How to Ride a Skateboard

Learning how to skateboard isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Forget the unbelievably crazy skateboarding tricks pro skaters like Tony Hawk and others effortlessly perform on Youtube and elsewhere online. Becoming a good skateboarder takes tons of laser-focused and consistent practice. But you got to start somewhere, and there’s no better time than now to learn how to ride a skateboard.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Choose a Good Beginner Skateboard

You need to have a good beginner skateboard. You want to choose a skateboard that’s designed to help beginning skateboarders ease into their skating career.

Typically, beginner skateboarders offer lots of stability. And the bearings inside the wheels don’t spin too fast.

Your beginner skateboard’s wheels shouldn’t be too small, or too hard. Small skateboard wheels are best suited for technical skating. Besides, small skateboard wheels tend to be extremely hard.

Being extremely hard means these small wheels don’t absorb impacts well. And no starting skateboarder wants bumpy rides that vibrate the heck out of what’s supposed to be outdoor fun.

Here’s one more thing. Small hard wheels offer little grip, and as a neophyte, traction is something you really need.  You want moderately tall, grippy wheels that roll over small cracks and pebbles well. The best wheels for beginner skateboarders also keep you close enough to the ground.

Don’t Spend Your Life’s Savings on Your First Skateboard

I suggest that you don’t splurge at this point in your skateboarding journey. What you need at this stage is a skateboard that does the job without being sinfully expensive.

Here are a couple of good beginner skateboards that don’t cost a whole ton of money. And they won’t fall apart in a day like the crappy boards penny pinchers keep collecting from Target and Walmart.

What Skateboard Size is Best for beginners?

Board size isn’t as important as many people believe. Any sturdy skateboard deck with a width of 7.5″-8.0″ should be good enough for beginners and pretty much anyone else.

Once you graduate from beginner-level skating to bowl skating and transitional skating, you can buy your skateboards in bigger sizes. That’s because you need a little more space on the deck when skating tranny or bowls.

As for deck length, avoid very short skateboards as they’re less stable even though they’re easier to maneuver. You need a reasonably long skateboard, one that represents the sweet spot between stability and maneuverability.

Wear Enough Protective Skateboard Gear

Yes, lots of pro skaters don’t wear protective pads such as knee pads, wristguards, and elbow pads. And I’ve seen many advanced skateboarders who don’t helmet up. But they’re pros, you know.

One 2015 study (a review) found that 55%-60% of all skateboarding injuries affect the upper parts of the body. And that includes the head. So, helmet up.

As for fatal skateboarding injuries, they’re rare. Slightly over 1% of skateboarding injuries culminate in death. These fatal injuries frequently emanate from traumatic head injuries that happen when skateboarders collide with vehicles. Conclusion? Wear a helmet.

As a beginner, the single most important piece of advice I can give you is to gear up. Falling over is a fact of life in the world of skateboarding. But you need to get back up each time and continue practicing until you perfect your skating skills.

But without adequate protection, your chances of getting back up after a bad fall reduce drastically. Well, no amount or kind of skateboarding gear guarantees you 100% safety and protection against skateboarding injuries.

However, riding gear-less is the fastest path to quitting this pastime for good. Or even to sudden death. So, gear up before stepping on that skateboard.

Let’s now dive in and learn….

How to Skateboard for Complete Beginners

It’s time to handhold you through the process that’ll help you learn how to skateboard and enjoy the outdoors more.

By the time we’re done, you’ll be able to skate safely from point A to point B. Also, you’ll have learned a few basic skateboarding tricks so you can stop feeling like an absolute beginner.

First things first….

Determine Which Foot is Dominant

The first thing to do is decide which foot is the dominant one. Why? It’s because you’ll use your dominant foot for pushing. The stronger foot is the one you should place at the back of the deck.

As a beginning skateboarder, you’ll have to choose a skateboard riding stance you feel comfortable in. You’ll use one of three riding stances namely the regular stance, the goofy stance, and the mongo stance. These are the exact same riding stances people use in surfing, longboarding, and snowboarding.

