My original plan was to write a blog post every month to document my skateboard progression, but real life has gotten in the way of that. Gotten in the way of writing the blog posts, not in the way of skateboarding. So instead, here is a comprehensive roundup of my progress after the first three full months of skateboarding. 

First of all I will invite you to go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 of my skateboarding journey if you haven’t already. It’s been a great opportunity to learn something fun and new with my children during the lockdown period.

My kids and I had our first lesson at the very end of July this year, 2020. We got our boards at the start of July I think, but didn’t really do much until our first lesson which was the very last weekend in July. In my head I’m saying August is when we properly started learning in earnest, so that I can count the months more easily. So this post I’m writing now is basically covering the three months of August, September and October. We’ve not been doing as much skating in November and December due to the second lockdown and also the weather. I don’t think we’ve had any lessons at all in November but we have made it to a skatepark a couple of times. Nothing much in December either.

Since my first blog post about starting skateboarding I think I’ve become even more obsessed with it. I’m probably enjoying it even more than my kids. It’s just really struck a chord with me. I do enjoy the culture and mindset of it, and the artistry of some of the skateboarding videos on YouTube etc, but I also just really love the physical sensation of skateboarding. Even just rolling around and going down simple ramps is great fun. And it’s a surprisingly good workout. So it really is a great thing to do with the kids. Lots of fresh air, a good workout and fantastic quality time with my children.

One of the aspects that I love about the sport is that you can really push yourself step by step. There is always something new to learn, something new to practice. Even the best skaters in the world are constantly drilling tricks to try to land them more regularly, or are they are skating higher, faster, more complicated runs. You can totally go at your own pace but you can also really push yourself and explore where your limits are. It has been immensely satisfying challenging myself with various moves and progressing steadily at them.

So let’s talk about my progression. In my first blog post I listed some of the tricks I wanted to learn; ollies and shove-its etc up to the kick-flip. But in reality I’ve not even tried any of these yet. I’ve become much more focussed on just getting well drilled on being comfortable on the board and rolling down ramps etc. I wanted to spend time drilling these basics before focussing on ground tricks. I’m actually just about to start really working on my ollie in my back garden patio, as winter approaches and when it’s harder to get out to skate parks.

Here’s a quick summary to roughly show how my/our progression went over the three months.

Week 1 – First lesson. Learnt all the basics. Did some stationary kick-turns and rolled down a flat bank.
Week 2 – Had to move to a different instructor as the first one was fully booked. Drilled all the basics with the new instructor. Pushing and stationary kick-turns.
Week 3 – Were away on holiday in Scotland but went to a skate park to drill our basics
Week 4 – Progressing to rolling up and back down a flat bank fakie. Also ‘dropping in’ on a flat bank. Not proper dropping in
Week 5 – Rolling down a transition pump bump. Did my first revert whilst rolling fakie.
Week 6 – Managed my first proper drop-in on a roughly 3ft quarter pipe. 
Week 7 – Focussing on my drop-ins 
Week 8 – Skated my first bowl. And really working on my 180 kick turns on ramps. Dropped in higher quarter pipe. Maybe 4ft.
Week 9 – Started going to adult sessions on a Friday night as well as the lessons with my kids on Saturday mornings. Again focussing mostly on my drop-ins and also my kick-turns on ramps. Also really working on my pumping technique. That pumping practice got me finally more comfortable rolling back down ramps fakie.
Week 10 – Working on all the above but also got the chance to skate a bowl again. And also due to rain, we had a lesson on a small homemade flat ramp and tried things like rock to fakie on that.
Week 11 – Just practising everything. Drop-ins, kick turns, pumping etc. Managed to skate round the two corners of a bowl section of our local skate park for the first time.
Week 12 – Managed to drop-in on my biggest quarter pipe! I’m not sure of the exact height but it must be around 5ft. Very chuffed with myself. Also started tentatively experimenting with rock to fakies on a mini ramp half pipe. That’s definitely next on my list.

