Getting into Skating: A How-To Guide

Skating is fun, but for many, it’s not easy to start. It’s an investment of time and money, so why not do it right? There are a few things anyone considering skating should know to make your experience smooth and easy, so you can get skating sooner.

Joseph Rivas, Columnist

The overwhelming task of picking all the parts of your skateboard, or your setup, is something most, if not all, skaters experience in their initial exploration of the vast world of skating. There is the bombardment of brand logos, pictures of professional skaters, and the glass display case full of wheels, trucks, and bearings that at first look the same, but you soon realize they are all different in ways you don’t quite understand yet. It can get complicated, but if you know what you want and read this tutorial, you’ll be fine.

When it comes to wheels, the only things that matter are the size and hardness. Soft wheels are good if you skate indoor parks and transitions like ramps, while hard wheels are best for street skating. The hardness of the wheel is listed on the packaging or the wheels themselves in a measurement called the durometer, wheels that say 99A durometer are hard wheels great for street skating while wheels with a lower number are softer.

The size is the most important part, the average street wheel is  52-54 mm, while vert wheels are generally bigger and made for transitions and ramp skating. The reason it’s the most important is because it’s all based on personal preference. The average recommended size for a street wheel is 52 mm, because it’s a good middle ground to start with, but don’t be afraid to experiment by trying other sizes.

The most enjoyable part of buying a skateboard is choosing your deck, that’s the piece of wood you’ll be standing on. The aspects that matter are the shape, size, material and, to a lesser extent, your graphic. Generally, it’s recommended to go with the de facto standard “popsicle stick” shape that most boards are, however, you can get a board with a more squared off nose and tail if you so choose. Most boards are made of maple because of its durability and because how you can pop up your board in the air for tricks.

The graphic on your board doesn’t affect how you skate, but you might not want to ride something you think is ugly, so choose what best suits you. Go with a pro-model graphic if you’d like to support your favorite skater or skate company. You could even go with a local shop graphic as they’re usually cheaper and it helps local skate shops stay around and in business.

Bearings are an essential part of having a good board to learn on. If you’re a beginner, don’t buy $70 ceramic bearings, because you don’t really need them at that point. Decent cheap steel bearings work great and are easy to replace if you ruin them by riding through puddles. I recommend Spitfire Cheapshots, and they’re around $11 and work really well.

The thing that will keep your feet on your board and not up in the air is grip tape. Most boards come with a sheet of complementary Jessup grip tape and that works great, but if you’d like coarser grip tape, you can go out and buy some. You should know that coarser grip tape might tear a hole in your shoes quicker.

Trucks are an essential part of your skateboard and you should invest in decent or good trucks.  Trucks allow you to turn and depending on your skill level allow you to do technical tricks such as grinds and stalls. The average truck costs around $35 to $50, and I personally recommend Venture, Independent, and Orion brand trucks as they are well-made and relatively affordable. Make sure you have the right size truck for your size of deck, an 8-inch deck requires 8-inch trucks.

If you have all the parts you need, it’s time to set up your board, you could go to a shop and have them do it for you, but it’s recommended that you do it yourself especially if you have a preference on how you want it set up. The process of assembling your skateboard and adjusting it to your liking is fairly self-explanatory, but if you need help, there are numerous video tutorials online that will help you or you can get an experienced friend to help you out. After your new board is all set up and just the way you want it, it’s time to go out, have fun, and skate.