The Regular Skateboarding Riding Stance

In the regular riding stance, you place your left foot at the front (above your skateboard’s trucks) and your right foot at the back or on the tail.

This means you’ll use your right foot to push while using the left one to ride and control your board.

The Goofy Riding Stance

I don’t know who gave this stance this name, but there’s nothing goofy about the goofy riding stance.

The goofy foot stance is pretty much like the regular foot stance. Except that you ride your skateboard with your right foot and push with the left.

The Mongo Skateboard Riding Stance

In the Mongo stance, you don’t push with the foot at the back of your board. Instead, you push with the foot near the nose.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with the mongo foot stance. You can use this stance as a beginner to ride your skateboard if you like. In fact, the Mongo stance feels more natural than the regular and goofy stances.

However, with the Mongo stance, there’s always a chance that your skateboard might move forward faster than you expected. Suddenly, there’s no deck under your feet!

But it can get even worse. When you ride your board mongo, you’re always swinging your pushing foot in an awkward motion. And this awkward motion tends to put a limit on your ability to learn skateboarding tricks.

Avoid Super Smooth Surfaces at First

Don’t do this on the smoothest surface available. Instead, learn to step on your board on a somewhat rough surface such as your carpet or lawn.

You don’t want to do this on a hard smooth surface because your skateboard might roll off suddenly anytime. And you’ll likely fall.

So, set your skateboard on your carpet or on the grass.  Then, get into the right stance: knees bent with your feet parallel to the deck’s width.  But while your knees should stay a little bent, your back should stay straight.

Plant your feet right above the trucks; the screws on the deck’s upper side should give you a clear idea of where to stand.

Now, test out the board to learn how it feels to balance on it. Start rocking back and forth. The whole idea here is to get used to how your board responds to the movements you initiate.

Learn to Balance and Stay on Your Skateboard

Balancing right on the deck is the most critical skill to master when riding a skateboard for the first time. Get your posture and foot placement right.

Planting your feet at the wrong places or standing in really awkward postures don’t foster balance at all.

Once you get your posture right and can balance without falling over, learning to skateboard starts feeling easier and easier.

Maybe You Need a Trainer?

It may be a good idea to have a coach or someone else to teach you how to skateboard. They can see when you’re standing in the wrong posture. And as you fall — because you’ll fall many times — your trainer can help you understand why you fell.

Maybe you want to watch beginner skateboarding videos on Youtube to learn how to skate. Or you may prefer to have someone who skates guide you.

Whether Taught or Self-taught, Persist Until You Succeed

Regardless of which route you choose, be persistent. Make a mental declaration to practice the heck out of that skateboard until you master the fundamentals of skateboarding.

Soon, you’ll improve past starter territory and even start landing some serious skateboarding tricks.

The trick is to dust yourself every time you fall, get back up, and keep skating. But you don’t want to place yourself in harm’s way. So….

Don’t Be Too Ambitious at First

Some beginner-level skateboarders want to drop into ramps like a pro skater when they hardly know how to balance right.

Don’t be that overambitious starting skater. You never want to be the unlucky guy or girl that ends up with a dislocated knee or twisted ankles. Or broken bones. Or a cracked skull. Or even worse…

If any of these unfortunate events happen to you on the first day skateboarding, you’ll likely stop trying for good.

Now that you can balance right and can get on and off your board, you’re ready for your first push.

Doing Your First-ever Push on a Skateboard

If you can’t push, you can’t ride a motor-less skateboard. Pushing is a fundamental skill when it comes to skateboarding and longboarding.

Practice Pushing On a Level Surface

Your balance and posture aren’t an issue at this point. That means you can practice pushing off a flat smooth surface. Your garage would be a great place to learn to skateboard. The driveway is another place to learn riding your skateboard.

At this point, your feet are where they should be — on the deck. One at the front and the other near or on the tail (kicktail).

Now, drop your backfoot onto the ground and push off the ground. It’s tempting to do several small pushes. But it’s better to do a single, long, smooth push.

That way, you can easily see what your pushing efforts can do. And you’ll get an idea of how much more energy you’ll have to put into the next push.

