Explanations of techniques, forces and physics
Not everyone wants to ponder the complexity of turning a skateboard. Some are happy to look at a picture, get a little explanation, then jump on a board and try it. I tried to keep the heavy analysis to a minimum in the pages and just explain how to do it. This page is meant for those who are curious to how it all works and are willing to risk a headache due to reading technical jargon and looking at strange diagrams. It could be worse. In skiing a lot of the terms are in French.
Some skating technique may be simple or intuitive to do and explanation may just complicate it. For example, leaning. Complex technique like checking, counter leaning and counter weighting is non intuitive and usually must be explained and practiced.
Angulation is the angle of the turning edge relative to the surface. When skating down a steep hill, or surfing down a steep face, simply leveling the board produces major angulation. The challenge may be to NOT get too much edge, necessitating a lean straight down the face. When you need lots of angulation, too much lean can cause you to tip over.
Usually it's easier to get angulation on frontside than heelside, because of the limitations of the flex of the feet. This difference has resulted in the design of asymetrical snowboards that have more sidecut on the heelside. Such design is possible on a skateboard or surfboard, but extremely rare. Surfboards have been shaped for a particular barrel that have more rail on one side than the other.
Usually when the upper body is twisting into the next turn, the lower body and board are still in the last turn. There is a planning ahead of the mind and upper body here as the lower body catches up. This is called anticipation since the upper body anticipates the next turn.
Arch turns started in the 60s or earlier. They are very smooth and traditional in appearance. The body arches to put weight on a rail. The arch can make the board lean or counter lean. The most basic arches from traditional longboarding are the frontside "soul arch" turn, a counter lean turn, and the arching drop knee cutback, a lean turn.
An arch turn can be more extreme and stylized when the back is bowed, with the effect that it looks really laid back and relaxed. A semi-arch is just a functional leaning away from the turn to put more weight over the rail and get more turning edge. It can also be called a counterlean, since the body lean counters the turn, instead of leaning with the board.
- Arm position
Arm position is important in skating. It helps with balance and is important to the look of the skater. It's really bad to skate or surf powerfully with your legs and ruin it by letting your arms flop all over. Even the hands should not droop. Kelly Slater always does the right thing with his arms and hands. It's either brilliantly intuitive or he's had some coaching. Wingnut has great arm and hand styling for longboarding.
The arms are held up as much as possible with the lat muscles of the back, so as not to tire out the arms. You may be able to tell that although the arms are extended, they still look relaxed. This is because the back is doing most of the work of holding them up.
To twist against a turn to complete it and to control rotation. A way to stop rotation. It is a form of counter rotation, and can be a windup for the next turn at the same time it is the end of the first. It has the effect of completing the turn, since your checking shoulders push your hips farther into the turn.
- Counter anticipation or winding up
Another form of anticipation uses counter rotation to wind up a turn. Similar to checking. The turn starts without the upper body rotating into it. In fact, it's moving against the turn. It catches up later with great force. This kind of wind up produces extra hard rotation and is used for projecting the board up hill or doing 360s and spins.
- Counter leaning
Counter leaning is a way of putting your weight on the opposite rail from the turning edge. Basically, your upper body leans away from the turn. In this way you can drive your weight down on the turning rail without tipping over. It's a more advanced technique that may be hard to learn. Greater angulation can be accomplished with counter lean.
In the counterlean style the "quiet upper body" acts as a home position, staying still while the legs move from side to side underneath, leaning, torquing, and shifting weight.
Diagram of lean vs. counter lean
In the diagram at left the skater, represented by the blue weight, leans into the turn. The effect is like an upside down pendulum. In the right diagram, the green weight is poised over the higher rail, counter leaning away from the turn. The "legs" are bent to allow this action.
- Counter rotation
When you counter rotate, you push your shoulders in the opposite direction of a turn. This has the effect of pushing your hips around into the turn, or simply balancing the turn while your lean does most of the work.
- Counter weighting
To balance using two areas of the body opposite from eachother on a balance point. The simplest counter weight is the one every kid does when balancing, to extend both arms to each side. This helps you cross step or hold your balance from rail to rail. A mistake can be corrected by weighting one side a little more.
A more complicated counter weight would be to bend your knees deeply while balancing a wheelie. The front wheels are the balance point. Your knees and shoulders will come forward and your seat will go back, serving as the counter weight. It should be easier to hold your balance and correct mistakes.
Diagram of counter weighting
In this diagram the skater is represented by two weights, blue and green, balancing over balance point (fulcrum) A. The opposing weights make it easy to swing around and balance on this point. This will work for surfing too, only the tail isn't a perfect fulcrum. It slides on the water and sinks in, thus the balance point shifts.
The act where your body changes leans in between two turns. If you're leaning into both turns, you will feel a lot of cross over. If you go from a counter lean to a lean you will feel no crossover whatsoever. If your upper body stays quiet while your legs swing out from side to side linking turns, you will feel a little crossover as you change counter lean.
Sometimes when your heelside lean is extreme you lean backwards in a limbo dancer position called a layback. Your knees bend deeply and your knees and thighs point out over your frontside rail to balance your extreme lean over your heelside rail. You can grab an outside rail or drag a hand for stability.
Leaning into a turn is one way to put a board onto a rail and develop a turning surface. It is very intuitive. Even a beginner can feel how to lean into a turn. Leaning can be hard to recover from if you tip over too far.
When one turn follows another immediately, that's linking. The end of one turn is actually the beginning of the next.
When you throw your arm and shoulder into a turn, that's rotation. You can wind up and release and swing your shoulder into a turn, like a baseball swing has a windup and swing.
To twist your body into a turn to initiate it. You can think of your front hand pulling you into a turn.
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