It doesn’t matter if you’re old. young, overweight, tall or skinny, skateboarding is a fun sport to master. Hardly anyone learns skateboarding at day one, it takes time, dedication and some guts. I’ve seen many skateboarding guides that claim to explain skateboarding for beginners but most of them just skip the basics entirely and move on to advanced tricks that take years to master. In short you’ll need to do the following to learn skateboarding.
- Put your skateboard on a patch of grass
- Put your feet in the right position.
- Jump on and off, lean forward and backward
- Start learning how to push.
- Learn how to curve.
- Learn to ride fakie.
Prepare before you start skateboarding
The basics of skateboarding are keeping your balance and enjoying yourself. You should learn to control your board by using your feet while you keep your center mass over the skateboard. This comes with trial and error. On your first day, you’ll do nothing more than just practice balance and perhaps a short ride. Look for a smooth surface like a parking lot and avoid crowded places. Gear up by wearing proper protection and try to buddy up with an experienced skater to guide you.
I’ll cover the steps from getting a skateboard, safety and will be talking about how to manage your first day on a skateboard without getting discouraged. If you don’t have fun you’ll give up.
You need to get the basics right before you try anything more advanced. If you can keep your balance you’ll prevent some of the most common injuries and you’ll keep skating with confidence. Now before we go off to become a pro there’s a couple of things you’ll need to know before you learn how to skateboard.
Get a quality skateboard
There are a few different types of skateboards. While many don’t know or see the difference, the type of skateboard you need depends on what you want to do with it. If you just want to cruise and use a board as transportation you’ll probably better off getting a cruiser or a longboard. If you’re really lazy (or a bit older) you can consider an electric skateboard. Now street skating requires a different type of skateboard obviously. You’ll need something that’s agile and lightweight, same goes for mini ramp and bowl skating.
Don’t buy a toy skateboard. Visit your local skate store to get quality stuff. Even then you need to be careful nowadays as a cheaply imported board might break easily. There are a couple of things you need to check in order to get a quality deck. Be sure to check out the article before you rush to the store.
Don’t spend too much on your first skateboard!
You can get a complete pro skateboard for around $90-$100, less if you’re lucky. Consider buying a complete deck and avoid toy stores. Toy decks break easily, are heavy and have low-quality parts. Once you progress you can think of assembling a skateboard yourself using the components you want. I assembled some complete decks for beginners on a budget, so you know what to look for.
Get proper shoes
Probably the most important thing here is to get some good shoes. You’ll need shoes that can absorb an impact and have a flat sole. Absorbing shocks will prevent nasty heel injuries, they don’t heal fast and keep coming back if you’re unlucky.
It’s also important that you can feel your board, your shoes should be flexible. Be careful when buying shoes like the Nike SB series. Some are more fashionable than actually functional and the truth is these brands don’t do anything for the sport.
Here are some brands to look for: Etnies, Vans, Emerica, Lakai, etc.
It’s normal to have painful feet, even more so when you’re new to skateboarding. I still feel some pain after I haven’t skated for a while, you have to get used to it. It will go away when you skate more often. Make sure you wear shoes that aren’t too tight!
Consider wearing runner socks
Your feet will get sweaty and your socks get soggy. Well, at least mine do. I just grab my running socks which absorb most of the sweat. It also helps to prevent blisters! I’m sure there are socks for skateboarding out there, but a couple of runner socks will be fine. Just checked, yep many socks for skateboarding, they look pretty nice. Don’t expect them to help absorb shocks or protect your ankles.
Stay safe and wear protective gear
A bit of an unpopular topic among skateboarders but wearing protection when you’re just starting out is important. Also depending on where you live, ending in the hospital could come with a hefty price tag. For the older beginners out there, taking care of your family and being able to work the next day is worth more than looking cool.
I guess this is more of a thing when you’re younger. You often see skateboarders without protection (except for vet skaters), mainly because they are experienced and know how to fall. If you’re a beginner taking precautions not only prevents injuries, it will also make you feel more confident. You can go for a protective set to save some money, at least get a helmet and knee pads.
Inspect your skateboard
Sharp edges, worn our bearings, fractured kingpins, loose bolts, they all are an accident waiting to happen. This isn’t so much a problem is your skateboard just came from the shop but inspecting your equipment before you go skateboarding can prevent injuries. You don’t have to do this every time, just make sure you inspect your board occasionally.
