Let’s get something out of the way right now. Skateboarding is cool. And learning how to ride a skateboard is cool.
But it is not easy. Honestly, you’re going to look like a dork as you learn to skate. It’s inevitable, and you know what? It’s good. It means you’re putting yourself out there and getting practice.
So, embrace that dweebiness and become a total master of these beginner skateboard moves. Let’s get started.
1) Grab Some Gear
Speaking of not being easy, learning to skateboard may not be. You will fall off. You will be thrown off. It’s possible that you could get hurt, and that’s before you even get to any skateboarding tricks.
But you can take precautions to help stay safe. Make sure you purchase and wear properly fitting protective gear, such as:
- Elbow and knee pads
- Wrist guards and gloves
- Padded shorts (which protect the hips and tailbone and adds cushioning for butt falls)
And try a pair of skate shoes. They’ve got thinner soles for more board feel — thus more control with a tread optimized for grip and thick rubber protecting the toe. Subjecting any shoe to the rigors of skating will eventually tear it up, so you’ll want a dedicated skating pair regardless.
2) Grab a Board
If you really want to get good, you’re going to need lots of practice time. So, you should pick up a beginner skateboard.
As a newbie, you’ll just need a well-built complete, which is a ready-made skateboard for beginners. Completes are precisely the type of entry-level skateboards for beginners you’d find at a big box store, but try to avoid one of those if possible. They’ll work but are generally lower quality and unpredictable.
If you visit a skate shop in person or online, you’ll get better details on the individual components. This will help you make an informed decision. And if you find yourself a little in over your head? Tap into the store’s expertise. For the best beginner skateboard, we recommend the following features:
- Skateboard relative to the rider’s size (If you’re an average-sized adult, the specific sizes don’t matter much.)
- Concave (curvature of the deck) that’s flat/mellow to medium, with a near symmetrical nose and tail
- Slightly softer wheels, which will ride smoothly and offer more grip
3) Determine Your Stance
When you first learn to skateboard, you have to figure out foot positioning. That’s your entire connection to the board and will determine stability and control.
Stand with your knees slightly bent, feet about shoulder-width apart — or above the trucks, which hold the wheels to the board — facing outward. Try to balance your weight evenly, erring towards more weight at the front than the back to avoid tipping off backwards.
- Do you feel comfortable leading with your left foot (called regular)?
- Or with your right (called goofy)?
- This is important. Generally speaking, it will always be the same foot at the nose and the other foot at the tail.
- That back foot is the one you’ll use to propel. Since that takes some power, your leading foot may not always be your dominant foot.
You may already have a feel for which foot wants to lead (or sometimes, which wants to push). Or you can try both out on a board. There a couple of methods you can use to determine your leading foot without stepping onto a skateboard:
- Have someone push you off balance from a standstill. Which foot comes forward first to steady or catch you?
- Stand at the bottom of a staircase, then begin sprinting up. Which foot took the first step?
- Imagine you’re wearing socks, and you run up to some tile and power slide across the floor. Which side of your body takes charge?
4) Learn the Basics: Push, Slow Down, Stop
Once you know how to stand, this is how you move forward. Push with your back foot while your front foot stays on the board, but remain aware of those foot positions.
- When you’re rolling, your feet and chest should point outward to the side.
- When you push, your feet and body should face straight ahead (or mostly straight — angled mostly forward can work).
- Learn to shift your foot. Turn it forward during pushes, and turn it back to the side afterward.
The most challenging aspect of pushing is just all the practice it takes to find your groove. Make sure to bend your knees. Build up strength and balance with your front foot.
Skateboards don’t hold that much momentum or pick up that much speed, compared to a longboard. But if you’re learning how to skateboard, it’s good to keep things slow and steady.
- It’s relatively easy — if you can push, you can slow yourself. Make the motions for a push, but don’t kick off when your back foot reaches the ground.
- Gently drop it down and let it drag. The friction will slow you down (Warning: It will also wear down your soles). To slow more quickly, simply increase the force you’re pushing down with.
- Be sure to keep your weight and balance with the front foot.
There are a few beginner-appropriate ways to stop on a skateboard. If you’re still just learning balance and pushing, you won’t be able to pull off something like a powerslide.
You can slow to a full stop with the foot brake above method, or you can hop off your board in a hurry. But make sure to follow through on momentum. You’ll need to trot forward a few steps once you hit the ground; otherwise, you’ll probably tip over.
There’s also the heel/tail scrape, but you need both balance and control to pull it off.
- Move your back foot onto the kicktail. Lean back to release a little weight from your front foot and push down in the back. The tail will drop, and you’ll scrape to a stop.
- For less board scraping and damage, you can stick your heel out past the edge of the tail. When the tail comes down, use the heel of your shoe as the brake in addition to (or instead of) the board.
5) Learn the Basics: Carving Turns and Kick Turns
These two simple turns will pretty much complete the basics of how to skate.
Carving is a fluid and straightforward move that just takes practice. You might feel it come on a bit naturally, even as you spend more time on your skateboard.
- These turns are based on leans. As you’re rolling with momentum, bend your knees to lower into the upcoming turn, then lead with your shoulders.
- When you lean back, opening up the shoulders and bringing the weight down through the heels, you’re carving frontside.
- When you lean forward, folding the shoulders slightly in and bringing the weight down through the toes, you’re carving backside.
- Bring yourself back to an upright and middle-balanced position to come out of a carving turn.
Kick turns are a smaller, quicker turn that’s good for changing direction. You can kick turn your board without even rolling, so you can practice this move on gravel or carpet.
- Move your back foot onto the tail to push it down. You want to balance the rear wheels momentarily, but only let the front wheels/nose come off the ground a bit. So, shift your weight back and bend your front leg just a little.
- If you’re rolling, some of the weight needs to shift onto the heel or toe of your back foot, depending on the direction of the turn. This will help guide the board.
- You’ll mostly use your shoulders and hips to guide the board as it lifts. You don’t want to jerk or move too abruptly. It’s more like a smooth pivot, having your board take a step sideways. It’s not hard, but tricky — practice.
- Put weight back on your front foot to land the nose. Shift forward, back into a middle balance.
From here, after lots of practice, you can advance to basic tricks like ollies, frontside and backside 180s, and then continue building from there. You may want to learn a more advanced brake method and practice slowing down using the turns.
And finally, remember that the best teacher is experience, but it’s still useful to check out skater tips online for fresh ideas or walk you through a difficult move.