I know that one of the biggest factors that holds people back from learning how to skateboard is that they are actually just too afraid to go to the skatepark when other people are there. When skaters first start out they’re worried about being made fun of or embarrassing themselves. It’s normal, but it holds you back.
Now, right off the bat, I want to go ahead and mention that for the most part, these fears are completely unnecessary, and most of the higher level skaters that I know will tell you that they don’t really give a second thought to the other skaters at the park who don’t look like they know what they’re doing, other than maybe wanting to offer a piece of advice here and there.
It’s important to keep in mind that all of those skaters have been through the exact same process, so they’re not going to judge you in a negative way for wanting to practice, and get better at a sport that they’ve spent years practicing themselves. However, I know that looking a little awkward in public is easier said than done, so hopefully, knowing a few key things that you can do to avoid looking like a beginner will give you the confidence boost that you need to finally make it to the skatepark and stop worrying what other people are thinking about you.
1. Mall Grab
OK, so the first thing that people tend to associate with beginner skateboarders, is a way of holding your board called a ‘mall grab.’ Now, a mall grab is when you carry your board as if the hanger of the truck is a convenient handle added to the skateboard. for the sole purpose of helping you carry it.
Allegedly the same way that a kid at a mall would carry his skateboard if he didn’t actually skate, but he just wanted to carry his board around with him to look cool.
I personally don’t think there’s really anything inherently wrong with using your trucks to carry your board like that, but at some point along the way, such a huge stigma developed around it that I eventually just stopped carrying it like that altogether so that I didn’t have to listen to the younger kids tell me over and over that I was carrying my board incorrectly.
2. Getting On Your Board
The second telltale sign of a beginner skateboarder is setting the board on the ground with your hands when you want to start riding it. When you see someone doing this, you can just tell that they haven’t spent enough time with their skateboard in order to develop a more casual way of getting their board to the ground.
A couple of alternatives that you can use would be to drop your board under your foot, or get a running start and hop on as you throw your board down to the ground. Here’s a great video if you’re looking for even more alternatives.
The third thing that people do that pegs them as a beginner is to push like one. Most people will push with their front foot already perpendicular to the board, so that they don’t have to adjust it once they get up to speed and put their back foot on. However, this does force your body into an awkward looking position.
You will come off as looking a lot more natural if you instead start with your front foot on the board facing forward, and then rotate it into position once you’re up to speed.
4. Pushing Mongo
Habit number four is another pushing technique called pushing ‘mongo.’ Pushing mongo means that instead of setting your front foot on the board over the front wheels and pushing off of the ground with your back foot, you actually start by setting your back foot on the board and pushing off of the ground with the foot that you normally ride with in front.
When you push like this, not only are you making it harder on yourself to get your feet set up on the board properly, but it also makes it harder to steer, throws you off balance, and makes you come off as an amateur.
So if that’s how you usually push, I would highly recommend that you go ahead and take some time out of your next few skate sessions and practice pushing with your front foot already on the board and pushing off of the ground with your back foot.
5. Picking Your Board Up
Number five covers what to do when you need to pick up your board. If you bend down, and pick up your board with your hands, again you’re going to look like a bit of a beginner. Instead of doing it like that, try to get a little creative with how you pick your board up. Learning some of these shouldn’t take too long to figure out, so spend a couple of minutes working on them the next time you’re bored.
OK, so let’s move on to habit number six, which is always skating in the same stance. This one doesn’t stick out quite as much as some of the others, but the more advanced skaters at the park understand and appreciate the time and effort it takes to learn tricks in multiple stances. So once you learn how to do a trick in your normal stance, take an extra five minutes or so and try to figure out how to do the trick in fakie stance, or even better yet, in switch or nollie stance.
Now, for number seven we’re looking at how you ride up and down ramps at the skatepark. The most efficient way to ride over obstacles at the skatepark is to use a technique called pumping, which allows you to increase the amount of speed you gain when you go downhill, and decrease the amount of speed that you lose when you go uphill.
Beginner skaters who haven’t mastered this technique yet will go for more of a straight-legged approach to rolling down ramps, which not only means that they’ll have to take their back foot off more in order to push, but it actually makes it harder to balance, and gives you the appearance of being unsteady on your board.
I love visiting pump tracks, and they’re a great place to practice for skaters too. If you don’t know what a pump track is it’s essentially a loop of ups and downs that you use pumping your board to keep momentum so very little pushing is needed. Pumptrack.com is a great resource to find your nearest track.
8. Flatground Tricks
Alright, so on to number eight, which is performing all of your flatground tricks while stationary. When you’re practicing to land your first ollie or your first kickflip, for example, it can sometimes be a little easier to wrap your head around the maneuver if you put your back wheels into a crack in the cement and try to land the trick from there.
