How To Identify Skate Tricks: A GOSKATE Guide

When it comes to skateboarding and learning the different tricks, it can sometimes feel like you’re better off reading an encyclopedia. Truthfully, skaters kinda need one, but a trickipedia if you will. Because like most sports and art forms, learning a few pieces of foundational knowledge can really help expedite the learning process.

With our GOSKATE Guide to Identifying Skateboard Tricks, we’ll teach you the necessary foundational knowledge to recognize any skateboarding trick. After all, it shouldn’t be harder to identify the trick than to land it… right?

So without further ado, here’s what we’ll go over in this article:

  1. How to Identify Tricks Based on Stance
  2. How to Identify Tricks Based on Obstacle
  3. How to Identify Tricks Based on Maneuvers

Going over these three main archetypes will establish your base in just a few minutes, and ultimately teach you how to not only identify skateboard tricks but anticipate them.

Because as you will learn in this article: once you recognize the stance and the obstacle the skater is about to skate, you then can more easily identify the maneuver and complete the entire trick. Simply but profoundly, most skate tricks are actually a combination of tricks based on this equation. So if it feels like you have to study, it’s because, well, you do.

Need some help understanding skateboarding lingo like fakie, mongo or switch? Check out our comprehensive GOSKATE Terminology Guide with over 200 definitions sourced from real skaters as the most comprehensive free guide to skateboarding terminology.

How to Identify Skate Tricks Based on Stance

Understanding how a skateboarder’s stance impacts the trick they are producing is as simple as cause and effect. When we look at how a skater is standing on their board, the prefix of said trick is revealed.

For example, if the skater is standing fakie and does a kickflip, that’s a fakie kickflip. If they are standing nollie, nollie kickflip and switch–switch kickflip. But what exactly are these stances and how can we be able to recognize them at a glance?

  • Regular Footed – As an unwritten rule, skaters, regardless if they are goofy or regular footed, use the term ‘regular’ as a description of when a skater’s front foot and back foot are in their natural stance during a trick. This will make more sense when you read the next stances and also from understanding that a skater or a magazine won’t call a natural footed kickflip a ‘regular kickflip‘ but rather just a kicklflip. In addition, at a skatepark or skating in the streets, the term ‘regular’ might be used to clarify if said trick was done during a skater’s natural stance: A skater might ask, “Was that switch?” The other skater might answer, “No, that was regular.” Or in other instances you might describe landing a trick ‘back to regular‘ as in ‘switch crook back to regular‘ to let skaters know you landed back in your natural stance. Overall, you basically need to understand that when a skater does the trick in the skater’s natural stance, the prefixes of fakie, nollie or switch are not applied.
  • Fakie Stance – Fakie stance is best defined as your normal stance but rolling ‘backwards’ and with your board switched around so your tail is your nose. This is what skater’s call: rolling fakie. A good way to visualize someone rolling fakie is watching them go up a ramp and come back down. They will go up regular footed but will ride down the ramp fakie (if they did not produce a kick turn). Additionally, let’s say you’re goofy, so your left foot is your back foot and your right foot is your front foot. You can tell when a goofy skater is riding fakie because their left foot has now become their front foot and their right foot has become their back and they have repositioned themselves so they are standing on the front of their board, being led by their left foot. They are standing basically in the nollie position, which as you will read next is when a skater has their front foot on the nose of the skateboard and pop off the nose instead of the tail. Fakie skaters usually have the tail of their board leading the momentum and proceed to pop off it as if it was their nose. Essentially they are producing an ollie while riding backwards. When this happens before a trick, like a kickflip, the prefix changes to fakie kickflip or as seasoned skaters will call it: “fakie flip.” Fakie tricks will also be accompanied by rotations (seen below) which change the prefix entirely. If a trick is done fakie with a rotation, it has earned the name cab. A fakie ollie 180 for example, will be called a half cab – whereas a full 360 from the fakie stance is called a full cab. You can find all these terms and more in our comprehensive skateboarding terminology guide.
  • Nollie Stance – Nollie stance is best understood by its name, as it directly comes from the stance and trick performed. The N in nollie is an abbreviation of nose, combined with ollie for nollie; essentially meaning an ollie off the nose of your board. Again, let’s say you’re goofy so your right foot is your front foot. You would position your right foot on the nose of your skateboard and proceed to bring your left foot off the tail and into the middle of your board. While a nollie in itself is a trick, adding variations like a kickflip or doing a nollie into a noseslide will prefix the tricks to nollie kickflip and nollie noseslide. Basically you watch a skater and see if they are on what appears to be the nose of their board before they pop their trick. You basically have narrowed it down to either nollie or fakie just by noticing this respect. Skaters are accustomed to being asked, “Was that nollie or fakie?” So don’t be afraid to ask. However, you can usually tell by a skater’s shoulders and how their momentum is leaning to spot the difference between the two stances on the nose. Fakie usually will have their body more turned off from the obstacle, whereas nollie will usually be more open in terms of presenting their center of their body to the obstacle.
  • Switch Stance – Switch stance is one of the most unique aspects about skateboarding. Essentially, a skater is skating switch when they are skating the opposite stance of their natural stance. That is, when a goofy skater is performing a trick regular footed and a regular skater is performing a trick goofy footed. Skaters will learn as many switch tricks as they can, as they are some of the most stylish and celebrated tricks in skateboarding. Imagine a painter deciding to paint with their opposite hand or a golfer switching their swing. It’s not uncommon for some skaters to be better at certain tricks switch than they are at regular footed. Much of which is because a skater will generally have one dominant foot. Either way, switch skating is one of those aspects that makes skateboarding as much about skill than it is about anything else.