Once you push off the surface, pick up your backfoot, step back on the deck, and glide forward. When your board begins to slow down, do another push and get the foot back on the deck.

Try to make your current push bigger and more powerful than the previous push. Each successful push will boost your confidence around skateboarding. Keep pushing while staying balanced on the board until it begins to feel like the most natural thing ever.

All too often, beginners use the ball of their foot to push instead of the entire foot. Using the ball of your foot to propel yourself forward may feel natural and easy. However, it’s best to bring the whole foot to contribute to each push. That’s how you build more momentum skateboarding.

Learn to Turn Your Skateboard by Leaning (Carving)

Turning is the next thing you should learn after you’ve learned to glide forward without falling over.  Being able to turn on your skateboard is a super important skill, and it becomes even more important when you skating fast.

This kind of turning is also called carving, a term longboarders use all the time.

Learning to carve on a skateboard is a 3-step process. The learning process involves finding your balance when standing still on a stationary board, turning inward, and turning outward.

Step 1: Balancing On a Stationary Skateboard

So, find a smooth surface devoid of obstacles to learn this fundamental skateboarding skill. Then, place the rear wheels on a crevice to hold your skateboard in place and stop it from rolling.

Then, step on the board, and remember to place your feet at their default position. Stand in the usual skating position, knees slightly bent and back straight.

Next, try to rock back and forth, maintaining your balance as you do that. As you perform this step, make sure the wheels don’t lift off the ground.

Step 2: Learn to Turn Inward (Frontside Carve)

To do the frontside carve, find a gently sloping surface, one with a bend but not a sharp one. Then, start gliding downhill on your skateboard. Of course, you don’t want to glide downhill too fast.

As soon as you approach the bend, push downward on the deck with your toes. And as you do that, lean forward a little with your chest. Remember to keep your arms to your sides.

At this point, you’re ready to turn. To steer your board, you’ll have to turn your shoulders inward. Once the carve completes, get your back straight up, and that’s it. You did it, boy!

Step 3: Learn the Backside Carve (Turn Outward)

Start skating downhill as you did above. And as you near the corner, push downward on the deck with your heels.

Then, pretend there’s an armchair below your butt. Now, lower your butt down to sit on this imaginary armchair.

Meanwhile, your chest needs to lean slightly forward so you can stay balanced on your board. As for your arms, they should stay stretched outward to your sides.

Next, use your shoulders to control the movement and complete the turn. Once carving completes, resume the usual skating posture and keep rolling.

If you want to progress from beginner level to intermediate-level skating and beyond, you must master carving. What’s better than being able to turn on a dime without falling over? Nothing!

Learn How to Do Kickturns (Very Useful for Turning at Speed)

Sometimes you need to dodge obstacles as you skate at speed. And that may necessitate changing the direction of your board.

To avoid obstacles as you glide down various surfaces, you need to learn how to do kickturns. And if there’s one thing that’ll get you into the skatepark fast, it is mastering kickturns.

Let’s now learn how to do kickturns. This learning phase includes two parts. The first part has you learning to pop your board up and turning it, and you’re doing this while stationary. The second part involves turning the board when in motion.

Turning Your Board When Stationary

First, find a place that’s not too smooth. The lawn would be a good place for this, but a gravel surface works better.

Next, put your skateboard on the surface. Then, position your backfoot on the kicktail, keeping it straight.

Next, bend your front leg a little while shifting your body weight over that foot. When you do that, the kicktail will go down and the front of the board will rise up. Your arms should initiate the upward movement of the nose.

Note: if you let the nose pop up too far, the kicktail will touch the ground. The idea here is to lift the nose high enough while balancing on the back wheels.

Immediately after that, shift your weight forward so that it’s now over the front foot. Transferring your weight forward should cause the board to come back to the ground.

Repeat this trick several times until you can do it effortlessly. Once you’re comfortable doing this, learn to turn your board in whichever direction when it’s going up.

How to Turn When in Motion

Now, push off on your board so you can start gliding. Don’t push too hard because you don’t want to move too fast.

