long, curving turn on your skateboard
- Riding “regular foot” style means positioning your left foot forward when you ride. Alternatively, “goofy foot” is when you place the right foot forward
- An ollie is a simple jump made by tapping the rear kick-portion of the board to the ground. This maneuver is the base maneuver for most freestyle, air, and kick-tricks
- A nollie is the same maneuver as an ollie, only using the front kick portion of the board
- Street-skating is a term for using an urban landscape during a skate session (benches, stairs, rails, tables, curbs, etc.)
- Vert-skating is using ramps and other vertical designs to achieve air for performing tricks
- A vert-ramp is a large half-pipe ramp with vertical surfaces on the top of each half-section of the ramp
What Type of Skateboarding Is Your Focus On?
The most important decision you need to make before moving forward with a skateboard purchase is deciding on a skateboarding style. There are several main types of skateboard riding styles to choose from:
Longboarding is a type of skateboarding used primarily for long-distance terrain with a lot of hills. Longboards are usually over 33 inches long with a wider deck and larger wheels. These elements provide more stability, making it easier to keep your balance while maintaining high speeds.
A cruising skateboard is a shorter variation of a longboard. A cruiser points at both ends, similar to a longboard but not as wide. If you plan on riding in flat, urban areas and need to navigate turns or curves over a long distance, a cruiser could be the option you’re looking for.
Carving skateboards are designed more for users looking to get into trick-style skating. A carver has a kick-slant on the rear of the skateboard and is flat and pointed in the front. These skateboards were popular in the 1970s when riders decided to start using pools to take their skateboard game to the air.
Riding a carving board allows you to make sharp turns and pump the trucks, allowing you to generate speed without pushing with the opposite foot. Riding a carving skateboard will get you familiar with maintaining your balance and making quick, sudden shifts and turns on the board.
4. Trick/Freestyle/Vert Skateboarding
A double-kick skateboard is a modern style that most people are used to seeing in action. These skateboards have slants on both ends, allowing for various kick-style tricks.
The kick-slants on either end make it easier to perform ollies and nollies. If you’re looking to master competition and trick skateboarding, a double-kick skateboard is your best option.
After deciding on your skateboarding style and choosing the appropriate board, you’ll need to get the appropriate equipment. Use this list to check off items you need to begin your journey.
- You’ll need grip tape for the deck of the skateboard. The grip tape has a sandpaper-like surface that gives you extra balance on the board. The rough surface grips to the bottom of your shoes, making it harder to slip.
- A helmet protects your head from injury in case you fall. If you plan on riding at high speeds or attempting any tricks, a helmet is essential.
- Knee pads and elbow pads are optional when you’re skateboarding. Wearing knee pads may not seem very important. Still, if you rise to levels of using a vert-ramp, you’ll understand why these safety components are essential.
- Skateboarding shoes are an important element of your equipment list. These shoes typically have thicker soles that work in unison with the grip tape, providing added balance. Skateboarding shoes are also double and triple-stitched, giving them durability to withstand damage from impacts and quick shifts.
Related: Is It Hard To Skateboard?
At this point, you should have decided on the type of skateboarding you want to do, purchased your board and accessories, and gotten familiar with the most relevant terms of skateboarding. Now it’s time to go over your final checklist.
Regardless of whether you’ve used your skateboard, review this checklist, even if it’s your first time breaking the board in. Getting used to this checklist will ensure it becomes a normal routine, which is crucial for your safety and board maintenance.
- Check wheels and bearings. Ensure none of the wheels are loose and there are no broken bearings
- Make sure the bolts at the top of the deck that connect the base plate can’t move. These bolts shouldn’t be loose
- Make sure the deck doesn’t have any sharp edges or splintered wood
- Grip tape shouldn’t be overly-worn down
Assuming all of these items were satisfactory, you’re almost ready to skate. There are only a couple more important decisions to make.
Where Should I Practice?
Deciding where to have your first few practice sessions is important. You want to be in an area that’s not too crowded. First-time skaters aren’t going to move as fast as more experienced skaters. Throwing yourself in the mix with fast-paced skateboarders at a local skate park could lead to potential injuries.
If your goal is to become a seasoned longboarder or cruiser, you don’t want to start in heavy-traffic areas. Take some time to plan where you’re going to practice so you can scout the area first.
Choose an area that has smooth concrete surfaces. Sidewalks or paved bike paths that don’t get used heavily can be ideal for learning to skateboard. This is even better if you can find a dead-end street with almost zero traffic or an abandoned parking lot.
Keep in mind that some places don’t want trespassers. If possible, try to use a parking lot that’s not on the main strip to avoid having many eyes on you. The goal is to bring as little attention to yourself as possible. Check out our article on where to skateboard to learn more.
Last Minute Skateboarding Pointers
Now you’ve found a location, and you’ve got everything you need to start skateboarding. These last few tips are very important. Follow these pointers, and you’re ready to learn the beginning techniques.
1. Don’t Be Embarrassed
Don’t let falling off your skateboard embarrass you or deter you from continuing with your passion. It doesn’t matter who you are; everybody falls off their skateboard. The most seasoned professionals continue to fall off their boards and won’t stop until the day they quit boarding.
