Footwork always seems like such a simple thing when you’re watching it but there’s so many subtle nuances to pay attention to. Hell, I actually thought backwards walk the dogs would be really simple to explain, but it turns out there’s a lot to cover for a trick which could basically be summed up by saying “you know that thing EVERY freestyler does? Yeah, do that, only backwards”.
I think this is something freestylers of all ages and skill levels could do with having a go at; it’s a real exercise in one footed balance and weight distribution, for one thing. I also think they look pretty cool dropped into lines; Stefan Albert is prone to doing one or two inbetween tricks, for instance, and it always looks great.
You also need to be lifting up the toes on your front foot slightly to reduce friction and give the board some space to move, so try to focus on having your weight on the balls of your front foot.
You want to start off with your head and shoulders facing the nose of the deck. You might have your back arm slightly behind you to “prewind” the rotation, but it’s important your chest stays facing forwards.
I start the motion by rolling backwards at a low speed, and shift my weight slightly from my front foot to the back foot, allowing the front wheels to rise off the ground a fraction.
Once the weight is off the front wheels, I start to push the tail around with the back foot and simultaneously pull the front foot straight backwards. Notice the bent knee – you don’t want to be too rigid for this one.
Here you can see two crucial things – not only are the front wheels only barely off the surface, but both feet are pointing forwards. Your front foot shouldn’t rotate at all.
This is the part of the trick where, if you were stationary, you might be thinking of giving up. Don’t. Push a little bit further to make sure you can keep rolling.
Finally, I’ve completed the full rotation, and I can swap my weight back to the front foot (which is still in the centre of the board). It looks awkward, but you’re only here for a moment.
Here’s what that looks like from the front. Notice how everything is in line – my shoulders are still square to the board and my back leg is perfectly in front of the front leg.
Returning to the main angle, I can start stepping back around to the tail. I’m still keeping my front knee bent slightly for balance, and while I’m looking down, the next section is going to be totally blind.
This one frame is usually the make-or-break moment. If you haven’t completed a perfect 180º rotation, this is where you’ll find out, as you’ve got to be able to roll smoothly on one foot for a split second.
Like all footwork tricks, don’t expect this to magically work within the first ten minutes. There’s a lot of subtle shifts of balance needed to make this work; even if you can walk the dog like a pro, going backwards is going to make this a lot harder than you think.
Avoid the temptation to under-rotate these, doing them at a slow speed in ever-decreasing circles. While there’s nothing wrong with under-rotating a walk the dog variant, if you only ever learn them that way, you’ll likely never be able to do them “properly”. It’s worth putting the time in now and not cutting corners so you can do more with them later on.
As far as setups go, you want to make sure your trucks aren’t too loose (a wobbly truck often leads to a wobbly skater where footwork is concerned) and try to avoid steep concave; while concave will keep your foot in the centre of the board, it also gives you something else to fight against and get caught on. You’ll notice my foot shifts sideways a fair bit on some of my backwards walk the dogs; it’s much easier to rectify that shift myself than it is to stay on a board with concave which is trying to trip me over.
Like with the toespin, some folks will suggest removing griptape from the middle of the board to reduce friction, but again, I think that causes more trouble than its worth; a sharp edge where the griptape ends will have much more friction than a solid sheet of grip. I recommend lightly sanding down the griptape in the centre of the board instead to get a more predictable rotation.
Finally, if you’re struggling with these, consider swapping to something with mellower kicktails. The steep kicktails on something like a street deck might help you get ollies further off the ground, but they mean you need to be a lot heavier-footed on footwork tricks, and that makes it much harder to balance – and have any sort of decent flow.