Skateboarding is a sport that is jam-packed full of incredibly technical tricks that can be used to enthrall and amaze your friends, fellow skaters and bystanders watching from a distance. However, there are some that are more recognizable and more worthy of praise than others. While an ollie or a pop shove-it are fundamental tricks that are great and not without merit. There is something that just appeals to the general public and that is flip tricks.
Watching the board spin in the air and the skater pluck it from mid-air and stomp it down is so visually appealing that even those unaware of the nuances within the sport will clap and cheer. Usually, passers-by will say ‘Do a Kickflip’ and if you haven’t already heard it twenty times that session, you’ll happily oblige. However, we want to show some love for a trick that is very similar and equally impressive. We are of course referring to the heelflip.
In this guide, we aim to walk you through the process of learning a heelflip. We will give you pointers to make your heelflips better and more consistent and we will inform you of the different heelflip variations out there. Our goal is to make you a better skater and one trick at a time, we intend to meet that goal. So without further delay, here is our guide on how to heelflip.
What is a Heelflip?
A heelflip is one of the most basic flip tricks that one can learn within the sport of skating. This is a trick that is often linked to the kickflip as they are so similar both visually and in terms of movement and positioning. This trick involves the skater jumping in their usual ollie position with the toes of their front foot hanging off the toe side of the board. Then while in the air, flicking the board by sliding their foot into the toe side pocket of the board and extending their leg, using their heel on the follow-through to help the board make its full rotation.
This trick tends to be one of the first tricks that a skater will learn. It is also widely accepted that most skaters will either learn heelflips or kickflips first and be naturally better at one or the other as a result. However, in reality, both of these tricks are very similar and open up the possibilities for much more complex and progressive skateboarding tricks, acting as the foundation for bigger and better things.
Origins of the Heelflip?
The heelflip was rather unsurprisingly created around the same time as the Kickflip, or as it was then called the ‘Magic Flip’. The trick, along with many others, was created by the grandfather of skating, Rodney Mullen. The trick was first performed in 1992 by Mullen and he has been credited with this trick. However, although he didn’t land the trick during the contest run, Natas Kaupas flicked a very rocketed heelflip back in 1986, showing that he perhaps was working on this trick or had done this one before. So there is some skepticism surrounding Rodney’s accreditation of this trick.
Then in 1988, Jeremy Allen of H Street performed a heelflip grab in his video part for Shackle Me Not, showing once again that the heelflip, while modernized, perfected, and made famous by Mullen, was very much a part of skating culture before he was on the scene. We can only assume that the reason why this wasn’t documented is simply down to the lack of popularity that this trick had, especially in the 1980s and indeed, most of the 1990s. There is a reason why the kickflip had a special nickname and the heelflip didn’t. No one bothered to give it one.
Are There Any Variations of the Heelflip?
Just as the kickflip has a wide variety of variations that allow skaters to combine it with other skating techniques to create new and interesting tricks, the heelflip is no different. However, it has to be said that heel variations are undoubtedly much less common and harder to perform tricks as a collective. You will much more commonly see a tre-flip than you will a lazer flip for example. However, allow us to show you all the variations of the heelflip down below
Heelflip with Rotation
This is when the skater performs a heelflip but will also rotate their body and board in the air before landing.
This is when the skater performs a heelflip in a different stance from their natural stance. This can be moving backwards for a fakie heel, in the opposite of their natural stance for a switch heel, or popping from the front of the board in their natural stance for a nollie heel.
This is when the skater ollies into the air and performs more than one full heelflip rotation before catching the board and landing on the board. It is not uncommon to see double, triple, or even quad heel flips
This is a flip trick that combines the heelflip flick and the pop-shove scoop. The skater will do a full heelflip rotation while spinning their board in the shove-it motion 180 degrees in the air, then land on the board.
An inward heelflip is the opposite of the trick above in a way. This trick will involve the skater doing a backside shove-it rotation and a heelflip at the same time. Meaning that the board will have to come through your legs while rotating before you can land. This is the heelflips equivalent to the kickflips hardflip.
A lazer flip is doing a 360 frontside shove-it rotation while also flicking a heelflip. This is the heelflips equivalent to the kickflips Tre-flip and is one of the more rarely seen tricks in the world of competitive skating.
A big heel is when the skater does a Lazer flip while also turning their body 180 degrees while in the air.
This is when the skater flicks a heelflip and then when the board has done a full rotation, they will kick down on the heel side of the board, spinning the board in the direction it just traveled, completing a full rotation, and then the skater lands on the board after another full 360 rotation.
This is when the skater ollies into the air and hangs, then when they are beginning to lose altitude, they will then initiate the heelflip movement, completing the rotation before the board has reached the ground.
Back Foot Heelflip
Then lastly, this trick involves the skater doing an ollie into the air, and then when they reach peak height, they use their back foot to initiate the heelflip rotation, this is also considered a late heelflip but obviously, this is much more technically impressive.
What Tricks Do I Need To Know Before Learning To Heelflip?
A heelflip is one of the first flip tricks that a skater will learn, so you will need to have a few fundamental skills before you even attempt this trick. Firstly, you will need to be comfortable traveling on your board. So you will need to be able to push, stop, turn, kick turn and body varial. This will give you the confidence to learn this trick while moving. As a general rule, never learn tricks while static, as this will lead to you having to learn the trick for a second time.
Secondly, you will have to have your ollies down. This skill allows you to get air off of the ground and without that, there is no way you can flick and land your heelflip. So we would say be comfortable doing ollies while moving and also be able to do them high enough so you can clear small obstacles such as curbs or other skateboards for example.
