How To Kickflip: Step by Step Guide

Besides perhaps the ollie, there is no skate trick more alluring than the kickflip. Watching the full rotation of the board flip in the air is to witness firsthand the beauty of skateboarding and the skill needed to be a great skater. 

Additionally, for many skaters on their skate journey, the kickflip is the first  trick that separates them from a beginner skater to a real skater dedicated to furthering their skills.

At GOSKATE, we want to help you become a better skater and experience the amazing feeling of landing your first kickflip. Because like all skateboarding tricks, a little help from an experienced instructor goes a long way and there’s no better feeling than rolling away from a new trick. 

In this article we’ll be going over: 

  1. The History of the Kickflip
  2. How to Kickflip: Step by Step Guide
  3. Proven Tips on the Learning Process 
  4. GOSKATE Services to Master the Kickflip

The History of the Kickflip

While it might be one of the first flip tricks you’ll learn, the kickflip is anything but a basic trick. This includes the history of the kickflip, which revolutionized skateboarding, changing its trajectory as a freestyle sport to one defined by innovation and creativity forever. 

That being said, the origin of the kickflip is somewhat up for debate.

Who Landed the First Kickflip?

By the 1970s, freestyle skateboarding had evolved to skaters using the tops of their toes to flip their skateboards but without first popping an ollie. Then by 1978, it is largely agreed the first kickflip was landed by pioneer Curt Lindgren but then was perfected and modernized by skate legend Rodney Mullen in 1983. Remember, this is before social media and before skate magazines were in every grocery store; so while many people credit Rodney Mullen for being the godfather of the kickflip, it’s because he also went on to invent nearly every flatground trick after that. He added the 180s, the rotations, and started flipping into and out of manual tricks.

Literally, when Rodney Mullen brought the kickflip onto the skateboarding scene, it blew minds and added a fresh mutation to skateboarding’s evolution. Rodney himself even called the trick ‘magic flip’ for the way people would react to his new trick. People just could not wrap their heads around how he made the board flip and to this day non skaters commonly ask skaters, “How do you make the board come up to your feet like that?” Moreover, skating at the time as a sport and as an industry was nearly extinct but brands started to endorse Rodney and his new trick, sending him to malls across America to perform his new arsenal of flatground. To this day, this phenomena is why so many people know Rodney Mullen next to Tony Hawk. “I know Rodney Mullen! He invented the kickflip, right?” The answer is, yes… Well, kinda. Either way, it’s been almost 40 years and the kickflip has been there for every trick of the way.

Some of the biggest Kickflips in Skateboarding History

Skateboarding in many ways has been defined by the kickflip. Taking something for transportation like the skateboard and flipping it into an exploratory vessel of endless innovation. Since the first kickflip landed in 1978, decades of innovation have seen the kickflip both figuratively and literally launch to new heights.

El Toro Kickflip by Dave Bachinsky

Pro skater Dave Bachinsky kickflipped the infamous El Toro stair set in southern California. El Toro is a twenty-stair, meaning it’s made up of twenty steps, which if you can imagine reaches an elevation of nearly two stories high. Dave Bachinsky is the only Pro Skater to perform a flip trick down this stair set, which speaks to the sheer insanity of such a kickflip. You can check out this video below to see for yourself!

Andrew Reynolds UC DAVIS

If you know skateboarding, you know the name Andrew Reynolds and what he means to the sport. If you don’t, you can thank us later after you google some of his amazing skate videos. Either way, Andrew Reynolds has one of the best kickflips (and frontside 180 kickflips) the skateboarding world has ever seen. While over the years he raised his own bar, kickflipping 16-stairs, 22-stairs and beyond, his most famous kickflip is arguably down the UC Davis gap. A ginormous gap at the UC campus in northern California that has seldom been attempted by any other skaters.

Luan Oliveira Flatground

Skateboarding is more than just who can kickflip off the biggest stuff but also who can pop their kickflip highest off of flatground. Luan Oliveiera is largely regarded as having the prettiest kickflip in skateboarding, as one of the highest popped, quickest flipped and effortlessly caught kickflips ever seen. The Brazilian has his own compilation of amazing kickflips but you can see for yourself just how perfect they are below in slow motion.

