By Christina Shepherd McGuire
Photography by Paulette Phlipot
So your kid wants to skate, and he wants you to teach him?
The first thing that may come to mind is, “Shoot the duck? Easy. I’ve got that dialed!” Then you quickly realize, after seeing his cross-eyed expression, that he means “skateboard,” not “roller skate.” Oh.
You begin dating yourself, recalling the, um, early ’80s, when you’d session your neighborhood cul-de-sac with your plastic-wheeled Kmart special. You’d craft ramps out of plywood scraps and hit them over and over while your BMX posse stared wide-eyed. Soon enough, and after many failed attempts at the ollie, you abandoned the sport for something more practical like, say, soccer.
Nowadays, you prefer to session the groomed trails or take your road bike Around the Block. You may favor the safety of the football or field hockey sidelines. But skateboarding? At this age? Well, it might just be time to hit the pavement.
To some, skateboarding carries an outcast stigma. True—skateboarding’s unique attitude, code of ethics, and style of dress and conduct are not always accepted by the mainstream. And, unlike its sister sport, snowboarding, skateboarding is less standardized and structured. But still, skaters pride themselves on their beliefs, their knowledge of where to skate and when, the branded product they endorse, and even the music they listen to. Skating very much embodies a lifestyle—one that can help some children in their journey of self-identity.
It’s natural as a parent to be squeamish about an activity that goes against the grain of convention. There’s a level of uneasiness in thinking your kid may be sneaking in a skate sesh on forbidden ground. But luckily, we live in an era in which skateboarding, with its X-Games sensationalism and mainstream push, has transitioned to the forefront of typical youth culture. And with it comes a commitment to designing designated skateparks in both cities and small communities like ours. Not only has skateboarding become a competitive sport, it has also become a healthy recreational outlet for children and adults alike.
Dee Elle Bupp, a local mother and creator of Dragon Lady Teas, explains that, for her sons (Canyon, 15, and Arrow, 10), skateboarding is a great self-esteem builder, because the boys are always challenging themselves with harder tricks. She says that skateboarding supports their bodies and minds, making them “amazing role models and mentors in the skateboarding community. They support one another, no matter what age.”
Skateboarding really isn’t that intimidating, if you take things slow and methodically. In fact, it’s a great way to bond with your child. Learning together shows him that you’re up for something new and interested in his likes, and it fosters a type of connection that may not happen by simply kicking the ball around in the backyard.
So before you head to the BoardRoom for a spiffy new pair of kicks, here are some “suggestions” that will help you ease in.
Let’s first start with the lingo.
Anatomy of a Skateboard:
- Deck: the main part of a skateboard, the portion you stand on.
- Grip Tape: sandpaper adhesive affixed to the top of the board.
- Trucks: the collective name for the front and rear axle assemblies.
- Hardware: nuts, bolts, and screws that hold the trucks, bushings, and base plate onto the deck.
- Longboard: a skateboard measuring over 33 inches long; used for cruising downhill and carving snowboard-like turns.
Basic Trick Terminology:
- Ollie: a jump performed without the aid of a takeoff ramp, executed by pushing the back foot down on the tail of the board and bringing the board off the ground. The basis of most skate tricks.
- Kickflip: an ollie in the middle of which the skater uses the front toe to kick the board around in a circular motion, in the same plane.
- Fakie: rolling backwards when the rider is in his normal stance.
- Shove-it: a trick performed by spinning the board 180 degrees beneath the feet without the skater spinning.
- Carve: to skate in a long, curving arc.
- Grind: scraping one or both truck axles on a curb, handrail, or other surface.
Skateboarding 101: Maneuvers
Pumpin’ tranny helps you establish your balance point on the board, and it’s a fundamental skill for skate park riding. It’s also an awesome workout! Start slow, gaining speed and height on the wall as you become more confident.
- Start in the bottom center of a concrete or wooden halfpipe (hit up the Jackson or Driggs skatepark).
- Choose a direction and, facing that way, place your front foot on the front bolt heads of your deck. Push off with your back foot, placing it over your back bolt heads. Bend your knees, center your weight, and roll toward the tranny [transition].
- As your board climbs the wall, keep your body weight centered and slightly lean into the wall.
- Push off your feet and bend your knees deep to gain momentum, as your board hits its apex.
- Roll over to the other tranny, and repeat the steps.
- Pump back and forth on the tranny, gaining speed and height, to establish your balance and technique.
Dropping in on a ramp or bowl is a beginner skateboarder’s nemesis, but with a centered balance and a little courage, you can master this crucial trick. Strap on your pads!
- Stand at the top of the bowl with your foot on the tail of your board and your board resting on the coping (metal bar at the top of the ramp) or the edge.
- Place your other foot on the platform of the ramp. Make sure your wheels are on the ramp-side of the coping. The nose of the board will be in the air.
- Bend your back knee deeply; turn your shoulders parallel to the board, and place your front foot onto the front bolt heads of your deck.
- Bend your front knee, center your weight, and drop into the ramp.
** Tip: Grabbing the nose of your board keeps your center of gravity low and prevents you from moving your weight back, causing the board to shoot out from underneath you.
Skateboarding is a super convenient and relatively cheap way to have fun with your kids, once you get the hang of it. Both Jackson and Driggs have great outdoor skateparks. And, when you become proficient at carving the bowl or mastering the Targhee switchbacks, the smooth concrete can be as addictive as riding powder. I swear! -CM