Updated: Dec 7, 2020
I've heard a lot of roller skaters say to me that they can't wait to go to the skate park, but they don't think they're ready yet. In all honesty, I think as soon as the desire starts really hitting you to go to the skate park... you probably are ready. I know that skate parks weren't even on my radar when I first started skating, the thought never really occurred to me.
I personally had the perception that I had to wait a certain time period to go to the skate park, so I didn't go until my hundredth day of skating. But I've seen a lot of skaters go within their first month of skating. Now of course, everyone progresses differently, but I really think some people might just never really feel completely ready to go. Skate parks are just intimidating, and taking that first step( or roll) can feel impossible. But I promise you it's worth going, and it really isn't as scary as your mind is building it up to be.
What do I need to know before I go to a skate park?
Of course, you should be very comfortable doing some things before you go to a skate park. I would say three main things you should be comfortable with are transitions, stopping, going backwards and falling. All these three things you will need to do a lot while you're in the skate park, and you'll often find yourself going backwards at faster speeds than you would like to be going. I included falling because it's something you'll have to face a lot a skate parks, it's just how it is. Now, I wouldn't say I'm the person that's fearless when it comes to falling. All that was on my mind when I first got to a skate park was how terrified to I was to fall, but you quickly get used to doing it.
A bonus thing to be comfortable with would be jumping, but that isn't really necessary.
I'm at the skate park. What do I do?
Your first time at a skate park is going to feel pretty overwhelming, you probably will feel completely lost on where to start .
The first skate park I went to didn't have any small ramps that I felt comfortable going down, but if the one you go to does I would suggest starting out there. Remember to stay low, and to keep staying low even when you're off the ramp. Don't try to stand up straight when you're going fast. You also really want to bend your knees and have your dominant leg further
forward. You don't have to go down steep or tall ramps straight away, I would really get comfortable doing the small ones before you get to the next step. However, if you really want to try out a bigger one and you think you can - do it! I've learnt to always seize the opportunity when I'm feeling extra daring.
The first thing I did when I got to a skate park was practice pumping, which is also a pretty good place to start. In all honesty, I didn't really find it fun at all at first. It was completely exhausting, and I could feel like I wasn't doing it right. A lot of people describe it as "pushing the ground away from you", but remember you don't have to jump when you're first learning to pump For me, it really helps to view it as one fluid motion. You really want to bend your knees and keep a wide stance, and also look behind your shoulder when you're going backwards. But in all honesty, I'm not the master at pumping so it would probably be best to watch some tutorials on it.
The main this is it's all about is practice, the more you practice the better you'll get at it.
So basically, be prepared for pumping to kind of suck at first. Don't let yourself quit the skate park after the first day because it felt kind of impossible. Honestly, in your first day going you may only stay for a few minutes - and that's ok! You don't have to do it all at once. Take it as slow as you need to.
Ugh.. I really don't want to fall in front of people
I think the most intimidating thing when it comes to skate parks is the crowds, especially when there's tons of skateboarders and they have obviously been doing it for years. First of all, don't be scared to fall in front of people. I promise you that nobody will care if you fall, in fact they probably won't even notice because they're focused on their own tricks. Also, everyone else is constantly falling too, even the pro's. Nobody never falls at a skate park. It's in the nature of a skate park, it shows that you're pushing yourself and you're trying to learn something new. Falling is going to happen, and that's ok.
Can I just avoid crowds altogether?
Unfortunately, you'll probably rarely get a skate park all to yourself - but that doesn't mean that you can't avoid crowds. The most quiet time to go is always going to be an early weekday morning, the earlier you go the better. Sometimes there will be a few kids there before school, and I've also seen a lot of older guys that are picking up skateboarding again - usually they're pretty chill and don't really bother you - they just want to skate too.
I'm fortunate enough to have the freedom to go during this time frame, but if you're not just try going at different times of the day to see what works and remember, around sunset / late afternoon is always going to be pretty busy.
I really can't avoid the crowds... Should I just not go?
Now in these COVID-19 times, I'm going to recommend that you skip the skate park altogether if you go and there's dozens of people there. However, if there's a handful and you can get enough space for yourself, wear a mask and just be weary.
I know I have a lot of anxiety about being in people's way, but you could always mention to someone that you just need your own lil spot to practice and just stick to that little area, for the most part nobody is going to mind. If you feel like you already kind of have the hang of things, make sure that you're aware of other skaters and you're not just skating like they're not around. Just remember that you all should be taking turns, and to really look around you to make sure the coast is clear before you go down a ramp. Just be aware of your surroundings, basically.
What Should I Wear?
I personally believe that when you roller skate at a skate park, you should always be wearing protective gear no matter what your level is. You'll most likely be constantly falling on your knees, so knee pads are a must. Also, a helmet and wrist guards a must too - I personally don't like elbow pads but the more safety gear the better! I've personally been at the skate park while all 8 other people there had no safety gear, and I'm going to admit I did feel like I stuck out, but at the end of the day my safety is a priority. I really want to stress that you can easily have a bad injury at the skate park, even if it's something you've done a million times before.
Usually I like to wear skirts with shorts underneath because I feel a lot more mobile, but with that I'm definitely risking getting pretty bad burns and scrapes on my legs (which has happened - and ouch!! It does hurt!). Jeans, or stretchy pants are always great options, especially if it's colder where you are. Beyond that, don't be scared of getting butt pads! It may look a little dorky - but they really help build up confidence. I bought a small in these to help me feel more confident for dropping in, and they work pretty well.
Also, DON'T FORGET SUNSCREEN! I'm ashamed to admit that I have and I definitely see the difference in my face. Protect your skin, it's important!
Don't Burn Yourself Out
There will be days that you feel on top of the world, and you don't want to leave at all. But your body will probably start feeling sore at some point, and when you feel that please listen to it. For me, skating at the skate park has put the most strain on my body and I really feel it the next day. Usually I go for about an hour, maybe two, but I usually will take the next day off let my body rest. Also, eat some protein once you get home! You want to build up some strength in your muscles, and protein is the best way to do that.
Also, don't forget to stretch! You should already be doing this anyways, but stretching before and after you skate will really help the soreness. You can also stretch in between your attempts!
Most Importantly - Take Things at Your Own Pace
I know how frustrating it can be to see people absolutely killing it at the skate park while you barely have the basics down. But I think the key to skating, especially at skates parks, it to just take things at your own pace. Definitely take advantage of the moments when you feel daring. But if you're not feeling ready to drop in, or to go down giant ramps, that's completely okay. You know your body, you know what you're capable of. Skating is not a competition, and you will be thankful in the long run that you did things your way then rushing to become just as good as the people you follow on instagram. If you push yourself way out of your comfort zone, and you're doing things you don't even want to do, you're going to end up with an injury. And injuries are never a fun time.
Don't forget to have fun !!
I think it's so easy to lose sight of what this is all about - it's having fun. I'm not trying to go to the olympics for roller skate (if that even was a thing), and I know there's always going to be better skaters out there. But still, you can find yourself frustrated with not making progress fast enough or having bad days. Remind yourself to just have fun and not be so hard on yourself.