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Tips for Anyone Who Wants to Start Skateboarding

Updated on January 20, 2015
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Skateboarding is a thrilling endeavor which can provide you with fun and exercise for years. However it takes time and can be frustrating to learn the basics and approach some obstacles, not to mention enduring the scrapes and bruises. Your patience level will ultimately determine whether or not you will stick with skateboarding, but here are a few tips to help you get through that learning curve.

Make Sure You're Interested for the Right Reasons

Skateboarders like Nyjah Huston win millions of dollars in contests every year... and make it look incredibly easy. If money is your motivation, then it might be a better financial decision not to buy a skateboard. There are probably only about one hundred (generous estimate) professional skateboarders who are able to make a decent living. To rise to their level would take years of injuries and self discipline. In short, you'd better off just trying to have some fun.

What Equipment Should I Get?

Since you are just getting started, you shouldn't feel pressured to buy high priced gear.

For your deck, I would recommend going for a $35-$40 model. The $50+ decks are noticeably higher quality and have the sweet graphics, but it isn't necessary yet. You just need something that you can learn a few tricks on for now. Board width ranges from 7.5 - 8.5 inches, so if you're a size 12 shoe, make sure you're above 8" at least. If you go to a skate shop instead of a website (which you should), go ahead and stand on the board on the floor before picking it out. You want to make sure the curvature feels good beneath your feet. After all, you'll be standing on this thing for months!

The trucks you select won't matter much until you figure out what terrain you want to concentrate on. The most important thing to decide at this point is how loose you want to keep your trucks. This mainly depends on size and weight, although that isn't always the case. You should find your comfort zone, but making the trucks too tight can damage the parts, and keeping them too loose can result in the wheel hitting the deck (wheel bite).

Deciding between the various types of wheels, bearings, and grip tape isn't incredibly important yet either, but you should avoid getting big wheels if you just picked out some low trucks.

Skate shoes are only important at this point if you want to start learning tricks quickly and can be held off on if you just plan on cruising for a few months. Shoe comfort, like board comfort and truck tightness, is intuitive. If you want maximum board feel, go with a sneaker style skate shoe with a flexible sole. If you like bulkier shoes, keep in mind that you will be sacrificing board feel before you buy.

Basically, don't sweat the equipment that much at this point. However, if you buy a board from Walmart and ride in basketball shoes, don't expect good results.

Try Not to Push Mongo

"Pushing mongo" is when you use your front foot to push instead of your back foot. There's a practical reason not to do this, but it can also affect your reputation among other skaters. Pushing this way will make it more difficult for you to get your feet set when you're trying to perform a trick. When you're done pushing, you'll have to quickly adjust your front foot according to the trick as well as slide your back foot to the tail of the board. This probably doesn't sound like a big deal now, but every second counts when you're rolling full speed towards an obstacle. When you use your back foot to push, you can already have your front foot close to where you need it, and just drop your back foot onto the tail after pushing.

Pushing mongo is also a good way to draw flak from other skaters. There's no real good reason behind this, except that pushing with your front foot suggests that you are a beginner and don't know any better. In time, you'll also realize that it affects peoples' style on the board; no one looks good pushing mongo. The only exception is if you're skating switch (right foot in front instead of the left or vice versa, depending on your natural stance). Pros like Eric Koston have gotten away with this, but most skaters eventually learn how to push normally in switch stance as well.

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Find Some People to Skate With

Nothing will help you progress faster and skate more often than having a crew of friends to skate with. You'll notice that you'll be pushing yourself harder around others, and having more fun. If you're lucky you already have some friends that skate. If not, there are probably skateboarders rolling around your town somewhere. If you're in school, look around for kids with beat up shoes and scarred elbows. If you're out of school, you can try to get to know people at the local skate shop or skate park. "Veteran" skaters are notorious for being a bit prickly towards outsiders or new skaters, but I think this reputation only applies to a small portion of the community. So when you're at the shop or park, don't be afraid to make conversation, but keep it short if they seem uninterested. I'll go further into skate park etiquette in the next section.

