So you've decided to up your game and start skating in the bowls. That's awesome and you are a badass! I want to try to answer some questions and provide helpful hints for starting out in aggressive skating.
Facing your Fears
It is honestly pretty scary the first time you go to a skatepark with your quads. There is a real possibility that you can hurt yourself. It is important to be very comfortable with skating and have experience skating outdoors. You will want to have solid balance and stance. Even the smallest ramps are intimidating when you are starting out. Remember to do only what you feel comfortable doing. If you skate within your comfort zone you are less likely to get injured. Baby steps go a long way to conquering fears and improving your skating abilities.
First I want to talk about gear. You will encounter a lot of different people at a skatepark, with varying amounts of gear on. Remember that someone on a skateboard or scooter can jump off when things go wrong. You will not be able to. You are completely committed to wherever your skates are going. I suit up with almost all of the same gear as when I'm playing derby. Knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, and my double-impact helmet. I couldn't even tell you how many times I have been approached at the park and congratulated as I am the only one wearing protective gear. It would also be highly recommend to wear a pair of jeans. It really sucks to fall on bare skin or even leggings. And believe me, you will fall. Wear clothes you can feel comfortable moving in.
Every time you go to the skatepark check your gear. Really, you never know what you knocked loose last time you were there. Switch out your "non-marking" toe stops for ones you can destroy. Stopping on concrete will wear them out much faster than skating indoors. In fact, you are going to want to tape down anything you want to keep from wearing out.
As for wheels I would recommend a softer wheel. It helps when encountering the cracks and rocks that often liter the outdoor parks. I skate with Kryptonics Route 65mm which are a 78A hardness and are larger than your average wheel. I find they are really great for stability but a little bit heavy for jumping around (because of the oversized diameter). If you also play derby I would recommend getting a second skate boot. It gets very tedious having to switch out wheels all the time for practice and you tend to be a little rougher on the outdoor skate.
Picking a park
Knowing the parks in your area can provide a big advantage to your skate time. Different parks will use different ramps and features. It is helpful to know your comfort skating level vs the difficulty of the park. If you are just starting out I would recommend going to parks with small bowls or inclines, and to keep an eye out for ramps without copings (the rails around the bowls). It is also a good idea to check out the surfaces of the park. Look to see how smooth the transitions are and how cracked/damaged the skating surface is. I prefer to skate on a concrete bowl as opposed to the metal skate parks. In my experience concrete parks are usually better constructed and a lot smoother to skate on. Be sure to clear away any rocks/garbage from the park before you skate.
You may or may not have other skaters to go with you and there are most likely other people using the skate park. It is a good idea to observe the peak times of the park and find out when you can skate undisturbed. I like to pick a time in the mornings or early evening when the kids on the scooters are not there. (Be wary of the scooter kids. They have a well known reputation for not watching other skaters and generally ignoring park etiquette.) It's also a lot nicer to have a whole park to yourself and not have to worry about other people.
The main thing here is don't be a jerk, and skate safe. Before you barrel into a skatepark you will want to watch the other people using the park (if there are any). Be mindful of the direction people are travelling in and try to use the same routes. When dropping in pay attention to the other people using the bowl or ramp When you are ready to go you will step up to the coping. Make eye contact with the other skaters to let them know you are going in.
I have been skating with Anchor City Derby for three 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 banked tracks. Your centre of gravity should be in front of you for dropping in and combating the ramps. Your feet should be staggered when skating. This will help you get even lower. 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. When jumping you want to lift your legs up into your chest and then back out again.
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