How to Identify Skate Tricks Based on Obstacle

Identifying tricks based on obstacles is the easiest way to narrow your focus in identifying certain skateboard tricks because the obstacle itself dictates what’s even possible.

For example, if a skater is catching air on a halfpipe they’re going to be doing grab tricks or air tricks, whereas a ledge skater is most likely going to be sliding or grinding. Knowing what types of tricks are possible (and also impossible) on certain obstacles is a great way to not only identify tricks but begin to anticipate them.

  • Flatground Tricks – Flatground tricks are the first tricks skaters try to learn as the only obstacle they require is literally flat ground cement. A skater will learn an ollie, kickflip or pop shuv it on flatground first before taking them off a ramp or down a stair set. Many skaters will learn their first flatground tricks in a parking lot before they hit the skatepark. Since the only obstacle is flatground, there are no grinds, slides, grabs or airs, rather flip tricks with some exceptions in boneless grabs or no complies. In the previous era’s freestyle skating was the crown jewel of skateboarding before flatground took a back seat when skaters started ripping pools and ramps.
  • Grind Tricks – Grind tricks are tricks that are performed with the use of the trucks, the metal axles that connect the wheels to the skateboard. A grind is performed by ‘grinding’ through an obstacle, a ledge, rail or coping, with either two trucks or one truck. A skateboard has a front truck, the truck under your nose, and a back truck, under the tail. Skaters will then do a grind on the nose for tricks like nosegrind or one on the back like a smithgrind or what skaters call grinding completely on the back truck – a 5-0 grind. A great way to tell if a skater is grinding is to use your ears. When a truck makes a grind it’s unmistakable compared to a slide or air.
  • Slide Tricks – A slide trick is similar to a grind trick except instead of grinding on the trucks, the skater is sliding on the ‘deck’ part of a skateboard; that is, the nose, tail and middle of the board. From this understanding we then look at what part of the skateboard is sliding, if it is the nose of the board, it’s a noseslide. If it’s the tail of the board, tailslide – the middle of the board? Boardslide. Seems simple right? Well, at first it is. However, as we will see in the next section, skaters can maneuver into these tricks via rotations or adding flip tricks.
  • Manual Tricks – Manual tricks are what skaters refer to when they produce a wheelie on the front wheels or back wheels. Doing a manual on the back wheels is just called a manual, whereas a manual on the nose will be called a nose manual. Manuals are usually accompanied by a combo trick before or after the manual. Imagine it this way: a kickflip nose manual would be a skater kickflipping into a nose manual on a manual pad. A manual to kickflip out would imply said skater kickflips out of the manual on two wheels. Manual tricks are some of the hardest in skateboarding.

