10 Tips to Skate More Smoothly
So often as we work to progress in skating, we're focusing on adding to our repertoire of tricks while neglecting the mastery of what we have learned. By learning to skate more smoothly - with more fluidity and ease - we can better develop our own style, experience a satisfying flow state, and help inspire others to skate.
1) Optimize your wheels and bearings: Use good quality bearings (clean and lubricate them if dirty, and replace then if they are corroded/broken), and use bigger, softer wheels. If your are not using bearing spacers, you may need to leave a very small amount of wiggle room when tightening down the axle nut, otherwise your wheels may not spin freely.
2) Tic-tac less: Tic-tacs can break up your fluidity, though there are ways to tic-tac smoothly and intentionally. (Space walks, for example, are sort of like a more advanced tic-tac without your front wheels ever touching the ground.
3) Slow down: It can be tempting to try to skate fast, but going fast without mastering a maneuver can be dangerous and sloppy. Practice slowly to really understand the motions. "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast." (I heard this phrase applied to skateboarding by Mike Osterman, a top freestyle skateboarder.)
4) Use and be mindful of your entire body: Get your entire body involved with your maneuvers, especially your upper body, which can easily be neglected when focusing so much on your lower body when skating. Loosen up and become aware of what your other body parts are doing during a trick. Use them to create fluidity throughout your entire body, in harmony with the momentum of your skating.
5) Move continuously: Try to keep your body in motion as you’re skating, practice segues to link tricks together, and don’t get too caught up in setting up for tricks in a line. The motion doesn’t need to be difficult – simply carving and loosening tension in your body can help you create fluid motion. The motions do not need to be complicated. It may be helpful to look to top longboard dancers and freestyle skateboarders for inspiration. (I first heard AJ Kohn, another top freestyle skateboarder and performer, mention this as a tip for skating in contests.)
6) Practice consistency: Practice landing tricks repeatedly back-to-back, practice mixing up different tricks in lines, and practice fundamental (easier) tricks. Do more of what comes naturally to you.
7) Loosen/adjust your trucks: Tight trucks make carving more challenging, which can result in more tic-tac-ing and less fluid, more abrupt movement. If your trucks are too loose, however, you may struggle too much to find your balance.
8) Increase your board size: Larger boards tend to add stability, which can make staying on your board easier. However, bigger boards also tend to be less maneuverable. While switching boards can be uncomfortable at first, you may find stepping up your board width and/or wheelbase can help improve your consistency and stability, providing a bit more ease to your ride. (As for how much to increase the size, this is up to you to experiment; this doesn’t need to be drastic, but I recommend stepping up at least ¼” in width to start.)
9) Practice skating switch: Increasing the amount of time you spend riding in the opposite direction can help you feel stable no matter the direction you’re riding, which will help you stay loose and fluid.
10) Leverage your momentum and intuition: By letting go of your expectations and thoughts around your riding, you can listen more to the experience in your body, and let that guide your movement. This is a bit more challenging to explain than the other tips because the essence of this tip is to feel the experience more and react to those feelings. After a maneuver, examine how your body feels and is positioned and what it might be perfectly set up to do next. For example, you may think you want to do a 360 endover to kickflip, but when you try, you find yourself already perfectly set up for a nose manual, whereas, to do a kickflip, you’d need to take a second to shift your weight and adjust your feet. Listen to your body, your board, and your environment.