Skateboarding Science – Part 2

In part one of this blog we set out to demystify the tricks of the skateboarder’s trade and to explain the science behind the seemingly impossible maneuvers. We looked at the ollie and the frontside 180, and in this blog, we pick up from there and explore more frontside forces and fake flying.

The Need for Speed

Skateboarders use speed as one of the forces to allow them to perform their tricks. Skateboarders in half-pipes need speed: the faster they travel in the pipe, the higher they can fly up and over the lip. Gaining height this way allows the skater to perform aerobatics and tricks like Caballerials and McTwists. To gain speed on flat ground on a scooter or on a skateboard one just has to push off with one foot. But the half-pipe is a really cool way to gain speed, it looks more elegant and provides more power, in skateboarding this is called pumping.


In order to pump, you first have to drop down into a crouching position as you move at the bottom of the half-pipe. As you move to the transition (the sloped part of the pipe) you straighten your legs and start to stand up on the board. By doing this just at the start of the arc, what you are essentially accomplishing is moving you core body mass, this increases your energy and power and, thus, speed.

The closest analogy would be that of a swing where you are attempting to get higher and higher, and lifting your legs as you pass through the base of the swing’s arc. Bit by bit you gain more momentum and, by doing so, power. From a science point of view, both these forms of pumping are a result of work and energy. As you descend into the bottom of the arc, the centripetal force makes it harder to get back up. Your movements to get more power and get higher is the same to a net energy gain. The energy gain transforms into speed which gives you more power at the top of the ramp.

Skateboard Design

To be able to attempt all these tricks, the skateboard has been adapted over time to give the skater a helping hand.

Do you consider a skateboard as a plank with roller skates? Or do you consider it as a cleverly designed piece of equipment?

The element that make up a skateboard at first seem pretty basic, it is a board comprising of three parts: deck, wheels and truck. The truck being the device that attached the wheels to the board.

So, the mystery is: how do you take these relatively simple pieces of equipment and turn them into a sophisticated vehicle? Many people cite it is design and construction materials as the answer to the question. For instance, the deck is comprised of seven piles of top grade maple veneers, forced together using high-tech glues.

To understand more of technical reasons why the modern board is so important to the skater we delve into construction and design in part three of skateboarding science.