Ryan Sheckler 'Fence' Kickflip

This list would not be complete without a mention of Ryan Sheckler. The San Clemente native grew up before our eyes as skateboarding’s young prodigy, but his ‘fence kickflip’ is where skateboarding agreed – Ryan Sheckler became a full fledged man in skateboarding. It really takes an amazing skateboarder to be able to even fathom kickflipping down something so massive and still be talked about years later.

Milton Martinez Sunset Carwash Kickflip

In skateboarding, there’s a reward given out by Thrasher Magazine for the Skater of The Year, or SOTY as skateboarding calls it. Generally, this award is reserved for the skateboarder who pushed skating to new heights with incredible video parts, contest runs and production of skate media. Milton Martinez arguably won SOTY in 2019 for a single kickflip. A kickflip into the famous Sunset Carwash Banks, essentially off of a roof and into a giant steep bank of sure chaos. Take a look at how this infamous kickflip went down in skateboarding’s record books.

How to Kickflip: Step by Step Guide

Without further ado, we present to you our GOSKATE guide on How To Kickflip, sourced from the largest network of professional skateboarding instructors.

Step 1: Proper foot placement

Proper foot placement is paramount for landing a kickflip as this is the foundation for flipping your board. Additionally, while you should always gravitate towards what feels natural and comfortable, remember to keep your center of gravity equally between your front and back foot. The most common mistake for beginner skaters learning how to kickflip is they put too much weight on their back foot when crouching to do a kickflip or not having their feet in the correct position to flick their front foot off the nose.

  • Front Foot Position: The goal of your front foot is to hit the nose in such a way that flips the board. This is created from ‘flicking’ your front foot off the nose with your toes. Therefore, your front foot should be positioned like an ollie but with mainly your toes and ball of your foot on the board. When first learning how to kickflip, having most just your toes on the very edge of the board will help you flick and flip the board more easily.

Eventually however, you’ll want to get more of your ball of your foot and your toes in on the board as this helps add height to your kickflip down the line.

  • Back Foot Position: Your back foot position is generally the same as the ollie with one or two deviations depending on your skateboarding preference. Regardless, the goal is to pop your board quickly and without muting the tail with too much of your foot. Instead, if anything you’re going to have less of your foot on the back of your tail, as in just the ball of your foot and toes. Some skaters like Jeremy Wray have sworn that putting your toes on the deeper side of your tail pocket helps apply the opposite pressure than your flick (thus making it flip faster) but most skaters will have the toes of their back foot on the same side as their front foot. 

Your foot positioning may vary depending on your shoe size and board size, we have a free calculator for that! But generally the foot placements above are strongly encouraged for beginners. It’s similar to writing: you have to first learn the ABCs before you can form your own words.

Step 2: Pop the tail

Popping the tail successfully is going to be a product of proper back foot placement. As we wrote above, the tail of your board is where all the magic happens. Remember, you want to pop the board as fast and as solid as you can. This is achieved by balancing the amount of pressure placed from the ball of your foot and the weight on your front foot to allow you to jump at the same time.

Step 3: Flip or 'flick' the Nose

Flipping your skateboard might seem like the hardest thing in the world and some days it will be. But we promise if you keep at it and try little adjustments, it’s only a matter of time. To help speed up the process, imagine you’re doing an ollie on your skateboard. Remember how your front foot catches the nose of your board? Now imagine instead of catching the nose of your board, your front foot continues to launch off the side diagonally past the nose. This causes your toes to ‘flick’ off the diagonal side of your nose, causing the board to flip. For many skaters first trying this trick, especially younger skaters, you might have the tendency to flick or flip the middle of your board. This is fine for the first few stages of learning how to flick your board. But if you ever want to flick your board enough to get air and catch it beautifully like your favorite skaters: you’ll need to flick it off the nose.

Step 4: Back foot Catch

The back foot catch might not be there when you’re first learning how to kickflip but eventually you’ll want the board to elevate when it flips and be caught by your back foot. This is what will allow you later on to manipulate the board further in the future, adding rotations or position the board after it flips into a grind or slide. In contrast, many skaters who are learning how to kickflip will instinctively catch the board with their back foot but proceed to land on the ground with their front foot off the board. While it’s great to be comfortable catching the board with your back foot early on, you want to avoid this bad habit as it can make it harder to do our next step: commit.

