The Beginner's Guide to Skateboarding

Father teaching son (10-11) skateboard
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New to skateboarding? Follow these beginner tips to learn everything you need to know about essential gear and skateboarding skills.

Beginner Skateboard Gear

The first thing to do is get a pair of good skate shoes. Skating is possible in regular shoes, but it will be a lot harder, and even sometimes dangerous. Skate shoes are built with a large flat bottom, to better grip the board, and often include other features like reinforcement in areas where the shoe will likely wear down.

Wear Protective Gear

Second, it's important to get a helmet. While some skaters do not wear helmets, it is important to do so. In fact, it's common now for skateparks to require helmets, and just plain smart, especially when first starting out.

Wearing other protective pads can be good too, but what is needed depends on what type of skating will be performed. If trying to do tricks in the driveway, elbow pads might be a good idea, but only knee pads are needed when skating on a ramp or trying crazy tricks. Wrist braces can be nice, but it is recommended to be careful not to get too used to using hands when falling.

Standing on a Skateboard

First, it is important to get comfortable with standing on a skateboard. If the skateboard is borrowed, or consists of a store bought, complete skateboard already built, there's a chance that there may be some things about it that will be uncomfortable.

Set the board in some grass or on the carpet in your living room, and try standing or jumping on it. Try balancing on the front or back wheels only. Stand on the board and move both feet into different positions. Get used to the feel and size of the board, and get comfortable with standing on it.

Skateboard Stance: Goofy vs. Regular

Figure out whether the best skateboard stance is goofy or regular footed. This comes down a personal decision on whether skating should be best done with the right foot or left foot forward, and changes from individual to individual.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Ultimately, it comes down to what feels most comfortable. Just as some people are right handed or left handed, some will use their right or left foot, or simply switch them out interchangeably.

Goofy is skating with the right foot forward, while regular is skating with the left foot forward. There are several ways to figure out what feels most comfortable on your board.

Skateboard Pushing

Pushing the skateboard involves taking the skateboard out to some pavement or concrete somewhere. An empty parking lot without cars or people around is recommended. Now, it is time to get comfortable on a surface where the board can roll.

Get Your Skateboard Rolling

  • First, try cruising around the parking lot. Take your front foot, and put it so that your toes are right over the front truck, or a little behind it, on top of the board.
  • Use your back foot to push off with so that the skateboard starts rolling, and put your back foot back on the skateboard, once you are rolling the speed you want to.
  • When you slow down, push off some more with your back foot.
  • To turn, if you are going downhill, you can lean in the direction you want to turn, but this will turn you slowly. A better way to turn is to balance for a split moment on your back wheels and swing your front wheels the direction you want to go. This might take some practice.

Take Your Time Learning

It is important to get comfortable with riding around like this. Spending some time practicing, as it will help you learn.

After feeling pretty good with riding like this, try going carefully down an easy hill that has no traffic. Spend some time learning to skate. Skating can be practiced at local skate parks, and it may help beginners to go earlier when there are fewer people there.

How to Stop on a Skateboard

After knowing how to move on a skateboard, it is important to learn how to stop.

4 Ways to Stop When Skateboarding

  1. Foot breaking: The easiest way is to take off your back foot and drag it on the ground. It takes practice; skaters should spend time focusing on it now before needed so that they can stop when needed.
  2. Heel Drag: This takes some practice, but it's a common way to stop with people who have been skating a while. Put the heel of your back foot so that it is sticking off of the back of your skateboard and lean back so that the front of your board comes up into the air. Then, step down on your heel, but make sure that the front half of your foot is still on the board. Your heel should drag a short way, and you should stop. It is common to fall on your back a few times and launch the board out in front of you when learning.
  3. Power Slide: Powerslides are popular in the Tony Hawk video games, but they are fairly advanced. While this looks appealing, it is not recommended for beginners.
  4. Bail: When all else fails, just jump off the board. When your knees are bent while you ride, this shouldn't be too hard. If you jump forward, your skateboard will usually stop. Buying a new skateboard is much cheaper and easier than getting a broken arm or a new face.

