When you first decide to get into skateboarding you might not know where to start. It can be quite easy to get overwhelmed with what to focus on, or what to learn first or next – I know that’s exactly how I felt!
So I decided to create this list of what I think are the most important basics to learn as a new skater before you start practising tricks.
What should you learn first as a new skater? After learning to stand on a board I think the most important things to master are learning to push, picking your board up and throwing it down, getting over and off of curbs & cracks, handling at speed, kick turns, riding switch, and stopping.
Immediately trying to land tricks will make your skateboarding journey a lot harder in the long run, but if you can get these basics down and really get comfortable with your board you’ll have a solid foundation to build upon and it should make your time progressing from new skater, to intermediate skateboarder a lot more enjoyable.
After learning to stand on your board, pushing while on your board is the next step – so we’re starting right at the basics here. It’s a simple concept, but you really need to get it down. The most important part of pushing is getting your weight distributed correctly.
As a new skater, I’m going to explain the positioning for pushing regular and not mongo (please don’t push mongo), though whether you stand regular (left foot forward) or goofy (right foot forward) is up to you.
You want to place your front foot near the centre of the board so that the tip of your shoe is roughly in line with the front bolts of the deck. Keep all of your weight on this foot. You want to get comfortable enough having your weight on this leg and balancing so that you can bring your back foot forward to push off.
The only time you should be shifting your weight from your front foot to your back foot is when your back foot is in contact with the ground pushing, but don’t transfer all of your weight to this foot or you’ll lose momentum. Practice pushing around a little and build up speed as you get more comfortable.
2. Picking up Your Skateboard
Picking up your skateboard sounds pretty simple, and hopefully, even as a new skater it is, but there’s more than one way to pick it up and being able to do that without bending down each time not only looks cooler, but it’s quicker and easier. There’s also a bit of board control and coordination to learn here too.
The simplest way I found is to have the board in front of you, and ‘stomp’ on the tail of the board so that it comes up towards you. The less of your foot you have on the board the less force needed to pop the board up.
It will take practice to get the feel for how much force to give it instead of having the board flying up too fast or not enough. If you’re struggling try practising with the board sideways, that way you won’t have to worry about the board hitting you.
3. Throwing Your Board Down
For number three I’ve got throwing your board down as this is the best way to get speed fast and start a run from a dead stop. You’re aiming to throw your board down while running, and then jumping on it so that you’re already going at speed when you start.
It’s a pretty simple concept but I’ve seen a few new skaters have trouble with the coordination of throwing the board down and jumping on it.
The good thing about this one is that it’s easy to build up – You can start practising while standing still, taking a few steps, and eventually getting to the point where you can run and jump onto your board in one fluid movement. Once you get the hang of it you’ll probably notice that you’re getting on your board this way every time.
Just make sure that when you throw your board down you’re throwing it slightly ahead of you and stepping or jumping forward onto the board.
4. Getting up Curbs
Next up we have one of the most important things to learn if you’re going to be cruising around. The trick to getting up curbs is essentially just to ollie – the only difference is you have a small obstacle instead of doing it on flat ground.
Without learning this every time you come across a curb you’ll have to hop off your board, and pick your skateboard up and over the curb before you can continue skating.
I won’t get into an in-depth ollie tutorial, there’s a great guide for that here, but you want to be able to ollie higher than 6 inches so that you have the height to clear a curb. Practise this next to a curb and if you’re having trouble getting the height, focus on just getting your nose onto the curb first, and then pulling your back trucks up afterwards by shifting your weight onto your front foot.
This is one of the most useful things you can learn, in my opinion. If you’re still struggling, have a look at an alternative way in this video by Ninjalifestyle.
5. Riding off Curbs
Once you’ve learnt how to get up a curb you’re going to need to know how to get back down from them. It’s super easy compared to getting up them but also super important if you want to continue riding around without interruption.
You don’t have to know how to ollie for this one, but you do have to lift your wheels slightly. When you’re heading towards the end of the curb lift your front wheels just a bit and keep your weight centred over the bolts of your deck and just make sure you have enough speed to clear the curb.
All it takes is a little bit of confidence for this one, but before long this should be something you’re so comfortable with that you don’t even think about it when you’re cruising.
