When you first start skating, a lot of things can feel impossible.
How are you ever going to do a backside tailslide if you can’t even stay on your board?
But a lot of things that seem unattainable on a skateboard are closer than you think.
Mastering balance on your board is the first, most fundamental step toward becoming a good skater, but mastering balance on a skateboard takes time.
It’s frustrating, I know, but the good news is so much of the learning curve in skating comes at the beginning.
Things feel a lot more out of reach when you’re first starting out than they do once you master basic riding and spend more time on your board.
The keys are to take things one step at a time and to not give up.
Here are our other top tips for beginner skaters who are starting to feel a little frustrated with their riding progress.
Skate Tip #1: Relax.
If you’re following our articles on How to Skateboard, you have seen this tip mentioned many times.
With good reason.
When you first learn to ride, skateboarding feels unsteady, which makes it natural to tense up.
Rigid riding WILL affect your performance, though.
Tensing up on a skateboard makes everything harder, from pushing to falls. (No lie. The tenser you are, the more likely you are to get hurt.)
The looser you are, the easier it is to maneuver a skateboard and the better it feels on your body.
When you step onto your skateboard, take a deep breath and focus on relaxing your muscles as you breathe out.
Once you start to move, pay attention to any areas in your body that feel tight and focus on releasing them.
The only times your muscles should engage is when you are performing an action on your board (pushing, turning, stopping).
When you’re just rolling along, keep things as loose as possible.
Skate Tip #2: Suit up.
It might seem obvious, but when you are learning to skateboard you need to properly equip.
That means wearing protective equipment.
And not just a helmet.
No matter how old you are, you should wear a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads every time you skate on a hard surface.
If you don’t know how to fall or have a tendency to try to catch yourself with your hands (more on that next), you should also wear wrist guards.
Don’t worry about how you look.
Don’t worry about what other people will think.
It doesn’t make you badass to refuse protective gear.
It just makes you a person with a broken bone or sprain that sets your practice back by weeks or even months.
If you need more encouragement to wear proper gear, here’s men’s park Olympic gold medalist Keegan Palmer still wearing a helmet and (some) pads to drop in:
And all of the top women’s park skaters (including gold medalist Yosozumi Sakura) garbed up:
Skate Tip #3: Learn to fall.
But why aren’t those pros wearing full pads, you may ask.
Simple. They know how to fall without getting hurt.
And you should learn too.
Before you even attempt to ride a skateboard, you should learn to fall off one.
Many new skaters skip this very vital step, which is how they end up suffering injuries to their arms and wrists. (1/3 of all skateboard injuries are experienced by new riders and wrist fractures are the most common type of injury.)
So, to avoid serious injury while learning, you should practice falling off your skateboard.
It sounds ridiculous, and it kind of is, but it won’t seem so ridiculous when it spares you a trip to the ER.
There are several techniques you can employ to safely fall off a skateboard, including:
Spinning into a fall as you start to fall.
This changes the momentum and trajectory of the fall from straight down to a sideways direction.
It sounds confusing, but if you ever did somersaults as a kid, you know the basic physics.
Now, practice doing it in multiple directions.
Trying to land on a lot of your body at the same time.
This distributes the force of the fall, which reduces the impact on individual body parts.
The more of your body that hits the ground at the same time, the less likely any one area of your body will sustain injury.
When falling off a skateboard, just keep Tip #1 in the back of your mind. Relax.
And don’t try to catch yourself.
You’re more likely to be injured trying to prevent a fall than by falling off a skateboard.
Skate Tip #4: Watch good skateboarders skate.
When it comes to learning how to skateboard, there are few things more effective than watching skaters who already know what they’re doing.
Good skaters use proper skating technique.
Good skaters fall safely.
Good skaters sometimes attempt insane tricks. But you don’t have to copy them on everything.
Watch YouTube videos. Watch skateboarding competitions.
Spend some time sitting at your local skatepark watching the good skaters ride the park.
Then, try to copy good skaters’ techniques on the basics.
Even freestyle riders spend a lot of time just pushing and steering.
Good skaters can also provide a lot of useful tips to beginner skaters who skate the same parks.
Not everyone wants to be bothered while they’re skating, but if someone seems approachable, don’t be afraid to ask for some advice. (Tip within a tip: It always helps to lead with a compliment.)
Skate Tip #5: Don’t rush it.
I know. It’s the skateboarding tip no one ever wants to hear.
But, if you’re a beginner skater, it’s important you hear it.
The fact is, learning to skateboard takes time. It takes effort.
It takes familiarity with the movement and balance of the skateboard and plenty of practice.
Skateboarding is more than just an activity. It’s a physical sensation.
You feel it in your body, and only by doing it can you truly get it down.
You may not want to spend weeks or months learning to simply balance on a skateboard, but that may be how long it takes you.
By putting in the practice, the balance and movements of skating will become more intuitive, the muscles you use to skateboard will grow stronger, and, eventually, you WILL be able to move onto more exciting things.
Just don’t give up before you get there.