Do Skate Trainers Work?
Learning to do new skateboard tricks can be difficult and dangerous. Skate trainers were created to minimize both difficulty and danger, while building a skateboarder’s confidence and muscle memory.
They are a popular product and definitely come with some benefits for new skateboarders, but may not be the best option for advancing toward performing tricks while rolling. For that, practicing tricks from the concrete into the grass is much more effective.
What are skate trainers?
Skate trainers are rubber pieces that go on each wheel of the skateboard. They are often referred to as “skater trainers” (since the biggest brand name is SkaterTrainer) or “trick trainers.”
In essence, they make the wheels more block-like than round. They allow a skater who is practicing a trick to land on soft, flat surfaces rather than hard, round wheels — thus reducing the chance of the skateboard rolling out from under them.
Skate trainers are cheap (typically less than $30), and their premise is that they make it safer and easier to practice tricks. Skate trainers have become such a mainstay in the industry that new skaters are easily convinced to buy them with their first board, the way that parents start their kids off on a bike with training wheels.
Who can benefit from skate trainers?
Beginners who struggle to balance on the board, including young kids, can learn to get more comfortable on the board from skate trainers. They can find their footing without fear of losing control of the board and collapsing to the ground. They can determine whether their preferred stance is regular or goofy just from standing on the board and feeling it out.
Additionally, skaters can go through the motions of new tricks and develop muscle memory while using skate trainers. If doing a trick while stationary is a stepping stone toward doing it while rolling, skate trainers provide a potential baby step before that. A beginner could start with skate trainers, then attempt the same thing without trainers, then move on to attempting it while slowly moving forward.
Finally, skate trainers can allow for practice in areas such as a garage or other inside spaces, when the skateboard could cause damage by rolling away.
Where do skate trainers fall short?
The problem with skate trainers is that there is a sizable gap between being able to perform a trick on a skate trainers and doing it while rolling, which is the ultimate goal. Skate boards roll, and learning to stay balanced and manage the skateboard’s roll, including while doing tricks, is the point of skateboarding.
Using skate trainers is perhaps too novice of a method to really help skateboarders as they learn. More effective techniques would better simulate the ultimate goal.
Among the most vehement critics of skating trainers are skateboard instructors, who believe that skating trainers are “crutches” that cause skaters to develop improper muscle memory. When novice skateboarders start rolling, they will feel like they need to learn everything all over again.
Another potential issue is that of damage to the skateboard’s bearings. Skateboard wheels are supposed roll upon impact, and the restriction created by skating trainers can reportedly gradually ruin the bearings.
Why is doing tricks into grass better?
Starting a new trick on the concrete and landing on the grass is the best learning technique for multiple reasons. For one, the grass provides a much safer spot to land than the concrete.
The fact of the matter is that attempting new tricks is going to lead to more than few wipeouts, and it only takes one bad landing on concrete to cause discouragement or, at worst, injury. These scenarios are more likely to be avoided while landing in the grass.
Beginning the trick from concrete makes the initial part of the trick exactly the same as the desired outcome of rolling and completing the trick totally on concrete. This method only softens the landing a bit while maintaining the integrity of the required motions.
Some sources suggest practicing new tricks by starting and landing on the grass. As with using skate trainers, this keeps the board from rolling away, which doesn’t provide true conditions for learning. Additionally, the skateboard will sink into the grass under the weight of a skateboarder attempting to pop the board for a trick.
What’s the bottom line?
At the end of the day, skating trainers are not expensive, so the debate shouldn’t center on whether a skater is throwing money away. The argument should center on how well they actually help a skater to develop skill.
Skate trainers may be useful tools for new skateboarders who need to build confidence in balancing on the board. However, the majority of skateboarders should quickly be ready to try attempting tricks from the concrete into the grass. This route will accelerate the development of new skills and tricks.