Vert Skateboarding Basics

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Vert Skateboarding Basics

Vert Skateboarding Basics - Shaun White
Vert Skateboarding Basics - Shaun White. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

Vert is the name for skateboarding on the huge half pipe ramps, like you see in big skateboarding competitions like the X Games. The name "vert" is short for "vertical" - the art of riding skateboards on truly vertical walls. This is something you don't get to on mini ramps and in most skate parks! Riding vert ramps is a lot of fun, but takes some getting used to. In this article, you will learn the basic starting steps to ride vert.

First off, you need to learn how to simply ride your skateboard. You will want to have the basics of cruising, pushing, carving, etc. Read the Just Starting Out Skateboarding article for more, and to get started skating! Once you feel confident on your board, read on to step 2 in learning the basics of vert skateboarding.

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Finding a Vert Ramp Near You

Finding a Vert Ramp Near You - Slam City Jam
Finding a Vert Ramp Near You - Slam City Jam. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

Second, you need to find a vert ramp. Finding one can be tough – it all depends on where you live. There are a few ways to go about finding a vert ramp:

First off, you can ask at your local skateboarding shop. They should have a good idea. But, sometimes they don't. So, for situations like that, you can check out the following websites:

  • Concrete Disciples - these guys have been pulling together world-wide lists of skateboard parks for a long time now. The parks are rated, have photos, directions - everything. And, you can use their filer system to find the park that you want. Just search for parks around your area, and see if you can find one with a vert ramp.
  • Free Skate Parks - another website with loads of skateparks listed. If you don't find what you want on Concrete Disciples, give Free Skate Parks a look.

Hopefully, between these websites and asking at your local skate shops, you will be able to find a vert ramp near you. You may end up having to drive a ways, and you will likely end up having to pay a fee. That's the way these things work!

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Vert Ramp Protective Gear

Vert Ramp Protective Gear
Wear Pads When Skating Vert!. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

You will need proper protective gear:

  • Helmet
  • Knee Pads
  • Elbow Pads
  • Wrist Guards (maybe, but a good idea)

A helmet is enough for riding street, but on a vert ramp you really need more. You will be going very fast, and falling on the ramp can hurt. You will need elbow and knee pads, too. And wrist guards certainly aren't a bad idea. Don’t worry about looking lame – most vert skaters wear a lot more protective gear than street skaters. If you still get uncomfortable with all those pads on, remember this – you will be riding on wooden slabs screwed together. Sometimes, the screws work themselves a little loose, and stick up just a little. Now, imagine yourself falling off your board, and sliding on your knees, and finding that screw. Would you rather it take your knee pad off, or your knee cap? I suggest you choose, “pad”!

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Sliding on your Knees on the Vert Ramp

Sliding on your Knees on the Vert Ramp - Shaun White
Sliding on your Knees on the Vert Ramp - Shaun White. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

Now, you have your gear, your board, and you are finally at the vert ramp! Sweet! The next part is fun – you want to learn to fall. When vert skateboarding, you are going to get tripped up, lose your board, bail, or something like that and end up falling. That’s fine. But, you want to make sure you fall the right way.

With all of your pads on, leave your board back off the ramp and find a spot that no one is riding on. Now, run up the side of the ramp, jump, and land on your knee pads. You should slide down the ramp to the middle, and it should actually be kind of fun. Do this a few times, and get used to it. When you are riding the vert ramp and fall, this is how you want to do it.

Sometimes, though, you won’t be able to. You will fall on your side, back, head – whatever. The first thing to do is to not catch yourself with your hands, unless you are wearing wrist guards. But, just like I said back in Just Starting Out Skateboarding, I highly recommend not getting into the habit of catching yourself with your hands. Try to roll onto your knees. But whatever happens, the main thing is to just relax and let gravity pull you down to the middle of the ramp.

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Pumping Up and Down the Vert Ramp

Pumping Up and Down the Vert Ramp - Bob Burnquist
Pumping Up and Down the Vert Ramp - Bob Burnquist. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

Now’s where the fun begins. Grab your board, and get to a spot at the bottom of the ramp, without anyone else skating nearby. Depending on how popular vert skating is in your area, you might want to ask about a time when it will be less crowded.

