2nd July 2003
How To Ollie
"To do an ollie all you do is slam the back down and drag your front foot up the board... like so"
- Ed Templeton, pulling off a 24" ollie.
This was on a video I was watching with a friend back when we first started skateboarding. I'm fairly sure that we simultaneously called Ed Templeton a cocksucker (in the nicest possible way, of course) because of the sheer smugness of the comment and the way his 'trick tip' actually gives very little useful information on how to ollie at all. He sets the tone for virtually every 'trick tip' I've ever read or heard: "Just do this, that, yadda yadda, and practice and before you know it you'll be doing it". Which is all very well and good but none of it's really practical in any sense.
No one, for example, tells you that you must jump to do an ollie. It sounds obvious I know, but it wasn't something that really struck me for quite some time. I know by closely observing beginners on their skateboards that 99.9% of the time their ollies would be four or five times higher if only their back feet weren't in the way!
An ollie is comprised of three main ingredients - a jump, a pop, and a foot drag. The most commonly quoted 'essential factor' of the ollie is the foot drag. This is not true. The jump is more important. This is because both the pop and the foot drag come almost automatically if the jump is done well.
For the theoretical perfect ollie then...
1. Place the ball of your back foot right on the centre of the tail. Your front foot can be anywhere behind the front bolts, roughly central. At first, it'll feel more comfortable to have it further forwards, but in theory the further back the front foot is the higher the potential ollie.
Now you must crouch. The lower you crouch the more force you can generate when you come to jump. If you don't believe me, try standing perfectly straight and jumping. You won't get very high.
2. JUMP! Jump forwards and up off your back foot. Another perceptual problem with the ollie is the belief that you are slamming the tail down to pop. In actual fact, the pop is the exclusive result of you jumping off your back foot.
3. As a result of your jump the nose will now be in the air and the tail will be airborne due to the force of it's impact with the ground (the pop - essentially the board bouncing off the ground). If you jumped forwards correctly, your front foot will already be sliding up the board. Accentuate this movement to level the board out. If you jumped up correctly, your back foot will be out of the way, allowing the tail to rise and the board to level out completely.
4. The foot drag also functions to pull the skateboard up even higher due to the friction between your shoes and the griptape.
5. Note, that if you do not jump forwards the skateboard will not level out. You will be doing what is known as a rocket ollie. If you try and do the foot slide without jumping forwards you will simply kick the board out of your reach. If you don't jump forwards, you may also experience a problem that I had, which is a mysterious 90° backside turn of the board. This stopped being an issue once I started jumping forwards.
6. Always remember that the maximum height of your ollie is dictated by how high your back foot is, so suck it up as high as you can and keep it there until the board has levelled out. If you've done everything else correctly, as the skateboard levels out your front foot will move back from the nose, leaving you in a reasonably good landing position.
This site is also a good reference for those of you looking to understand the ollie.
As a beginner, making the progression from standing to rolling ollies can be daunting. The method that worked really well for me was to use the nosestall as an intermediary step. I began practicing nosestalls on kerbs but had no idea where this humble trick would take me. I now credit it with teaching me to ollie on the move...
1. A nosestall simply involves rolling up to a lip of some kind, getting the nose over it, and stalling with your weight centred on the nose. When you lose balance or get bored of stalling you'll shift your weight back to the tail, thus rolling off the obstacle in switch stance or fakie.
2. Start with kerbs. You'll begin by rolling up to the kerb and shifting your front foot right on to the nose as you roll. This way, all you have to do is apply a little weight to the tail so that the nose rises just enough to get up over the kerb, and then shift your weight onto the front foot. At first, the skateboard will stall and you'll probably carry on moving. You'll get used to balancing the sudden stop soon enough.
3. Shift your weight back to the tail. The board will drop off the kerb and you'll be in fakie (unless you work a bit harder to get into switch). At this point you'll probably want to switch back to your regular stance. This is a perfect opportunity to practice switching out of a trick as well.
4. After a little while you'll start getting more brave coming out of the nosestall. If you jump a little and drag the board with you as you come off rather than just letting the board drop off the kerb, it'll look much smoother. This is known as a taildrop.
5. As you keep nosestalling day and night you'll notice that your board is now scratched all to hell on both kicktails. You'll also notice that you are beginning to jump into the nosestall. It becomes uneccessary to put your foot on the nose as you approach the kerb - instead, you'll be applying a little pressure to the tail to get the nose up, as before, but then you'll be jumping forwards, landing your front foot on the nose just as it hits the kerb. Notice the similarity to the ollie?
This will train your rolling ollie because at this point you are basically performing an ollie but stopping it half way through - stalling on the nose before the board would ordinarily completely level out and your foot would move back from the nose. Nosestalling like this is also reinforcing the forward jumping motion that is crucial to the ollie.
When you have perfected ollying into the nosestall like this, I suggest you take the same principle but attempt to ollie up the kerb you have been nosestalling on. You will make it surprisingly quickly.