I’ve just returned from Europe’s biggest extreme sports and music festival, NASS (04), which takes place just a couple of hours down the road from me at the Bath and West showground. I’m now just about saturated with all the skating, in-lining, BMXing, free running, freestyle frisbeeing and lots more that a person can watch over the course of a long weekend, but there is one particular area of skateboarding that I’m not bored of, and that’s flatland.
It was something I didn’t expect to see, but there were about eight or nine skaters there who regularly found themselves a quiet area of the street course or a corner in a warehouse and just banged out some of the most amazing skateboarding I’ve seen outside of a Rodney Mullen video.
Don’t get me wrong, huge airs and 360 flips over hips are pretty sweet, but this stuff was in another league. You don’t often see it, or even hear about it, but nothing else strikes me as anywhere near as technical, inventive and ultimately interesting. This is why you should be interested in flatland skateboarding…
- Pretzel flips, primo slides and rail flips.
- One wheel nose manuals to pogos.
- Hang ten nose manuals.
- Double magic flips and triple kickflips.
- Impossibles to tail grabs.
- Semi flips and kickflip/lateflips.
- Front foot impossibles.
And if that isn’t enough to tempt you, how about one of the best tricks I’ve ever seen – varial pressure flip to late hardflip! Obviously, not content with pulling off an extremely difficult flip trick, this guy decided to hammer out a second extremely difficlut flip trick while he was still in the air. And, if memory serves correctly, he had a taped up broken foot at the time. The list goes on, and this is all without a ramp or a kicker in sight.
There are a lot of quite simple flatland skateboarding tricks that you can go out and pull off with minimum amounts of hassle. These kind of provide the basis for the flatland style, the stuff you can then go on to develop in whatever way you see fit.
I’ve mentioned before that it is untrue that you have to be able to ollie before you can do anything on a skateboard, and I’m now going to delve into the tricks that prove this. Perhaps in another article I’ll look at some of the more advanced flatland tricks, but let’s start with some that can almost be practiced just as exercises to improve your balance and board control…
An endover is like switching – a simple 180 turn without leaving the ground. It becomes interesting when you do lots and lots of them, all in a quick and seamless string. As you develop the spinning momentum it can form the basis of an entire string of tricks like shove-its, body varials, pivots and pirouettes, at which point you start looking like Rodney Mullen. A god, in short.
1. Work out which way you feel comfortable turning on your skateboard. For me this is backside, or anti clockwise (as I’m a goofy footed skater). I’m pretty sure most people will also want to turn this way – you don’t see many people switching frontside.
2. If you want to turn backside, stand with your back foot slightly behind the back bolts and towards the toe edge of your skateboard, and your front foot slightly in front of the front bolts and towards the heel edge. For frontside, have your back foot slightly heelside and your front foot slightly toe side. This is so that your feet are always pushing from the edge of the skateboard that isn’t leading the turn.
3. Shift your weight onto your back foot slightly so the nose raises, and as you do so turn the board in the desired direction. Shift your weight back so that you land after turning 180, but don’t stop, instead, continue to shift your weight forwards so that the tail rises and keep the momentum going so that you turn another 180.
4. At first, this will feel quite awkward. The tendancy is to put a bit too much weight on the front foot so your back foot loses grip with the skateboard and slips off as it tries to push the board around. The foot positioning as outlined in step 2 counteracts this a bit but you will need to concentrate on only shifting your weight a little bit. You are also turning blindly which is a bit off putting, but you’ll soon lose any fear arising from this.
5. Go to step 3.
I think the biggest problem with doing lots of endovers is the dizzyness. This starts to kick in for me when I get to around 5 or 6. After that, it’s only a matter of time before I lose balance. Try shifting your weight an absolute minimum amount during the endovers, which minimizes the arc that your brain will be spinning around.
Walk The Dog
I have no idea why this trick is called Walking The Dog. It’s another way of turning the skateboard 180 and one that is also definately best in multiples, but it doesn’t require the rider to spin as well, so no need to worry about dizzyness this time.
1. If you want to get serious about this trick, cut a circular hole out of your grip tape right in the centre of the skateboard. You don’t need grip tape here anyway, so why not?
2. Place the ball of your front foot right in the centre of the board (where you cut that hole, remember?). It should never leave this position. The board will be rotating around the ball of your front foot over and over again. This is why cutting the grip tape away is useful – it reduces friction so you can turn the board easier, and it saves on buying new shoes, as if you do end up doing lots of them you’ll be sanding your sole down at a rapid rate.
3. Cross your back foot over and place it on the nose of your board. If you watch a lot of flatland, you’ll find that crossing your feet over while riding and tricking is quite common. This is a good trick to start doing this as it’s fairly undemanding. It is easier to cross your back leg across the front, but I’m sure you could probably do it the other way as well.
4. You’re essentially aiming to unwind your legs so that you’ll be standing back in your normal stance after your skateboard has turned 180. To do this you have to lean forwards a tiny bit, so that your weight is slightly on the nose and the tail lifts, and untwist as you do so. Your back foot pulls the nose around, while your front foot gently guides the centre of the board.
5. With your back foot, step forwards on to the nose again, and repeat ad infinitum.
The problem with this trick is trying to keep your front (ie, middle) foot in position. This will be the key to doing lots of Walk The Dogs in a row. I have no quick fix for this problem, other than to try cutting out that grip tape hole if you haven’t already.
This is your original way of leaving the ground on a skateboard, invented before fishtails enabled skaters to do flatland ollies. Like ollies, there are lots of variants, so this is just a beginning for you…
1. Roll along in your usual stance. Crouch as if to ollie but instead of actually popping, just grab hold of your skateboard in the middle of the toe edge with your back hand.
2. Step off the board with your front foot. As you do this, the nose will naturally rise. Keep hold of the board with your back hand and make sure to keep your back foot on the board as well.
3. JUMP! Jump up nice and high off of your leading foot (the one that just stepped off the board). This is a smooth part of the stepping off process. If you pause between stepping off and jumping off you will lose the power you gained in the crouch and you’ll also lose forwards momentum.
4. Obviously your back foot is also up nice and high, while your hand has brought the skateboard up so that your back foot is still ‘standing’ on it.
5. As you hit the peak of your boneless, step your front foot back onto the skateboard, and let go of the board with your hand. You can then slam down with both feet to land the trick. For this last stage, it’s probably useful if you’ve also practiced acid drops, covered in the previous skateboarding article.
Learning how to boneless will naturally take you forward to doing no-comply tricks as well. See the no comply tricktionary entry for some other ideas.
This was the first kind of flip you could do, before fishtails enabled ollies, and ollies enabled kickflips and heelflips.
1. Stand facing the nose of your board with both feet side by side. This is a weird one to balance so you should probably start at a standstill before progressing to doing a rolling magic flip.
2. Hook the big toe of one of your feet underneath the deck, by hanging one or the other foot out to the side slightly. The heel of this foot should still largely be on the board, for balance purposes. It makes no difference which foot you use, other than to the actual direction of the flip, so use whichever is more comfortable. It can be quite difficult to accomplish this with a big skate shoe, so if you have anything a little more flexible, try it with that.
3. Now it’s as simple as jumping upwards off both feet. The toe hooked under the skateboard should bring the board up and flip it. Now all you have to worry about is landing.
4. As with any normal flip trick, watch the skateboard to see it come around. While you’re doing this, you have to rotate your body slightly so you are in a more natural skating position. As usual, when you see the board come around catch it with both feet above the trucks and land.