Words by Jenna Selby
1. Picking out a set up
The best thing to do when deciding on a skateboard set up is to go to your local skate shop and talk to the people there. They will be able to help you choose a good beginner skateboard suited to your needs. Do keep in mind different people have different opinions on brands, so no matter what advice you receive from others, you should always make sure you’re fully happy with the end product.
How much money should you spend on a skateboard? Blank set-ups are usually a lot cheaper (around £70) than pro decks and ride just as well. But if you have enough money, an average pro set up will cost you upwards of £100.
Do NOT under any circumstance run down to your local toy shop and buy a board there just because it is cheaper than the ones you’ve seen advertised elsewhere. These boards are badly designed, heavy and likely to break on your first attempt at an ollie!
When you’re ready to buy your first skateboard, these are the four things you’ll need in order to put together your set up:
Deck (+ Grip tape) - The deck is the wooden bit you stand on and the grip tape is the sand papery layer that's applied to the top of the deck to provide grip for your shoes.
Decks (or boards as they are also known) are sold by their width size. More technical skaters (the ones who do lots of flip tricks) tend to opt for boards between 7.5 and 8 inches – the thinner boards allow for quick rotation. Others who like to do big tricks, skate pools or vert usually opt for 8 inches and up.
When learning to skate, a slightly wider board generally feels more stable under your feet. The best thing to do before you buy any board though is to take it off the shelf and stand on it in the shop, that way you’ll get a good feel for it.
Trucks - These are the parts that attach the deck to the wheels and also allow you to turn. The most important thing when buying a set of trucks is to make sure they are not wider than your deck.
Wheels - Generally speaking, when starting out, opt for 52mm to 55mm diameter wheels. As your skating progresses you will be able to choose a set of wheels better suited to your style of skating.
Bearings - You have probably heard some little kid talking about his or her bearings which are ABEC 6 zillion and 2 and makes their board go faster than anyone else’s in the whole wide world! Don’t be fooled into spending a lot of money on what is essentially a very good marketing campaign. When you’re starting out, look for bearings rated between ABEC 3-5 and cost no more than £20.
Although there’s no reason you can’t skate in normal sports shoes, you should consider investing in a pair of skate shoes. As with any other sport, a lot of work has gone into creating a shoe that will provide optimum support specific to its discipline and also help enhance performance.
Skate shoes have larger, flatter bottoms than sports shoes, which allow the skater to get a better grip. They also have reinforced side panels to minimise wear from tricks and have extra padding around the back to support your ankles.
There are two ways to stand on a skateboard. Regular stance is with your left foot placed at the front of the board, pushing with your right. Goofy stance is with the right foot placed at the front of the board, pushing with your left. Try out both, you will generally find one feels more natural than the other.
The most important thing to learn is pushing on your board. Once you are comfortable doing that you can progress on to learning tricks. An Ollie is one of the first tricks most skateboarders try to master, as it is the basis for many other tricks.
Punch “skateboard trick tips" into a search engine online and you’ll find a host of videos, which offer valuable knowledge on how to learn different types of skateboard tricks.
6. Learning To Stop
Knowing how to stop is just as important as knowing how to go along! You can either put all your weight on your back foot so it drags along the ground and you’ll come to a gradual stop or take your back foot off and drag it lightly along the ground beside your board.
7. Get inspiration from other sources
Read skate magazines and watch skate films – you will find other skateboarders will give you the inspiration to go and try something new.
8. Skate with others
Not only does it make skating more fun and give you the motivation to go out more often, it also allows you to see other how others progress which in turn will advance your own skating level.
The internet has made skateboard networking easier than ever. To get started and meet other riders in your area check out these two sites:
The Side Project – One of the biggest female skateboarding networking sites run by American skater Lisa Whitaker. It also has a Skateboarding Network section as part of the site where you can find other female riders in your area
Skater Girl – A support network for female skateboarders, which helps women learn to skate, runs events and competitions and reports on female skateboard news and action from around the world.
10. Enjoy it
At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. Skateboarding really can give you some of the best experiences of your life!