Penny Boards are one of the finest and best ways to commute but with their short length they can be hard to ride easily. Beginners especially, usually have trouble riding Penny Boards but riders of all types can find the small platform hard to handle. First, let’s explore the board.
What is a Penny Board?
A Penny Board is a classic short board made famous by the brand Penny. There are two sizes the Original Penny which measures 22 inches long and the Penny Nickel which is 27” long.
For beginners especially, I would highly recommend the Penny Nickel. The 5-inch difference in length might not sound like a lot but it makes a world of difference when standing on the board.
Penny Boards are one of the most useful boards you can buy if you want a commuting board. The small size makes them perfect to fit in backpacks and be unobtrusive during class.
As with every famous brand, there are knockoffs for much cheaper. The good news is that all of these short boards ride the exact same way.
How To Ride a Penny Board
There are 3 main aspects to completely master riding a short board: Foot Position, Balance, and perhaps the most important, how to brake. I cover each aspect in detail below.
Foot position is essential on these short boards because there is not a lot of room for your feet. I’m used to longboards myself, so when I stepped on a Penny Board for the first time I had trouble just figuring out how to place both of my feet on the board easily.
Find Your Stance
For people who have ridden a skateboard before, feel free to skip ahead. However, if you have never ridden any skateboard or longboard before, the first thing you have to do is figure out your stance. Stand on the board with one foot in front of the other in a way that feels natural to you.
If you placed your left foot on the front of the board and your right on the back, that’s called the regular stance. If you feel more comfortable with your right foot at the front of the board, you’re in what’s called a goofy stance. There’s nothing wrong with either one, it’s simply personal preference.
Place Your Feet
As compared to a regular longboard where there is plenty of space to put your feet, on a Penny Board you are only dealing with 22” or 27” inches. That makes the exact position where you put your feet very important.
When pushing, you always want to place your front foot over the bolts of the board or at the very least just below the front two bolts. This gives you a solid position when you start moving with your back foot.
The back foot position is not as important as that is the foot that will be doing most of the pushing and braking. You can simply place it perpendicular to the board when you want to rest or simply cruise.
Balancing and Getting Moving
The key to mastering the Penny Board in one word is balance. Paraphrasing the words of Reddit user, fruit_shoot:
Penny Boarding is like riding with a rollerblade strapped to only one foot so your balance is critical!
Not so good at balance? Don’t worry there are a couple of variations that will help you improve and master riding.
Everything on these short boards comes down to your front leg. To help you balance, you should always bend your knee a little more to place more weight on the board. Your front leg should be in an angled upside down L shape, similar to the stance shown in the picture below. Although I am not on a Penny Board in this picture, the stance remains the same.
Through my own experience and talks with other riders, balance is the hardest part of mastering the Penny Board. If you struggle a lot with balancing, I would suggest starting in a flat spot and simply practice riding around with just one foot on the board and one hanging off pushing the board.
After you feel comfortable with your foot hanging off of the board, try bringing it back onto the board once you reach a slow speed. In order to make space, your front foot may have to transition to more of a horizontal stance and that’s completely fine. In fact, that will help you with controlling the carving of the board.
You Got Moving. So How to Stop?
As with anything that moves, the second you get moving, you need to learn how to stop. Stopping a short board is very easy and there are 2 main techniques that are primarily used.
Foot Braking is the best method for slowing down on a Penny Board. Using the same motion that you use for pushing off and get moving on the board, take one foot off and simply drag the sole of your shoe across the pavement.
While you do this, make sure to keep your shoe against the ground! This will ensure even braking and not throw you off of your board.
Due to the extreme durability of Penny Boards, there is another option for slowing down. If you ever feel your board wobbling simply jump off of it and let the board continue! You don’t have to worry about damage to the board as it is made out of tough plastic.
If you do this, you do have to worry about damage to yourself, though! Remember that Penny Boards are not designed for high speeds and you should always ensure that you are comfortable at lower speeds before attempting higher ones.
How to Turn
There are two main ways to turn on a Penny Board: shifting your weight and using the kicktail at the end of the board. Of these, shifting your weight is easier for beginners but if you want to make rapid and sharp turns, the kicktail is your best bet.
Note: If you are having trouble turning or feel that your board simply does not turn fast enough, try loosening the trucks of the board. There is one main nut that tightens the trucks and if you loosen it, you will be able to turn quicker.
Shifting your weight to turn is exactly what it sounds like. You simply put more of your weight to the direction that you wish to go. You can turn to the right by pushing your toes harder into the board. To turn left, slightly lean back while maintaining your balance on the board. Again, balance is crucial on a Penny Board!
Using the Kicktail
A kick turn is slightly more complicated than simply shifting your weight. In a kickturn you place your back foot on the very back of the Penny Board near the lip at the end. Smoothly press down on the tail so that your front wheels are off the pavement and then simply swivel around to the new direction.
I highly suggest trying kickturns when you are in a stopped position first. Not only is it safer this way, but it makes it greatly easier for beginners to learn.