6. Getting Over Cracks
With this tip, I don’t explicitly mean getting over cracks, but the ability to skate over cracks, rough terrain, rocks, or anything really. Honestly, it’s better to try and avoid them altogether, but sometimes that’s not possible. When you’re rolling down the sidewalk if you see a crack or similar and you can’t avoid it, it’s best to know how to get over it rather than just roll into it and fall.
There are a few ways to do this and look stylish at the same time like a Chinese ollie, but all you really need to know for this is how to shift your weight from your front foot to your back foot and get an idea for the speed needed. Gauging your speed will come with time, but for now, let’s focus on your weight distribution.
When you’re rolling towards an object, right before you hit it, you want to slightly lift your front wheels over it and then as your back wheels are coming into contact with it, you slightly lift off of your back foot so that your weight is on your front foot which lets your back trucks pop over it. Put your feet back down and keep riding!
This is an aspect to skateboarding that is almost entirely competency-based. Pretty much anyone can stand on a skateboard while it rolls, but really being comfortable going fast whether it’s by pushing or bombing a hills marks a level of proficiency with your board that’s really going to show you’re improving.
New skaters aren’t going to go straight for the steepest hill they can find, or at least they shouldn’t. This isn’t something you’ll be able to pick up overnight but something you get progressively more comfortable with.
Another important reason to get comfortable while riding fast is to minimise the chances of getting speed wobbles when you’re bombing a hill. There’s really no way to practice this other than skateboarding more and more and attempting to go faster, or try steeper hills as you get more confident.
8. Kick Turns
Instead of using kick turns as a trick I’m going to talk about the more practical use of using a kick turn when you have to turn fast. Whether it’s to avoid an obstacle or any other reason to turn sharply, sometimes a kick turn is going to be your only option when you need to make a quick 90-degree turn.
The key to this one is keeping your back foot in the pocket of the tail and shifting your weight to that foot while swinging your arms in the direction you want to turn and lifting up the nose of your skateboard. It takes some balance and board control but you’ll get it.
New skaters can practice this one by putting both feet either end of the deck and “walking” forward swinging their arms.
9. Riding Switch
Okay, so this might not be one of the first things you need to learn, but when you’ve progressed to a bit more of an intermediate or advanced stage of skateboarding then riding switch is a really invaluable tool.
Pushing, or riding switch is just the opposite (or switched) version of how you usually ride. So if you usually push and ride with your left foot forward, riding switch would be pushing with your left foot forward.
I bring it up as something you learn as a new skater because it’s something that can and probably will feel awkward at first but the more you do it, the more confident you’ll be with it. Pushing switch is something I never tried to learn until recently so I’m still really bad at it, but if I could go back to when I was a beginner first learning how to skateboard it’s something that I would have spent at least a little bit more time and effort on.
Arguably more important than knowing how to get going, stopping is just like picking up your board in the sense that there’s plenty of different ways to do this. They all pretty much achieve the same effect, but the important thing here is being comfortable enough that you don’t just jump off your board and hurt yourself.
Whether you learn to stop by jumping off, doing a nose pickup, or a powerslide, the main thing is to be aware of how to stop in a safe and controlled way. Obviously just jumping off your board is going to be the easiest way, but if you’re going fast you need to make sure you jump slightly ahead of your board and keep running instead of jumping off to the side and kind of crumpling over.
I recommend learning to balance on one leg while you use your free leg to slowly put more pressure on the floor to bring yourself to a stop. I think it’s the easiest way to learn after jumping off, and this way you won’t damage your skateboard or lose it when it rolls away after you jump off.
I know a lot of the things on this list may seem like pretty obvious things to know, even as a new skater but I wanted to highlight some of the alternative uses for the things on this list, and explain why and how these things are useful to know when you’re skating day-to-day. Whether it’s riding down your street or practising tricks, the underlying principles behind each of these means that when you’re learning, these basics really help build your confidence and your board control at a better rate.
These things will hopefully make you a much better skater, so go out and bomb some hills, learn a new trick, and fall a few times, but most of all make sure that you’re having fun.
I hope this helps. Skate on!