Get on board: Skateboarding

Learn the tricks and terms of your kids' favourite sport - skateboarding.

Are you a bunny or a flatlander? If you’re not sure, then you are probably not a skateboarder. You’ve got my sympathy if you also have a junior skateboard fanatic at home. There’s practically nothing more embarrassing to a sk8er than a mom or dad who thinks Hawk is a bird and swears West 49 is a street.

On the other hand, there’s nothing cooler than a mom who can do an awesome ollie — or at least recognize one when she sees it. Follow this 1–2–3 guide, and by tomorrow you’ll be ready to “bump” and “grind” with the best of ’em (or at least talk like you can!).

Board basics

bearings The components that allow your wheels to spin. Most bearings are rated with a number system — the higher the number, the faster the wheels will turn. Choose a slower bearing if your child is a beginner.

bushings The part of the trucks that allow the wheels to pivot. The harder the bushing, the stiffer the board. Choose hard bushings for stability — a good option for beginners — soft bushings for manoeuvrability.

deck The board part of a skateboard.

grip tape A sheet of sandpaper with adhesive on the back. Provides traction and helps keep feet on the board.

nose The front of the board.

tail The back of the board.

truck The hardware mounted to the underside of the board that holds the wheels.

wheels Wheels come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 49 to 72 millimetres in diameter. The bigger the wheel, the faster you can go. Wheels are rated for hardness. The higher the number, the harder the wheel. Note to parents of beginners: Softer wheels are slower.

Skate safe
Skateboarding and snowboarding are the two fastest-growing extreme sports in the US. In fact, more North Americans rode skateboards last year than played baseball, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers’ Association.

A recent report from Canadian skateboard magazine SBC Skateboard says there are about 1.5 million Canadian skateboarders. Most are boys between the ages of six and 18.

While it’s great that so many kids are getting exercise, the downside is that lots of them are getting hurt. Skateboarding injuries have soared since 1993. Seventy-six percent of skateboard injuries happen to kids between the ages of 10 and 14, but older and younger riders are also at risk. In fact, kids under the age of five don’t have the coordination needed to use a skateboard and should not be allowed to ride them at all.

The good news is that, overall, skateboarding is still a pretty safe sport. Most accidents involve minor injuries to the face, wrists and ankles. Skateboarders are less likely to require emergency medical care than participants in baseball, football, soccer or volleyball.

Even better news suggests parents can easily reduce the risk. Most skateboard accidents happen after school or on weekends. Simply keeping your eye on your budding boarder will go a long way towards keeping him safe.

For injury-free fun, choose a safe place for the kids to skateboard. According to Health Canada, nearly half of skateboard injuries take place on roads or in home driveways. Never let your child ride his skateboard near traffic, in the dark or in wet, slippery conditions. Uneven pavement or a collision with a car can deliver deadly results to even experienced riders. And make sure kids understand basic traffic safety rules (like staying to the right on bike paths) before they set out. Kids can try a skateboard park (or an empty, unused parking lot) instead.

And, of course, always make sure your young skater wears the appropriate protective gear.

Learn the lingo
Air What you want to catch!
Bunny A beginning skateboarder who has to hold onto things for support.
Flatlander A person who skates only on the street and does not do any vertical tricks.
Grommet A young skater.
Hawk Tony Hawk, revered pro skateboarder. Has his own line of clothing.

Top tricks
180 Turning when you jump so that you are facing the opposite direction.
360 As above, but a complete rotation.
Boardslide/railslide Like a grind, but instead of sliding on the trucks, you slide using the underside of the board.
Bump Going down stairs.
Fakie Anything done backwards.
Fifty-fifty A grind on both trucks.
Goofy stance To ride with the right foot forward.
Grind Where you jump onto something that is raised above a flat surface, like a rail or a curb, and slide down it on your trucks (not rolling on the wheels).
Half-pipe A U-shaped curved ramp, usually found at skate parks (although they can be built at home too using plywood).
Heelflip While performing an ollie, the heel pushes down on the edge of the board, causing it to flip over.
Kickflip A variation on the ollie in which the skater kicks the board into a spin before landing back on it.
Kick turn The same as a heelflip, except the toe pushes down to flip the board.
Manual When you pop up the front wheels.
Nosegrind Just the front truck is grinding.
Ollie A jump executed by pressing the foot down on the tail of the board to rebound the deck off the ground.
Railslide A grind on a handrail.
Regular stance To ride with the left foot forward.
Sit down Any grind done bent low or sitting down.
Stall When you jump on something like a curb, stop on it for a couple of seconds, and jump off.
Switch stance When you are grinding, you switch from a frontside to a backside, or vice-versa; a 180 while you are sliding.
Shove it A trick performed by spinning the board beneath the feet.
Tailslide Sliding on tail of board.
Helmets
Helmets reduce serious head injuries by a whopping 85 percent. Make sure your child ALWAYS wears one while skateboarding. The helmet should fit snugly, with the front edge resting two finger 426s above the eyebrows. Back straps should lie flat, and your child’s ears should rest within the V of the side straps. Adjust the chin strap so only one finger can slip between the strap and the chin, and the helmet does not slide around on your child’s head.

Use a helmet designed for skateboarding, not for cycling. It gives broader coverage and can withstand several meetings with Mr. Pavement. (Bike helmets can only handle one.)

Wrist guards
Wrist fractures are the single most common injury in skateboarding. These guards will protect the wrist from breaking during a fall, and also prevent painful scrapes (“road rash”). Choose guards that fit; the “sleeve” should cover most of the forearm, but not restrict elbow movement.

Knee & elbow pads
Falls are common with skateboarding, especially when kids are just learning. Knee pads and elbow pads are crucial for softening the blow. Kid-sized pads are frequently sold along with wrist guards in sets.

Board
Skaters should also be taught to check their decks before they ride. Look for loose, broken or cracked parts, sharp edges, nicked wheels and loose or missing grip tape. For more, see Board Basics.