How to Carve on a Skateboard

Carving is all about leaning toeside or heelside to get the board to turn in that direction.

Carving Tips

  • First, push your board and put weight on your heels while rolling. This will allow you to slowly turn in that direction. The harder you push on your heels, the sharper your turn will be.
  • While skating around, you will be using this a lot. It is recommended to go out to the street or parking lot and try pushing forward and carving around things. For example, try pushing right at something that you don't want to hit, like a curb, and see if you can carve around or away from it.

If you lean your upper body toward the direction you want to carve, you will find it even easier. Carving on a skateboard is very similar to carving on a snowboard. If you want to carve especially deep, try bending your knees, and crouching low on your board. Carving is easier on a longboard, but it is a valuable skill in any board sport.

How to Skate at a Skatepark, and Over Flow

Practicing a little skateboarding on the street or in a parking lot is different from skating over ramps, down slopes, or at a skatepark.

Skating Over Flow

The sloping curves of a skatepark are sometimes called "flow". Skateboarding over flow, and up and down slopes and ramps, is a little tricky. The first key is to always keep your weight on your front foot. When riding over a big bump, down a hill, down a driveway, or through a skatepark, it is important to keep your weight on that front foot. Relax while doing so and ensure no cars or people are in the way.

Transfer Your Weight

There is one trick to this key: when you ride up a ramp or slope, pause, and then ride back down fakie, your front foot just changed. This is because your front foot isn't always your right or left foot, it's actually the foot that is facing the direction you are going. When riding up a ramp or hill and coming down fakie, you'll want to transfer your weight from one foot to the other right at the top.

Bend Your Knees

The second key is to keep your knees bent and as loose as you can. This will help your body to absorb the shock and impact of bumps and changes. As a huge rule in skateboarding, the more relaxed and bent your knees are, the better you will skate. Don't hunch your shoulders too much, and try to keep them back and relaxed.

How to Kickturn

After feeling comfortable with stopping, starting, and carving, it's time to start practicing kickturns. Learning how to kickturn is vital.

Balancing for a Moment

Kickturning is when you balance on your back wheels for a moment and swing the front of your board to a new direction. It takes some balance and practice.

Once you have kickturns down, make sure you can kickturn in both directions. Try kickturning while moving and while on a ramp. For instance, ride up a bit and kickturn 180.

Getting Hurt Skateboarding and Getting Back Up

Skateboarding can be a painful sport to learn. It's normal to get hurt while skateboarding. You can wear pads all over your body, but you will fall, and likely get hurt before catching yourself. Besides wearing a helmet and pads, there are some things you can do to help reduce the damage.

Don't Use Your Hands

When you fall, try to not use your hands to catch yourself. If you lose your board and are going to smash into the ground, you should try and let your shoulder and body take it, rolling with the blow as much as you can.

Catching yourself with your hand is a great way to break a wrist, and while wearing wrist guards can protect you from this, it's dangerous to get used to using your hands because at some point you will skate without the wrist guards.

Shake It Off 

The best thing to do if you get hurt is to get up, if you can, walk around, and shake it off. Every time you fall, your body will learn to avoid doing that again. You shouldn't get hurt too badly from skateboarding, but broken bones are common. If you think you've broken a bone or hurt something bad, get it checked out.

Skate and Create

After getting comfortable with cruising around, you will likely want to learn some tricks. Here are some good street tricks to learn next:

  • The Ollie: Most skaters try to learn this trick too soon, but it is an important trick to master.
  • Pop Shuvit: This is a great trick to learn along with the ollie since it takes a set of very different skills.
  • Manual: The manual trick will help you practice balance. You can mix manuals in with other tricks.
  • Rail Stands: Sometimes called Primo stands, this trick is tougher than it looks.

There are more tricks to try and tackle, like kickflips, grinds, and tricks for parks and ramps. Learn at your own pace, have fun, and relax.