Most beginner skaters, are afraid of falling over, as they should be: it hurts!
But falls are also opportunities for learning, whether on inline skates or quads. It’s important to ask yourself, what, technically, caused the fall? Only awareness of this, and ability to fix it, can prevent the fall from happening again.
Learning how to skate without falling means learning how to skate with a plan and some technical assistance, as you would do when learning to drive a car. Attaching wheels to your feet will make your body tense until it understands that you know what you are doing and that it isn’t going to get hurt.
Taking your first steps as a beginner skater
Before you even put your skates on, there are a few key steps you should take if you want to know how to skate without falling.
First, review basic techniques such as the ‘ready position’. This position is a safe way to roll once you’ve gained a little momentum with some basic strides. If at any time you have a wobble, regrouping into ready can help you regain your balance.
How to get into ready position:
- Feet parallel and one hand’s width apart
- Knees bent forward over toes and body upright.
- Your weight should fall on the front half of your foot — not the back half, which tends to be the default for uninstructed beginners.
It’s also useful to review some professional training on how to start skating, and how to keep from going too fast at the very beginning, as well as how to stop. Smooth transitions between basic strides and gliding ready positions should be the focus of every new skater.
Here are some free video lessons for inline and quad beginners, which show you everything you need to get started safely; just click on ‘Free Trial’ on these pages to get started:
Should you wear protective gear when skating?
A common frustration among skaters who have been skating for months with protective gear, and without falling, is that they fall over the day they go skating without the protection. This is no coincidence: wearing wrist guards and knee pads can actually reduce the frequency of your falling.
This is because wearing wrist and knee protection makes you more likely to reach your hands in front of you when feeling a wobble, to position to fall forwards rather than backwards.
The very act of reaching forwards can in itself help you regain your balance and regroup in a rolling ready position. Skaters without protective gear are less likely to reach forwards, and so more likely to fall backwards onto an unprotected wrist, which is much more likely than a forwards fall to cause injury to the wrist, shoulders, neck, or lower back.
Reasons for falling
Falling on skates is not random. It will only happen in response to a particular thing going wrong. If you can identify the cause of your falling, it can help you to avoid falls.
Some common causes of falls are:
1. Choosing the wrong place to skate
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Choosing where to skate is extremely important until you reach a confident intermediate level and can handle most surfaces.
Beginners need smooth, flat surfaces without any slopes, and ideally without obstacles or debris such as gravel, leaves, or twigs. At slow speeds any roughness is harder to roll over, making beginners much more likely to be tripped up by debris.
Unseen slopes or surface camber are also a big cause of falls, so be very discerning about your skate area, especially in the first few months.
2. Body tension
It’s normal for your body to feel tense when learning to skate because it knows that a fall could be painful, and this bracing in anticipation of a fall paradoxically makes a fall more likely.
Being aware of your body is the first step to learning to relax on wheels. Do your feet feel relaxed: can you wiggle your toes while rolling, or are they ‘gripping’? Are your arms, shoulders, or back muscles tense?
Just placing your awareness on different parts of your body while skating will begin to identify the tension.
3. Lack of correct knee bend
Having your weight on the middle or back half of your feet is the main way you can become imbalanced. This is usually caused by your knees being too straight, instead of being bent until your kneecaps are over your toes.
Any wobble or surface obstacle you encounter with your weight on the back half of your skates can result in a nasty backwards fall.
4. Other issues with posture
If your upper body hinges forwards at the waist or the hips, your rear end will then need to shift back to stop you falling forwards over your toes.
Almost all beginner skaters do this without knowing it. You’ll see this correctly explained in the free video tutorials listed here.
Just remember: body up, knees down.
5. Not being able to stop
Not being able to stop on skates is the main reason beginner skaters panic and then fall over.
You should completely avoid any slopes at all until you are absolutely sure you know how to stop using a heel brake, a toe stop, a plough stop, or a T-Stop; ideally you are working on all these beginner stops until you have them down.
Most skaters do not master their stopping methods so that they work from their fastest rolling speeds, but a stop is no use to you if you can only execute it from slow speeds. Investing time and attention in learning how to stop on skates is vital.
Check out the free stopping tutorials on these pages:
How to stop on inline skates
How to stop on Quad skates
Do you have to fall to learn how to skate?
It is said that you have to fall to learn how to skate. I disagree: learning correct technique and following a guided training path — either in person or online, from an experienced and certified skate coach — is the best way to learn how to skate without falling. If you are doing things correctly, there’s no need or reason to fall.
Falling only feels random when we aren’t aware of what actually happened in the moments just before we lost our balance.
Learning to skate makes us more aware of ourselves, our bodies, and our movements, as well as the things we need to do specifically to enjoy the feeling of having wheels on our feet. Unfortunately, many skaters never find the right resources to help them reach this stage, and they give up after a nasty fall.
Learning correct technique from the start of your skating will help you not to fall, and might just keep you skating for a lifetime.
If you’d like to get some help from professional, certified skate instructors, check out our group and private skate lessons (back in Brighton and London after lockdown) and our online skate courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced on quads and inline skates.