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.
As you jump into the air, your front foot needs to roll slightly inward, and with the outside of your foot, you want to guide the skateboard as it flies into the air. Some people describe this as dragging the side of your front foot up the skateboard – that’s more or less what is happening, but what you are doing is using your shoe and the grip tape on the board to pull the skateboard higher into the air with you, and guiding the skateboard to where you want it.
It is mainly because those items are guaranteed to help you familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of using them. They are a big help in making you feel comfortable when you push off with your feet while also balancing on top of the board when riding. It is not good to go for a very technical product, so it’s best to choose the mentioned types first.
Skateboarding, in one form or another, has been around since the late 1950’s when the first brave pioneer first attached roller skate wheels to a piece of wood. As skateboarding progressed to mimic surfing, skateboards evolved with the style of riding. Skateboards grew and changed shapes as riders experimented with everything from plastic to fiberglass to aluminum constructions - all in an effort to push what was possible. Like most sports or art forms, progression is at the heart of skateboard innovation.
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To summarize, a skateboarder's feet need to do two things successfully to complete an ollie. They need to provide a changing force to move the board correctly (so that the combined force of gravity and the skater's feet add up to the green arrows above), and they need to provide different amounts of force with each foot (shown by the red and blue arrows above) to steer and turn the board into the right orientation.
When I was about 10, I broke my first skateboard by riding it into a ditch. A decade later, in college, I broke another skateboard within an hour of owning it (surely a record) in a short-lived attempt at doing an ollie. (Surprisingly, the store accepted a return on that board even though it was in two pieces.) Then I was gifted a really nice, high-quality skateboard. The first thing I did with it was ride it down a big hill, a valiant but ill-fated adventure which ended with me jumping off the skateboard, rolling down the grass, and arriving scraped up, deflated, and rather disoriented near the entrance to my college cafeteria. (In my defense, the wheels and ball-bearings on that skateboard had been pre-lubricated to minimize friction, and why would anyone do that, that's just crazy.)
In fact, we can work out how you need to steer the skateboard. Tracker has a nice feature that we'll call 'force arrows'. These arrows show you how much force acts on an object at every instant, and in which direction the force acts. So for example, if you were to kick a ball into the air, while the ball was mid-flight, this arrow would always point down and be the same length, even though the ball is moving forward. That's because the only force acting on the ball is gravity, which pulls it straight down, and acts with a constant strength. (For those of you who've studied physics, these arrows denote the acceleration of the center of mass, which by Newton's second law is proportional to the net force acting on the skateboard.)
Level out on the way down – Before you start to head back towards the safety of the earth, level your feet out as the board begins to fall. If you’re trying to jump a gap on your board, this will help you keep going straight and maintain your momentum. Alternatively, you can land on your nose or tail and perform a manual out of the jump, but those are pretty advanced moves. Might want to wait until those little pink training wheels are off your board first.
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