Want to know what a manual pad is? Check out our skate lingo dictionary!

  • Flip Tricks – Flip tricks are basically what they sound like, tricks when the board flips. But there’s a lot more to it than that. How the board is flipped is what gives the trick its name. There’s a few basic foundational flips – kickflip, heelflip and shuv (rotation of the board). While we’ve broken each of these down in the next section, for a quick example: a kickflip is a flatground flip trick where the toes of your front foot produce the board to rotate one complete rotation. Why every flip tricks begins by learning how to ollie, as you will see there are a plethora of flip tricks to be used at any time.
  • Grab Tricks – Grab tricks are also as simple as the name of the trick implies: when a skater grabs the board in the air. There are a plethora of grabs a skater can do but like most tricks their location on their board suffixes their name. For instance, if a skater grabs their nose, it’s a nosegrab. If a skater grabs their tail, it’s a tailgrab. What’s really cool about grab tricks is they are some of the first skate tricks ever created. So they have some of the coolest names like Tony Hawk’s Stalefish and Indian Nosebone. By grabbing the board in different places with different hands and tweaking the body to produce certain movements or shapes, this is what determines the names of these grab tricks.
  • Lip Tricks – Lip tricks are tricks that are performed on the ‘lip‘ of a quarter pipe that are not grinds and slides but rather are done in place in a stall. Picture a skater going up a quarter pipe and performing a stall, most famously an invert: a one handed handstand. While lip tricks can be performed on a variety of skatepark obstacles, they are most common on vert ramps and mini ramps and can even be accompanied by flips and grabs.

Please note: Skateboarders are some of the most creative people on the planet, so many of the tricks common on one obstacle will be performed on another. Skaters will perform flat ground tricks in the air or grab their board before they lock into a lip trick. However, understanding these obstacles and the foundational tricks behind them will help you spot the beauty of improvisation from skaters combining what they know into brand new tricks.

How to Identify Skate Tricks Based on Maneuvers

Identifying skate tricks based on maneuvers is the final piece to the puzzle. You’ve mastered how they are standing on their skateboard and you recognize the obstacle they are skating on. Now, down to the nitty gritty. These foundational maneuvers make up all of skateboarding and will take some time to understand. We promise, if you keep checking back to this article, you’ll have them mastered in no time.

