Skating Backwards - Tips For Newbies

Tips For Beginners And Newbies

In the last few weeks, I came to terms with skating backwards. I finally cracked it. Its taken a couple of months, but now I feel comfortable skating in reverse.

As a newbie myself, I know how tough it is to get going backwards. While its still fresh in my mind, here are a few tips that may help.

Keep at it, its not just about balance. Your body needs time to build muscles you have not used before. It takes a week or so for muscle to build, then more time to build strength into those new muscle groups. Be patient, give your body time to learn the new techniques.

You are gonna fall. Accept it and prepare for it. Wear protection and fall with confidence rather than fear. I fell a lot, but its okay. I wear safety gear. Now, I only fall when I try new stuff or tricks.

1. Wear a crash hat
If you are skating backwards and spill, your falling weight will automatically throw your back towards the ground. A cracked skull is no fun. I repeat, wear a crash hat.

2. Use wrist guards / elbow pads / knee pads
If you spill while going backwards, you'll put your hands out to break your fall. Wrists and elbows are most vulnerable. Use good quality wrist guards. Broken wrists are the most common skating, skateboarding, snowboarding injury.

Upper extremity injuries are more common than lower extremity injuries. Almost 20% of injuries and 50% of all fractures involve the wrist.

Also checkout:
Snowboard and Ski Injuries: 25% of all snowboard injuries are wrists

After reading similar articles, I bought the best wrist guards on the market. They were not cheap, but I couldn't live with a broken wrist. At first, the more I skated, the more I fell. It was a no-brainer. Now, I rarely fall in a 2 hour skate; I still wear my wrist guards.

3. Wear crash pants 
If you fall on your butt, it hurts. Crash pants will protect your delicate coccyx, keep you out of hospital and out of that wheel chair. If you don't have any... buy some.

In one of the next blog posts I'll explain which crash pants I bought, what was wrong with them and which others NOT to buy.

4. Use new wheels
Ensure you have new or good wheels with good profile, on your skates. I noticed traction was difficult with worn wheels. Particularly if they have an odd or irregular wear profile.

5. Find a smooth flat surface 
Practice on a tennis court or basket ball pitch or car park lot. If there's lots of debris, stones, twigs, leaves, etc., it will trip you. You may need to clear a patch.

6. Go somewhere quiet
No distractions, where you can practice in peace, without teenagers laughing at you, or dogs barking, cars or bicycles passing nearby.

7. Dont go slow
Your natural inclination is to go very slowly. Go a little faster, but don't speed. Going a little faster will give you momentum. Think, riding a bicycle. The slower a bicycle travels, the harder to stay upright and maintain balance.

8. Bend your knees - * very important *
This is important. Really important. Squat ape-like. Bend your knees. Knees should be over toes. Keep your center of gravity low and reduce your chance of tumbling if you hit a pebble or twig. Bending your knees will keep your weight forward, on your toes. If your weight shifts back onto your heels, you will topple. Guaranteed!

9. Start small
When I started my legs would fatigue fairly quickly. To handle fatigue, I would do a minimum of 5 minutes backwards each skate. Whether I was shaky, tired or elated, I did it. Over the course of weeks, you get stability, confidence, balance and strength. Incorporating backward skate throughout the 1 to 2 hour session, and gradually increase the time.

10. Follow the line
Use a line as a guide. I skate in a local park which has a basketball pitch and a tennis court. I used the white side line as a guide when I started to backwards. This allows you to focus on balance and not worry about straying off-line or hitting obstacles. Watch the second video below, she shows how to use the white line as a guide.

When you can to stay upright and skate backwards with some confidence, do this:

11. Watch where your going.
Look over your shoulder. You cant guess location of obstacles and you don't have rader. Use your eyes. This one is difficult. I only recently started watching what's in front (behind) as I travel in reverse. It takes time.

12. Scissor your legs 
Once you have some stability and can move backwards, scissor / stagger your legs, just as you do when going forward. This gives lateral stability.

Watch the first video; it has a few pointers:

See how he scissors his legs? Notice how he turns his head / shoulder. Notice his knees are bent. Knees over toes.

Now you do it!

Video 1

Video 2

Hope this helps.