Step 5: Commit both feet and roll away

Failing to commit is probably the number one reason it can take so long for a skater to land the allusive kickflip. But thankfully, there are a few tips to increasing your chances of committing. One thing you can do is keep your front arm in front of your body, instead of the natural tendency to hide it behind your crouching knee. Imagine you’re reaching for the nose during the trick with your front hand to keep it in lead. This also helps in promoting equal weight on your front and back foot which will keep you centered above the skateboard as it flips beneath you. Once you are able to consistently commit, even if your board isn’t flipping all the way, it’s only a matter of time before you land with both feet and ride away.

Proven Tips on the Kickflip Learning Process

Practice on grass: We’ve stressed in a number of our articles how practicing in the grass is a great way to learn new tricks. For obvious reasons, grass is a soft impact if you were to fall but it also keeps you standing still. When you’re first starting out, reducing the amount of variables in your environment will help you focus on flipping your skateboard. 

Front foot is key: What our GOSKATE instructors will often see with skaters attempting to land their first kickflip, is a habit to only get the blackfoot on the skateboard after the board flips. While one foot is certainly better than no feet, without a proper mentor or in this case, a how to article, skaters will often get into the bad habit of consistently only getting their back foot on the board. This causes them to get comfortable in swimming their hips away from the board, making it impossible to commit that front foot onto the board. If you have to get in the habit of first only landing with one foot on the board – make sure it’s the front foot.

Try different foot placements: Every skater is going to feel a bit different when it comes to placing their feet where they feel most comfortable. So it’s more than okay to try different foot placements to see if they impact results. With that being said, keep in mind the rules still apply. You want to have your feet positioned so the board pops well and is easier to flip than your previous adjustment. What many skaters will do is bring their front foot lower and lower and use more and more toe. This allows for you to flip the board easier (which is great for commitment and learning tricks in the grass) but eventually you’ll want to get to proper form to elevate your kickflip and level it out. 

Hold onto a fence: While we wrote ‘hold onto a fence’ you can really use anything that allows you to use your arms to pull yourself up and gain extra seconds of levitation. A bike rack or picnic bench can also work: but basically holding onto these things will allow your board to flip its full rotation and get the muscle memory of committing back onto your board. However, your knees and legs won’t actually be able to move freely and fully. So while holding onto a fence to practice is great for the mind, don’t let yourself become dependent on it. 

Practice on a carpet deck: What the heck is a carpet deck? It’s a skateboard deck that has grip tape (or sometimes does not) that you can practice on your bedroom carpet. Make sure you have plenty of space to be practicing how to kickflip on a carpet and that you have your parents or guardians permission. Practicing on a deck only on the carpet forces you to try drastic movements, movements you’ll eventually master to kickflip out of other tricks and become a sponsored skater.

Try learning other tricks: Learning tricks in skateboarding is all about honing good habits and technique. If you’re stuck on a part of kickflip and continue to practice it over and over again, you might just be refining a back habit. Skateboarding isn’t going anywhere. You can come back to learning how to kickflip another day or another hour. Practice your pop shove it or your ollie in between learning kickflips. Practice other beginner tricks like the ones in our article: this will also help avoid ripping a hole in your shoe front sliding it on the grip tape in the same spot over and over. 

Watch Trick Tips: In skateboarding, there are plenty of people in addition to GOSKATE that want to help you learn to kickflip. And instructors or YouTube video gurus will each have their own little pieces of advice that may or may not work for you.

GOSKATE Services to Master the Kickflip

Hire a GOSKATE Instructor

At GOSKATE, we have the largest network of trained skate instructors, some of whom are former pros, sponsored skaters or just lifelong skate veterans. While an article, a trick tip video and even asking other skaters at the skatepark can be extremely helpful, there is nothing proven to help a skater learn new tricks better than a skate instructor. Someone dedicated to your time and highly trained as an instructor and a skateboarder. Contact GOSKATE to find an instructor near you and master your kickflip today!

Submit Your Videos for Feedback from our Instructors!

We’re excited to announce our new Video Feedback Service. Are you stuck on a trick? Need to know the name or maybe how to pop higher or flip faster? Submit your videos for feedback by our expert instructors, including former pro skaters! We have decades of experience in skateboarding and more importantly, instructing skateboarding. We guarantee you’ll gain expert knowledge you can’t find anywhere else.

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Become a Better Skater Today!

Becoming a better skateboarder begins and ends with passion. But like all great things, nothing great is accomplished alone. We all need a little help here and there to get our skateboards off the ground. We invite you to contact GOSKATE today to book a 1-on-1 lesson with an instructor and start becoming the best skateboarder you can be.

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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

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