Skating slowly, shift your weight to the back of your skateboard, over the backfoot. At the same time, bend your front foot a bit while turning the heel of your backfoot inward slightly.

Now, use your shoulders to give impetus to the movement while controlling the front with the forward foot. Drop your arms to your sides as you do this.

Once you’ve turned and are moving in your desired direction, straighten the front foot. Doing that should bring the board slamming back down onto the ground.

Learning to make turns fast and accurately when skating is a vitally important aspect of safe skateboarding. As you do with every step of the learning process, practice kickturning until you get it right each time.

Learn how to do Tic Tacs

At this point, you need to learn how to skate forward or backward fast without needing to push. And tic tacs is a great way to do that.

Tic tacs are nothing more than a series of kickturns performed at increasing speed. Skateboarders use these little moves to build up speed without expending too much energy.

The whole idea here is to kickturn from side to side to increase your skating speed by lifting the nose.

Here’s How to do Tic tacs

First, place your feet correctly on your board. The backfoot should step on the kicktail while the front foot should stay at the front where the bolts are.

Next, heap some weight over the backfoot and start doing small kickturns. Use your shoulders to lift and turn the nose one way and then the other.

Practice this on a gravel surface to prevent your skateboard from taking off when you’re not ready. And keep doing this until you start feeling comfortable with it.

Then, try increasing your skating speed by kickturning faster and faster. How big should your kickturns be to tic tac effectively? Keep your kickturns at about 45 degrees to your direction of motion.

If you can tic tac rigt each time, you can start practicing various skateboarding tricks while you tic tac. Again, persistent practice is critical to completing this learning phase successfully. Try grinding, ollies, kickflips, and whatnot.

Beginner Skateboarding Tips

Here are some tips to help you build up the confidence you need to become a better skater:

Tip #1: Learn How to Fall Safely

Since you’ll fall more times than you imagine, why not learn to fall safely? The best skaters on Earth fall safely better than they skate.

I get it, you’re wearing adequate protection. But you never know when falling a certain way will hurt you badly even with the best gear on.

All too often, starting skateboarders push their hands out forward when they’re about to fall. That’s a natural instinct. And it’s completely understandable. Except falling with your hands stuck out is a great way to break your wrists!

You need to learn how to have controlled skateboard falls that don’t have you landing on your hands. Here’s how to fall off a skateboard without breaking bones or getting bad bruises, scrapes, and cuts.

How to fall on a skateboard

Find a place where the riding surface (concrete or whatever) transitions to a softer surface. Then, give your skateboard a few pushes and start gliding on the concrete.

Keep skating toward the higher surface, preferably a grass-covered patch, until you come to the place where they meet.

Once your board hits the step to the higher-level surface, you’ll start falling forward. That’s because that little wall separating the two surfaces will stop your board. And you’ll obey Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

That is, you’ll continue moving in the same direction you were skating in before. But there’ll be nothing to step on, except the ground.

As you fall, tuck your elbows in and roll to land on your back or shoulder rather than on your hands. Rolling to land on your back or shoulder takes a huge amount of impact energy out of your fall. But it’s something that requires a bit of practice to get down.

Well, your shoulder or back may hurt a little. However, you’ll manage to avoid bad injuries or snapping a few bones.

Another safe way to fall is to use your hands to hold the ground momentarily before pushing away to safety. However, using your hands to sweep away from the impact works best when you’re not skating fast.

 Avoid This Common Mistake When Falling

One common mistake skateboarding beginners make is always instinctively planting their arms straight into the ground. I understand; the beginner is trying to catch himself or herself. But all they end up doing is stopping their skating momentum.

That’s why untrained beginner skaters keep breaking their wrists. So, as you fall, never ever try to reduce the fall’s full impact with your hand straight. Never.

Skateboarding Tip#2: Practice Makes Perfect

It’s obvious — the more you practice, the easier skateboarding gets. So, try to fit some skateboarding time into your schedule whenever you can.

Skateboarding Tip#3: Join a Skateboarding Gang

Connect with other skateboarders in your area. Join like-minded folks. People who love skateboarding. Souls who can’t wait to step on their board each weekend….and ride into freedom.

