5th November 2005

Skateboarding For Beginners, Part 2

Part 1 of this series is proving to be a bit of a hit so I thought I better get my ass in gear and write some more tips on how to learn skateboarding as a beginner.

When you first start out, everything can be a bit bewildering, especially with the amount of bad advice there is out there on the 'net (here's an example of a bad trick tipExternal Link). People tend to forget what it's like as a beginner who doesn't really know anything at all, and as a result you get some rather flippant remarks from more experienced skaters.

Last time I discussed how you shouldn't try and ollie straight away, but instead should just focus on being able to ride your board properly. When you're comfortable on it and you can start and stop with ease and shuffle your feet around while moving to get into a better riding position, I think you're good to move on a bit.

Tic Tac, Tic Tac

Tic tacking is a really important skill to learn. When you are rolling it's the best way to keep up your speed and in many cases where you don't have time to move round and push some more it's the only way to speed up. Also, one of the best things about tic tacking is that it will really increase your balance and comfort on a skateboard a lot.

So the basic gist of the tic tac is moving the nose of the skateboard from left to right and 'carving' it against the ground in order to speed up. Don't ask me to explain the physics in detail, because I don't know exactly how it speeds you up, but it's essentially to do with the shifting momentum you generate by putting your weight behind your hips and 'pushing' the skateboard forwards by way of it's friction with the ground.

Got that? No, didn't think so. Okay, imagine in your mind the way you speed up on rollerskates or iceskates. You don't just push your feet forwards, you push them out to the side and forwards. It's the sideways push that gives you the friction with the ground to speed up, and tic tacking is the same. At the same time, you have to change where you are leaning in order to get your weight centred in the right place.

How To Tic Tac

1. Start in a nice stable stance, either rolling slowly or stationary. I've colour coded this for ease of understanding...

  • The green arrows represent movement of the nose while it is in the air.
  • The red arrows represent the force applied to the skateboard while the front wheels are on the ground.
  • The blue shading represents the riders weight distribution - the darker the blue the more weight is applied to that side of the feet.

So, as there is no shading in step 1 of this diagram, the riders weight is distributed evenly.

2. By applying a little weight to the tail the nose is lifted off the ground and pointed to the left a little. As this happens the rider is beginning to lean to the right, shifting weight on to the heels, especially on the front foot.

3. As the front wheels touch down most of the riders weight is on the heels, so the skateboard already wants to turn back to the right again. The rider 'carves' the board forwards by pushing against this, with most of the force coming from the front heel where all the weight and therefore power is.

4. The skateboard will push forwards and begin to straighten up again. As it does so, the nose is lifted again and swung around to the right. The riders weight is shifted back towards the left.

5. As the wheels touch down again, most of the weight is on ball of the the riders feet, which is where the push comes from to get the board to carve forwards and back left again.

From there, you repeat the motions, swinging left to right and gaining more and more speed. The key is to get a good rhythm going - if you follow these basics I reckon you'll pick it up in no time.

Nosestalls

The reason I teach beginners to nosestall is mainly because this simple little trick really helped me to learn how to ollie when I was first learning. Also, it's going to test your balance and ability to quickly reshuffle your feet whilst moving, and it's a great way to get into fakie so that you can get a feel for rolling backwards and practice switching.

A nosestall is where you roll up to a lip or ledge of some description and put the nose of the skateboard over it then stall (stop dead) with your weight on the nose and the tail in the air. A kerb is the ideal place to start - it should be just high enough that you have to lift the nose of the skateboard up a bit to get on it

Push (or tic tac!) yourself directly towards the kerb at a moderate speed. Before you reach the kerb, you need to shuffle your front foot up on to the nose of the skateboard so you've got one foot on each kicktail, like so...

Nosestall Approach

Just like you did when tic tacking, apply a little weight to your back foot in order to lift the nose just before you hit the kerb. Almost immediately you then have to shift your weight on to the nose so that it stalls on the kerb and the tail hangs in the air. This makes the whole trick a quick see-saw movement. How much weight you have to shift forwards is entirely dependent on how fast you are riding - if you're going quite fast, then your weight is going to be thrown forwards anyway due to the sudden stop as the front wheels hit the kerb. In this case, try and moderate your balance so you end up neatly stalled.

If it's a nice wide kerb you have all the time in the world to collect yourself before dropping back onto the road. You do this simply by shifting your weight back again. The board will just slide off the kerb and start rolling, and you will be in fakie. The more agressively you shift your weight back, the smoother the drop off the kerb will be.

Switching Out Of Fakie

Being able to switch out of fakie back into your natural stance is a crucial ability to master. Many of the tricks you learn will land you in fakie - coming out of a nosestall is just the beginning. I remember well that switching is quite daunting. At this stage it's the biggest test of balance to face and you will fall over at some point!

The key to switching, and in fact to rotating in general, is firstly to 'wind up' in the opposite direction to the way you want to turn, and secondly to lead the turn with the shoulders. You want to turn 'backside' or 'b/s' as it's commonly abbreviated to. This means that during the rotation your heels will be pointing away from the direction of the turn. Therefore you must wind the top half of your body 'frontside' or 'f/s' before starting, like this:

Winding Up Frontside

Remember, this is drawn for a goofy footed skater (someone who rides naturally with their right foot forwards). If you are a regular footed skater, frontside will be the other way around. You don't have to wind very far, just enough so that you can swing some momentum into the switch.

As I said, your shoulders should lead the turn, which means they are the first part to rotate. In essence, you are simply unwinding your body from its wound up position. As you do this, again apply a little weight to the tail so the nose lifts off the ground. Your hips will naturally follow the shoulders, and then so will your feet, taking the skateboard with them.

Switching Out Of Fakie

It may take a while to rotate a full 180° but there is no substitute for practice in this case. Try to keep your body weight centred above the skateboard. If too much of your weight hangs over the back wheels (where you are pivoting from) then the skateboard could easily shoot out from under you. As you come towards the 180° mark, remember to ease the front wheels down so they touch down solidly.