Always wanted to try your luck on four wheels but don’t know your heelflip from your boardslide? Don’t worry, we got you.
Sorry longboarders, bad news inliners – skateboarding is the coolest sport you can do on dry land. That’s just a fact. Developed as a way for surfers to keep wave-ready when the seas were flat, skating has been carving a swathe through the culture since as early as the 1940s.
Maybe you grew up on the Tony Hawk’s videos games at the height of skateboarding’s popularity in the early 2000s. Maybe you picked up a board for the first time in lockdown. Maybe you’ve never so much as set eyes on a grip tape and deck in your life.
Whatever your background, now is the perfect time to take up skating. As well as burning calories and improving your balance and coordination, a study from the University of Exeter found skateboarding is great for depression and mental health – especially in middle age. Those returning to the sport after time away found it helped them bond with their children, and navigate ‘personal trials’. Meanwhile, a USC study from 2020 found that skateboarding not only boosts mental health but builds social skills and a sense of community, alongside boosting mental resilience. In other words, it’s great for you, and it’s a great community to be a part of.
With that in mind, we asked Danielle Gallacher of Girl Skate UK, to talk us through everything you need to know to get started on a board.
One of the trickiest things about trying any new sport can be finding your people. Skateboarding can be extra difficult because you can’t just turn up to a sports hall and get involved like you would with, say, community basketball. And hanging around car parks trying to do ollies off curbs isn’t a great look if you’re over the age of 15. Thankfully, we’re living in the age of social media, which makes things easier.
“With the abundance of skate lessons, workshops, and even skateboarding retreats, there really couldn’t be a better time to get involved in the sport,” says Gallacher.
The best place to start? That would be the hub of the skateboarding community – your local skate shop. “I recommend finding your local skate shop and popping in for a chat, they can point you in the right direction for lessons, events and meet-ups in your area,” says Gallacher.
If you’re aiming to do more than cruise around, be warned that your first board will take a beating and may well fall apart before a few months have passed. This is normal, but it means you won’t want to spend big bucks straight away.
“You can pick up a decent complete set-up and pads for anywhere between £100-£200,” advises Gallacher.
A word of warning, though: “Steer clear of skateboards you might find in high street sports shops. These are what we call ‘toy boards’ and will make learning harder than it needs to be,” Gallacher warns. “Rollersnakes.co.uk have one of the biggest online selections, and they also stock our own Girl Skate UK boards.”
Good question. First you’ll need to practice stepping on, hopping on, jumping on… get comfortable and play around.
“You’ll then want to figure out if you are ‘regular’ footed or ‘goofy’ footed,” Gallacher advises. “This just means which foot you lead with; in goofy stance your right foot is forward and you push with your left. The opposite is true for regular.” To figure that out, have someone push you suddenly from behind – the foot you put out to steady yourself is probably your front foot.
To push along, you’ll want to stand with your legs either side of the skateboard, with the ‘nose’ in front of you and the ‘tail’ behind you. Place your leading foot at the front of the board with your toes just covering the bolts, and place your back foot on the floor parallel to your front. Just go steady at first with small pushes, getting your balance enough to place your back foot onto the board once you push off. “Your arms are your friend,” Gallacher says. “You may feel silly at first, but keeping your arms out for balance really will help”
If you can’t face falling over, skateboarding isn’t the sport for you. But you can minimise injuries by being sensible.
“The very best way to stay injury-free when starting out is by booking yourself a few lessons,” advises Gallacher. “Whilst skateboarding can totally be self-taught, or even YouTube-taught, there’s a certain confidence to be found when you know you are doing something safely and ‘correctly’.”
Gallacher also points out that stretching is important as your ligaments and muscles will be put to the test. “We always recommend to warm-up with some stretches and to warm down too,” she says. “Make sure you are wearing proper footwear. Some types of skateboarding can be high-impact on our feet and so wearing shoes designed for that type of stress will help to prevent injuries.”
“Don’t be a dick. If it really is super busy just get off and walk it - even if you are a super experienced skater you don’t know what kids might fall over in front of you,” Gallacher says. “If it’s not that busy and you really do have somewhere to be, then just keep your wits about you, don’t get distracted, and keep out of pedestrians’ way.”
The ollie will form the basis of your more advanced tricks, but before you get there, it’s worth getting a handle on a few beginner moves.y
“A manual is essentially a ‘wheelie’ but on a skateboard,” Gallacher explains. “Your front truck will lift up and your weight will be solely balanced on the back truck. They are a great trick to practice statically at home as it will still help to fine tune the muscles needed to work your balance.”
The Kick Turn
“Kick turns will be most helpful to you when cruising about,” Gallacher advises. “A kick turn is when you push down on the tail of the board so that your front truck lifts up, and then use your weight to turn around and start going in a different direction. This trick is all about the shoulders, you really want the whole top half of your body to be facing the way you want to end up, moving your shoulders around will help to direct your legs and make the whole thing a bit easier. If a full 180-degree turn is too difficult, start by doing something like 20 degrees or whatever you can manage, and try to do a little bit more each time. Progress over perfection.”
Good luck, and have fun.
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