A wheelie is probably the first thing anyone who stood on a skateboard tried to do. It’s one of the most basic, glorious things to do; the amount of teenagers riding around London on the back wheel of rented bicycles all summer long is a testament to that fact.
That said, there’s not a lot of teaching anyone can do with wheelies – you’ve just got to go out and do them. As such, the video on this page is about as much help as I can possibly give you. Take heed of these basic guidelines, and then roll around for days on end, picking up those front wheels, until something finally clicks. It’s going to take time but it’s worth it.
Everyone has their own foot placement for a wheelie; it’s going to vary based on your board, your height, and your weight. Play around. Generally speaking I advise keeping the back foot in the very middle of the tail; too far back and you’ll be too twitchy. Get that foot comfortable and move the front one to suit.
This is the sort of posture you want to get to optimise your balance; back leg is straight and locked, front leg bends at the knee to adjust how high the nose can come, and the upper body is slightly angled forwards to ensure you won’t fall off backwards. You want your arms out to help you balance, using them in much the same way a tightrope walker uses his pole.
From the front, you can see that I’m very forward-facing when I’m in a wheelie; I find this position more relaxed than a street skater’s sideways stance. It also helps me stop the board from rotating uncontrollably in either direction. This upper body position will come in useful later when you start learning spacewalks.
When you’re learning to wheelie, having some sort of goal helps. As a teenager, my friends and I would go to empty car parks (parking lots, to any Americans reading this) and see how many spaces we could wheelie over. You’d turn up and hear Liam had cleared five the night before, and try to beat the new record.
(In all fairness, there wasn’t much else to do in a tiny mining village in Derbyshire, but hey… it worked)
A good setup will go a long way to making this easier:
- Mellower kicktails will make the board more twitchy, reducing the amount of pressure you have to introduce to lift the nose
- Larger, softer wheels and good bearings will increase the distance you can roll without slowing down
- A taller board will give you more space between the tail and the floor while you’re balancing the wheelie, reducing the chance of scraping the tail.
I also recommend using skidplates – you’re going to accidentally slide on the end of the tail a lot while doing these!