Your First Trip to the Skate Park

In the title of the corresponding video, you'll notice that the uploader is complaining about the "kids" at the skatepark, and he is right in doing so. What he doesn't realize though, is his own violation. While this appears to be a low traffic section in the skate park, there's no need to show up if all you're going to do is ollie over a board. This should be done elsewhere. People go to parks to skate obstacles, or because they're sick of getting kicked out of natural skate spots (a stair set, gap, ledge, etc. on public or private property). There's no problem with simply riding around the park if you haven't figured out your ollies, just don't post up on a section of flatground because you might interfere with someone's run.

On a related note, while you're riding around the park, be wary of where others are going. If you cut someone off, it's not only annoying for the other person, it is dangerous for both of you. It helps to notice before you take your run where others are heading, then when you go you won't have to look around as much while you're skating.

Above all, try to have fun. Skate parks can be intimidating, especially to new skaters. If you feel anxious, just take a deep breath, hop on your board and head towards a part of the park you know you can handle. If some butthead tries to hassle you, just ignore him. He (or she) obviously isn't having enough fun.

Learn How to Ollie... Then Practice Them As if Your Life Depends On It.

The fellow in this video will help you with the first part. I stress practicing ollies until you can't stand it anymore because skaters often want to learn to kickflip right after they land an ollie. I don't necessarily discourage this, but nearly every trick you learn after the ollie will require the same basic technique and motion with some sort of variation. You won't be able to get the right flick on your kickflips until you have a grasp on the motion that leads to high and fast ollies. Also, just because you've learned how to ollie doesn't mean you're ready to do any gap jumping. After your first few ollies, try simply doing it up or down a curb and you'll see what I mean. The ollie will be your first real test of patience and will show you how hard it is to progress as a skateboarder. Once you really get the ollie, the road to 180s, kickflips, heelflips and varial flips will seem easy in comparison.

Is Street Skating is Worth the Risk?

Go to a shop or YouTube, pick out a skate video (any skate video) and watch it. Chances are, the pros in your video are skating outside of a business establishment or school. Both are absolutely illegal. There are a few reasons for this, including property damage, potential injury, or the disruption of the sight and sounds of skateboarders. Not to mention it's considered either trespassing or loitering in most cases. The most commonly cited reason is potential injury. The security guard or property owner will tell you that if you get hurt, they are liable and could get sued. It's unclear why this is so commonly stated, but it never really happens. After all, it would take a lot of nerve for a skateboarder or a young skateboarder and his parents (who more likely than not are against their kid's activity) to sue a business basically for having features that are dangerous to skate on.

Personally, I skate this terrain 99% of the time. It's what I grew up skating, and I don't really like transition so I don't go to parks that often unless they have street obstacles. I take the chance of having the cops called on me, but I also try to minimize this risk. The best way to do so is to go when the business is closed. If you want to skate a school, go at night or during the weekend. If you do, put everything back where you found it and make it look like you were never there in general. When I was in Junior High, a group of skaters in my town began spraying graffiti on the school's picnic tables. Not long after, the school fenced in much of the school to restrict the local skaters. Prior to the tagging, no one was ever even hassled for skateboarding there. Also, try to keep it quiet. Obviously the sound of your board hitting the ground will make your presence known, but some skaters will start screaming or throwing their board when they can't land a trick. Just... don't do this. There's no reason for it, and such behavior could prompt someone who's merely passing by to call the cops

If you get told to leave the property, simply leave. Be respectful and understanding, because the property (unfortunately) isn't your own personal skate park. Who knows, maybe if you're polite enough, he or she will let you skate longer or request that you come at a different time. If the cops show up and give you a warning, you should really just go home. It will be tempting to move on to a nearby spot, but the police will already be on alert and just might show up with their handcuffs already out.

Don't Feel Pressured to Skate a Certain Way

There are subcategories involved, but the three most popular types of skateboarding are: technical street skating (ledges, rails, trick sequences), hardcore street (stairs, handrails, grass gaps), and transition (pools, bowls, miniramps). You should naturally gravitate towards one or more of these options, but you can also be pushed towards one for various reasons. Maybe the local skate park is very transition oriented, or the skaters at your school all jump down stairs. Some new skaters simply feel the pressure of learning every trick in the book after seeing how much variety the pros have. Once you've learned some tricks, it's totally up to you to decide what terrain you like. Keep in mind that you are the only person who needs to be satisfied with your skateboarding. Don't let anything or anyone determine how you skate.

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