Watching videos of experienced skateboarders skating bowls and pools is exciting, especially if you are a beginner exploring the different skateboard disciplines. These skaters make bowl and pool riding look really easy, and just watching them makes you eager to learn.
Is bowl and pool skating really hard?
Skating a bowl or pool is not that hard, depending on the size of the bowl and transitions. Assuming you already know how to balance, turn left and right, and ride fakie on flats, you can quickly learn the basics. Learning some more advanced bowl tricks will take time and practice, however.
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Challenges of bowl skating
Bowl skating is a separate discipline from street skating. Instead of learning how to drop down stair sets, grind ledges, and slide on rails, you need to know how to shift your weight to pump up and down transitions and carve corners.
More advanced tricks include slashing your trucks or grinding on the coping.
But before you can even attempt to do 50-50 grinds on top of the coping, you need to overcome the challenges of getting comfortable riding and balancing your body on top of your board when riding transitions and vertical walls.
Dropping in means starting on top of the deck and rolling down into the transition to begin your bowl line. Before learning how to drop in, you need to get comfortable with the feeling of rolling back and forth on a bowl or mini ramp.
Difficulty in maintaining speed
The next challenge when learning how to ride a bowl is maintaining speed. To maintain your speed throughout your line, you need to know how to pump, pump carve, and learn the proper timing of your pump.
The most basic thing you can do to learn how to pump is to pump back and forth on a mini ramp or one section of the bowl where two walls are facing each other.
Once you get the hang of pumping back and forth endlessly, you can try doing pump carves to maintain a good amount of speed for your bowl line.
Setting up for tricks
If you already know how to drop in and comfortably carve around the bowl without losing speed, the next challenge is setting up for doing tricks.
Setting up for tricks involves proper foot placement and going into the coping at an angle for stalling or grinding.
Proper foot placement depends on the trick, but the typical stance is having the front foot on the bolts with the back foot on the tail.
Is bowl skating harder than vert/ramp?
Bowl skating without doing any grinds on top of the coping is easier than skating vert and half pipes. Bowls typically have more mellow transitions with a shallow and deep section.
The typical depth of a bowl is around 3 to 4’ on the shallow end, and 5 to 6’ on the deep end with no intense vertical walls.
On the other hand, vert ramps are usually 8 to 12’ high, making it more terrifying to skate, especially as a beginner.
Dropping in alone on a vert ramp is challenging. Right after dropping in, you will be approaching a vert wall. Even if you are comfortable doing kick turns on a bowl, doing it on a tall 10-feet vert wall is a lot more difficult.
Deep pool vs. half pipe: which is scarier?
Skating a deep pool and starting from the bottom and pumping your way up to doing carves is not as scary as pumping back and forth a half pipe.
That said, dropping into a deep pool and dropping into a half pipe are both scary because of the intense vert before transitioning into the flat bottom.
Pumping in pools vs. doing tricks on a mini ramp
Mini ramps usually have more mellow transitions, so learning tricks like rock to fakie and axle stalls is easier than learning how to pump on pools.
Pools have shorter transitions from the flat bottom to the vert part, involving fast weight shifting and balance.
How do you prepare for pool riding?
Bowls have mellow transitions with an 8’ radius, which is easier to skate on. Pools are more vertical with shorter transition radiuses, which makes them more dangerous to skate as the original pool architecture was not really built for skateboarding.
When preparing yourself for pool riding, here are a couple of things you should learn first:
Learn how to kick turn on flat land
Before learning how to kick turn on vert and transition, you need to learn how to kick turn or pivot a full 180 degrees frontside and backside on flat land.
See also: what is the best longboard for flat land
Learn to do kick turn on quarter pipes
If you can do a 180 pivot on your board on flat terrain, you can try doing it on a quarter pipe. Many skateparks have quarter pipes you can practice on. You can also try it on a mini ramp or a bowl.
Learn how to pump back and forth on mini ramps
To maintain your speed and learn how to ride fakie on transitions, you can prepare yourself to ride pools by pumping back and forth on a mini ramp.
You can also practice throwing frontside and backside kick turns to get the hang of it.
Learn on banks first to get comfortable with transitions
To get comfortable with carving on bowls and pools, you can practice riding banks so you can get used to riding on transitions.
Once you get comfortable riding and turning on mellow transitions such as banks, you can move onto small kiddie bowls.
Find a kiddie bowl to practice on
The next step is to combine all the skills you learned and try them on a small 4 to 6-feet kiddie bowl.
You can mix up pumping back and forth, doing backside and frontside kick turns, and eventually, attempting frontside and backside carves, and pump carves.
Start from the middle of the pool and work your way up slowly
As mentioned, pools are more difficult than bowls because of the intensity of the transitions, so even if you are comfortable riding a bowl, you may still need to start from the middle of the pool and work your way up until you get comfortable.
If you think you are ready and can comfortably pump and carve around the pool, the next step is dropping in and forming pool lines.
What are the basics things to learn how to skate a bowl?
If you are not ready for skating in a pool, you can learn how to skate and do tricks on a bowl first.