My main challenges
I’ve certainly found that everyone I meet finds different things difficult. No one skater is the same. Here are the areas that I found the most challenging over the last three months.

Pushing – Interestingly when I first started on my board, just pushing along in my patio, I started pushing goofy. That’s what felt comfortable, particularly after watching all the videos that suggested imagining which foot you would lead with if you were sliding along on ice. I imagined myself sliding with my right foot first. But after a couple of days of that I gave regular stance a go and actually felt better doing that. So I’ve been regular ever since. And both my kids are regular. But even for the first two or three weeks I felt a bit out of control when bringing my back foot on the board. I was snatching it. And even after a couple of months I felt like I wasn’t fully in control on my lead leg and when I pushed I was taking little short, snatchy pushes. I loved watching people who can do big long slow push strides, or watching Josh Brolin in Thrashin’ when he is just pushing on one leg at high speed for ages. I started practising standing on my lead leg and balancing on that leg on its own, and now I’m much more steady and my pushes are getting longer and more in control. It’s obviously a very basic part of skating but one that I really wanted to work on so that I could keep improving at it. I see people like Andy Anderson riding round a pump track on one leg and realise that I still have a long way to go, even with this basic skill.

Fakie – Most people find it easy to roll up a flat bank and come down fakie, but for the longest time I just found this scary. Even into my 9th week I was still often very wobbly when I rolled back down fakie. Sounds so lame but it’s true. Once I was getting into drop-ins I actually found dropping in less scary than rolling up a ramp to an average height and coming down fakie. But I worked at it and it was really when I learnt how to do pumping that I really understood how my body and weight should be angled during the whole transition. It just clicked and since then it’s been fine. Was just funny how it became such as issue for me. There are still some whippy quarter pipes that get me really wobbly when I ride back down them fakie though.

Carving – Right from the start I found carving really difficult. My board just didn’t seem to want to move at all. I saw videos of people zig-zagging in and out of cones and I was wondering how on earth they did that. But then I learnt about who to loosen off your trucks and change your bushings. I got some softer bushings and loosened the main bolt on my trucks and it became a lot easier. But then I learnt about wheel bite! Not pleasant. Same as riding over a stone. Not pleasant at all when you’re riding along and then suddenly you get kicked off your board with no warning. I really don’t like the idea of wheel bite so at least I now understand a lot more about trucks and bushings and how to check the tightness etc. I also ended up getting a new board which helped a lot. See below. But in general I just really love the feeling of carving about and rolling around a skate park. Even if I don’t properly learn a whole load of tricks I’ll still just enjoy rolling about a skate park with my kids.

Kick turns – Kick turns are obviously a really important thing to learn. I’ve been learning them right from the first lesson but it’s still something I’ve been really focussing on. Occasionally I’ve been leaning too far back and the board comes out from under me but I got that under control quite quickly. And I can pretty much do 180 backside kick turns on a ramp reasonably well now. The main thing though is that I’m still doing what a lot of beginners do which is move my arms in the opposite way, particularly after turning, to counter balance the twist and feel more secure. This is a natural stage that most people probably go through. I see it a lot. But when you watch really good skaters, they don’t do it. They look so graceful as their head and shoulders and arms spin round and then the legs and board follow and their arms don’t have to twist back to counter-balance. They just commit and know they are in control. It looks so graceful. I’ve spent ages working on that and I can sometimes do it but it probably just comes with more practice. I haven’t, however, tried frontside kickturns at all on a ramp. I really need to do that!