  • Kickflip – A kickflip is when a skater uses their toes to kick the board and make it flip. This is the most common flip trick and besides the ollie, is responsible for producing combination tricks in skating. This is because you can virtually kickflip into any trick type – kickflip manual, kickflip noseslide, kickflip lip, kickflip mute grab, etc. You can also kickflip out of any trick type: Tailslide kickflip, 5-0 stall kickflip, nose manual kickflip out, etc. To really master this understanding, we encourage you to watch skate videos and pay attention to when the board flips and how it flips into and out of obstacles.
  • Heelflip – A heelflip is when a skateboard is flipped by a skater maneuvering their heel to produce the flip. A goofy skater with their right foot forward will flip the board with their heel in a counter clockwise flip. That same goofy skater would use their toe to flip their board clockwise to produce a kickflip, understandably a heelflip is the opposite of a kickflip. A heelflip can also be combined with any skate trick like a kickflip but is somewhat less common. This does not mean they are less desirable, rather more celebrated. All styles of skateboarding are celebrated, especially the less common.
  • Shuv It – A shuv it is when the skateboard moves rotationally, swapping the nose and the tail. Imagine a piece of paper on a table with an N on its top half and a T on its bottom half. That’s like your skateboard’s nose and tail. Now imagine taking that piece of paper and rotating it until the N is at the bottom and the T is at the top. That would be a shuv it. Now the first 180 degree rotation is a shuv, but if you continued moving the paper (or the board) in a full 360 rotation, that would be a 360 shuv. Even more importantly, a shuv, whether just a shuv or a 360 shuv, can be combined (and usually is) with a kickflip or heelflip. For instance, a 360 shuv with a kickflip is a 360 kickflip. This is one of the most iconic skateboarding tricks ever landed and is a great crash course in understanding how to identify skateboard tricks.
  • Rotations – Rotations are similar to shuvs but rotations include the skater as well with the skateboard. Shuvs are just the rotation of the board but rotations mean the skater as well as the board travels the rotation. If a skater does a full spin or a 360 rotation, that’s a 360. Hence Tony Hawk, who did his infamous 900 in 1999, performed 2 and 1/2 rotations. While the 900 might be the most famous rotation trick ever landed, what no one talks about is how he also did a grab with his rotation. Many rotations are accompanied by a grab or flip and are done into and out of tricks. Like a 180 nosegrind, rotations, or a grind or slide trick, all skate tricks can be either frontside or backside, which is derived from which side of the body is leading the momentum of the trick or making an impact with an obstacle.

Skate Tricks are Either Frontside or Backside

We felt it prudent to include the frontside and backside lesson of this article as its own section, since it’s paramount to identifying skate tricks and can be confusing to beginner skaters. It’s essentially two rules in one: (1) all skate tricks are technically either frontside or backside (with the exception of a few flat ground tricks) and (2) frontside or backside is derived from which side of the body is leading the momentum of the trick or makes contact with an obstacle..

Here is a silly but proven way to understand how your body leads your momentum and to which either you’re going frontside or backside. Imagine you’re standing in front of a wall and you’r wearing a velcro jumpsuit. You know the ones? You jump and boom’ you’re stuck to the wall. Well if you were to jump forwards with your arms and shoulders open, your belly would get stuck to the wall. That’s frontside. If you were to jump backwards and have your back stuck to the wall. That’s Backside. The thing is, in skating you’re standing sideways, so you have to imagine based on the obstacle and the direction you’re moving, if your momentum would be leading your frontside or backside of the body into the obstacle.

  • Frontside – Frontside is when the face of your body, hips, shoulders and body are leading the momentum of the trick. You’ve opened your body towards the obstacle.
  • Backside – Backside is when the back of your body, hips, back and body are leading the momentum of the trick. You make contact with the obstacle with your back facing the obstacle.

However, there are some exceptions: take the frontside and backside boardslide for example: backside boardslide, you’re leading with the front of your body and a frontside boardslide you’re leading with the back of your body. However the momentum of your skateboard makes contact on the rail with the back of your body weight for a backboard and the front of your body weight for a front board. While this can be confusing to read, when you watch these tricks you can tell a skater derived the names from the contact being made with the backside or frontside of their momentum. Most tricks however, the name is inline with the frontside backside description of momentum.

Need help identifying a skateboard trick? GOSKATE has a new service where our largest network of skate instructors offer feedback on any of your skate videos. Want to know what trick you or your loved one just landed? Want to know if you’re good enough to get sponsored. Find out today!

Check out our Trick Tips Section to learn more skateboard tricks from beginner tricks like the tic – tac and the ollie, to kickflips and pop shuv it.

Want to learn more about skateboarding? Drop In with GOSKATE.

We invite you to check out our How To article selection as well as our Skate News editorials to stay up to date on all things skateboarding.

Follow Us, Let's GOSKATE!

Please consider giving GOSKATE a follow on our Instagram and Facebook page and help foster our growing skateboard community.

Zane Foley

Zane Foley has been writing professionally since 2014, since obtaining his BA in Philosophy from the California State University, Fullerton. Zane is an avid skateboarder and Los Angeles native. Follow him on Instagram for links to his other published works. @zaneyorkfly