(This is the second post in a series. Please see Intro to Aggressive Skating)
The main thing here is don’t be a jerk, and skate safe. Before you barrel into a skate park you will want to watch the other people using the park (if there are any). A busy skatepark can be very intimidating. It is always a good idea to bring a friend or someone experienced for your first time if possible. I like to take a crowd of skaters with me and take over parts of the park, like a whole bowl if possible.
Watch the other people for a little while. There are a number of things that you will be looking for. Be mindful of the direction people are travelling in and try to use the same routes. You should also be looking for common places that people are dropping in and coming out of bowls. Also pay attention to the types of people that are around. You will be able to get a good idea of what the other people will do with just a little observation. Most people will make eye contact at the edges of the bowl to determine who will go next. Watch out for people that are not paying attention or people that are jumping in randomly. Don’t be the person who is not paying attention. Make sure that you are not standing somewhere that is in the way and that you are aware of the other skaters around you.
Spend a bit of time warming up, it will help to get rid of some apprehension you may have. Get your gear on and do a lap of the park if you can. It’s good to get a feel for what the park is like and observe some of the other people that may be using the park. There is usually some sort of flow or skating direction. It is also a good idea to have a look for any debris or obstacles that are around. It really sucks to get caught dropping into a rock (or trash) filled bowl. Be sure to warm up all your muscles. This is a great time to practice skating low. Think about your legs as springs. Bend your knees and get your butt down low!
I have been skating with Anchor City Derby for four years and have always had someone yelling at me to get lower. This is so much more important when skating in the bowls. You want to be so low that you feel like you are falling over. This is because you will want to be leaning into every move you make on the ramps. Your centre of gravity should be more or less in front of you for dropping in and combating the ramps. Your feet should be staggered when skating, not side by side. This will get you even lower and help to anticipate the park features. Remember that your legs are your springs! They should be absorbing most of the impact from the different features of a park. Your upper body does not really need to move very much. In fact the lower body can move almost independently. When jumping you want to lift your legs up into your chest and then back out again.
If you come from a derby skating background then you are no stranger to falling. You will be working outside of your comfort zone and getting a new sense of balance on the ramps. This can take a bit of time to get used to and will definitely result in a lot of falls. You should be really comfortable with one knee falls and two knee slides. Another reason to make sure that you are low and leaning forwards is so that if you fall, you will be falling forwards onto your protective gear. I also recommend wearing jeans (not leggings, or jean short shorts). That way if you do fall, you have some protection from road rash.
Some skateparks will have ramps, others will have bowls (or it may have both!) If there is a ramp or bowl in your park without a coping, you can start with a rolling drop in. Otherwise step up to the coping(the metal bar around the edge of the bowl). Make eye contact with the other skaters to let them know you are going in. Be aware of other people who are gaining speed prior to dropping into a bowl, or people that are not paying attention to the flow of the park. Put one foot on the coping and the other foot into the bowl. The coping can be pretty intimidating and I personally avoid it when dropping in. Instead I use my toe stops and jump down onto the ramps. Lean forward! Like, a lot. Bend your knees to keep upright and maintain your momentum. Bowls come in various sizes, you don’t have to start out with the biggest one in the park. Different skateparks have different features, and may vary from jumps, ramps, bowls, etc.
Now that we have covered some of the basics we will be talking about what to DO in the parks. Keep your eyes out for the next post on tricks!