Finally, we’ve hit my favourite trick – the kickflip. Note that I still subscribe to pre-1990 naming convention – this is the original trick to bear the name of “kickflip”. The one you’ll see in street skating, the ollie kickflip, is a very different beast. Neither one is really harder or easier than the other, but this is a lot more alien to most skaters today due to its unusual riding position and flipping technique.
Another way in which this differs to the ollie-based flips is that there’s no real concept of “switch”; some freestylers will use their front foot to flip the board, but most use the back foot, as I do here. If you find it easier to hook with the front foot, do it that way – but bear in mind that certain variations are more difficult (or outright impossible) if you use your front foot.
The starting position in a kickflip is where most new skaters go wrong, especially if they’re coming from an ollie-based style of skateboarding. You want your feet perfectly in line in the middle of the board, side by side, as shown here. If one foot is slightly too far forward, the board will start to rotate when you flip.
Once you’ve got into your riding position, you have to spin your hooking foot – usually your back foot – at the heel and then “grip” the side of the deck using the side of the arch of the foot. Your heel should stay firmly on top of the deck to help with balance and control; don’t make the mistake of trying to put your toes under the deck and sticking your heel out at a weird angle. You’ll have no control that way.
This is what your foot position should look like from in front. Note my heel is firmly planted, and the side of my foot is almost “wrapping” around the board. Thick-soled shoes are going to make this awkward; a thinner, vulcanised sole will give you more board feel. I’m also bending at the knees here, compressing for the jump.
It looks like not a lot has changed compared to the last shot, but this is where the trick really begins; I’m pressing down on my front foot, and extending my legs as I jump. I’m also shifting sideways – there’s a big sideways travel needed for this trick. Note my back foot is still firmly in contact with the board, stopping my front foot from just pressure-flipping the board over, but my weight is coming off the heel slightly.
Now I’m getting airborne. This is the most important frame – it shows the use of the back foot to lift the board, and the correct technique. I’m not using my toes – instead I’m using the side of the foot, kicking sideways and up as if I was passing a football (that’s a soccer ball to any Americans reading this).
Now the flip’s truly begun. Once you get airborne, the front foot has to get out the way (the sideways jump helps with this), and the back foot, still in contact with the side of the board, needs to push the deck upwards and across to give it both the momentum for the flip and the height needed to get the whole way around. If you watch someone doing a double or triple kickflip, you’ll see how extreme this movement becomes – I sometimes end up kicking the side of my front leg on a triple kickflip.
Quick cut to a different angle for the next shot; I’m travelling sideways, my feet are completely away from the board, and my hips are starting to be repositioned to end up more in line with the board. You can’t do this too early, as you’ll end up spinning the board; you can only really start rotating your legs and lower body now, once you’re completely above the kickflip.
At this point, there’s nothing you can do but wait. However, you can see here that, with a bit of practice, you can get a bit of height on these kickflips. This one would easily have gone up a curb or onto another board.
Okay, now it’s time to come down. The board is finishing its rotation slightly low – I’m not used to doing single kickflip any more, and should probably have given it a bit more lift than I did – but it’ll get round. My feet are aiming at the truck bolts, and I’m going to straighten my knees in a second to catch it.
Another hovering shot. Here you can see how late the rotation back to a regular riding stance really is; although I started to rotate my hips a while ago, I only snap my legs back into position now.
Also, compare this frame with the start of the trick – I’ve moved quite a long way sideways as the board flipped through the air.
Another solid landing; my feet have connected with the griptape and I can roll away with a grin on my face. I was obviously doing this one stationary, but you can do these at basically any speed you feel comfortable, and it never gets old – such a quick, snappy little trick.
I wasn’t sure if a full-body landing shot was necessary, but I realised that there’s one thing you miss from the regular shot – the torso positioning. Even though I’ve rotated at the hips to land in a regular riding position, my shoulders are still facing forwards. This is important – it’s this shoulder positioning which makes so many of the later kickflip variations work.
One of my favourite things about the original kickflip compared to the later ollie version is that with a bit of practice this will work on any deck and setup. I’ve never found a skateboard that I couldn’t kickflip – from 6ft long super-thick longboards to giant 8-wheelers, everything will kickflip once you get used to it.
That said, the one thing you really want to avoid for this trick is loose trucks. You don’t have to lock your kingpin nut way down, but a super-floppy setup will be really uncomfortable and make learning this trick far more effort than it needs to be.
As this is an unusual trick for most people, I see the same mistakes happen over and over again:
If the board is rotating: your feet aren’t starting out in the right position. They need to be perfectly balanced, side-by-side. Most people end up spinning the board backside (clockwise for a regular footer); if you’re flipping with the back foot, it’s too far back, and needs moving towards the nose. On the other hand, if you’re flipping with the front foot and getting a backside rotation, your hooked foot is too far up, and needs moving back towards the tail.
If the board is landing upside down: there’s a good chance your front foot is doing too much. People tend to press down with that foot and try to make the board tumble over; the front foot only gets it started, then the back foot has to take over and kick upwards and to the side. That’ll get it into the air and give it more time to flip.
If the board is landing behind you: you’re probably dipping your head too much as you take off. Your body is a lever; whatever you do at the top of the body happens in reverse at the other end. In other words, by leaning forwards, you’re pushing the board backwards as you jump. Try to stay more upright.