If everyone around is a beginner like you, get together and practice new tricks. And if you can link up with more experienced skaters, that’s even better.

Watch how they’re landing their tricks and practice hard to master those tricks. Ask for tips and guidance, but mostly observe what they’re doing and try that.

However, don’t drive yourself too hard that you end up injuring yourself badly. When skating with a massively good skater who’s always ollieing down flights of stairs, take care.

You’re a beginner. And trying to outperform pro skaters just isn’t wise.

Skateboarding Tip#4: Watch Skateboarding Videos

You can read about skateboarding all you want, but nothing beats seeing someone else doing a trick you’re interested in.

And that’s where skateboarding videos come in. There’s tons of videos like that on Youtube, and watching them and trying what you see helps immensely.

I know a few people that learned every skateboarding trick they know through watching pro skaters do their magic.

Luckily, you can easily find beginner-level videos and many others on advanced skateboarding techniques.

Skateboarding Tip#5: Try a Little Downhill Skating

Downhill skating can be scary. But there’s no skateboarding without going downhill, at least some of the time.

When you’re rolling downward, you don’t need to push. It’s easy work because good ol’ gravity does most of the pushing for you.

As you roll downhill on your skateboard, your main job is to learn to control your board and your ride. So, make sure to crouch and stay as low as possible to promote stability.

Also, keep your ankles solidly at the same place, avoiding movement. Even small movements at high skating speeds translate into really big swings.

If you’re not careful, you’ll lose balance. And the consequences won’t look pretty at high speeds.

Skateboarding Tip#6: Don’t Try too Hard

Trying new tricks is great, but you never want to overdo it or start attempting new tricks prematurely.

Unless you’re double sure you’re ready for a certain skateboarding trick, it’s best to not attempt it. We keep seeing beginners trying to drop into ramps on day one only to end up sustaining bad injuries.

Don’t be one of those guys and girls. That said, you’ll never learn anything new or cool in skateboarding unless you’re willing to try. Just be smart about it.

Skateboarding Tip#7: Wear Enough Skateboarding Protection

Wearing proper skateboarding gear can’t be overemphasized. Unless you’re too careful that you’re not skating at all, you’re going to take skateboarding spills.

You’ll encounter small spills that scrape your skin and give you painful bruises or bleeding. You’ll also someday get into a real skateboarding crash. A crash that could kill you unless you have the right protective gear on.

Everyone that’s been skateboarding for years knows that the big-spill day always comes. And you got to be ready for it with tested and proven skateboarding gear.

When it comes to helmets, Triple 8 helmets are some of the best brain savers I know. Most of their helmets are properly certified, too. And whether you have a small head, a regular size head, or a really large head, Triple 8’s got you covered, literally.

Triple 8 also offers really good protective pads. Pro-Tec protective pads and 187 Killer Pads are also pretty decent pads, and skateboarders everywhere love them.

Skateboarding Tip#8: Learn How to Stop on Your Skateboard

When it comes to board sports, learning to bring your little board on wheels to a stop is a critical skill. I didn’t cover how to stop on your skateboard in this post. But that’s because learning to bring a skateboard to a smooth safe stop can’t be covered in a paragraph or two.

However, I’m planning on publishing a separate post that’ll focus on how to slow down your skateboard and finally stop. Meanwhile, you can find a few good Youtube videos on how to stop a skateboard and do it safely.

How to Skateboard: Final Thoughts

Nobody ever masters skateboarding in a day. Becoming an accomplished skateboarder takes tons of hours practicing. Persistence pays — practice consistently.

Also, learn how to fall safely, because skateboarding falls are inevitable. And when you’re at it, make sure to have adequate skateboarding-specific gear.

So, wear a decent skateboarding helmet. Also, put on good knee pads, protective elbow pads, and high-quality wrist-saving guards.

Skating with others helps you stay focused and learn new things. Also, watch skateboarding videos and practice what you see. Most importantly, keep practicing until you perfect each move or trick.