When I first stepped on a skateboard, I wanted so badly to ollie that I tried continuously for weeks. I situated my wheels in a crack in the sidewalk so that they wouldn’t roll, and I smacked my tail over and over until I finally started getting off the ground. When I tried to ollie while rolling, though, I couldn’t do it. I had cut the fundamentals out of the trick, and I had to learn it all over again to make use of it.
Learning to skate is, by nature, a trial-and-error game. Trying a new trick repeatedly until we land it is a tradition in skateboarding. Repetition and failure are at its core. Beginners too often fall into the same traps that keep them from improving at skating, though. Avoid these pitfalls, and your skateboarding progression should go much smoother.
Not Learning the Basics
How to ollie can be the most difficult and frustrating thing you ever do on a skateboard.
Once you have it wired, though, the ollie becomes a setup trick. You can then move on to more technical tricks, like kickflips and heels. Each is difficult to learn, but they are only possible because you first learned to ollie. You have to learn to walk before you can run.
In turn, learning to ollie is only possible once you learn the basics of balance, turning and stopping. A trick repertoire is like a house. It is best built one brick at a time. Start with a solid foundation and build tricks on top of it. The fundamentals of skateboarding are a part of every single trick you will ever learn, and looking smooth on a skateboard depends greatly on have those fundamentals wired.
Not Learning Component Tricks
As every trick is built upon other tricks, it makes sense to learn the foundational tricks first. It is no use trying to learn frontside bigspins if you can’t do frontside shuvits and frontside 180s. By breaking a new trick into its component tricks and working on learning those, more technical tricks become a matter of natural progression. In this video for example, Paul Rodriguez shows how to build on the 50-50 when learning ledge tricks.
That is the key word: progression. Everyone in skateboarding is trying to progress — trying to get better. After a break from skateboarding, we often lose tricks. We must then rewire component tricks before the tricks they comprise come back to us. So, it is wise to make a habit of doing simpler tricks from time to time to keep them sharp.
Trying Too Hard
Of course, it is possible to land a trick after blindly trying it over and over again until sheer luck lets you beat the odds and land on the board. More often than not, though, the result will be sore feet and a bruised ego. Every skateboarder admires the guy who dedicates himself to a trick and puts it all on the line to pull it off.
No one is suggesting you give up. Quitting is never an option. Sometimes it simply does the mind good to leave a trick alone for another time, whether that be later that day or another session. It takes time to engrain the mind-muscle connections needed for skateboard tricks. So much is going on with every part of the body, it is impossible to do much of it consciously. Taking a break from a trick gives it time to wire in, and we often nail it after the timeout.
There is no way to sugar coat it. If you skate, you’re going to get wrecked. It is part of it, and you might as well accept it. Skateboarding is the brotherhood of pain. Bailing is quitting on a trick in the middle of the attempt. Often, a skater will have no intention of landing and will bail from the start. No one has ever landed a trick like this. Basically, bailing is wasting time.
If, in mid-flight, you know for certain you have no chance to land successfully, it is okay to bail — this Video shows how and how not to bail.
Problems arise when you make a habit of bailing, though. Bailing on a large gap or a stair set is a sure recipe for an injured foot or ankle, and it wreaks havoc on the knees. The safest thing to do is put 100-percent effort into sticking the trick. Falling off the board is almost always better than jumping off a big gap.
If you are one of the fortunate few that finds skateboarding easy, congratulations. I look forward to seeing you in videos. As for the rest of us, skating is a mixed bag of collisions and contusions, seasoned with the occasional joy of pulling off a new trick and rolling away happy. You can increase your chance of success if you avoid the common mistakes listed in this article, but you can never make skating pain-free. Welcome to the brotherhood!
If you found this article helpful on your path to progression, please consider sharing it so that the next new guy can avoid wasting a bunch of time and energy. They really should tell you this stuff when you get your first board. Also, please share your experiences with beast of bail in the comment section. As a bonus, check out P.J. Ladd’s flatland fundamentals Video, where he describes the kickflip as the keystone to all flip tricks.