Balance is the most essential skill you will need on a skateboard.
Yes, pushing, turning, and being able to stop matter. (You can’t get anywhere by simply staying centered.)
But, when it comes down to it, balance is the most rudimentary skill a skateboarder must have.
The one that all the other skills build on.
Balance is the skill that lets you stay upright when the board starts to move.
Balance is the skill that lets you push, turn, and stop without taking a tumble.
Basically, balance is the skill that keeps you from getting hurt.
The better you are at it, the better you can ride.
How to Balance on a Skateboard
Balancing on a skateboard comes down to three key things:
- Skateboard Stance: the position of your feet and legs
- Posture: the position of your entire body
- Adjustment: the response of your body as the board moves
You will struggle with riding a skateboard, even in a straight line, until you start to develop a feel for all three.
And the only way you can develop a feel for how to balance on a skateboard is to just start riding.
Sturdy balance requires a sturdy base.
Your base on a skateboard isn’t just the skateboard itself (though, a wider board is easier to balance on), but your stance.
How you place your feet on a skateboard’s deck is the foundation for everything above.
Think about any number of objects – a lamp, a chair, a bowling pin. They tend to be wider at the bottom than at the top.
Or, at least an even width from top to bottom.
And things that aren’t wider at the bottom than the top, like pub tables and stools, need extra weight in the base to compensate (and, even then, are often more rickety.)
Gravity is simply kinder to things with wider bases.
So, when you stand on a skateboard, that’s what you’re aiming for – a nice, wide base.
For an in-depth overview of skateboard stance and help practicing, see our article How to Stand on a Skateboard.
But, at the most basic, for a well-balanced skateboard stance:
Keep your feet wide.
They should be roughly shoulder-width apart.
For most people, putting your feet on the trucks of a standard skateboard will provide a good starting position. (And help you avoid the kicktails).
If you can’t get your feet wide enough, you need a longer board.
To get a feel for how far apart your feet need to be:
1 – Stand on the floor.
2 – Drop down into proper skateboarding position (knees slightly bent, backside jutted out).
3 – Spread your feet until you start to feel very stable in this stance.
Just standing on a floor, you will notice there is a point when this stance feels more natural and becomes considerably easier to hold.
(A proper stance even feels better on your knees and lower back!)
4 – Shift your weight slightly frontward and backward.
If you’re feet are wide enough apart, you should still feel solid as you shift your weight.
It also feels easier to rotate your hips in this position.
This is the stance you want when cruising on your skateboard. (You’ll need to make slight alterations as you start to learn tricks.)
Once you’ve got your feet in the right place, you can move on to the rest of your body.
Stance is the biggest part of skateboard posture, but there’s a little more to it.
You also need to stay centered.
Staying centered on a skateboard mostly involves keeping your upper body over your base.
Sound simple? It is! Until you start to move.
As you perform actions on a skateboard, whether it’s pushing, turning or doing a kickflip, your center of balance shifts, and your upper body needs to move along with it.
When you’re cruising, keeping your upper body upright (aligned with your hips) will keep you mostly balanced.
Just make sure you don’t lean back! That’s the number one way to throw yourself off-balance on a skateboard.
With your stance planted and upper body aligned, try to relax.
A rigid posture makes it both harder to respond to changes in terrain and momentum and increases your chance of getting hurt if you fall.
Skateboard Balance Adjustment
Balance is a basic skill, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Holding still in a chair is a lot easier than holding still on a Tilt-A-Whirl.
Standing motionless is a lot easier than kicking one leg out.
Simply put, movement complicates things.
On a skateboard, there are a lot of movements you need to perform while still maintaining your balance.
It’s when you get into these movements that balance becomes considerably trickier.
Since these movements are all very different, we have broken it down into the most common movements you’ll perform while cruising on a skateboard.
Balance While Riding
Everything on maintaining balance above is geared towards generalized riding.
This means both feet are on the deck and the skateboard is in motion.
One addition to riding posture while moving on a skateboard is that your upper body should face the direction in which you’re moving.
If you have your front foot placed properly on the board (see How to Stand on a Skateboard), it should be easy to face your upper body forward with just a slight twist of the hips.
Different skateboarders prefer slightly different front-facing angles and different ways of getting comfortably into position.
It’s something you’ll have to feel out for yourself once you start riding.
But a frontward-facing posture makes it much easier to push, stop, and see obstacles in your path.
Skateboard Balance While Pushing
Pushing your skateboard will be your first real test of balance.
During a push, you must lower your foot to the ground and bring it back up while remaining centered on the board.
To do this, you need to keep your weight balanced over the foot that stays on the board (your front foot).
In order to keep your weight balanced over your front foot:
1 – Bend your front knee more and shift your weight to that foot.
Enough of your weight should be centered over your front leg that you feel as if you are standing on one foot.
2 – Lift your back foot off the deck.
If you are in a balanced position, you should still feel sturdy and strong on the board.
3 – Bend your front knee and lean your upper body forward with every push.
This should feel very natural.
You’ll need to bend your front knee slightly with every push for your pushing foot to reach the ground and your upper body will rock forward automatically with each push.
Stay loose and let your body respond naturally to the movement.
It will help you stay balanced.
4 – Carry through completely with your push.
When you push on a skateboard, your pushing foot should stay on the ground from the front of the board until you can no longer reach.
This will not only give you a stronger push; it will help you stay balanced.
As long as your pushing foot is on the ground, you’re technically standing on two legs.
Just make sure you keep your upper body centered over your front foot, or you’ll have problems when you do lift your back leg.
Skateboard Balance While Turning
Unless you’re doing wicked fast turns on a skateboard, balancing while turning isn’t much different than balancing while riding forward.
The key is to keep your balance over the center of the deck/trucks even while putting a little pressure on one side of the deck or the other.
To do this:
1 – Shift your weight to the balls or the heels of your feet, depending on which way you want the board to turn.
Shifting the weight in your feet will depress the deck slightly, causing it to drift that direction.
2 – Lean into the turn just enough.
Lean your upper body slightly in the direction you are turning to shift more weight to that side of the board.
Just make sure you keep your lean small.
The more you lean, the more you’ll turn, and the more trouble you’ll have keeping your center of balance.
Perfect small turns and corrections on a skateboard before moving onto larger turns.
Skateboard Balance While Stopping
Balancing while stopping on a skateboard is similar to balancing while pushing.
You need to take one foot off the board.
Unlike pushing, though, you don’t need to maintain your balance over the center of the board for long.
At least when you are stopping at a slow pace.
Simply center your weight over your front foot long enough to lift your back foot off the board, then shift your weight to your back foot as it reaches the ground.
This should bring you to an immediate stop.
When moving at speed, you’ll need to drag your back foot against the ground to slow down before coming to a complete stop.
This means keeping your weight balanced mostly over your front leg, just as you do when pushing, until you are moving slowly enough to shift your weight to your back leg and stop.
Keeping your weight centered over the board is key to balance while stopping.
Perfecting Your Skateboard Balance
When it comes to balancing on a skateboard, it’s something you really have to get a feel for, because there is no other movement exactly like it.
(Surfing and snowboarding come closest, but there are still some differences between riding on snow or water and riding on wheels.)
No one gets on a skateboard for the first time and rides like an expert.
Everyone has to learn.
So, if balancing on a skateboard feels unnatural (or even impossible) at first, don’t give up. Just keep getting back on each time you stumble and practice, practice, practice.