How Skateboarding Works

How to Skateboard

Most people ride skateboards "regular foot," with their left foot forward.
Most people ride skateboards "regular foot," with their left foot forward.
Image courtesy Mary Vogt/MorgueFile

At times, skateboarding bears a striking resemblance to surfing. Both share what's known as a "side-stance." There are three main ways people ride skateboards:

  • Regular foot means riding with the left foot forward. The left foot remains on the board, often in the middle section nearest the nose. The right foot is used to push.
  • Goofy foot is the opposite of regular foot. It means putting the right foot forward and pushing with the left at the rear.
  • Mongo foot is when the skateboarder's rear foot remains in place on the board while the front foot pushes. This is considered inferior by many skaters, as it can reduce speed and control.

If you don't already know which stance you prefer when learning how to skateboard, see what feels most comfortable. If you're still unsure, pay attention to which foot you use to step forward from a still, standing position. Another test is to have someone push you, as if to knock you over. The foot you put back to catch your balance is the one that should go on the tail of your skateboard while riding.

After nearly five decades of skateboarding, a few main styles have evolved. Let's take a look at these in detail.

Downhill skateboarding is all about speed. There aren't any fancy tricks involved. Just like downhill skiing, the objective here is to finish a run with the lowest time, and at the highest speed. In contrast, Long boarding is most closely associated with surfing. True to their surfboard counterparts, long boards are meant for cruising and "carving" up a concrete wave. They remain a favorite form of transport among surfers, beach goers and on college campuses.

Freestyle is as close to dancing as skateboarding comes. It consists of manipulating one's board on a flat surface. The tricks are largely technical and revolved around making the board spin, roll and flip in the most creative ways possible. In the past, freestyle competitions included skateboard choreography to music.

Vert skating, also known as ramp skating, rose to great popularity in the 1980s and continues to remain popular today. It's what many people think of when they think of skateboarding. To put it simply, vert skateboarding is all about catching big air and performing technical tricks before landing. It gets its name from the vertical structures and surfaces vert skaters ride, like half-pipes (large ramps with two inclines on both sides and a flat section in the middle) quarter-pipes and bowls (sort of like wooden swimming pools built especially for skateboarding). Vert skaters have also been known to invade backyards to skate emptied swimming pools, and hop fences to skate in concrete canals and drainage ditches.

Street skating, like parkour, makes use of the urban landscape in creative ways. Tricks are performed on benches, hand rails, retaining walls, picnic tables, over sets of stairs, shopping carts and parked cars. And that's just getting started. For the street skater, virtually anything is rideable.

Next, we'll look at some of the tricks that you can do on a skateboard.