When you see a young man or woman skateboarding around town, do you think about Isaac Newton and the basic laws of physics? Probably not – but science and physics play an important role in how skateboards are built and how they actually move and function. When it comes to how skateboarders are able to manipulate and move about on their decks, one must look towards Newton’s laws of physics to really get a scientific view how they really work in the framework of motion and gravity. Among teenagers, skateboarding is one of the most popular physical activities to pursue. That being said, if you try to engage a teenager about Newton and his laws of motion, chances are they’ll simply roll their eyes at you, hop on their boards and skate away.
There are some basic laws of physics which can immediately be applied to moving and manipulating a skateboard deck. For example, there’s a maneuver called pumping which allows skateboarders to accumulate speed on the board without having their feet actually leave the board. The way a skateboarder twists and turns their body while atop of the deck can enable riders to transfer energy from their body to the board – thus keeping in motion and in movement without having to use their feet.
Now, let’s take science and apply it to one of the basic and principal moves that a skateboarder can perform: the “ollie.” In simple terms, an “ollie” allows skateboarders to get the board up off the ground without actually having to touch it. So, how is this done? When the skater pops up into the air, the center of gravity of the skateboard rises. Once it rises, it then levels out, thus creating the appearance that the rider’s feet are actually glued or affixed to the board itself. Of course, this isn’t the case, but simple science and an understanding of the laws of physics can help clear up the mystery of how skateboarders do it on a regular and consistent basis.
Also, when skateboarders turn, they are performing a scientific move that’s called carving. By leaning their weight onto their toes, they sort of push that edge of the board into the ground. What this does is that it forces the edge of the board underneath the rider’s heels to lift off of the ground. If you’ve ever heard the saying “any reaction causes an equal and opposite reaction” applies in this case. Leaning to the left of the board has the opposite effect to the right of the skateboard.