Whether you’ve just bought your first board, or you’re been practising for a few months, I’m here to show you how to make serious progress.
From basic equipment to cruising, ollies, and tricks, I’ll give you a breakdown of what you should (and should not) be doing if you really want to get good at skateboarding.
Anyone can jump on a dance floor and boogie, even if their moves are awful. Most of us can toss a ball around and play catch, even if our aim and hand-eye coordination aren’t super.
With skateboarding, this isn’t the case. You can’t just grab a board and shoot off, because that’s exactly what will happen. You will shoot off the board and onto your butt.
On a skateboard, you have to take it slow, especially in the beginning. You have to learn how to roll on the board, then how to turn, and so on.
With skateboarding there are no shortcuts. Everyone starts at the same level, which is at the bottom as a complete beginner. And everyone looks clumsy when they start.
The initial struggle of skateboarding is what makes it such an appealing challenge. As beginners progress, not only do they develop an innate ability to control their board and learn new tricks, they also gain something which is entirely personal to them, which is their own unique skateboarding style.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they skate. They may ride in an aggressive manner and try the scariest obstacles in the skatepark. On the other hand, they could be extremely relaxed in appearance and cruise around looking laid-back, yet have complete control of their board.
When you stick with skateboarding you will be able to develop your own style and the ability to express yourself in an entirely personalized fashion.
But that’s not all. Through skateboarding, you will also have the opportunity to meet many new people from all different backgrounds. Skateboarding attracts individuals from different countries all over the world, and you are likely to connect with at least a few people through the activity.
Personally, I would guess that I have made 70% of my friends through skateboarding, and that’s a conservative estimate. Some of these people are now my closest friends, whom I would never have met if it weren’t for skateboarding.
So whether you pick up skateboarding for the social aspect, the challenge, or the fresh air and exercise, skateboarding is definitely for you.
My aim is to get you to a level where you can go out there and make a dent in the skateboarding world—that might mean showing off your prowess with flashy tricks, or simply skating through your local park with ease.
I’m going to cut through the noise and give you real information. Some concepts may seem rudimentary, but I want to make sure you have the whole picture so that when you next go out and skate, you make progress.
Step 1: Get the right equipment
The hype is there. You just watched the latest Street League contest and are ready to join in. Excited, you head on down to Walmart, pick up a new deck for 15 bucks, and you’re good to go, right?
I’ll keep this short. Don’t buy a cheap skateboard from the supermarket. They don’t work. If you buy a skateboard from a supermarket it will suck. I’ve been skateboarding for over a decade and I would suck, relatively speaking, on a board from the supermarket.
As many people with specialized professions or hobbies know, you often have to seek out specialty stores to get the right equipment (e.g. a good mountain bike, telescope, or metal detector). Buying the cheapest version possible without prior research is not the best idea.
That’s not to say that you can’t buy a super-cheap board from the supermarket; I would just suggest that you keep your expectations low if you do! It’s really better to find a skate shop.
Your actual skateboard is the #1 piece of equipment you need to start skateboarding. Invest a little more time and money upfront, and you will save time, money, and hassle in the future.
When you buy a board for the very first time, you’ll get the entire set-up: Deck, wheels, trucks, bearings, and bolts. Finding a complete skateboard that works well and is also reasonably priced can be a bit tricky.
This is why it’s worth buying from skate shops. In the store, you can ask the shop staff for advice about which skateboards to get. Tell them you are just starting out, and they will likely find you a set-up which could range in cost between $50 and $200.
Would a complete set-up priced at around $60 be the best in the world? Probably not, but you will be able to turn, the wheels will roll (which commonly isn’t the case with supermarket boards), and you should be able to pop on the board.
Also, when you need a new skateboard part, the shop staff can help you find a new deck, trucks, wheels, or whatever individual part you need.
Not only are you supporting the skateboard industry when you buy skateboards from local skate shops, you will also be entering into skateboarding culture itself, and will often meet other skateboarders, or get tips on good places to skate.
Now what about shoes? It’s better to wear skate shoes rather than whatever shoes you’ve already got in your closet.
Suede shoes are great, for example DCs or Emerica. Don’t wear trainers. Although Air Jordans were commonly worn in the early ’90s, we’re not in that era anymore. The benefits of skate shoes over other shoes are endless. Better board feel, stronger grip, and importantly, they are built to last.
