Parent's Guide to Skateboarding
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Safety is always a concern when deciding to allow, support or encourage a child who is interested in participating in almost any physical activity. Skateboarding appears to carry a significantly high concern with parents, especially those who aren't familiar with skating themselves.
Studies have concluded that in fact many traditional sports have a statistically higher percentage of injuries per participant than Skateboarding.
Perhaps most importantly, there are a few simple steps that significantly reduce the risks of injury for younger skaters.
- Use a quality skateboard that is the proper size for the skater.
- Smaller boards are easier for a smaller skater to balance and maneuver.
- Wear appropriate protective equipment.
- All young skaters should be wearing properly fitted skateboard helmets.
- Knee and Elbow pads can encourage proper falling techniques.
- Wrist guards can minimize wrist injuries - but skaters should still be taught to avoid using hands to break a fall
- Never skate in or around traffic!
- The vast majority of significant skateboard injuries occur outside of designated skateboard areas.
- Skaters will always be safest in designated skateboard parks or plazas with smooth surfaces
- Skate in control and within your abilities and limits.
- A third of all skate injuries are incurred by skaters in their first week of skating. Take your time!
- Learn to fall safely
- Please read our blog article Tips for kids: How to fall safely on a skateboard
Skateboards are relatively straightforward pieces of equipment Understanding the parts or components of a board can be helpful in selecting a quality skateboards.
The Deck is the platform that the skater stands on. While the deck is only a portion of the complete skateboard and typically represents between 1/3 and 1/2 the total skateboard cost, it is undeniably the primary component. The deck represents the brand of the skateboard and the graphics on the deck set the tone for the remainder of the setup. When someone asks, "what kind of skateboard do you have" the answer is typically a reference to the brand and perhaps model of the deck.
The size of the skateboard deck is important, especially for younger skaters. At SkateXS we recommend that skaters under 60lbs (generally ages 5-7) find a deck that is 7" wide and 28" long. Skaters between 60-80lbs (generally ages 8-10) find a deck that is 7.25" wide and 29" long. Skaters over 80lbs can safely start to use "standard" skateboard decks which start at 7.5" wide and about 31" long. Choosing a correctly sized deck ensures the skater has more control, stability and maneuverability of their skateboard.
Each skateboard has two separate "trucks" that are mounted to the skateboard deck. Each truck itself is composed of a "baseplate", "bushings", "kingpin" and a "hanger". The baseplate connects the whole assembly to the deck. The hanger contains the axle which the wheels will mount to. The kingpin connects the hanger to the baseplate. The bushings are rubber components that allow for the necessary flexibility within the truck assembly which fundamentally allows for steering a skateboard.
The overall width of trucks should be sized according to the width of the skateboard deck. Essentially the outer edge of a skateboard's wheels should be even with the edges of the skateboard. If a skateboard's trucks are wider than the deck, they can interfere with the skater's feet and can make the skateboard more difficult to manuever. If a skateboard's trucks are narrower than the deck, the skateboard will be unstable.
Wheels and Bearings
Most skateboard wheels are solid polyurethain and are shaped to allow for the insertion of bearings which ultimately allow the wheel to rotate on the axle of the trucks. Wheel selection is typically made based on the diameter of the wheel and the hardness of the wheel. In general for younger skaters we tend to recommend a wheel diameter of 52 or 53mm with an average hardness. If the wheels are too much larger they unnecessarily increase weight and raise the center of gravity of the board. A much smaller wheel makes it challenging to sustain speed and may be overly sensitive to inconsistencies in skating surface. An average hardness ensures enjoyable skating on a larger variety of surfaces including wood and concrete.
Skate bearings are the small components that allow the wheels to rotate on the axles of the trucks. Each wheel will have an inner and outer bearing leading to 8 bearings for each skateboard. There is more variability in the cost and quality of bearings than any other component of the skateboard. At SkateXS we recommend avoiding the low end bearings as they can malfunction and typically can't be cleaned and must be replaced. At the same time, we also recommend avoiding really high priced bearings as the benefits are negligible (some expensive bearings cost over $100!). At SkateXS we have identified bearings that offer great performance at reasonable prices.
Grip Tape, Hardware and Rails
Most skateboard decks are made of wood, or in our case, bamboo. The top of the deck is relatively smooth and would be too slick for a skater to stay in touch with the board while skating without a layer of "Grip Tape". Grip tape is essentially a very coarse sandpaper which is stuck to the top of the skateboard. Grip tape can come in different colors and offers an easy way to make a board more unique.
