Photo: Jordan Calhoun
If I Committed to skateboarding in June, I had ambitions that it would last longer than mine a month Lifehacker Fitness Challenge. I kept my goals to myself for the most part, however, so as not to screw up my chance of making it through the month successfully. Even so, comments came from older skaters sharing their learning or re-entry experience, most of whom tried to help me define “success” in the first place.
For me, success means a specific goal to learn a new trick and an abstract goal to have fun and learn to love skating, whether I land tricks or not.
How many skateboard tricks can you learn in a month?
I spoke to … Yuri Cruz, Author of Kickflips and Chill: Your Inspirational Guide to Becoming an Excellent Skaterto get a better idea of what makes a reasonable set of goals. I had already learned the ollie thanks to some renegade skaters who took pity on my efforts and offered the advice to practice holding a fence. It was the most useful skateboarding advice I had found, and I learned to land some humble, stationary ollies quickly and completed the fence in about a week.
“As a beginner, I found shuv-its was a good choice, then pop-shuv-its,” said Yuri. “Just spending time on the board and doing things other than flip tricks can be really fun, and it helps build board control and confidence.” Much of the advice I heard from skateboarders was about “building confidence” and “just getting used to being on the board,” which I take to be a polite way of saying what most people don’t want to admit: No advice will help me as much as they have for a long time as they have had done it all.
A skateboarder I met at Cooper Skate Park in Brooklyn, Christopher “Smokey” Jones, repeated this opinion. “You want to build confidence,” he said, telling me not to worry about the serious falls he witnessed that afternoon. “Everyone’s going to be crazy out here.”
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However, when I asked him for a specific order of tricks to learn, he agreed. “First learn how to ollize things,” he said. “And then ollie on a ledge. Then a frontside 180, then a backside 180. When you learn all of this, start doing shuv-its and then you can do kickflips and all that later. “
Of course, the number of tricks someone can learn in a month depends on the person and how often you skate, but I’ve managed to learn two – ollies and shuv-its – that I can land reliably enough to claim them as victories within a month.
Photo: Jordan Calhoun
This will keep you motivated to keep going
It’s easy to stay motivated when the rewards are coming quickly, but it got tougher when I felt my rate of improvement slow down. At first I was thrilled to be able to play Ollie, but getting to the next level – which I define for myself as Frontside 180 if I gave Smokey’s advice – was a lot slower.
“There are times when I just couldn’t get around a difficult spot to land a trick and I was so frustrated,” Yuri told me. “I literally dropped a trick and revisited it after a year. But nobody wants to hear that when you have a goal in mind. “
She was right, I didn’t want to hear that, but what she offered next helped:
To help motivation when you have the ollie or some other trick, have fun with that ollie, make it the best ollie possible. Learn about things to ollie, drive a little faster and ollie, learn what it is to optimize an ollie and how to do it. Have fun with it and build on what you already have, because in skating you can always make something even better or more unique. It can help bring back the fun of skating.
She also recommends watching skating videos, including your own, where you can learn to see the mechanics in slow motion. I watched Betty on HBO for motivation – a lot easier – but I also dove down the rabbit hole of skate content on YouTube and Instagram, where I’ve found tons of black people in the community I once had known only as suburban and white. There was no mistake in drawing on Smokey and Yuri to hear their experiences, or a show like Betty, which features a diverse cast of women engaging in a sport that they may find unwelcome. Seeing their success was just as motivating as landing my first Shuv-it – maybe even more.
How long does it really take to learn to skateboard?
One of the hardest things about “learning” a skill without standard benchmarks is the imposter syndrome, which comes with not knowing where you stand. If you wanted to learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube you would know by the time you get there, but of course, “learning to skateboard” means different things to different people.
For Smokey, who is now 48 and skateboarding since he was twelve, being a skateboarder meant going out and doing it with the aim of getting a little better. I found Yuri’s milestones particularly helpful in assessing my own pace of growth, as I could try to compare some of my progress with hers: “I don’t remember how long it took me to do tic-tac or my first ollie, but I did I saw that after four months of skating I learned to ollie things and after six months I learned to do a kickflip. “
Have I learned to “love” skateboarding?
Even though I’m so bad, going outside on my board has been the purest joy of my summer. It’s a freedom to be bad at something and just have fun at it – something that’s rather unusual in adults, especially goal-oriented people like me who take pride in being good at the things we do.
“Enjoy where you are and have fun with it,” Yuri said to me. “If you’re a goal-oriented person like me can be, remember to make it fun again. I was the kind of person who kept saying to himself, ‘Once I learn this trick, I’ll be a real skater’ but after learning this trick I wanted to learn another trick and say the same thing. ”
So, my new skateboard goal, if I could add another one, is not to put too much pressure on the skateboard goals. “Remember, skating should be fun,” Yuri told me. And i love having fun.