How to Ollie Down Stairs

Shot of a young man skating down a flight of stairs
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Ollying off of stairs is a sweet skate trick - it looks cool and is very useful. The same principals behind ollying down stairs can work with other things too, like ledges or off tables. Before you attack a set of stairs though, there are a few things that you need to know how to do:

You Should Know How to Skate

We're not being sarcastic here - you need to really know how to skate. You need to be comfortable and pretty good on a board. Don't rush too fast into this trick. Make sure you have excellent board control and balance. Otherwise, you can eat it pretty hard on this trick, and though watching someone face-plant might be fun, it's never fun to be the guy or gal wearing pavement.

You Should Already Know How to Ollie

Make sure you know it well, though, and don't just have a weak low ollie. Take the time to build up and make sure you have a good, strong, high ollie before trying stairs.

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Step 1: Stair Ollie Setup

Shot of a young man skating down a flight of stairs
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Once you have the basics down, you need to find some stairs. Start off with some low ones - just one or two steps, or better yet start with learning how to ollie off of curbs. Low stairs aren't very hard, and the great thing about learning to ollie stairs is that it's easy to do the slow build up learning process!

Make sure the stairs have a good flat path leading up to them and leading away from them. Also, make sure that you can see around them. Nothing will mess up your ollie like having someone actually trying to use the stairs!

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Step 2: the Approach

Skateboarder jumping stairway, mid air
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For smaller sets of stairs or curbs, you don't need very much speed at all. Just get a few pumps in, and skate toward the edge at a comfortable speed.

This changes a lot when you are trying to ollie off higher steps. This should make sense: you need to be going fast enough to sail over all of the steps. It'll take some practice to get your speed figured out, but if you start with curbs or small stairs and work your way up, you won't have any problems.

Let us say this again, though: please DON'T start off with anything high, even if your buddies are harassing you. Start off small and work your way up.

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Step 3: the Ollie

Shot of a young skater skating down a flight of stairs
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You want to pop your ollie when the nose of your skateboard is around half a foot away from the edge. You might be tempted to wait until the last possible second so that you get the most distance out of your ollie ...

Good thinking! However, ollying 6 inches away from the edge IS the last possible second! Your brain has to send a message down your spine, through your butt, and into your knees, and then your muscles have to explode into action and pop the board. There's an excellent chance you will roll around 6 inches in this time if you're rolling along at a good speed.

If you wait too long to pop, you'll know it. You'll be able to tell by the graceful way you'll be tumbling down the steps or off the curb. If you do this, don't worry about it. Wipe off the blood, re-attach your face and try it again.

If you are ollying off of a curb, or something smaller than just a few steps, you don't really need to ollie very high. You can, and it's great practice and looks good, but you don't need to. But any more than just a few steps (4 or 5), you'll want a good strong ollie.

After the pop, tuck your feet up and keep your shoulders square with your skateboard. Don't tilt or turn your shoulders - if you do, you'll spin a little in the air, and that will hurt more than ollying too late.

You want your feet tucked up so that you will be in the air longer. Shove your knees into your face, and get some good high hang time.

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Step 4: Landing

a young person on a skateboard
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As you come down, if you can be aware of it, try and land with your feet over your trucks. If you land with your feet in the middle of the board, or on the nose or tail, you can snap your board.

This isn't so great, because boards are expensive, plus the sudden stopping of the board means that you will fly over it, and likely eat pavement again. Keep your feet over your trucks.

Try to keep your weight balanced between the trucks, too. Try to land as flat as possible. Bend your knees deeply as you land, to absorb the shock. A lot of skaters are lazy about things like this. They don't want to use their knees.

Don't be like those lazy skaters! You want to bend your knees deeply for the ollie, then pull your knees up after the pop while you are in the air, and THEN bend your knees deeply when you land. After you've landed, just roll away!

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Common Stair Ollie Problems

Skateboarder without helmet crashes down stairs
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The biggest problem we've seen is getting all psyched out about it, to the point that there's really no way you're going to land it. As with all things in skateboarding, you really need to relax. Just think of the stairs as a regular gap that you are ollying over.

Or, go find some lower ones. Take your time, chill, and enjoy. Visualization is extremely useful in skateboarding. Picture yourself ollying the stairs in front of you, walk through how it will work, and that might help.

Speed is another common problem, but one that you should be able to figure out with practice. Start with something simple, like a curb, and work your way up slowly. Ollie off that curb again and again, until you're totally comfortable with it.

Then find a place where there are just a couple of steps, and try that. Work up SLOWLY, and don't get too anxious and try something you shouldn't. Actually finding these steps can be tough, too. Here are some places to look:

  • skateparks
  • schools
  • churches
  • public buildings
  • shopping centers
  • plazas
  • colleges
  • hospitals
  • police stations...!

A lot of those places are best skated at night ... for obvious reasons. Some of them might be off limits, but you might be surprised who will say yes (if you ask). Have fun, stay as safe as possible, relax, and then have more fun!