Key takeaway: Don’t learn to push first. Pushing is hard. First use a gentle slope to learn to ride to build confidence.
The best place to learn to skateboard for an absolute beginner is quite often not your local skatepark, for a few reasons.
Skateparks are full of hazards
Firstly, other people.
To use a skatepark you have to have reached a certain level of skill. If fact you may be
- putting yourself at risk
- putting others at risk, and
- annoying other riders
if you can’t even stand on a skateboard on the spot. If you’re getting a funny vibe from the skatepark locals there may be a good reason for that.
Read our post about the top three rules of skatepark etiquette if you think you’re ready to graduate to the skatepark.
So aside from other skatepark users, let’s talk about why the skatepark may not be the best place to learn to skateboard:
A smooth surface is not good for learning to skateboard
The first thing you are going to learn is how to stand on your skateboard on the spot (without rolling). Just getting the feet into the right position – safety first.
When you are standing on a skateboard on a very smooth surface, the board is very easy to move, even unintentionally, which is dangerous. The slightest twitch of a muscle and you can end up falling over. This responsiveness is great for skilled riders, but bad for beginners.
Instead find a surface that isn’t too smooth, and isn’t too rough. Freshly laid asphalt is good for this. A rougher surface prevents the board from moving as a result of small movements. It should be smooth enough for the board to respond to more deliberate movements.
Tip. If you are struggling with foot position, try and find an even rougher surface, or use grass, so the board doesn’t move at all while you practice. As you grow more comfortable move to a smoother surface.
Avoid concrete skateparks
Most modern concrete skateparks have a water smooth surface, this is especially true when freshly built. Older concrete parks are more suitable because the rougher surface offers more traction.
Avoid skateparks with wooden floors
A wooden floor in a skatepark is often made from birch faced plywood, and doesn’t provide much traction for your wheels. Dusty skateparks also add to this risk.
This sort of surface is good for skilled riders who want the wheels to slide; who are reverting out of tricks or power sliding
Additionally a dusty wooden skatepark is slippery even when you’re not on your board, and can be risk when you are trying to bail safely.
A flat surface is not good for learning to ride a skateboard
Sounds counter intuitive, but a flat surface may not be best for learning to ride along.
Riding a skateboard isn’t as hard as you might think. What is hard is learning to gain and maintain speed, and maintain balance while you do this. i.e. to Push.
You may remember learning to ride a bike. Keeping your balance while pushing the pedal is the hardest part. Once you start moving balancing is easier because it’s the motion in combination with steering that permits you to correct imbalances. A flat surface requires you to Push, which can be difficult and off-putting.
So after learning how to stand on your board on the flat, the best place to start learning to ride is on a slight slope.
Ideally you want a slope that starts gradually and also flattens out gradually, because stopping on your skateboard is also very challenging. This slope will provide the motion needed to get familiar with just keeping your balance on your board. When you are comfortable with riding along, and foot position, combine the two and start trying to learn The Push, and it should feel a lot easier.
Pictured is a path with a gradual slope round a bend next to Clissold Park Bowls in Stoke Newington. This is a great example of somewhere to start learning to ride and to carve, without having to push.
Have fun learning!
- Softer wheels may mitigate the risk of smooth floors because they are more sticky. Some beginner completes come with softer wheels just for this reason.