Drop-ins – Now we’re talking. I had so many of my friends who used to skate in their youth tell me that they never got round to learning how to drop-in and that it was really hard and scary. So maybe I had built it up in my head. But around week 5 or 6 I tried my first drop-in at our local skate park which has a roughly 3ft quarter pipe, and it was fine. I really enjoyed it and got such a buzz from it. Since then I’ve scaled it up to roughly a 5-6ft quarter pipe which certainly was scarier and I only did that a few times but I still feel reasonably confident about my drop-ins in general. At least to the extent that I don’t think I will massively hurt myself on them. I don’t completely nail them every time though. I can still be slightly wobbly on my exit. I was standing up too quickly at one stage. And I sometimes veer to the right a bit, which isn’t great at one of the indoor skate parks I go to where their drop-in spaces are quite tight and I veered straight into a wall and fell flat on my face. But in general I like my drop-ins and I’m confident that as I keep doing them they will get better and higher. Here’s a montage of my drop-ins over the weeks.

We’ve got about 4 local-ish skate parks that we frequent. One is 5mins away. One is 30mins away and two are about an hour away. All of them have different things to practice which is good having the mix. There are also two indoor parks that are good options in the winter. Annoyingly the best one is about an hour away. Would be great to have one closer. We’ve never really gone to any of the skate parks when they are busy though. We just feel that it’s a lot easier to get up super early and go when the parks are empty or quiet, while we are still learning. So often we get to the parks around 7am and have them all to ourselves. It’s just easier when you don’t have to worry about getting in other people’s way or worry about looking stupid making beginner mistakes. To be honest that last point isn’t a big issue though as everyone has been really supportive and we’ve not really come across anyone giving any negativity at all at the skate parks. Great vibes all round. Because we’re often the first ones there I take our broom to brush away any stones etc.

There have been no issues really with regards to me learning as an adult at skate parks. Some teenagers have even said that it’s really cool that someone ‘my age’ is learning to skate. That’s cool. I thought that some kids might not want adults learning ‘their thing’. But it’s been the total opposite which has been great to see. It helps that there is quite a crowd of local adults that I’ve gotten to know who have also started learning during the pandemic lockdown, or are getting back into it after 20 years or so off. The only slight negative I’ve experienced is from other parents, would you believe. Some parents who bring their kids to skate parks give me a look that I can only interpret as ‘what are you doing skating at your age’. But who knows, maybe they are actually looking in awe at someone having fun and it makes them think about doing it themselves. I shouldn’t make negative assumptions. I’m certainly not worrying too much about it. And if anyone ever accuses me of having a mid-life crisis I can honestly say to them, how can it be a mid-life crisis when I’ve never grown up! 😉 I’m just someone having fun spending quality time with their children. If I ever start cramping my kids’ style then that’s when I may pick and choose where and when I skate more. But hopefully I’ll be so good at skateboarding by that point that I won’t be too embarrassing for them.

Pads and helmets
Kind of related to the whole skate park vibe and the adult skating thing, is the subject of pads and helmets. I guess I had the natural reaction at the beginning of thinking that wearing all the helmets and pads is a bit uncool. But I knew I had to set an example to the kids and I also very quickly realised that I really do need to protect myself! It’s a bit of a faff putting them on every time I want to get on the board, so I’m now kind of at the stage where sometimes if I’m just practising very simple stuff I sometimes don’t wear everything, but if I’m trying anything new, or if I’m dropping in etc then I do still wear everything. But to be honest, the majority of the time I wear the whole lot, including the helmet. Better safe than sorry. I have some adult friends who don’t wear helmets unless they’re doing something really new and tricky but I’ve got other adult friends who always 100% wear a helmet as they say it’s just not worth the risk. And same thing with pads. I’ve got some friends who rarely wear helmets but always 100% wear the pads. It’s probably just personal preference and make sure you go with whatever you’re comfortable with. I did have one night at an indoor skatepark adult session and I was very aware that I was the only guy who was wearing a helmet and fully padded up. Maybe that says more about other people’s safety levels or perhaps, more like the truth, highlights that I was the main one who was the beginner and was at the lowest skill level! I will probably learn that there are some things that I won’t need a helmet for, but to be honest I don’t mind the helmet too much. I might just get a helmet that looks a bit cooler, as I have seen some people with nicer helmets than mine. And I really don’t like wearing the knee pads, but I know they come in useful when doing certain transitions or bowl moves etc. 