- Check your bearings as a broken one can block your wheel movement.
- Make sure the wheels are properly attached
- Check if the baseplates can’t move (bolts on top of the deck).
- Sharp edges on your deck can cause nasty cuts.
- Worn out grip tape will decrease your grip.
Don’t be embarrassed
It happens to every new skater. What will the neighbors think? I look like an idiot. Will people laugh at me because I have no idea what I’m doing. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. I’m a grown man, not bad at skateboarding but sometimes when I’m in a new park I get that same feeling.
Everybody had to learn skateboarding at some point. We all sucked once. No skater is going to laugh at you, in fact, you could ask for help and people are willing to help you. Okay, people in the street might make remarks but who cares. You’re skating for you, to learn a new skill, to have fun.
If it’s really too big of a deal for you, try to look for a quiet spot like an empty parking garage or use your driveway. Just keep going, it won’t take long before you can do some pushes and ride. I still get remarks from old ladies telling me I’m too old to skateboard. “it’s for kids!”. I just laugh and be on my way and come up with a witty answer 5 minutes later.
Fear is normal, skate with confidence
It’s just something that’s part of skateboarding. Fear is what keeps you from injuring yourself, but sometimes it holds you back. If you’re just starting out, don’t do anything you’re not ready for. About 33 percent of skateboarder ending up in the hospital are newbies. To be fair, It’s not easy to overcome fear. You know you can do something, you have the skill but there’s still the fear of falling.
Just wrap yourself in protective gear, it will give you confidence and you won’t tighten your muscles too much because you’re scared. Slowly build up, don’t plan on landing the trick just get a bit of a feeling. You shouldn’t think too much. If you want to do that first drop-in and are standing there for 5 minutes, walk away. Go do something else and go back. If you think too much, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Don’t skateboard in the rain
Skating in the rain is not only bad for your bearings and deck. It’s just dangerous. Your wheels lose grip and you’ll fall. Your grip will have less resistance and your deck will get soggy and lose its pop or worse, delaminate. If it’s just a little bit wet outside you could go for it, but it’s still bad for your hardware. Some skaters have a rainy deck for rainy days. This usually means just an old deck, old wheels, bearings etc. Just make sure to always take good care of your gear.
Find a smooth flat surface
I can’t tell how many times I came to a dead-stop caused by twigs and tiny rocks. That awful sound right before you smack the ground, you’ll encounter it eventually and it happens to the best of us. The worst thing about it that it almost always comes unexpectedly. You can prevent this by riding softer and bigger wheels and not putting too much pressure on your front foot.
Even worse are small pieces of glass, I don’t think I’ll need to explain what happens when you get unlucky. This is a bigger problem when your wheels are harder, softer and bigger wheels often found on longboards suffer less.
So before you decide to ride, scout the area for pebbles, twigs and keep an eye out for glass shards. A smooth surface will help you to prevent nasty unexpected tumbles that you can’t prepare for.
Ideally, you can practice in skate parks, this might be intense as there are many skaters so going early in the morning is a good way to avoid them. It also may be less awkward. Use parking lots (preferably empty) or your driveway if you don’t have a skate park nearby.
Take some lessons and be patient
Maybe you know someone that can guide you or consider taking some lessons. You should try to get a bit of a feeling before you take lessons to get the most out of it. Make sure you take your time to perfect your skills. It’s better to practice 1 hour than a couple of hours using the wrong posture and the wrong techniques. I wouldn’t worry about this too much honestly. In general spending time skateboarding and getting familiar with it is just fine.
Getting some guidance can be very beneficial, it’ll take you a long time to get better if you skip the basics later on. I grew up prior to youtube and had a hard time learning tricks, I bought VHS tapes (Rodney Mullen VS Daewon Song, yeah!) to get inspiration. I also made the mistake of skating mongo style, sorry about that.
Try to dedicate as much time as you have to train your muscle memory. Do this by repeating small balancing exercises over and over again. This may seem boring but it will help you progress later on and prevent nasty injuries. Learning new tricks is a matter of repetition. When I skate with my friends we have a rule. If you can’t make a trick three times in a row, you haven’t mastered it. It’s more of a joke but you get the idea.
Respect the culture, skateboarding etiquette
It’s very important to be respectful to your fellow skaters. Skaters will be very supportive when you ask for guidance, like for example dropping in a mini ramp for the first time. They will help you show how to do it and even lend you protective gear. From my personal experience, I’ve never seen skaters bullying somebody that isn’t at their level yet. But in general, if you act like a dick you’re not going to get support from anyone.
