The Beginner's Guide to Skateboarding

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Step 1 - Beginner Skateboard Gear

Beginner Skateboard Gear
Beginner Skateboard Gear. Steve Cave

So you've bought or borrowed your first skateboard, and you are wondering what to do with it. You've seen skaters at the skatepark or on TV, and you know what skating's supposed to look like, but how do you get started? What sort of beginner skateboard gear do you need?

Well, the first thing you should do is get a pair of skate shoes (check out the Best Skateboard Shoes List). You can skate 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 with other features like reinforcement in areas where you'll likely wear the shoe down.

You should also get a helmet (check out the Best Skateboard Helmets list). You might see skaters not wearing helmets, and worry that wearing one will make you look weak or stupid, but don't worry about it. It's common now for skateparks to require helmets, and it's just plain smart, especially when you first start out.

Wearing other protective pads can be good too, but what you need totally depends on what you are doing (see the Best Skateboard Pads list). If you are trying to do tricks in your driveway, elbow pads might be a good idea, but you really only need knee pads if you are skating on a ramp, or trying some pretty crazy tricks. Wrist braces can be nice, but be careful not to get too used to using your hands to catch yourself when you fall.

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Step 2 - Standing on a Skateboard

Standing on a Skateboard
Standing on a Skateboard. Steve Cave

Now you should be ready to start learning to skate. First, before you try anything crazy, you need to get comfortable standing on your skateboard. If you borrowed it, or if you went to a shop and bought a complete skateboard already built, there's a chance that there may be some things about it that you might find uncomfortable.

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

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Step 3 - Skateboard Stance: Goofy vs. Regular

Skateboard Stance, Goofy vs Regular
Skateboard Stance, Goofy vs Regular. Steve Cave

Next you need to figure out your skateboard stance, whether you are goofy or regular footed. This means whether you should skate with your right foot forward, or your left. If one feels more comfortable than the other, then simply go with that!

The two different ways to stand are called stances - Goofy (skating with your right foot forward) and Regular (skating with your left foot forward).

Here are three tricky ways to figure out how you will most likely feel most comfortable standing on your board:

 

ONE

- go get a ball or something like that, and sit it on the ground in front of you. Now kick it. Whichever foot you kicked it with will likely be your back foot. You want the balancing foot in the front, and the kicking foot in the back.

 

TWO

- go to a staircase, and walk up it. What foot did you use to step up the

FIRST

step? That's likely your back foot.

 

THREE

- this one's hard, because once you read it you'll know the trick. So just read this first spot and then stop when I tell you to stop. Go find someone, stand with both your feet close together, and ask them to shove you from behind. Go do this now -- STOP READING! Ok, so hopefully you didn't just fall over. You should have caught yourself with one foot. The foot you used to catch yourself is likely the foot you'd put in back.

Just like most people are right handed, most people are regular footed. That's why it's called regular. Just remember that there's no RIGHT way to do it. If all of these tricks tell you that you are regular, but you just like riding goofy, then ride goofy!

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Step 4 - Skateboard Pushing

Skateboard Beginner Pushing
Skateboard Beginner Pushing. Steve Cave

Next, we'll learn to push your skateboard. Take the skateboard out to some pavement or concrete somewhere. I recommend a parking lot, after the business that uses the lot is closed. That way there are no cars around, or people.

Get comfortable just like above, but this time on a surface where your board can roll.

Now try cruising around the parking lot. Take your front foot, and put it so 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 (read is it ok to push with my front foot? if you are more comfortable that way). 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.

Get comfortable with riding around like this. You should spend some time practicing -- don't get too anxious to do tricks. After you feel pretty good with riding like this, try going down an easy hill, so long as you're careful that there won't be traffic. Spend some time learning to skate. You can try skating at your local skate park, if you have one. At first you might try to go at a time when there won't be very many people around.

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Step 5 - How to Stop on a Skateboard

Skateboard Stopping - How to Footbreak on a Skateboard
How to Stop on a Skateboard. Adam Squared

Now that you know how to get going, you may want to know a little more about how to stop on a skateboard! There are several ways to stop your skateboard.

Footbreaking - The easiest way is to take off your back foot and drag it on the ground. It takes some practice, and you should really spend some time focusing on it now, before you need it, so that you can stop when you need to! Read How to Footbreak for instructions and help.

