Skateboarding is often thought of as an activity for young people, but people of any age (who are in good health) can learn. It’s a great way to spend time outside, get some exercise, and join a diverse, fun community. How long does it take to learn to skateboard?
Most people can expect to master the basics (standing, pushing, turning, stopping) in a month or so with 6-10 hours of practice per week. Beginner tricks can take a year, while more advanced tricks take between 1-3 years to get comfortable with.
A brief history of skateboarding
According to Skating Authority, surfers invented skateboarding when they adapted their sport for the road. Started in the surfer-heavens of California and Hawaii, skateboarders flocked to the streets with short boards on metal wheels. Between 1963 and 1965, skateboarding took off and 50 million skateboards were manufactured. The most famous skateboarder – Tony Hawk – was active in the 1980s and 1990s, creating dozens of moves and winning 73 titles.
While skateboarding has had its ups and downs in popularity, skating culture has always represented freedom, individuality, and creativity. Those values made skateboarding a powerful influence in music, fashion, and games. Skating has gradually earned more recognition in the sports world, too, and made its Olympic debut in 2021. The community is unique in its emphasis on support and encouragement, which makes it a welcoming environment for those wanting to learn.
How long it takes to learn the basics – maintaining your balance, pushing, turning, and stopping
According to SkateboardersHQ, it takes around a month to get the hang of balancing, pushing, turning, and stopping. Learning how to balance is the first (and arguably the most important) thing you’ll learn as you’ll need excellent balance to do anything on your skateboard. Practice on the grass or a soft surface at first, so when you fall (and you will fall), you won’t hurt yourself. Once you’re more comfortable, you can move to a hard surface. You’ll need to pick your stance at this point, too: regular or goofy. A regular stance (which is the most common) is when your left foot is in front and your right foot is at the back. You’ll push with your right foot. Goofy is the opposite.
Once your balance is better, you can start pushing the skateboard. Expect to wobble at first as you’ll need to adjust to balance while moving. To turn (or carve) in a regular stance, you’ll learn to shift your weight to your toes (to turn right) or heels (to turn left). How do you stop? Put your foot on the ground and lightly drag it. Doing this and maintaining your balance will take some practice. For many people, a month is an optimistic time frame. According to Board and Wheels, you need to practice 6-10 hours a week if you want to improve your skateboarding.
How long it takes to learn beginner tricks – ride switch, kick turn, manual, ollie
Skateboarding is as much about tricks as it is about cruising. Learning easier tricks can take around a year. It depends on how much time you have to practice and whether you’re still getting used to the basics. Also, what’s considered a basic, intermediate, or advanced trick seems very up in the air, so our progression timelines aren’t set in stone. 6-10 hours of practice per week is a good goal to aim for, but avoid skating longer than 3 hours in a session. When you get tired, skating becomes more dangerous.
In Redbull’s blog on beginner tricks, the editorial team recommends first learning to ride switch, which is just skating with the opposite foot than you’re used to. This helps you with tricks later on. A kick turn is another technique that’s not exactly a trick, but it helps build the balance and muscle memory you’ll need. To perform a kick turn, put one foot at the end of your skateboard and lean your weight on it. The board’s nose will tilt up. When this happens, pivot forward or back. A manual, which is basically the skateboard version of a wheelie, is another basic trick.
If you follow skateboarding, an ollie – which is when you and the board leap in the air without you grabbing the board – will be a familiar trick. It’s considered a must-know for skateboarders, but despite its “basic” status, it can be challenging. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t seem to nail it as a beginner.
How long it takes to learn advanced tricks – flip tricks, grind/slide, grab and air
Becoming an advanced skateboarder with a host of challenging tricks under your belt can take 3+ years. You’ll be familiar with a wide variety of tricks, which include flip tricks (like variations of the ollie), grind/slide tricks (where you grind on a curb, ledge, or rail), and grab and air tricks (which often use a ramp).