And for you parents out there. I’ve seen parents hijack mini ramps and funboxes because their kids like to slide down. “my kid has every right to be here” mentality will not go down well. Don’t ever do this, you risk your kid getting hurt because it’s an accident waiting to happen.
One more thing. If you see someone land a cool trick you can show respect by banging your skateboard twice on the ground or coping. This is how skateboarders applaud. If you hear more than 2 bangs you probably landed a sick trick, but it could also be that other guy.
Don’t expect to learn it in a day
In theory, you could ride in a day, probably not very comfortable but it depends. If you are already good at other sports you probably pick up skateboarding fast. This doesn’t mean you’ll be popping kickflips or other advanced tricks but you’ll be able to ride.
If you aren’t really good at sports it might be harder, but don’t let that discourage you. It’s all about having fun and like any sport you need to practice to become proficient. There are a couple of things you can do to speed up the process.
- Try balancing on a skateboard to improve the strength and accuracy of your foot movements
- Increase your core strength by doing core exercises
- Improve mobility/flexibility and suppress reflexes enabling your body to autonomously return to a balanced state.
- Practice every day!
Out of shape? Try to work out first
People who regularly exercise will pick up skateboarding much faster. You also have more risk of injury when you’re out of shape. I don’t mean you have to be athlete fit, but if you’re exhausted after walking a mile, you should work on that first.
Skate as much as you can
Skate at every opportunity you get, preferably every day. Take your board to work, school, friends etc. Starting out with a skateboard just for commuting is a great way to get used to a skateboard. You’ll probably want some softer wheels to make the ride pleasant.
Avoid crowded places
For yours and others’ safety, avoid crowded places and traffic. You can seriously not only harm yourself but also harm others. I’ve seen people get hurt badly when a skateboard hit their ankles or Achilles. The most severe accidents are caused by vehicles, so be careful.
Learn how to fall
You will fall so you better know how to fall. You can start by riding into some grass and just fall off on purpose. Try to roll if possible but sliding on your knees and wrists also will reduce the impact, assuming you wear protection.
Falling is part of the game and you need to be ready for it. Some skaters roll to reduce the impact and others slide on their knee pads and wrist guards. If you’re planning to wear protective gear, learn the proper techniques. If you don’t wear protective gear try to roll.
Limit your speed
Once you get the hang of it, or so you think you’ll get more confidence. Keep in mind to limit your speed, more so when there’s traffic around you. If you gain too much speed and don’t know how to break you’re gonna have a bad time.
I learned this the hard way while going downhill in France, I gained so much speed that I couldn’t break anymore. The only choice I had was to bail and of course, I was stupid enough not to wear protection. This was over 20 years ago and I still got some scars that remind me.
Bring some tools
Make sure everything is set up properly. Your trucks shouldn’t be too loose and not too tight. Bring some tools along to adjust your board until you think it feels right. You’ll need to be able to steer so you need to find out what works for you. You can buy a skate tool that has everything you need. Get a good one though, not those cheap $6 tools.
You’re never too old!
Age does matter but it doesn’t mean you can learn to skateboard at 40. Starting out when you’re an adult isn’t impossible but you’ll pick up skateboarding faster when you’re younger. If you’re let’s say, over 27, it will be harder. After your 30’s you should really make sure to wear proper protection. You won’t heal easily, fall harder and you probably have responsibilities. I’ve dedicated an article for skateboarders over 30 if you’re interested.
Riding the board
Ok, you got this. Relax, breath and don’t be scared. Getting on a skateboard for the first time is very awkward. It will feel unnatural and you will fall. To make this as easy as possible there are a few things you can do to get used to a skateboard without landing on your face.
The most important thing to learn is keeping your balance. I have some tips to balance without falling off or hurting yourself. After that, it’s time to ride for the first time and learn how to push. Don’t do anything you aren’t ready for, leave the ollies for now.
How to stand on a skateboard and keep your balance
You need to get used to a skateboard and make sure you position your feet correctly. Your first try will feel uncomfortable and maybe a bit scary, don’t step on a deck when it’s able to move. To prevent the board from slipping away underneath you can put your deck on a patch of grass or a piece of carpet. This way you’ll get a bit of the feeling of balancing on a board and your skateboard won’t take off without you. Of course, you’ll stay stationary, riding a board on grass isn’t exactly what you want to do but you’ll get to know and feel the board.