Hardware is the term used to describe the nuts and bolts that attach the baseplate of the trucks to the deck. Different colored bolts can be used to help distinguish the front of the board (the nose) from the back of the board (the tail). At SkateXS we put silver bolts on the nose end of the board. We also use phillips based hardware for easier accessibility.
Rails are purely optional thin plastic pieces mounted towards the edges of the board. Many of our team photos feature riders with rails installed on their boards. Rails can provide more consistency and predictability during board slides, offers a hand grip during grabs, and protects the graphics on the bottom of the board. At the same time, rails are considered "old school" and have not been in main stream use for many years. We will continue to experiment with our rails before making recommendations as to their use.
SkateXS exists because we want to ensure that parents can find high quality skateboard equipment for their kids. If you have any questions about our boards or skateboards in general, please let us know!
You may also want to review our blog article: What Makes a Good Skateboard?
Skateboarding is a great sport for kids. It is a physical activity that helps develop coordination, balance, stamina and strength. As an individual focus it allows kids to progress at their own pace and track their own progress. At the same time it can be a highly social activity that tends to be extremely supportive.
To help a child get the most out of their initial skating experiences, please be sure to review our safety and equipment suggestions. They should have a helmet, pads and appropriately sized skateboard. Find a safe place to learn away from any traffic with as smooth a surface as possible. Even leaves or pebbles can interrupt an early skateboard session, sweep if you can.
- Start your skater off just standing on the skateboard. Have them bend their knees to get a better sense of stability and balance. From that have them use their back foot to push once and then put that foot back on the board to "ride". They can gradually add a second push and get a much longer "ride". Once again, emphasize how bending the knees may increase the amount of time they can ride and stay balanced.
- Once your skater can consistantly push and ride comfortably, they can start to learn to turn their board by leaning themselves and the board in the direction they want to go. They can work on this on a completely flat surface and then move to some slight inclines.
- Next up are kick turns where the skater lifts the front of the board and turns the board and their body in the direction they want to go prior to putting the board back down. A 180 degree turn can be achieved by a series of smaller kick turns and the skater can continue to work on goals such as a single 90 degree turn and eventually a full 180 degree turn.
- At this point your skater can move around pretty well. They can challenge themselves with steeper inclines, learn to "pump" on a half-pipe or "mini-ramp". If you have access to a skatepark, hopefully there will be a reasonable size ramp to lean how to "drop-in" which once conquered opens up a whole new way to look at possible lines in the skatepark.
- At some point your skater will start to tackle "the Ollie". The Ollie is the trick which appears to allow the skater and their board to "hop" together. This trick is the foundation a huge percentage of skateboarding tricks and maneuvers. It can take weeks if not months for the skater to figure out the Ollie. It is not an easy trick!
There are some many places to go from here. By the time they are dropping in and have a reasonable Ollie your skater will have a good sense of their next steps, challenges and progression points. Hopefully they have made some new friends and have a good group to skate with!
Why do people keep telling me my kid is "goofy footed"?
If you watch a group of skaters you will notice some skate with their left foot forward, others skate with their right foot forward. The division is close to 50/50 and is unrelated to whether someone is left or right handed. Those skating with their left foot forward are called "Regular Footed" and those with their right foot forward are called "Goofy Footed". There are no negative connotations of either stance.
Read our blog article with tips to help determine whether your skater is Goofy or Regular
What is a "Grom"?
A "grom" or "grommet" is a reference to any young skater. The term was established initially in reference to young surfers and now encompasses younger participants in many action sports including skateboarding. The term is very positive and not at all derogatory.
What is pushing "Mongo"?
Proper skateboarding has the skater keeping their forward foot on the front of the board while pushing with their back foot. Keeping the front foot on the board allows the skater to maintain more control of the board as they push. Sometimes beginning skaters will do the opposite. I.e. they will use their front foot to push while keeping the back foot on the board. This is called "Mongo" and is frowned upon.
Why are so many tricks called "Fakie"?
A fakie trick is simply a version of that trick performed while skating backwards, or while skating "fakie".
Our neighborhood "Mini-Ramp" looks huge, why is it called Mini?
A mini-ramp is a half pipe where the transition never goes to vertical. In comparison a true vert-ramp goes completely vertical as you approach the top of each side. Most mini-ramps are under 6ft tall.
Why do skaters bang-bang-bang their board on the ground or coping?
This is a skater's way of clapping or showing respect to another skater, usually for landing a trick or trying something new. Be sure to read about this and other forms of skatepark behavior in our blog entry discussing Skatepark Etiquette for Kids.
Please contact us with any questions you have!
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