The grip tape on skateboards is coarse, and so you need a tough shoe to deal with this. Avoid regular trainers, as these are easily ripped apart by the grip tape.
As a beginner, you’re likely to take a few falls. Basic safety gear, especially a properly fitted helmet, is always a good idea. Many people also wear wrist guards and elbow and knee pads.
In addition to gear, take care while you skate! Watch out for cars, obstacles, and other people, and get comfortable with the basics before you attempt more challenging maneuvers.
Once you’ve got your gear, you’re good to go! Now it’s time to skate.
Step 2: Cruising
Why walk to the shop when you can skate? Going to hang out around a friend’s house? If the sidewalk is quiet, skate there instead!
Skate everywhere. Skate to school, skate to work. Heck skate to the business meeting and kickflip off the table (okay, don’t do that, but you get the idea).
Getting comfortable on your board is essential.
On the weekends or evenings, go to a quiet parking lot or maybe some empty basketball courts. Anywhere that is a large empty space with smooth ground is ideal. Just remember to skate as much as possible.
This video tutorial gives a basic overview of how you can cruise on a board with ease and also provides essential advice about how to figure out your stance, as well as instructions on how to push on a skateboard for complete beginners.
Which foot will you lead with? The majority of skaters lead with their left foot and push with the right (skating “regular”). Some people lead with the right foot and push with the left (skating “goofy”).
There’s really no right or wrong answer here; it all depends on which is your dominant foot and what feels more natural to you.
Note that whichever stance you choose, you’ll push with your back foot, which is the recommended method.
The alternative, pushing with the front foot (colloquially known as “skating mongo”) is not advised, as it tends to hinder your skateboarding balance and reduce board control.
Regular pushing looks smoother and it’s far easier to skate this way in the long run.
With a little practice, you’ll soon get the hang of pushing your board. As the video I mentioned above explains, pushing is quite similar to walking. Try just walking up to your board, putting your front foot on it, and push off with your back foot.
As you push, your front foot will face forward. Once you’re moving, you can adjust your stance so that both feet are sideways on the board, perpendicular to the direction of movement.
You might feel wobbly at first as you shift your feet around to find a good stance and balance, but with time, it will start to feel natural.
The more time you spend on your board, the more comfortable it will feel. Make sure you’re balanced and in control while you’re just cruising along before you jump into tricks.
Turning and truck tightness
Trucks connect the wheels of your skateboard to the deck. Tighter trucks give more stability, but this can make your board difficult to turn. Looser trucks lead to a more responsive board, but there’s more risk of wobbling.
Personally, I love loose trucks. This type of set up allows me to steer my board from side to side with ease, and I can alter my direction in milliseconds.
As a beginner, it’s probably not the best idea to have your trucks so loose that the board wobbles, but it’s crucial that you can at least turn on your board.
The first method you’ll learn for turning your board: Simply shifting your weight.
If all your weight is pressed onto your heels, then this should turn you toward the heel side of your board. If you are leaning down on your toes then this should steer you in the opposite direction, toward the toe side of the board.
If, however, you’re shifting your weight hard to one side and the board is still not turning, well then your trucks are probably too tight. Alternatively, if the board is wobbling from left to right the moment you step on the board, then they are too loose.
Play around with truck tightness. Skate along, see how it feels on the board, and then adjust. But remember. You must be able to turn. If you can’t turn by leaning on your toes or heels, then it’s important to loosen your trucks.
There is often a temptation for beginners to have their trucks really tight when they just start out skating as this can feel more stable when learning new tricks.
But this is a mistake! When you start out and you’re just pushing around, you need to be able to turn from side to side, so that you can maneuver on ramps and avoid hitting other skaters.
Step 3: Learn to tic tac
When it comes to the very basics of skateboarding, there are some things you should be able to do before you attempt to ollie (jump) on a skateboard.
Tic tac-ing is different from the turning method I described above, in which you shift your weight to one side or another. When you tic tac, you lift the front truck off the ground and pivot the board to the left or right in order to turn.
Learning to tic tac is just another step towards having great control of your skateboard. Start slow, by gently pressing down on the tail of the board with the back foot until the front truck lifts off the ground slightly.
Once you get the hang of this you can try holding the front truck up for longer periods, in manual stance, where the board stays balanced on the two back wheels. It’s worth learning, or at least getting to grips with the basics of tic tac-ing and manuals before trying the ollie.