Then lastly, we would suggest that you learn frontside shove-its. While this isn’t strictly necessary, this will offer a much easier trick that allows you to understand what it takes to manipulate and control a board in the air. Plus, flip tricks can take a long time to learn and perfect, so it’s nice to have something that you can take a break with and practice instead.
Here is a list of other tricks that we would suggest you try and learn before trying a Heelflip, however, none of these are strictly essential:
- Fakie Big Spins
- BS/FS 180’s
- Half cabs
- No comply
How to Heelflip: A Guide
Ok, so now that all the education and necessary admin is out of the way. It’s time to teach you all the steps required to land your first Heelflip. So the first thing you’ll want to do is get yourself into your natural ollie stance. You’ll want the ball of your back foot on the pocket of the tail and your front foot on the front foot around the truck bolts near the nose. Your body will be upright, with good posture your shoulders should be square.
Now, you’ll want to keep your body in that position but your foot position needs to be altered slightly for a heelflip. Your back foot can stay where it is. However, a lot of skaters prefer placing their foot on the heel side corner of the tail pocket as this allows the board to spin slightly in the wrong direction upon take-off and allows for an easier flick with the front foot. However, we would urge you to go with what feels comfortable.
The front foot will need to move though, so move this one so that your toes are hanging slightly off the toe side of the board and also, turn your foot slightly so that it is pointing 45 degrees closer to the nose of the board. This will allow for a better flick.
Now that you are in a perfect position, pop the board so that the board lifts off the ground and slide your foot as if you were doing an ollie. However, the key difference is to slide your foot diagonally so that when it reaches the top of the board and into the toe side corner pocket, this forces the board to rotate. The side of the foot should always be in contact with the board right up until this point.
Then when the board begins to rotate, you’ll want to follow through with your heel, encouraging the board to follow its path around and complete the full rotation. Plus, while the board is completing this motion, you should bring your knees up and tuck them in, meaning that you won’t impede the board from getting where it needs to go.
After the board has made its full rotation, you’ll want to bring your front foot down to catch the board, then your back foot and when the board hits the ground, bend the knees to absorb the impact. If you have done all of these steps in one fluid motion, then you should have landed your first heelflip.
Most Common Mistakes When Learning to Heelflip
If you did indeed just land your first heelflip, then all we have to say is congratulations. However, if it just isn’t happening for you, don’t panic. There are several well documented common mistakes that skaters make when they try to do a heelflip. So allow us to chat through some of those and hopefully, that will help you land your first heelflip. Take a look below:
Flicking With Your Heel
One thing to remember is that even though this trick is called a heelflip, the heel plays a supporting role in this trick. It is a common misconception that you have to kick out with your heel to rotate the board. However, if you try it this way, the board will usually rotate halfway before slamming into the ground. Or if by chance you happen to kick it all the way around, the board will almost certainly be too far behind you to land on.
The main thing to focus on here is sliding your foot, and flicking with the side of your foot much like a kickflip. The only difference is that you must follow through with the heel to guide the board around and help control the flight of the board, allowing for a smooth landing.
The next thing is over, or more commonly, under rotating the board. This happens when the skater doesn’t follow through with the heel or when they don’t ollie high enough to allow enough time and space to flick the board. So make sure you guide the board with the heel and also make sure that you pop the ollie and don’t flick the board too early as this will only limit your chances of landing the trick.
Board Landing Behind you
Then lastly, it is common that the board will land behind the skater, or even credit card if you aren’t careful. This usually happens when the skater doesn’t have their body position correct or pops the ollie but doesn’t slide to catch the flick. To prevent this, focus on jumping upright with good posture and square shoulders and focus on the ollie and the flick simultaneously rather than as two separate motions.
Make Your Heelflips Heely Good!
As you can see from the information above, the heelflip is an essential skating trick that opens up many avenues for much more complex tricks. This trick may not be the most popular of the flip tricks out there, however, for many, this will be your first and as you know, your first always stays with you. So follow our guide to the letter and ride away smiling as you heelflip with ease.
If you have reached the end of this article and you still don’t know everything you wanted to, maybe our extensive FAQ section can help you out. Check it out below:
Answer: After you learn how to heelflip, the first thing we would suggest is that, if you haven’t already, learn how to do a kickflip. Becoming proficient in both of these tricks will allow you to learn even more complex tricks which require these flips as a base to expand upon. Plus, focusing on one can make learning the other a chore the longer you leave it.
However, if you already have both of these flips down, the next step would be adding a pop-shove rotation into the mix and doing a varial heelflip. This will take some practice to get these two independent movements to marry together. However, when it clicks, the results will leave your fellow skaters in awe.
Answer: It’s hard to answer a question of this nature, especially because in modern skating, heelflips are a very accessible and very common trick. So instead, why don’t we tell you which skater has the consistently most impressive heelflip of them all? The simple answer is Neen Williams. This skater is known for his ability to flick steezy heelflips, bone them out, catch them high and has done them over and down just about every obstacle and gap possible. You need only watch Neen kill it down a stair set or across a gap to get an idea of how clean these heelflips are. So be sure to check them out when you get the chance.
Answer: While skaters will ultimately learn and prioritize the tricks that they find most impressive, most comfortable or most challenging. However, there is a common order in which skaters will learn every major trick. Though you may be at a loss as to which trick comes next on your journey. Well, have no fear as we have got a list detailing which order you should learn each trick. Check it out below:
Fakie big spins
Half cab flips
So that is our guide giving you all the info there is to know about the skateboarding trick, the heelflip. What do you make of this guide? Was this helpful and informative for you? What other trick guides would you like to see from us in the future? Let us know in the comments section below and as always, thank you for reading, Skate Culture Insider.
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