Prompted by the recent John Lewis Christmas advert, here are our top tips for learning to skate as an adult.
noun: a person who is fully grown or developed
verb, informal: behave in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially by accomplishing mundane but necessary tasks.
For the sake of this article, we're going with the first definition. Although it can easily be argued that keeping yourself active, outside and socialising is a necessary task; doing this by skateboarding is far from mundane.
So you're a fully grown human. You may have produced offspring. Said offspring may be interested in skateboarding. You may have had this idea all by yourself. Either way, don't feel alone - we get calls every week from people like you, looking to join in the fun, and we salute you!
We aren't kids anymore, and don't bounce as well as we used to. With that in mind, here's a list of things that will make your learning curve as shallow as possible.
You'll be cruising along the seafront in no time.
You'll need a complete - that is to say, a board with the wheels and trucks already attached. Everything you need to get going.
First things first. Unless you're only ever going to skate in the skatepark, we recommend buying something with soft wheels.
Soft wheels, on asphalt, roll:
- For longer
Thus making your skating experience:
- at worst, more pleasant
- at best, far easier to get the hang of!
Bear in mind, there is some ambiguity here, and personal preference always plays a role. Give us a ring if you want to check what you're looking at suits what you want to do with it!
Starting with the easiest... if you're going to the skatepark, you want your board to be:
- Have a nose and tail
- Have TKP (traditional kingpin - ie, regular skateboard) trucks
Here at Vandem, we stock skateboards that are, in general, slightly wider than your average skate deck. We like that vibe - they aren't the best option for crazy flip tricks, but they'll feel more planted and a bit safer as you find your feet.
Remember, if you're sole use is at the skatepark, choose the "Park" setup to get the hard wheel option.
This can mean a lot of different things to different people. Here, we're talking about something in between what might be considered "longboarding" and "skateboarding".
This means riding in an urban environment, perhaps commuting, through obstacles and people. Your main aim is covering ground, rather than tricks, but with sharp turns, people-slalom and curbs in your way, some level of trickability/agility is useful. You're looking for something:
- Not too high (takes more effort to push)
- Has a kicktail
We recommend a cruiser for this. Browse the complete collection of cruisers here.
Choose a size based on your height and foot size - we have a full guide on choosing the right board size here, and the cruiser page has a video guide at the bottom of the collection page too.
Wide open spaces, seafronts, cycle paths
Now you're into longboard territory - though the cruiser will work here fine too, the super-agility of the small setup isn't as necessary.
A longboard will be:
- Longer (!)
- More stable
- Have RKP (longboard) trucks
- Turn more gently
There are a whole host of shapes and sizes available. Watch our size guide video for an impression. In short:
Want maximum stability above all else?
- Look for a drop-through. Lower to the ground = more stable.
Prefer your trucks to be more reactive?
- Topmounts will turn faster, sacrificing a little stability
You're surfing above asphalt on your board. Unfortunately, hitting it does hurt a bit.
You can do your best to prevent the worst of it, however.
Prevent brain injuries by wearing a helmet. Sure, they're not likely, but in my opinion, why take the chance? I don't on my bike, either.
Keep your blood on the inside of your skin by wearing some pads. If I had to choose just one, I'd go for knees first.
Slide gloves are a longboard-specific bit of gear that are essentially a tough set of gloves with a plastic puck on the palm of each hand. This allows you:
- Initially, to not cut your hands up if you fall
- Later on, to place your hands on the floor to control cornering and drifting
Gloves have saved me more skin than any other piece of protective gear over the years.
You're probably sick of it - I know I am - but having a little warm-up routine and keeping on top of some stretching or yoga will really help you avoid injury.
If you feel good in your body, that little stone that you hit on your first session doesn't mean hitting the floor - just step it out! Much more fun for all involved.
Here's young Rob having a stretch.
Starting to skate can be intimidating! Choose a location to help.
The skatepark can get crowded - tricky to find a time to go for that first drop-in, when the ramps are covered in great skaters, scooters, dogs...
You know when its quiet? Before 9am! Get down and have a roll around before the crowds turn up.
For longboarding or cruising, you're looking for car-free spots. Try a few of these out:
- Your local Park & Ride car park on a Sunday
- Cycle paths
- Multi-story car parks
- City parks
- Countryside roads with little traffic and good visibility
You don't really want them on the road, either. If they're getting really into it, there are a multitude of spots that are free from traffic.
Cycle paths sometimes have great corners to slide around.
Golf courses can offer a good challenge - be careful with this one...
Roads get closed now and then. In Bristol, Bridge Valley Road is a steep one that gets shut for works on the cliff face, running events, and more. Always a great one to get some friends together and test out some new things in a safe way.
4. First Steps
So you've got your board, whatever protection you're comfortable in, the spot is flat and empty... what now?!
Do you know if you're regular or goofy? That is to say, left-foot or right-foot forward, respectively.
- Not sure? Stand still (on the ground!) with your legs together. Don't think...just lean forward, keeping your body straight.
- You'll step out with one foot to catch yourself. It's a good bet that you should skate with this one forward.
Ready to go?
Put your chosen front foot at the front of your board. Centre it, something between straight forwards and diagonally across the board.
Other foot stays a bit behind, off to the side.
Take a deep breath, survey the scene of your pre-skateboarding life, and prepare to let it go...
Push off, and place your back foot near the back of the board - close to perpendicular, so you can put weight on both edges (rails) of the board. This is how you turn.
You can experiment with the angle of your front foot, too. Once you're up to speed, the less straight it is, the easier it is to turn. It's more comfortable to have it straighter, if you are continuing to push.
Push and glide, push and glide. Carve a little side to side.
You're doing it :)
Note that your stability is centred over your front foot - so we keep this foot on the board, and push with the back one.
Pushing with the front foot is called "mongo" pushing. Whilst there's nothing really wrong with it (others may disagree), you will have less stability this way, especially as you build speed and learn to footbrake.
5. Building confidence
Now you've learnt to go... it's probably time to learn how to stop. Ideally, before you take your board to too much of an incline.
The first way to learn is the footbrake.
It does get through your shoe soles if you do it too much, but is a fantastic way to slow down in a tight space or a straight line.
It tends to make a noise too - if you're lucky, people might get out of your way...
Once you can go and stop, the world is your oyster!
6. Sharing the joy
Where you go next depends on your interests and your imagination.
There are a million possibilities to explore now you're up and riding. Here are just a few things to consider, or Google:
- Learn to ollie - jumping up curbs is fun and time-saving
- Fancy footwork? We call that longboard dancing and freestyle
- Need for speed? That's downhill. Never go faster than you're able to stop
7. Live happily ever after
A board with wheels can take you to some amazing places, near and far.
Give us a ring if you want some guidance on a board that might fit your plans.