The more comfortable you get by just riding around on your skateboard, and figure out the different ways you can balance on the board, the easier it will be for you to progress once you move onto harder tricks.
Step 4: The Ollie
The ollie is the ultimate trick in skateboarding, mostly because you need it for everything.
Need to hop up a curb? You need to ollie. Want to boardslide a rail? Ollie. Want to learn how to kickflip? Again, you will need to learn ollies first.
Any grind trick, whether it’s a frontside 5-0 or a backside tailslide, is going to require you to learn a different type of ollie. For some grinds, you will need to turn in a specific direction as you ollie.
There are also tricks you can do once you’ve learned the ollie, such as fakie ollies, or backside or frontside 180s.
The ollie is the brick and mortar of skateboarding, which will lead into harder tricks. So how do you do it?
Start slow. You’re not going to learn to ollie on the first attempt. In fact, if you can do it in the first 10 attempts you should give yourself a gold star because getting the hang of this trick can take some time.
Learning to ollie should be broken down into three steps, which are popping, sliding, and jumping.
Part 1: Popping the board
Using the back foot, you should pop down on the tail of the board hard towards the ground. And I mean hard. When I ollie, I always pop the board as hard as I possibly can, as that’s the only way I know for certain that I’ve given the board enough snap to launch it high into the air.
It’s commonly called a snap because you are literally snapping the board as hard as you can in order to make sure enough force is applied so that the board leaves the ground and floats into the air.
Part 2: Sliding the front foot up
Your front foot should be behind the bolts of the front truck at the start of the trick. However, once you have snapped the tail you will also simultaneously be moving your front foot up from the middle of the board to over the front bolts.
Part 3: Syncing steps 1 and 2 together
As you snap the tail with your back foot and slide your front foot up this is going to give the board enough momentum to leave the ground. What you need to do here is stay with the board as it takes off into the air, by jumping up and lifting off with it.
Although it may sound simple, many people who are just starting out skateboarding find the ollie difficult, especially if they are uncomfortable with riding. If this is the case, it’s important to things back a step and cruise around your board more.
Head to the grass
If you are struggling with ollies or other tricks, the best place you can start learning these tricks is somewhere soft, where your board will be stationary.
Here you will be stable and you can try to shuv the board as well as practice kickflips. The advantage of grass, carpet or somewhere else where the board isn’t rolling is that you can figure out the best ways to kick and flick the board.
If you are struggling with ollies, Aaron Kyro has a great system where he breaks down the three steps of the trick, which you can learn standing still. If you are still uncertain of how to do (or even learn) the ollie, I would highly recommend you watch this video.
Once you get the hang of the basic motion, and you are applying pressure to the board in the correct places, you can then try the ollie or other tricks moving again.
A quick word of warning: Stationary skateboarding should be temporary!
If you try learning the ollie in the grass, and then 6 months pass and you’re still ollieing in the grass, then you’re doing something wrong.
While it’s a good idea to spend your first 2 or 3 practice sessions trying tricks standing still, it’s also important that you later try the trick moving again, even if you don’t feel 100% confident in doing so.
Just as balancing on an unmoving bike is almost impossible, don’t be fooled by the 4-wheeled skateboard into thinking that it’s easier to skate standing than it is moving. Over time, it’s actually far easier to try tricks while skating at a steady speed than it is to perform them stationary.
A simple hack to help you develop better ollies
Once you have gotten the gist of ollies, it’s important to keep the progression moving forward.
If you keep practicing ollies or any other trick on flat ground, you will eventually learn the trick, but that’s it. If you keep practicing on flat ground, your ollie won’t ever improve, mostly because there’s no need to develop this trick if all you’re doing is skating along the pavement.
Bring in the obstacles!
Once you have come to grips with a trick, even if it’s still a bit uncomfortable, this is the perfect time to try the trick over something.
You can start with objects which are very small such as the handle of a broom stick. This will help you to develop a stronger ollie over a much quicker time period than you would without obstacles.
Keep trying, and then try again. Eventually, you will develop enough pop to bring your entire board over the broom stick handle. Not only does this improve your ollie, it also gives you visual recognition as you get better, which can really boost your confidence, as you see improvements day after day.