Heel Drag - This takes some practice, but it's a common way to stop with people who have been skating a while. Basically, you 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. 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 ways, and you should stop. This will take practice - you may fall on your back a few times, and launch the board out in front of you a few times while you learn.

Power Slide - Powerslides are popular in the Tony Hawk video games, but they are actually fairly advanced. I mention them because I'm guessing you've played the game and want to do it - it does look pretty cool! Well, hold off on that for a while - you haven't even gotten to kickturns yet!

Bail! - When all else fails, just jump off of your board! If your knees are bent while you ride, this shouldn't be to hard. And if you jump forward, your skateboard will usually stop. Just remember - buying a new skateboard is much cheaper and easier than getting a broken arm, or a new face!

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Step 6 - How to Carve on a Skateboard

Carving is all about leaning toeside or heelside, to get your board to turn in that direction. It's really simple. Push your board, and while rolling, put weight on your heels. You will slowly turn 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. Go out to the street or parking lot, and try pushing forward and carving around things. 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, except that you don't catch your edge and die like on a snowboard! If you want to carve especially deep, try bending your knees a lot, and crouching low on your board. Carving is easier on a longboard, but it is a valuable skill in any board sport.

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Step 7 - How to Skate at a Skatepark, and over Flow

How to Skate at a Skatepark
How to Skate at a Skatepark. Michael Andrus

You've practiced a little skateboarding on the street or in a parking lot - but what about how to skate over banks, ramps, down slopes, or at a skatepark?

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, always keep your weight on your front foot. So, when riding over a big bump, down a hill (be careful there are no cars!), down your driveway, or through a skatepark, keep your weight on that front foot. That doesn't mean to tense it all up - you need to relax, too!

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. Do you understand? Your front foot isn't always your right or left foot, it's the foot that is facing the direction you are going! Do, in 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. It might take some practice!

The second key is bend your knees. Keep your knees bent, and as loose as you can. This will help your body to adsorb 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. And don't hunch your shoulders too much, either. Try to keep your shoulders back a little, and relax. If you hunch a little, that's ok. The main thing is to be relaxed.

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Step 8 - How to Kickturn

How to Kickturn on a Skateboard
How to Kickturn on a Skateboard. Photographer: Michael Andrus

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

 

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 some practice. If this short little instruction doesn't make it all clear to you, read How to Kickturn for more detailed instructions, and for some great practice ideas.

Once you have kickturns down a little, make sure you can kickturn both directions. Try kickturning while moving. Try it while on a ramp (ride up a little ways and kickturn 180). The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become.

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Step 9 - Getting Hurt Skateboarding and Getting Back Up

Getting Hurt Skateboarding and Getting Back Up
Jake Brown after falling 50 feet. Getting Hurt Skateboarding and Getting Back Up. Eric Lars Bakke / ESPN Images

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

The biggest thing is, when you fall, try to NOT use your hands to catch yourself. This might be kind of hard to learn, but if you lose your board and you 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 ...

So, those times you do get hurt, what do you do about it? The best thing to do 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 pretty common. If you think you've broken a bone or hurt something bad, get it checked out. You'll hate yourself if you find out a month later you were hurt badly, but the wound healed wrong and now things are twice as bad. If you see a doctor, take the doctor's advice! Wounds heal, and you'll be fine in no time. After you're better, the most important thing of all is for you to get back on your board, and keep skating.

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Step 10 - Skate and Create

Skate and Create
Skate and Create. Photo Credit: Michael Andrus

After you feel 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, I think, but it is an important trick to learn!
  • Pop Shuvit - this is a GREAT trick to learn along with the ollie, since it takes very different skills.
  • Manual - another different trick, that will help you practice balance. And you can mix manuals in with other tricks!
  • Rail Stands - also sometimes called Primo stands, this trick is tougher than it looks.

There are plenty more tricks that you can try and tackle, like Kickflips, grinds, and tricks for parks and ramps (check out the

Trick Tips Section

for all of these). But remember - learn at your own pace, and most importantly HAVE FUN with it. Skateboarding is all about having fun. Remember that above all - if you stop enjoying yourself, then slow down, relax, and just go skating!

For more help and advice on skateboarding, you can write your questions to Steve Cave, the Skateboarding Guide. Also visit the Skateboarding Glossary to learn more about skateboarding terms. Finally, drop by the Skateboarding Forum, meet other skaters from around the world and learn more!