The Difference Between Skateboarding With Your Nose or Tail Forward

Girl posing on skateboard
mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

Beginning skaters often ask whether it matters if you lead with the front or back of your skateboard. The short answer is yes and no. There's nothing wrong with riding tail-first. If you spend a lot of time in the halfpipe, you'll need to know how to master advanced stunts. But if you ride tail-first all of the time, you may cause your board to wear out faster. It all depends on the situation.

Board Design

Unlike a longboard, with its blunt nose and tapered tail, a skateboard deck appears to have an identical nose and tail design. And there are plenty of modern decks like that, especially shortboards. But traditional skateboards, also called old-school boards, have a nose (called the front kicktail) that is slightly broader than the tail (or rear kicktail). The nose is also flat, while the tail usually is usually angled slightly upward.

Skateboarding, Front to Back

If you've ever ridden fakie, then you've skated tail-first. Riding fakie is a common technique in the halfpipe when you're skating quickly from side to side. You'll also ride fake when executing stunts like the rock to fakie or the fakie ollie. In fact, just about any trick you can pull riding normally can be performed riding fakie, though some may be more challenging depending on your the board design.

If your deck's nose and tail are identical, then it's designed to be ridden in either orientation. However, if you skate with one end forward all of the time, then your bushings, trucks, and the deck itself will wear down in that direction. A certain degree of wear is a good thing; any equipment needs to be broken in to reach optimal performance.

But go too long without regular maintenance and that unidirectional wear could eventually affect performance. That's why it's a good idea to learn how to ride fakie and switch, even if you don't spend much time on trick riding.

Some skaters who like to ride tail-first will apply grip tape so that there is an opening showing some of the board through right above the back trucks. This will make it harder to ride your board the other way, because you will likely want to put your foot in that exact spot, and there won't be any tape there. This is largely a matter of personal preference.

Tips for Beginners

The best way to get comfortable riding tail-first is to practice your fakie skills. If you're uncomfortable with your first attempts, practice standing on the board as you normally would and gently rock it forward and backward, just to get a feel for shifting direction. 

Next, practice riding fakie on a flat stretch of pavement using the technique outlined in the steps above. Once you're comfortable with that, it's time to hit your local skate park and practice. Find a halfpipe and begin riding the curves. You're not going for air or speed; all you need to do is get comfortable going in opposite directions on your skateboard.