Once you have ollied over a broomstick handle you can try something a little bigger, such as another skateboard. You could try to ollie over the deck while the board is upside down, and once you have achieved this, see if you can ollie the skateboard while it’s balanced on its side.
This incredibly simple training technique works because when there is something to ollie over then you have to get better. There’s no way around it.
If there is nothing in front of you, then you don’t need to improve your ollies. Sure you may want to internally, but without something to jump over, your ollie is only going to get as big as it needs, which isn’t big at all if there are no obstacles!
Step 5: Skate with people who are better than you
A lot of beginners are intimidated by the idea of skating around better skaters. It can feel really overwhelming, even if you’ve already grasped Steps 1-4 of this guide and can comfortably cruise around and do ollies.
However, what may surprise you is that many of the best skateboarders really encourage new people to take up skateboarding.
Although it’s highly unlikely that they will hold your hand and talk you through how to skate down every ramp, they will probably be more than happy for you to skate in the same park they do, so long as you are respectful to them and other skaters.
You see, we were all beginners at one stage, and advanced skaters are entirely aware of the struggles new skateboarders go through.
If you are serious about getting good fast then one of the best things you can do is to go and hang around the parks where the best skateboarders go, and to skate when they skate!
Pro skateboarder Terry Kennedy first landed a frontside 5-0 grind down an 11 stair handrail after only one year of skateboarding. How did he achieve such a feat, which many skaters won’t accomplish after 10, or even 20 years of skateboarding?
Maybe it was talent, but many people believe it also had something to do his peer group. Kennedy skateboarded with the Baker Skateboards team during his first year on a board. All these pros were throwing themselves down giant stair sets and hand rails on a daily basis, as they were constantly pushing themselves to land new tricks, many of which had never been done before.
If you were hanging around these types of people every day, do you think this would influence your own capabilities on a skateboard? You bet!
Find good skateboarders. Watch them, and observe how they perform their tricks. If you think they are good, then speak to them. See if they will help you.
Even if you don’t become friends straight away, or they aren’t open to helping out, you can still watch them skate and observe. Look at where they put their feet and how they set up for tricks. Doing this regularly will allow you to pick up good skateboard habits subconsciously, and you will learn 10 times faster.
Step 6: Intentional skateboarding
When you go out and skate, have some idea of what you want to achieve. Do you need to work on your ollies? Do you intend to land a specific trick you have never done before? Or are you simply going skating to have fun with your friends?
Although there are no rules in skateboarding, good skateboarders are still intentional when they skateboard.
They will usually have some sort of idea about what they want to achieve during a particular skate session. Sometimes, they may just want to have fun and try skating a different obstacle, and sometimes, there may be one trick in mind which they really want to learn.
The point is, there will be a purpose to their skate session, even if it is just to have fun. If you go to the park and you’re not sure what you want to do, well then you will quite commonly find yourself doing nothing.
Approach skateboarding with some fire in your belly. Apply yourself and always look to improve in some way during a skate session.
Step 7: Skate regularly
In the end, it comes down to this. This step may be the simplest but it’s also the most important.
If all the advice I give about skateboarding goes through one ear and out the other, well you can still get really good at skateboarding, and make loads of new friends in the process. All you need to do is one thing, and that’s skate consistently.
Asking someone to walk a 100 miles in 1 day is ludicrous. But asking the same person to walk 1 mile a day for 100 days is more than reasonable. The distance is the same, except the time frame to achieve the goal is far more realistic in the second scenario. With steady walking, day after day, the person will go the distance.
The difference between a skateboarder who gets good and a skateboarder who doesn’t simply comes down to persistence.
Sure, it may be great skating in the summer when there are barbeques down the skatepark, and people are hanging out together every day.
But in the winter, many people stop skating. Probably because there’s less of a buzz, or because they’re not “feeling it.” But in reality, this is the perfect time to practice.
In the “off season” of skateboarding, skateparks are generally quieter, there is less excitement, and the people who are left skating are those who are determined to improve for the coming months when skateboarding picks up again.
Skateboarding success can be achieved simply by skating regularly. If you can skate every day, that’s awesome. But if you have other commitments, such as school or work, then maybe this is a bit of a stretch.
So how often do you need to skate to really get good? I’d recommend around 3 times per week.
Skating this regularly means that you will have many ups and downs with skateboarding, and you’ll learn something from each of them. You’ll accomplish one important thing: you’ll turn skateboarding into a habit.