How to Manual on a Skateboard

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Step 1 - Setup

Miles Gehm/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Manual is where the skateboarder balances on his or her back wheels while rolling along (similar to a wheelie on a bike). The Manual is a great skateboarding trick to learn. It's different from all the regular technical flip tricks and adds a good variety. Plus, learning to manual on your skateboard isn't all that hard; it just takes balance and lots of practice.

If you are brand new to skateboarding, you may want to take some time getting used to riding your skateboard before learning to manual. It will also help if you've already learned how to Ollie. If you are aggressive and want to learn to manual on your skateboard before learning how to actually ride, that’s up to you! Make sure you read all of these instructions before you try to manual. Once you are familiar with them, jump on your board and manual away!

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Step 2 - Foot Placement

Learn How to Manual on a Skateboard
Manual Photo Credit: Steve Cave

Foot placement for manualing is important. You'll want to have your back foot covering most of the tail of your skateboard, and the ball of your front foot right behind your front trucks. Take a look at the photo to see.

Now, remember: there is no right or wrong way to skateboard! So, if you feel more comfortable with your front foot more toward the nose of your skateboard, or back more, or even over to the side - feel free. Do what works. But, right at the start, we recommend putting your feet in this position. It works best for most people.

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Step 3 - Brain Bucket

Boy skateboarding in park
Stephen Lux/Getty Images

Personal note - make sure you wear a helmet when learning to manual! Learning to manual is learning to balance, and while practicing, you will likely fall a lot. Sometimes, you will fall backward and your skateboard will shoot out in front of you. When this happens, there's a great chance you will nail the back of your head on the ground very hard. You might not think that helmets look cool, but drooling out of the corner of your mouth for the rest of your life doesn't look very cool either. Wear a helmet!

You might also think about wearing wrist guards while practicing manualing. You should really try to not use your hands to catch yourself when you fall while skateboarding.

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Step 4 - Need for Speed

Boy riding skateboard on ramp
Kris Ubach and Quim Roser/Getty Images

And now to start manualing! You'll want to have plenty of flat ground to practice on. The skate park, sidewalk, parking garage or a large flat clean parking lot should do the trick. Just make sure it's flat and mostly smooth.

Once you have your spot, get going at a pretty good speed. You'll need to be good enough at cruising around on your skateboard to be able to get up speed quickly and keep it up for a little while without more pumping. Choose a line (a route you will go), get up some speed, and get ready to manual.

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Step 5 - Balance

Learn How to Manual on a Skateboard
How to Manual - Dylan McAlmond manualing. Manual Photo Credit: Michael Andrus

Now we're at the core of manualing: balance. Normally while skating, you have your weight spread out to about 50% on each foot, right? And if you are going downhill, you shift some of your weight to your front foot (perhaps making it 60% instead of 50%).

For the manual, you shift your weight toward your back foot (slowly at first), while you lean a little forward (also slowly at first). Make sure you do NOT lean backward. Instead, lean the upper part of your body (your shoulders and head) toward the nose of your skateboard, while you shift your weight to the back foot. Take a look at the photo to see what we mean.

This is pretty tricky stuff, and you will probably feel like you are loosing your balance. It's perfectly OK to hold your arms out and use them to catch your balance. Everyone does it - even pros!

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Step 6 - Landing

Learn How to Manual on a Skateboard
How to Manual - Dylan McAlmond manualing. Manual Photo Credit: Michael Andrus

If you've ever played any of the Tony Hawk video games and tried the manual, you know that if you fall forward after a manual, everything's fine. If you fall backward, however, there's blood and sickening crunching sounds coming from your skull.

That's more or less true. Make sure you keep those shoulders forward, and when you are done manualing, just shift your weight back on that front foot and put the front wheels down. You should be able to ride away from a manual comfortably.

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Step 7 - Tricks and Tweaks

Learn How to Manual on a Skateboard
Manual Trick Tips - Tyler Millhouse Pulling Off a One Foot Manual. Manual Photo Credit: Michael Andrus

Once you feel comfortable with your manual, you can do all kinds of things to tweak it.

Give yourself a goal: Manual on a sidewalk, and see how many sidewalk cracks you can manual over. Try and add one. See if you can manual from one thing to another. Having a skater buddy with you will help - you can challenge each other.

Try and manual off of a curb: This takes some practice! You'll want some speed, and to make sure that you keep your balance perfectly. But once you pull it off, it sure looks sweet.

Try a one footed manual, like Tyler in the photo! This is hard to do and takes a lot of balance, but it will impress everyone around. The basic principals are the same - shoulders forward, keeping balance. Don't try this though until you've really mastered manualing, and feel very confident in your skateboarding!

Make something new: These ideas are only a few. Go out and invent something totally original off of your manual! Try to Ollie while manualing (Rodney Mullen can do this...). Try combining a manual into a run. Try manualing around something in a circle. Try a nose manual. Try something that we don't have a name for!

Most of all, have fun. You can also try some of the other tricks in the Trick Tips section. But for now, you have the instructions down. Get out there and learn to manual!