Gravity is a force that works on everything. So how do skateboarders perform tricks that seem to defy gravity? Let's look at the Ollie, the first basic trick any skateboarder learns. This move, which allows the skater to jump over obstacles and onto curbs, makes the board seemingly stick to the skater’s feet. To get the board to act like this, the skater first crouches down low on the board to get a lower center of mass. The skater then jumps up explosively, with most of the force of their jump placed on the back foot. This force shoots the tail of the board into the ground, causing it to bounce back up around the board’s center of mass. As the board becomes airborne, the skater slides their foot forward, actually pulling the board higher because of the friction between the foot and the board. The skater then lowers their front foot, causing the board to level out. At this point, gravity catches up to skater and the board, pulling both back down to Earth. The skater then bends their legs in order to absorb the force of the landing.
Get Pumped Up (Halfpipe Pumping)!
Have you ever seen a skater in a half pipe? How do they gather so much speed to reach such great heights?
The answer is something called pumping.
When a skateboarder is crossing the flat bottom part of the half pipe, they are in a low, crouched position, similar to the one they are in before they perform an Ollie. Once they enter the curved part of the pipe, near the bottom of the pipe, or the transition, they straighten up in order to raise their center of mass. This is repeated at the top of the "walls". Because of the work done by the skater in standing up, the skater actually gains energy and goes faster! Think about being on a swing on the playground; when you pump your legs, you go higher and faster, just like a skater in a half pipe!
Many girls are also finding that skateboarding is for them too. According to a 12 year-old female skater from Ohio named Abbey, skateboarding lets you “express yourself in ways that other things can’t.”
One hero to many young skaters is Marisa Dal Santo. Dal Santo was recently featured in the movie “Strangeworld” and is considered by many to be the next great female skater. In her young career, she has four X Games medals in five appearances including two gold medals. She was the 2007 overall World Cup Skateboarding Champion. Leaders like Marisa are paving the way for the next generation of champions.
Another hero is Vanessa Torres - she is one of the top skateboarding women in the world. She is featured in several women's skateboarding videos such as AKA: Girl Skater and Getting Nowhere Faster. In 2003, Torres became the first female skateboarder to win a gold medal at the X Games. She won the street course at the first X Games to feature female skateboarding competitions.