Once you’ve done that, hit the street and stand with both of your feet on the board and slightly bend your knees. This will help you keep your center of gravity and you’re closer to the ground. Practice stepping on and off using your ‘push foot’, once you feel comfortable and not losing your balance all the time you should learn how to push.
How to ride a skateboard for the first time
Now that we covered the basics it’s time to ride. Try to skateboard at least 3 times a week in order to make progression. The first thing you want to do is figuring out which foot you want to put forward. Is your stance regular (left foot in front) or goofy (right foot in front)?
Neither is good or bad, it’s just your personal preference. If you use the wrong foot things will be hard and frustrating. You sometimes see skaters push with their front foot, the problem is that it takes more time to get back in a comfortable position. If you ever snowboarded you probably need to put the same foot forward, if not follow these instructions:
- Run straight ahead and imagine your heading for a slippery surface you want to slide.
- Now jump and land without thinking too much and put a foot forward, this is probably the foot you want in front.
- Another method is asking a friend to push you while standing, the foot you use to step forward is probably your front foot.
Learn how to push
So now you figured out which foot you need in front of your board, let’s start to push your skateboard. Put your foot (facing forward) over the front truck bolts (knees bend) and use the other foot to give a little push, go easy and don’t step on your skateboard. You need to practice this a few times first.
Next, put your other foot on the deck and position your front foot sideways, turning your foot will help you keep your balance. So basically how you ride a skateboard is like this:
- Put your front foot over the front truck bolts of your board.
- Push with your other foot.
- Push with your back foot and place it on your tail.
- Position your front foot sideways.
Keep doing this until you feel comfortable, it could take a couple of days/weeks before you feel in control depending on how much you practice. If you don’t feel comfortable after practicing many times you might want to try to put your other foot in front. Just take your board to school, work or your friend’s house to get familiar with riding a skateboard.
Like anything in life, you’ll need practice before you master a new skill.
Don’t get cocky once you think you have everything under control. Leave the ollies and kickflips for now. The next thing you want is to learn how to turn.
Don’t try to ollie or kickflip for a while
You see this pretty often. People completely skip the basics and start going for ollies right away. Please stop doing this. If you don’t get the basics it will only take longer to actually learn tricks. You need to get a feeling for your skateboard. It needs to feel like a natural extension of your body. When you can push with confidence, or steer like it’s a second nature you can go on. But you still shouldn’t start doing kickflips or ollies before you can roll. At the end of this post, I have some really basic tricks that look rad and aren’t too hard to learn. Once you got that, go do your ollies.
Learn how to turn
Start by stepping with both of your feet on your skateboard. Lean to the front back and also use your feet while doing this. Your board will respond to your movements and once you get the hang of it, try it while riding.
There are two types of turns you can use to maneuver your skateboard, a kick turn, and a carving turn.
A kick turn is slightly more difficult, you’ll need to lift your front wheels off the ground by gently putting pressure on your tail with your back foot. Carving is when you lean in and use the weight of your body to steer. Carving turns are more difficult if your trucks are tight, you’ll need to loosen them up a little (not too much!). Just lean into the direction you want to go and your board will follow.
Learn how to stop
Slowing down on your face isn’t recommended so before you start those power slides the easiest way to stop moving is using your back foot. Just drag the sole of your shoes to reduce speed. Just use the same position as you use to push and slowly apply pressure to the ground.
Angle your foot towards the front (nose) of your skateboard, it’s not that hard if you limit your speed. If you run into traffic and think you can’t make it, bail! I just hope you didn’t forget to wear protective gear.
More basic skateboarding skills
Welcome back to this article, I assume you now have practiced for days or maybe even weeks and you feel comfortable riding a skateboard and you’re still in one piece! Now that you’re killing it let’s learn some basic tricks. Again really basic, but it will help you get even more feeling before you start doing flips, spins, grinds, and slides. It’s time to learn about different ways of standing on your skateboard.
- Regular/goofy stance
- Fakie (riding backward)
- Switch stance (complete opposite of your normal stance)
- Nose stance (less relevant for now)
Try riding backward (fakie)
Is that even a trick you’re asking? Well not really but if you master this it will open a whole lot of easy to learn tricks that look impressive! Riding a skateboard backward is essential, I’m not even talking about switch stance yet. Since I don’t recommend learning tricks if you just started out this is a perfect way to get to know your board even better.