So there you are, standing at the bottom of the ramp. Hop on your skateboard, and give yourself a push aimed right up one of the walls of the vert ramp. Bend your knees. As you start to feel yourself loosing speed up the side of the ramp, you want to push out with your knees and focus on pushing the board higher up the ramp.

Once you get to the top of your push, when the skateboard starts to roll backwards back down the ramp, you want to put your weight back onto the board, and push down hard. Imagine the ramp is soft, and you are actually forcing your wheels through the ramp. This will take some practice, but you'll get the hang of it.

You’ll have gained a lot of speed as you come off the side towards the other side of the ramp. Do the same thing here, back and forth, going higher. Practice it a lot, and don't stress about not learning fast enough. Soon you will get the feel for how pumping on a vert ramp works. Keep practicing!

Once you feel more comfortable, you can try pivoting on the ramp, at the top of your push. Some skaters find it easier to pivot, instead of rolling back fakie. Either way is fine - you will want to practice them both eventualy. Whichever works best for you, relax, and go for it!

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Working Up to Dropping In

Working Up to Dropping In
Working Up to Dropping In. Photo by Michael Andrus

Dropping in on a vert ramp is a big deal - you should work your way up to it. You can get seriously injured if you just walk up to a ramp and try to drop in, without working up to it.

First, you want to gain some confidence and skill by dropping off of smaller ramps. Another great place to learn to drop in is at a skate park. Read How to Drop In off a Ramp or at the Skatepark, and find a small quarter pipe, mini-ramp, a small skatepark wall - something like that to practice on. It's good at first to find a ramp that has a long clear flat area in front of it, that you can roll out your speed on.

Once you feel confident on smaller things, you will be ready to work your way up to the bigger stuff. Try dropping in off of larger ramps, find the largest drop at your skatepark, things like that. Take your time with it though - relax, and don't rush it. Build your confidence at your own pace, and make sure you're having fun!

Once you feel confident enough, you can tackle dropping in on the actual vert ramp...

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Dropping In on Vert Ramps

Dropping In on Vert Ramps - Pierre Luc Gagnon
Dropping In on Vert Ramps - Pierre Luc Gagnon. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

Dropping in looks scary, and it is, but it’s not as hard as it looks. Most of the work is in believing that you can do it!

Go up to the top of the vert ramp, and set the tail of your skateboard.

Now, once the area that you are going to skate into is clear of other skaters, you want to take a nice, deep breath, and relax. Put your front foot right above your front trucks, and stomp it down with all your strength until your front wheels hit the ramp. You want to slap it hard, and don’t lean back! Believe that it will work, and don’t hold back – you can’t hold back!! If you do, you will crash and burn. Put all your weight into it, slam those front trucks down, and ride down the ramp! This is pretty scary stuff, but don’t worry about it. Just go for it.

Most of skateboarding is mental. Like my good friend used to say, skating is mostly in your head. You have to relax, and believe that you can do it. If you can get that down, the rest is easy!

Once you get speed down the ramp you can shift your weight in the same way that you did when pumping up the ramp. You always want your weight on the foot that you are moving towards. So, if you are riding out your speed after dropping in, just relax and keep your weight on that front foot. Lean into it. Then, when you ride up the other side and get to the top of where your speed takes you, shift your weight to the other foot, and ride back down that side of the ramp. Do this back and forth. If you want to keep going, you can pump for speed, just like in step 5!

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Vert Ramps - Get Out and Ride

Vert Ramps - Get Out and Ride
Vert Ramps - Get Out and Ride. Photo by Jamie O'Clock

The rest of vert skating is all in getting more comfortable, and learning to ride where you want to on the ramp. Now get out there and ride that ramp!

If you are having a hard time, try asking for help from the people who run the ramp or other skaters who might be around. Since most vert ramps require some kind of usage fee, there should be people around who can give you some simple pointers, if you need them.

You will probably want to start learning tricks, once you feel comfortable on the vert ramp. Rock to Fakie, or Rock and Roll, the Axle Stall, and airing out are great tricks to try, once you feel ready. Mostly, just relax, have fun, and enjoy riding vert!