The one question mark that isn’t just about personal safety v coolness is wrist guards. I agonised (literally) over this for a while. I started off wearing wrist guards as we got them with our first boards and the full pad set. But both of the teachers we got said that they don’t like wrist guards as they have seen horrific accidents caused by wrist guards. Apparently the shock of a fall that can hurt a wrist can hit the stiff wrist guard and send the shockwave up into the forearm, or even shoulder, and cause more damage and more horrific breaks. Also, the little plastic bits in the palm can make your hand slide out when you fall onto them and then you can’t stop your face from slamming into the ground. Both those scenarios don’t sound great, so on their advice myself and my kids all stopped wearing wrist guards. But then at our next skate session I fell off my board backwards and fell heavily onto my right wrist and sprained it! Now, I really don’t know if the wrist guard would have protected it or made it worse. In that particular situation I think it might have helped, but I guess wrist guards just have pros and cons. But as my job is mostly using a mouse and keyboard all day it’s something that I am now really nervous about. There is so much mixed opinions about wrist guards online and loads of people do recommend those stiff wrist guards with the plastic bit in the palm. All I really want is a wrist support that can support the wrist but not keep it totally rigid. And this seems to be hard to come by! I’ve bought two different soft wrist supports and wear them together and it gives me the confidence in that wrist I’ve already sprained which has nearly healed. I may continue wearing them on that right wrist as that’s the one I usually put down when I fall. But I’m also getting much better at falling. The two bad falls that I’ve had were both in the first two weeks. One was due to wheel bite which I’ve now fixed and one was just due to not being well balanced. Any falls I’ve had since then have been for ‘better’ reasons and I’ve also fallen better. Learning how to fall properly really is so important.

My Kit
I showed pictures of my first board in my first post. This board has now been retired and has its place proudly on my wall.

But as I started developing my skills and finding different areas where I was wobbly or getting wheel bite etc I started learning more about my setup and what I might want to improve. The two main issues seemed to be the width of my board and also the width of my truck. I’ve got fairly big UK size 11 feet and they were hanging over the edge of the deck a fair bit. This can be good for some tricks I think but not as good for general stability. My board was 8” so I started looking for boards that were 8.5”. Also my trucks were actually too narrow for my board so I also had to find trucks that would fit a 8.5” board. I ended up going for an average 8.5” board as I couldn’t find any artwork that I really liked from the major brands, but I spent the money on good trucks and other gear instead. I figure they are more important than the board anyway. I ended up getting a Route One own brand standard board 8.5”, Independent Hollow Forged 149 trucks, Bones Reds Bearings and Spitfire Low Downs wheels 54mm 99A. A pretty decent setup and I’m sure I’ll play around with wheels and bushings a bit more depending on what I’m doing. And I’ll keep a look out for a cooler deck as well whenever I see one. Even though I requested the griptape to be applied it came separate, but it was actually quite good fun learning how to apply the griptape myself.

Read Rodney Mullen’s book
I bought Rodney Mullen’s book ‘The Mutt: How to skateboard and not kill yourself’ and I really want to get round to reading it soon. I’ve been so impressed with learning about him, hearing him speak and watching lots of videos of his insane skills. Haven’t gotten round to starting it yet but hopefully I’ll get the chance over Christmas.

Building a mini ramp
And lastly, I’m really thinking about making a backyard mini ramp. If I can build a home arcade cabinet then I’m hoping I will be able to build a mini ramp. There are loads of tutorials online and one of the local adult crowd has already done one himself, so hopefully that’s something I can do next Spring when the weather’s better. I’ve already ok’d it with the neighbours. Would be great to have that in the garden to practice lots of mini ramp tricks.