Best way to learn fakie is by riding up a ramp or quarter pipe and ride backward. You just ride up and turn your head and shoulders into the direction your heading (backward). In this case, you don’t have to reposition your feet, your back foot will stay on the tail. This will allow you to get familiar with fakie stance before you move on to switch.
Riding up a slope or curve can be rather tricky, don’t lean forward as this will make you fall over. Try leaning a little bit backward and bend your knees
We talked a little about goofy and regular stance, to master a smooth ride you should learn how to roll fakie or switch stance. Skating backward will help you to learn more tricks but also will improve your style. If you are comfortable rolling both ways you are ready to perform tricks like riding up a ramp and cheaply down fakie. It will feel uncomfortable and unnatural at first and is harder to master than rolling regular.
Getting back in normal position after fakie
Getting back into your normal stance after riding fakie is important to learn. When you progress, many of the tricks you learn require you to land in fakie stance. So how do you do this? By rotating 180 degrees!
Face the direction you want to turn. Lead your turn with your shoulders and your upper body and keep your center of gravity. Apply some pressure to your tail (which is in front of you, under your back foot). Don’t put too much pressure on your cheaply when you pivot. You also want to turn inwards which is a bit more difficult.
So turn your shoulders and upper body inwards, apply a little pressure on your tail and pivot. Do it slowly, if you position your body correctly your nose should lift off the ground and your legs and hips will follow naturally. Then just put your nose down and voila.
Real beginner skateboard tricks
When I search Google for basic skateboarding tricks, I don’t really get basic tricks. I don’t consider kickflips and tre flips beginner tricks, what are these guys thinking? Anyway, I came up with a couple of tricks that you can focus on when you got the basics. Some are harder than others, but they still look impressive! Update: I added 23 real beginner tricks that make you look good.
Picking up your deck, fashionably
From now on you don’t have to bend over anymore to pick up your skateboard. There are tons of ways to pick up your deck. Here are a few.
Next up, the classic Tic tac
I personally hate it, but it’s great for getting more control over your board. This isn’t really hard when you got the basics.
Time to get some speed and get familiar with transition skateboarding. Timing is everything and once you can do this, you’ll have a great time in your local skate park.
Learn manuals (wheelie)
It may not look like much, but manuals are fun! You probably won’t get more than a few inches at first but you’ll gradually get better. This is an excellent balance exercise and you’ll benefit by combining tricks with manuals later on.
The famous Caveman
Ready to litliterally jump on your board? Do the Caveman. You’ll need to hold your skateboard in your hand, jump in the air and land on your deck with your feet. Scary, I know, but a great feeling when you nail it.
This is a bit of a scary trick at first, but you just need to go for it. You can start doing this on a patch of grass if you like. Once you know how to do it, it’s time to get your boneless to the next level.
Try a mini ramp
Once you feel comfortable, move on to a mini ramp if possible. Just go back and forward while slightly pushing with both of your feet to maintain momentum. Bend your knees and lower your body near the curves. The amount of pressure also depends on your wheels and bearing. Soft wheels require more pushing than hard wheels.
- Keep your body weight centered.
- Shoulders and upper body go first.
- Apply pressure to your tail and turn your upper body if you go for a kickturn.
- Turn the lower part of your body and your skateboard will follow
Try to ride switch
Riding switch is a little bit different as you’ll need to place your back foot in front (direction forward) and you’ll use your front foot for pivoting. The best way to learn is by placing your back foot on the front bolts (where your front truck is attached to) and push with your other foot. Only push once and place your other foot near the tail of your skateboard and position your front foot sideways for balance.
This shouldn’t be difficult if you have been practicing, it becomes more difficult once you try to increase speed and perform more pushes. So take it easy, like always and slowly get used to it.
Once you get the hang of it, try steering a bit. With slightly bended knees lean in with your toes and heels depending on the direction you want to go. Again this will feel awkward for a long time.
Also, try to skate switch all the time for a couple of days, repetition will help you get the hang of it. Just pretend this is your normal stance by forcing yourself to ride switch. Do all the basic things that are challenging when you learned to skate. ‘Jumping’ off small pavements, carving, doing manuals etc. In the end, this will help your body to gain muscle memory and your brain will adjust accordingly.
Remember that skateboarding is about having fun. Learning to ride switch is one thing, learning tricks is another. If the latter is too frustrating just let it go.