Once you get the hang of the basic motion though, you should move on to learning how to do your tricks while rolling. Not only is it more functional and more stylish, but it’s also easier to land flat-ground tricks and keep your balance throughout the manoeuvre if you’re moving while you do it. It’s very similar to riding a bike – if you’ve ever tried to keep your balance on a bicycle while you’re not rolling forward, you know how much more difficult it is to do than when you’re rolling.
Now let’s look at number nine, which involves what is known as tic-tacking which essentially just means that you landed your trick a little bit off balance and you had to raise the front of your board in order to align it with the way that your momentum was going. Now, on this point, I do want to make an important distinction.
I’m not saying that advanced skaters don’t have this happen to them while they’re working on a trick, it happens to skaters at every level all the time. The difference, however, between a beginner skater and an advanced skater is that a beginner skater will consider a trick landed in this way a make, and an advanced skater will consider it a do-over.
If you’re filming the trick and planning on posting it somewhere online, you will be amazed at how big of a difference these few extra attempts can make at giving you the appearance of style and control.
10. Deck Scratches
Alright, so for number ten, I want to talk about what the bottom of your board looks like. One part of becoming an advanced skateboarder is practicing tricks from multiple disciplines of skating, and if you’re carrying around a board that looks like you just walked out of the skate shop all the time, there’s a good chance that you’re missing out on some of them.
One of my favorite ways to give your board a little character is to do boardslides on ledges and rails. For a tutorial on the easiest version of that trick, the backside boardslide, you can watch the video below.
11. Riding Ramps
Now, let’s take things over to the mini ramp for a bit and talk about number eleven, which is starting your runs in the mini ramp from the bottom. When you start learning how to skate a mini ramp, one of the hardest things to overcome is learning how to drop in for the first time,
but once you do it for the first few times, it’ll start to become completely second nature to you, and you won’t have to feel afraid of the manoeuvre any more.
So, a good way to help you wrap your head around what it’s going to feel like to drop in is to ease your way into it by practicing fakie tail stalls, starting low in the ramp, and then working your way to doing them up on top of the coping.
It might not make total sense why this would be easier at first, but essentially what it boils down to is when you do a fakie tail stall, you’re doing a reverse drop in followed by a drop in, so you already know what the reverse of the motion you’re trying to do feels like, and then on top of that, you’re keeping your body weight on the inside of,the ramp so you don’t have to worry about committing to leaning forward, so that makes it a lot easier to wrap your head around what it’s going to feel like when, you’re coming back in.
12. Rocking Coping
Number twelve is another mini ramp habit, and it occurs when you do tricks that are supposed to involve rocking your board over the coping, but by just barely setting your trucks over the edge instead. For tricks like the rock to fakie and the rock n’ roll, take the time to develop the motion enough to be able to set the middle part of the board on the coping, and rock your board forward so that your wheels touch down on the deck. It might be a little harder to do your tricks this way at first, but the extra style points that you get from it are more than worth the added effort.
13. Your Lines
Alright, so let’s move on to number thirteen which involves doing runs in the mini ramp, that only consist of the same one or two tricks over and over again until you’re blue in the face. Now, it’s perfectly OK to do this when you’re just getting the hang of pumping back and forth on a halfpipe, but if you really want to add some style to your runs, make sure to keep learning new tricks so that you don’t have to repeat yourself as often. If you’d be interested in a big list of easy to learn mini ramp tricks, you can check out my post on that topic, here.
Now, let’s talk about number fourteen, which is not knowing how to fall gracefully. One of the most useful things you’ll learn as you improve at skateboarding is learning how to fall down without getting hurt. If you’re a beginner, you may want to spend some time practicing what it feels like to fall from a little bit of a height so that when it happens during a skate session, which it will, you’ll have already developed the muscle memory necessary to fall in a way that keeps you from hitting your head or breaking any bones.
So finally, bad habit number fifteen is using the terms ‘frontside’ and ‘backside’ incorrectly. Unfortunately for the sport of skateboarding, the use of these terms has evolved to have so many nuances and exceptions that learning how to use them correctly in every case becomes fairly difficult to do.
If you’re doing a trick that involves approaching an obstacle where it’s on one particular side of you, you use one definition. But, if you’re approaching the obstacle straight on or if you’re doing a trick that doesn’t involve an obstacle, you use another definition, except for in the case when you’re riding in fakie stance, in which case, everything is completely backwards.
The best way I can explain the basics of frontside/backslide is that when you’re turning for a tricks, if your back goes first it’s backside, and if the front of you goes first it’s front side. The rest you’ll pick up along the way.
So after hearing everything on the list, I’m sure you can probably tell that most of this stuff will just come to you naturally as long as you’re spending some time skating on a fairly regular basis. If nothing else, I hope this article gave you some motivation to go out and do some skating.
When you do get new clips, make sure to tag them on Instagram with the hashtag #skatejunkie so I can easily find them and share them with the rest of the community, and lastly, skate on!