Bowls have more mellow transitions than a pool and they are usually more shallow. Some bowls have shallow sections that range from 2 to 4’ in depth and 4 to 8’ deep ends.
Here are some of the basic skills you need to know to learn how to ride a bowl:
Learn to drop in or roll in
First of all, you need to learn how to drop in. The secret to dropping in is to stomp all of your weight onto your front foot and commit.
Some bowls have a roll-in section without coping, so beginners can still have enough speed to ride around the bowl without learning how to drop in. Still, it is better to learn to do both.
Dropping in is one of the first challenges you need to overcome when learning how to ride a bowl. Once you get comfortable with the speed, you can try dropping in from the top of the transition.
The key to dropping in is stomping all your weight down on your front foot and committing to the trick.
If possible, get a friend to hold your hand at first just to get the feel of it. At first, try dropping in on small 2’ transitions or the shallow end of the bowl.
Learn how to backside and frontside carve
Some people are more comfortable doing backside than frontside carves or the other way around. Start by learning what you are more comfortable with, and then move on to doing it the other way around.
When learning how to carve, you need to approach the corner of the bowl at an angle and not straight up to complete the carve without kick turning and with all four wheels on the surface.
Maximize your pumping
To be able to ride the bowl longer, you need to maximize your pumping. Again, riding back and forth a mini ramp will help you learn to maintain your speed when you are riding the bowl by finding the proper timing of each pump.
Learning how to carve properly and combining your pump with your carve will enable you to maximize your pumping, which is key to riding faster and setting up for tricks.
Find good lines and flow
The best way to find good lines is to try every possible line in the bowl. Knowing how to comfortably carve frontside and backside will also help you test different lines and ride most parts of the bowl.
Be sure to watch the way other skaters are riding the bowl to get an idea of how to maximize the bowl’s corners and features.
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Learn backside and frontside kick turns
If you haven’t learned how to do carves on corners yet, knowing how to do front and back kick turns is a good way to start.
It will also help you ride in your regular stance if you are not familiar with riding fakie or switch.
Essential pool riding tips
If you want to take your bowl riding to the next level, you can try riding a pool. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Build up lots of speed
Because pools are bigger than bowls, it is essential to learn how to build up your speed from pumping and carving to reach the tiles or coping.
2. Ride up at an angle
Because pools can range from 6 to 12’ high, you don’t want to approach a wall going straight, especially after building up speed. You always want to hit walls and corners going at a 45-degree angle.
3. Kick turn when you stop going up
If you want to stop your board from going up the transition or vert wall, do a kick turn, so you don’t go back in the pool fakie.
4. Committing to learn
The key to learning any skateboard discipline is commitment and eagerness to learn. Wearing protective gear will also boost your confidence when learning how to skate big pools.
5. Learn how to knee slide
If you are wearing knee pads, you should definitely learn how to fall and slide on your knees before learning how to work your way up to hit tile or coping.
6. Keep all four wheels on the wall at all times
You need to keep all four wheels on the surface at all times, except when doing a kick turn. Losing traction can cause you to lose balance and your board to slide out, especially when you are riding on the transition.
What are some more advanced bowl tricks?
If you are ready to learn tricks on bowls and pools, here are some of the tricks you can learn when you get comfortable:
One of the first tricks you can learn is slashing your trucks on the coping when doing pump carves.
Axel stalls on coping
After learning how to slash your trucks on the coping, you can start learning how to stall both trucks on top of the coping without grinding.
Rock to fakie
The rock to fakie is quite tricky because you will come out to the transition in a fakie stance. To learn how to rock fakie, you must be comfortable pumping back and forth on a mini ramp.
Frontside grinds and backside grinds
Frontside and backside grinds are the next tricks to learn after learning stalls. For doing grinds, you want to come up to the coping at an angle and with sufficient speed. This is in contrast to doing stalls where you can come up to the coping straight.
Fakie tail stalls
Having fakie tail stalls on lock is an excellent way to stop your board and return to drop in position when coming in from a rock to fakie.
Grind and stall variations
After learning how to do axle stalls and 50-50 grinds, you can try learning different variations, such as:
- Board slides
Note that you can learn all of these variations in frontside and backside to fill up your bag of tricks.
Best setup for bowl skating
The best deck size for bowl skating is typically 8 to 8.75” wide and no longer than 32” long.
Although some skaters skate bowls with old-school boards and cruisers, the best deck for skating bowls is the popsicle-shaped deck.
Having loose trucks is vital for riding bowls. Make sure your trucks are loose enough to carve corners. With your trucks too tight, you might not have enough leverage to really lean into your carves.
The best wheels for skating parks and bowls are larger wheels with 52 – 56 mm diameter and 99 to 100a durometer.
The Bones SPF wheels are the most popular wheels for skating bowls because they are fast and have good grip.
Can you ride a longboard in a bowl?
A standard street skateboard is typically best for maximizing the bowl, but a longboard can be fun for surfy carves and cruising lines around the corners of a bowl.
You can ride a bowl using a longboard as long as it has a functional kicktail. Any longboard longer than 40” may not be ideal for riding up transitions, though.
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