Starting Out Skating Series Part 2: Braking

This part of the series is all about Braking. Yes, I imagine as a new skater you've learnt how important this is already. The chances are, you aren't going as fast as you'd like because you're not so confident about being able to stop if you need to. There are two ways you can slow down and stop when you first start out. In later parts of this series we'll look into some slightly more advanced methods too.
The two ways we're going to look at here are the heel-stop and the snowplough...

SNOW-PLOUGH: This is helpful really only at pretty slow speeds, and might be useful to give you some confidence on a slight incline, before you start learning the heel-stop.

When skating at a slow speed, widen your stand slightly and then point your toes inward towards each other, in a ^ shape. Push onto the outside edge of your skates, and you will feel yourself creating pressure to slow down before the toes of your skates meet each other. This is exactly like the skiing version of the same stop (hence the name), but doesn't have quite as much power, as skates cannot glide sideways along the ground.

HEEL-STOP: If you've bought recreational skates, one of them will have a heel-stop on the back of the axle. In order to practise the heel-stop you may want to find a very slight hill (very slight!) so that you won't have to keep building up speed for practise. However, a flat pavement will do just as well.

First of all, build a little speed. Now you want to bend both knees, keeping your back straight. You may find it helpful to extent your arms out parallel to the ground. Now slowly move your braking foot forward, so that you are coasting along with both knees bent, and one foot ahead of the other. This is called the scissor position, and ultimately the heel of your front foot should be level with the toe of your back foot. At first though, this might feel a bit too unstable, so you can work towards that.

Once you are coasting in the scissor position, you should find more weight resting on your back foot. This will allow you to now slowly tip the toe of your front foot upwards, so that the brake starts to grind along the pavement. Shifting more weight to your braking leg with increase the pressure of the brake on the ground, and will slow you more dramatically.

Practise this lots, gradually building up the speed you are going at when you brake. In doing the brake stop, not only are you getting a good grasp of how to stop when you need to, but you're also practising balance and weight-shift skills that will come in really handy in future skating skills.


Check back for the next in this series, which will look at how to skate up hills, how to deal with rough ground, and how to skate safely in the rain.