The kickback represents an odd evolutionary dead-end in freestyle; there’s not a lot that leads into it, and not a lot of tricks came out of it.
I’ve always thought of it as being a bit connected to the toeflip – in fact, the 180 kickback shares the same starting position as the toeflip – but I don’t know if you really need to be able to do toeflips before you learn kickbacks. It can’t hurt, but don’t worry about it if you want to jump straight to the kickback; they’re a fun curiosity, and as long as you’re half-way competent at skateboarding, you can probably learn these fairly easily.
This is another one of those tricks where it doesn’t really matter which way round you do them. I’m regular-footed and am setting up to do the flip with the back foot; if you want to use your left foot, whether goofy or regular, it doesn’t matter.
The important thing is getting the foot position right. The flipping foot needs to have just the toes on the heelside edge of the deck, heel lifted, with the other foot stabilising the board by spanning all the way across the board above the truck.
It also helps to keep your arms slightly extended, as leaning back at all during this trick will likely result in the board flying away from you. Keeping your arms out will keep you centred and should keep the board under you while it flips.
Now I’m finally ready to do the trick, so I begin with a deep squat, bending my knees and pushing into the board with both feet – my right foot is pre-loading the flip, and the left foot is pushing into the toeside edge to keep the board flat…
…which means that as soon as I jump, lifting the left foot upwards, my right foot pushes through the board, creating a flip and sending the board towards my shins.
I’m swapping angle for a second to show something important. This is why only the toes of the deck were on the board: as the board tumbles backwards, we want the flipping foot to connect with the griptape at the edge of the deck. If too much of our foot was on the deck to begin with, we’d hit it too low, and the trick wouldn’t work.
From the original angle, you can really see how close to the edge of the deck I have to be when I start the kickback portion of the trick – this is why it’s so easy to miss the board and kick into thin air. Also notice I’ve jumped forwards slightly, pre-empting the board’s final position.
A fraction of a second later, and I’m starting to generate the second flip. Hopefully this shows how subtle the motion is – I don’t need to kick too hard. Just nudge it forwards while you’re on the way up – and before the board goes too far into the first flip motion.
Another fraction of a second later and I’ve lost contact with the board altogether. Hopefully you can tell from how little my body has moved that this is happening very quickly – and also how little my right foot has kicked through the deck.
At this point, the board is on its own, and there’s not much I can do but hope I connected with it with just the right amount of force in the right direction…
…but notice that it’s still very low. There’s not much you can do about that, but admittedly, a different deck may have helped. Look at the Additional Notes below for an explanation as to why that’s the case!
And we’re done. This doesn’t look like the most comfortable landing, but in motion, it doesn’t look too bad; having not done too many ollie tricks in my life, I hate landing side-on like this, so I’m immediately starting to move off into some footwork in a frontside direction to smooth this out.
I’ve been a big advocate of flat, concave-less decks for years now, and 99.9% of the time, those flat decks are a great help. This, however, represents the 0.1% of tricks where concave is actually a pretty good idea.
The reason for this is simple: during the moment where you drag your foot up the griptape to create the second flipping motion, a flat deck demands absolute perfection with no room for error. Not flipped it enough before you kicked through? No flip for you. Lost contact with the deck slightly? Nope, not happening. Lifted straight upwards instead of kicking forwards a little bit? No kickback here, mate.
Having a bit of concave negates all of those problems, as it gives you a little upturned edge for your foot to snag on, compensating slightly for a less-than-perfect technique and making your life that bit easier. It also helps you get a bit more lift on the flip, which is one of the reasons my example here stays so low to the ground.
If I did kickbacks more, I’d probably swap back to something with a little bit more concave. But considering all the other benefits I get from a flat deck and all the tricks where a flat deck makes a huge improvement, I’m happy with the trade-off here. Your stance on this may vary.
It’s also worth pointing out that this is also one of the many freestyle tricks where stiffer trucks will also make your life a lot easier, as you’ll get a lot less wobble during the set-up for the flip and a snappier take-off. If you’re still using stock bushings, it’s time for an upgrade. Barrel-and-cone combinations are basically mandatory – double conical setups never have enough stability for things like this. Durometer will depend a bit on your body weight and the climate; I’m using 95a and still get a fair bit of wobble, so you probably want something harder than that.
Other than that, this should work with most setups without too much issue. You can do them on taller or lower setups, skinnier or wider ones, and there’s pluses-and-minuses to all of them. Just bear in mind that whatever variable you change, the feeling of the trick will change too, so you might have to make some small tweaks with regards to timing – even though the core idea and motion remains the same.
One last thing, though: doing these rolling is a pain in the ass. Not only is the starting position uncomfortable, but people tend to accidentally kick in a slight diagonal when rolling, causing the board to start spinning in the air – often frontside if using the back foot, and backside if using the front one. If that happens to you, double-check that your flipping foot is central along the length of the board, and then compensate by subtly kicking in the opposite direction to force the board to stay straight. You only need to kick in a slight diagonal and it should cancel out accidental rotational drift.