Falling off your skateboard is nothing to be ashamed about; it’s a part of the sport. Being embarrassed about falling off your skateboard is like a football player being ashamed of getting tackled.
Hold your head high if someone laughs at you for falling (likely it will be non-skaters if this happens). At least you have the guts to go out there and learn your passions while taking your bumps and bruises.
2. Fear is Okay
Any activity that poses an inherent risk of danger is going to manifest symptoms of fear. These feelings are entirely normal and are pretty healthy in this situation.
Your fear protects you during dangerous activities such as skateboarding. An average level of fear stops you from going off the deep end and attempting something completely unfamiliar.
However, it’s also important not to let these feelings paralyze us. If there’s a specific part of skateboarding or any other activity you want to conquer but have reserves, sometimes over-analyzing can hold you back.
Don’t be irrational, but sometimes we have to take leaps of faith. It should be said one more time; don’t let fear paralyze or control you.
However, use your gut instinct. When you’re attempting a new trick, you should jump right into it after a few practices. However, if you hesitate for more than five seconds, walk away. This hesitation can lead to injury once you begin the trick or other activity. Walk away, and come back in a day or two.
3. Get Used to Falling
No, this doesn’t mean you’ll constantly fall throughout your skateboard career. Remember when we said that everyone falls, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed? It would be best if you got used to these falls before skateboarding full time.
Before you start boarding, stand on the deck in the grass. Familiarize yourself with the feel of the skateboard and keeping your balance. Shift your weight from side to side, doing your best to stay level. Twist your hips in ways you would while you’re riding normally.
Finally, fall on purpose. This may sound ridiculous, but falling on purpose prepares your body for bracing itself when it happens in real-time. Practicing in the grass will prepare you for when it happens on concrete.
If you already know how to brace yourself and help your body absorb these falls, your chances for serious injury will lower substantially. Practice everything in the grass before you hit the concrete.
Learn How to Skateboard
Determine Your Stance
Before learning how to push the board, the first thing you need to decide is whether you’ll skate regular-foot or goofy-foot. To determine your stance, you’ll need to figure out which foot is your front foot. Try one of these methods to find your front foot.
- Run straight ahead and pretend you are going to hit a slippery surface you want to slide across.
- Now prepare yourself to jump and land without giving it much thought. Before you leap, the foot you stick out in front of you is most likely your front foot.
- Alternatively, stand blindfolded with your back to a friend. Have your friend push you from behind without warning. The foot you use to brace yourself from falling is your front foot.
Learning to Push
The foot you determined was your front foot will go in the front of the board. Place this foot directly over the front truck bolt. Keep your toes pointed to the front of the board.
Bend your knees slightly and use your other foot to give yourself a little push. Take it easy, being careful not to step on your skateboard. Practice this for about 30 minutes, taking the time to get used to the feeling.
After you’re used to the motion of pushing, position yourself on a long straight stretch. Give yourself a few good pushes, only this time, place your back foot on the tail of the skateboard. Shift your front foot sideways to help keep your balance.
Continue doing this and roll on! Practice keeping your balance, and you’re riding a skateboard. Do this over and over until you’re comfortable and fall less. Once you are confident in this maneuver, you can learn how to turn.
Learning to Turn
Remember when we said to practice in the grass first while turning your hips and making different motions? We’re going to do something similar to this.
Now that you can ride the skateboard on concrete go to your board and put both feet on. Lean to the front and back of your board, getting used to how the deck responds to your motions. Once you familiarize yourself with how the board moves and responds to certain body motions, you can try it while moving.
In skateboarding, there is a kick-turn and a carving turn. A kick-turn is a little harder to pull off. You’ll lift your front wheels slightly by putting weight on the back of the board. Carving is when you lean in with your hips and use the weight of your body to steer the skateboard.
If you want to perform a carving turn, you’ll want to loosen your trucks. Use your hips to lean in the direction you want to turn, and the board will follow your motion.
Learning to Stop
Using your face to stop the skateboard isn’t the safest way to do it, so we’ll teach you a better method. Your back foot is much better suited to slow down your skateboard.
Using the same position you use to push, drag the sole of your shoe against the ground to slow yourself down. Angle your foot towards the tip of the skateboard and gradually apply more pressure to your stopping foot.
It’s important to give yourself a little distance before you need to make the stop. Don’t be afraid to bail when you’re unsure about completing a full stop and there are obstacles or traffic.
Well, there you have it. You are now a professional skateboarder.
Okay, maybe you’re not a pro, but you’ve got the basics down, and practice makes perfect. Continue practicing these methods exclusively for a week or two. When you’re confident in your ability to maintain balance and move forward, you can try more advanced techniques.
The key to becoming better at skateboarding is having patience. You can’t get mad at yourself or get discouraged. This will only make you want to quit.
Don’t try to learn everything in one day; it’s important to pace yourself. Learn two or three new skills and take two weeks to perfect them. After gaining confidence in these maneuvers, move to a new skill set and perfect those. Good luck and ride safe!