One of the most important aspects of skateboarding is balance. Without balance, it would be nearly impossible to be successful in the sport. Every part of skateboarding requires some form of balance, whether it's something as simple as riding down a hill, or something as advanced as grinding on rails or skating on half pipes.
Balance is both a skill and a talent. Some people seem to be born with good balancing skills, while others have to learn it through years of practice. Skateboarding in and of itself will help you improve your balance, but there are several things you can do that help you improve your balance for skateboarding, which is what I will be covering in this article.
Before going over the more specific tips and advice, I'd like to give a generalized tip that can help you improve your balance for anything in life, and that is to do core exercises regularly. Your core muscles are what allow you to have good balance, and the more you work then out and the stronger they are, the easier it will be to gain good balance.
Improving Balance on Flat Ground
Riding around on flat ground takes quite a bit of balance for beginners, and then you also have to take into account doing tricks and landing. After you have been skateboarding a few weeks, you will usually get used to the balance it takes to simply ride around, but it will take years of practice to be able to keep your balance after landing a trick. The amount of balance required for landing a trick will always vary depending on what type of trick it is and how fast you are going when you execute it.
One of the things you can do to help your balance on flat ground is mess around with how loose your trucks are. Having tight or loose trucks both provide their own benefit, regardless of what your normal preference is. Skating with tight trucks will make it harder for you to turn or flex the board down in preparation for a trick. Loose trucks will make turning overly easy and landing tricks can be a bit wobbly. Switching back and forth between tight and loose trucks while practicing can help your balance for when you decide to skate with the trucks tightened to your normal preference.
The other aspect of flat ground balance deals with manualling. This is when skate while balanced on either the front or back set of wheels. When riding on your front set of wheels, it is known as a nose manual. Both the manual and nose manual are fairly easy and fun tricks to do for skateboarders of all skill levels.
Other than simply practicing often, the best way to help improve your balance for manualling is to practice the position while you're not moving. You can do this anytime and on just about any surface, whether you're at home on your carpet, or at the skate park just standing around talking. All you have to do is stand on the board the same way you would if you were moving and see how long you can keep your balance with a manual. This will get your muscles used to the position better and in turn give you better muscle memory, making it easier to hold the trick for longer when you're actually moving.
Improving Balance for Grinding
Grinding and sliding both require a great deal of balance because not only are you moving at a decent speed, but you also have to balance on your trucks or a portion of the deck on either a rail or a ledge.
There isn't a whole lot you can do to help improve your balance in grinding other than practicing a lot at different speeds. Going at a high speed while performing a grind of slide means you have to spend less time on the rail or ledge keeping your balance, but at the same time it makes the actual act of balancing a bit tougher. On the other hand, grinding and sliding at lower speeds make it easier to concentrate on your balance but you also have to spend more time on the rail or ledge since you're moving slower.
Another option besides practicing at different speeds is to practice while not moving at all. Set your skateboard on the rail or ledge however you want it, and then just hop on and see how long you can stay balanced. Try to focus on your positioning and posture and remember how it feels when you find that sweet spot where you seem to be balancing rather easily.
Improving Balance on Ramps
Balancing on ramps is a lot different than balancing on flat ground or even on rails. When a skateboarder rides on a half pipe or a bank, they not only have to have balance for going up the ramp, but also for coming back down after performing a trick. Depending on whether they decide to add a spin or not can also make balancing more difficult. There is a significant difference between landing facing the opposite direction and facing the same direction as you were when going up the ramp.
Half pipes are hard because the ramps curve up to the point of being vertical. Skateboarders have to have such good balance that they almost defy gravity. And since there are two sides to this type of ramp, they also have to instantly prepare to go back up and do it again.
Banks are ramps that are basically just large 45-degree angles. The skateboarder goes up the ramp, performs a trick, lands, and comes back down. It's sort of like a less intense version of a quarter pipe, but still requires a great deal of balance to use properly.
The easiest way to improve your balance on these types of ramps is to practice going up and down them without tricks and at low speeds. Stay focused on how you shift your weight and balance. Slowly move on to doing things like pivoting around, doing small ollies, or going at higher speeds. Don't get frustrated, because this type of multi-dimensional balance takes a lot of practice to achieve.
As with any skill, practice makes perfect, so be sure to stay focused and keep at it and you will see that it all eventually becomes easier and your body sort of "remembers" how to stay balanced during certain tricks.