But here’s the shock: The users are not just teenage boys. There are girls, and—most surprising—older guys.
“I see a lot more older guys and girls coming to skate parks. It’s almost a trend,” says Ryan Law, an expert skateboarder from Tooele, who also teaches the sport. The 27-year-old, who has been skating since he was 8, is amazed at how much it’s grown just in the past few years.
Reasons for the growth are obvious. The former plethora of “No Skateboarding Allowed” signs have given way to a slew of city-built skate parks throughout the Wasatch Front. The fame of Dew Tour stars such as Ryan Schlecker and Chaz Ortiz is inspiring. Plus, it’s cheap transportation.
If you’ve thought about dusting off your old board or of buying one and giving it a try, Law has some tips. The most important one, he says, is balance. “A lot of people don’t think that’s a trick, but it is. First, you have to find out if you’re regular footed (left foot forward) or goofy footed. Figure out which foot is most comfortable to push with to find your balance. It’s an instinctive thing,” Law says.
If you’re new, or haven’t skated in years, the first thing to do is get comfortable scootering along on the board. A good place for your first practice is an empty parking lot; hey, if you’re married with kids, you don’t want neighbors staring. Also, work on jumping off the moving board and running—which is to say, develop your ability to bail. Work on pressuring different parts of your feet and bending your knees and shoulders so you learn how to maintain balance or gain speed. The goal is to eliminate the “OYA” syndrome—the undesirable On Your Ass position that occurs so frequently at the beginning.
The first trick to master is turning. This will allow you to avoid obstacles (and people). Work on turning in both directions, not just one. Law says, “To turn, you use your ankles, heels and toes. Your front foot is used for steering, and you lean on the side of your heel for the way you want to turn. Push down on your heel. Keep your shoulders at a right angle to the board, square to the board. If you have your shoulders turned, your body will want to go that way, but the board is going to go straight”—a definite OYA situation. “Stay to the center of the board,” Law continues. “Don’t lean to the front or back.”
Law also points out that you should be very aware of the ever-present slight slope where roads meet curbs and sidewalks. It’s only about a 2 percent grade, meant as a rain gutter, but it can cause an OYA incident if you’re not prepared when you skate off a curb. To keep your balance and speed, land and stand to the angle of the grade; don’t land standing flat. Again, have your shoulders facing the nose of your board.
Many skaters practice jumps using a 2 by 4 or another skateboard set on edge as an obstacle. But a skate park is easier to learn on because on the smooth concrete you’ll quickly feel how to shift your weight for different transitions (a transition is a slope). That helps you learn better balance more efficiently.
While being a punk a-hole is no longer cool in skateboarding, it’s still good to remember to have manners if you’re a novice. If the skate park is crowded, sit for a while and watch before jumping in. Learn from what others are doing. Notice where their toes are, how their knees are bent, and so on. Once it empties out a little, roll in and try what you’ve learned. You may be too old ever to make the Dew Tour, but you’ll still have fun.