Now, I might not be able to skate to save my life, but I can do a little physics. So here's a thought - maybe I can use physics to learn how to do an ollie. Here's the plan. I'm going to open up the above video of skateboarder Adam Shomsky doing an ollie, filmed in glorious 1000 frames-per-second slow motion, and analyze it in the open source physics video analysis tool Tracker.
Just before a skater performs an ollie, there are three forces acting on the skateboard. One of these forces is the weight of the rider, shown here with two red arrows. Another is the force of gravity on the board itself, shown with a small black arrow. Finally, blue arrows show the force of the ground pushing up on the skateboard. These three forces balance out to zero. With no net force, the skateboard doesn't accelerate, but rolls along at a constant speed.
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My son seems to have a lot of fun riding this skateboard. He will be out there doing tricks for hours. One evening when he took a break, I decided to see if I could still ride. When I took off down the driveway, I could feel how smoothly the wheels rolled. I used to have to pay extra for wheels like this when I was his age. Lost in thought, I coasted faster, and my neighbour didn't see me when I shot out of the driveway. Even though this thing flew several feet in the air, bounced, and came to rest more than 20 feet away, it had no visible damage! Not so for me. I loved the skateboard, but am now recovering from two broken ribs, torn neck cartilage, and a cracked pelvis. Still, this board rides like a dream!
An Ollie is basically an upward/forward jumping trick. The name “ollie” comes from the nickname of Alan Gelfand who created the ollie in 1976. The ollie was then modified for flat-ground use by Rodney Mullen in 1982, and it is this flat-ground version of the ollie which is most commonly referred to as the ‘ollie’ today. The ollie is arguably the most important trick in skateboarding because it is the foundation of the majority of skateboard tricks which require lift. When you want to do a trick like the kickflip, when you want to get onto something like a ledge, or down something like a set of stairs, or try handrails, the ability to ollie is a necessity. Therefore the ability to ollie high and with good control is critical to your total skateboarding skill-set.
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Crouch down – While you’re standing on the board with your feet in the right position, crouch down closer towards the board. Don’t turn into a hunchback here; keep your back as straight as possible and don’t stick your rear out too far off the board, otherwise you’ll mess the whole thing up. Stay on the balls of your feet too; if you’re more on your toes, you’ll actually move the board in air and land off of it, and no one wants that. If you need to readjust your feet before you jump, just do a little micro-jump to reposition your feet, or shuffle into position. The first way is easier and faster, the second is more awkward and can mess up your shoes.
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I found that my problem was unclear instruction about the timing between jumping and popping. One day when I was watching a slowmo ollie video though, I noticed that the skateboarder already was beginning to jump (at least his body was already going in an upward motion) before snapping the board off the ground. That was a critical change I needed to make in order to get it working. I had been trying to pop the board while all my weight was still pushing down on it (kind of an obvious mistake, but I somehow overlooked this). Hope this helps somebody.
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But, a quick warning! If you learn to ollie while standing still, you can develop some bad habits. Some skaters end up turning in the air a little, and not landing straight. You might not even notice until you try to ollie while rolling. So, if you practice while standing still, I highly recommend also practicing while rolling. Maybe only practice in one spot for a few days - maybe a week or two - and then give the rolling ollie a shot. That way, if you are developing bad habits, you can shake them off before they really mess you up.
So you want to know how to ollie? Be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart, and a lot of people have tried and failed and tried some more and still failed and then eventually thrown their boards into a wall out of frustration (I have no idea who those people are). It’s by no means an easy skateboard trick, but if you want to know how to ollie, start with these simple tips:
A complete skateboard is pre-assembled - it almost rides right out of the package and on to the streets, ready for you to practice all your new tricks. You simply don’t have to think about buying the separate parts like trucks, wheels, decks or the likes. Once you have gained more experience on the board and you feel like customizing it to fit your skateboarding style, you can begin to learn more about the different pieces in order to assemble a skateboard that meets your specific wishes and demands. Until then, a complete can be quite the right choice.
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Place your back foot on the edge of the tail (this is where you will apply a burst of force to the skateboard) and prepare to exert force through the foot’s ‘big-toe-mound’ area. Place your front foot behind the front bolts. Make sure the weight bearing down on your feet, as well as the weight of your body, is generally centered over the ‘middle line’ of your skateboard.
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