If you want to compete or more quickly improve your skateboarding skills, you should schedule at least 10 hours of practice in your week. As we mentioned earlier, most people get tired after 3 hours of skating at one time. It’s better to stretch the hours over more days in the week or practice twice a day with plenty of rest time between sessions. If you’ve been practicing for three hours and feel fine, go ahead and keep riding. On the other hand, if you get tired after an hour, that’s a sign to take a break. Pay attention to your energy levels and don’t push yourself. That’s how people get hurt.
Why should you learn to skateboard?
It can take a few years to improve at skateboarding, so what are the benefits? Here are three of the main ones:
Reason #1: It’s great exercise
Skateboarding burns a lot of calories and builds your muscles. Because skating depends on balance, your core gets an intense workout. That includes your ab muscles, obliques, and part of your back. Doing tricks – like spins – also requires a lot of strength. If you’re looking for a fun way to get in shape, skateboarding is a good choice.
Reason #2: You can use skateboards to commute
Depending on where you live, skateboarding is a great way to get around. While any type of skateboard technically works, some are better than others. Longboards, while they are faster, can be tricky in crowded areas while penny boards (smaller and narrower) are harder for beginners to ride. Regular popsicle-shaped skateboards work for commuting, as do cruiser skateboards.
Reason #3: It encourages you to get outside
Studies show spending time outdoors is great for health, including mental health. Learning to skateboard gives you a great excuse to get outside whether it’s at a skatepark or in your neighborhood. Remember: it’s not safe to ride a skateboard in the rain. Get outside when it’s sunny and if rain is an issue, look for an indoor skatepark.
What skills do you need to skateboard?
Skateboarding can be challenging, so here are the skills you’ll need when you’re learning:
Skill #1: Balance
It’s hard to overstate how important good balance is. You’ll need it as soon as you step on a skateboard and it only gets more important as you start moving and learning more challenging tricks. As you practice more, your balance will improve and your core muscles will get stronger. You can also strengthen your core muscles by walking, stretching, and climbing stairs.
Skill #2: Confidence
Like many sports, skateboarding exercises your mind as well as your body. This is especially true when you’re picking up tricks and your mind needs to be on the same page as your body. If you lack confidence, you’ll hesitate more and are more likely to mess up. Practice is the best way to improve your confidence while skateboarding. You should also be patient with yourself and recognize that failure is part of the process.
Skill #3: Good reflexes
Skateboarding is a fast-paced activity. You’ll need good reflexes to maintain your balance, make turns, stop quickly, and fall properly. Skateboarding itself will improve your reflexes, but you can quicken them by playing other sports like ping-pong, playing video games, or trying reflex exercises.
What kind of equipment do skateboarders use?
Skateboarding doesn’t require a ton of expensive equipment, which is why it’s one of the more accessible sports. Here are three must-haves:
#1: A skateboard
There are lots of skateboards available, so choosing can be hard. It’s mostly a personal preference, but you should choose the board’s size based on your shoe size. As an example, if you wear a men’s size 6.5-9, a 7.5-8.0 inch deck width is a good choice. Most beginners also prefer standard, popsicle-shaped skateboards.
#2: Safety gear
A good helmet is the most important safety gear you can buy. It should fit snuggly on your head and not slide around. Make sure you can’t fit more than two fingers between your chin and the strap. You’ll also need wrist guards since wrist injuries are very common for skateboarders. Knee and elbow pads are valuable, too. Safety gear doesn’t only keep your body safe; it can improve your confidence.
#3: Good shoes
You can buy shoes specifically made for skating. It may not seem necessary, but the right shoes can make the learning process easier. You’ll want to consider factors like the sole, how high the shoes go on your ankles, the heel support, the grip, and material’s durability.
How to learn to skateboard
When you start learning to skateboard, expect failure. That may sound like a strange mantra to embrace, but when you expect to fall or have trouble nailing tricks, you won’t be disappointed. Skateboarding is one of those activities where improvement comes from making mistakes. Every time you almost lose your balance (or actually fall), you have information about what not to do in the future. How long it takes to fall less and gain some real skateboarding skills depends heavily on your practice routine. As with any new skill, the more you practice, the better you get. Some people also just have better balance or reflexes, so it may take you less time than expected. You won’t know unless you try. Always remember to wear your safety gear!