10 Tips For Park Skating
1. Find your crew
Those first few trips to the skatepark can be super intimidating and not everyone has the nerves to tackle it alone. So tag along with someone that already rolls, drag along a friend who’s keen or reach out to your local Chapter. Going with a crew will unload some of the pressures and help you relax into it. Have fun and be prepared to fall a few times, your crew will help pick you up and work through the fumbles! I’ve made some of my closest friends at the skateparks, and I have crews around the globe I can reach out to on my travels for a fun session. You’ll be a part of an international family of rollers before you even know it!
Note: Your crew doesn't need to be limited to roller skates, I've had plenty of great sessions with skaters of all kinds!
2. Practice makes progress
Don’t compare yourself to others when looking at your progress rate. There's nothing wrong with slowly building up skills and confidence. Start inside the transition. For most of us, the skatepark is a new environment and you need to treat it as such. Get familiar with the surface, the curves of the transition and the coping before taking it on. Even the most experienced skaters get familiar with the environment before tearing it to shreds. In my opinion, one of the most important skill required for ramp skating is commitment; every new move you try requires a bucket load of it, that comes with time, patience and practise. I’ve been known to spend entire sessions inside the transition, practising switch pumping or spins and airs. There's plenty to do inside the bowl before you work onto bigger tricks.
3. Stance is key
Get low and perfect the basics. For any derby crossovers ‘getting low’ is a phrase you will be all too familiar with, but its the truth! The lower you are, the less you’ll fall (and when you do fall, you’ll be closer to the ground). Bending your knees is crucial in ramp skating, it absorbs the bumps and loads your legs full of power to pump through the transitions. Plus pumping is a super great workout and will help build you a strong set of gams!
4. Safety is sexy
Learning to ramp skate can be tricky business, it offers all sorts of unpredictable elements. No matter what level you are there's always room for human error. We’ve all seen photos and videos of all sorts of skaters (myself included) hitting the ramps unprotected, but that's no excuse, especially when your learning. I personally like to wear a helmet and knee pads, others wear it all. The amount of protective gear you wear is your choice, so wear what you feel safe in. To my knowledge, no one has ever regretted wearing padding, but there have been plenty who have regretted not! So pad up, or don’t, but your body will thank you for it when you’re a veteran skater and still shredding like a boss - just see Duke Rennie, Irene Ching, Desi Jones or Brian Wainwright if you need any further convincing!
5. You don’t need to splash out to shred
Time to break the rumours! While rolling on a customised set-up will no doubt improve the skatepark experience, it is by no means necessary, especially when you’re just starting out! For the first 18 months of my time on ramps I rolled on my derby skates, sometimes I swapped the wheels out, sometimes I didn’t. Products like Sliders will make it easier to drop in and stall, but they are actually designed for intermediate tricks like Slides. Same goes for Grind Trucks which will give you a wider base which improves stability, but they’re really designed for Grinds, an intermediate trick. And wheels, the harder the better as they’ll take the work out of pumping and improve your carving, slides and more. That being said you can skate in whatever gear you have, make it work till you decide you're committed, then invest in gear that will take your skating to the next level!
6. Don’t be a snake
There is basic skatepark etiquette that has been passed down for generations within the scene. It's mostly common sense but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. In most parks its the same, everyone takes their turn and in turn you get an even share of the park. When you first show up, join the back of the cue and then when its your round, thoroughly check all possible lines are clear and then take your run. If you bail, your run is over. Reset and wait for your turn again. If you’re super new and the park isn’t busy you can often politely ask any surrounding crew if you can take some time to practise on a section of the park that isn’t being heavily used, this gives you time and space to work on the basics before you’re ready to piece together a run. It can be intimidating but manners go a long way. Be sure to keep an eye out for anyone wanting to hit where you are, if you’re polite and share, you’ll have the favour returned in the future.
7. Stay alert
A run on from point 6. Skateparks can be a crazy and busy environment. There will be times in which skaters are taking unpredictable lines. Keep your eyes out for unexpected obstacles, loose boards, kids and riders. Even if its your turn in the bowl its best to keep your wits about you and be prepared to bail out a run. And if you do happen to collide with someone, say sorry, even if its not your fault.
8. Respect the environment
Whether its a backyard mini, your local community park, or an indoor pay-per-session park, treat it like it were your own. Don’t tag, don’t litter and show respect. Some locals might give you the side-eye when you first rock up with your quad skates, but if your respectful, take your turn in time and don’t trash or take over the spot then you’ll be welcomed back with open arms.
Note: A broom and towel are must have’s in any traveling park skaters kit! You never know when you’re going to find the perfect skate spot that needs a title TLC. [Want to learn the lingo?]
9. Wax on or Wax off
The great wax debate is one that will forever blow up timelines and whiles it's probably not relevant to new entries its worth knowing about. Waxing isn’t always necessary but it's a tool that is sometimes used by skateboarders, rollerbladers and quad skaters for many years to extend the distance they can slide or grind on a surface. If you’re feeling the need to wax up coping or rails then check with your surrounding skaters! If there are other people skating the same obstacle then double check everyone is okay, and if your not sure... don’t. A little common courtesy goes a long way.
This is the most important of all the tips. If you’re not having a good time, then what is the frickin point! Skating should be a fun, freeing experience. If you take yourself too seriously then you won’t enjoy the experience. Don’t be afraid to celebrate your successes and learn from your bails. My time at the skatepark is my time for personal growth. I set myself goals and work towards achieving them, sometimes it takes a single session and others it takes months. I’m always working or developing something, but I never get down on myself if I fail to reach my goals - this is my happy place and if I do that it will take all the fun out it.
So get out and shred! You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve if you just get out and give it a go!