Heelside rail is one of the basic positions in freestyle. Learning this is crucial no matter what style of freestyle you’re interested in; not only is this the starting point for a huge amount of tricks, but this basic movement lends itself to a massive amount of seemingly unrelated tricks further down the line.
Also of note is that this position isn’t referred to as “primo” – a primo – or primoslide, to give the trick its full name – involves actually powering into this position at speed, usually sliding 180º as you do it.
This is the starting position as viewed from my point of view. Notice the fact that my feet are at right angles to each other – the back foot wants to be hooked on the toeside edge over the back truck, ready to land on the wheel, and the front foot wants to be on the heelside edge of the board and pointing at the nose to give you the maximum amount of control. Beginners tend to have this foot perpendicular to the board with only the toes on the deck, turning this into a pressure-flip-and-catch move, which reduces control and causes problems later.
This is what the starting position looks like from in front. The back foot, while hooked on the edge and hanging over, doesn’t actually touch the floor; there’s a small gap between my toes and the concrete. If you get used to letting your toes touch, you won’t be able to do tricks which involve rolling into rail later.
Also, I’m starting to compress by bending my knees. This will allow me to “de-weight” the board in a second in order to pick it up.
At this point, the front foot begins the trick by pushing down on the heelside edge of the board, and my back foot stays in contact with the deck, getting ready to pull it up towards me. My weight is almost all on the front foot at this point, but I’ve straightened my legs to help remove my weight from the board without actually jumping off it. (You can see this effect in action by repeatedly bending and straightening your knees on some bathroom scales, but you might get some odd looks from members of your family.)
Now the wheels are starting to leave the floor; at this point the control is only about 60% in the front foot, and the back foot’s already starting to take over. This is the moment when having the front foot lengthways on the board really makes a difference – it acts as a block to stop the board spinning away from the back foot as it takes over.
In this frame you can see the weight beginning to transfer – we’re probably at 70% control in the back foot now. The back foot has maintained its hook and pulling the board past the tipping point, and my front foot is about to lift off the griptape any moment. This is also the point when my momentary weightlessness caused by straightening my legs is starting to wear off, but that’s okay – we only need to hang here for another second.
You’ll probably panic the first time you get to this point. The board is past the tipping point, your front foot is in the air, and all your weight is starting to come down on the back foot. You’re basically balancing on a knife-edge, but thankfully you’ll come down to a solid base in a second.
Here’s that solid base I was talking about. Now you’re pretty much done. All that remains is to put your front foot onto the front wheel; when you first start doing this, you’ll probably have to look at said wheel to be able to spot where the front foot has to go. Muscle memory will come later, as you build up familiarity with the movements and your board; getting a deck with the right wheelbase for your build will help speed that process up.
Okay, relax. You’re in rail, and providing your board is set up properly, it should be a pretty solid position. Chill out, look casual, put your hands in your pockets, and think about what you’re going to do next.
Time to get out. Rather than flip out, you want to begin with a casual fall back to the wheels. To get that started, shift your weight towards your toes, and start pointing your toes downwards until you feel the board starting to tip towards the balance point.
A bit of a wider shot for this one, as I wanted to show my legs as I start to drop out. As the board tips forwards and goes past the balance point, I’ve done a very, very small hop upwards to give it space to fall, but at no point have I compromised my balance by leaning forwards. My legs are straight upright, and if I’d shot this in a portrait position, you’d see my torso would be upright too. You want to have a solid, straight line from your heels all the way through to your neck, or you’re going to fall over.
(What you do with your head is up to you.)
A split second after the board starts tipping forwards, your feet will connect with the griptape. There’s not much to think about – your feet are already in the perfect position to land on the board, and as long as you haven’t leant forwards or backwards as you started to drop, you’ll be as solid on the griptape as you were on the wheels. Now you can start footworking off towards your next move!