Why your flick sucks and how to improve it - part 1
Just like every skater wants to have big pop, every skater wants nice flick. But why is it that some skaters possess the wizardry of a nice flick and other people’s flick looks like a donkey kicking down a barn door? This is part 1 in the series on the flick where I answer this question.
In this video/article I’ll break down what the flick is and how the body moves when we flick. Then I’ll go over the common problems people face when flicking; covering things like timing and the donkey flick.
Breaking down the flick
To start off let’s break down a kickflip going through it piece by piece to see what's really going on. This kind of breakdown is essential if we want to figure out know how to train the body to flick better.
First off the core and pelvis have to stay relatively locked in place creating a solid, stable “block” that gives your limbs something to push off to create force. Not only for your popping foot to have a solid base to pop off, but so when you slide your foot up the board to flick your whole body doesn’t move with it.
As you start to pop, your hip on the flick leg starts to flex and move away from your body, your knee flexes along with it, followed by your ankle rolling over and sliding up the board. Ideally at this point your back foot is also off the board if you want to avoid that donkey flick.
Finally, as your foot is about to release from the board, with the momentum created by your hip, your knee extends (to different amounts depending on the trick and person), your ankle snaps back normally to about neutral (sometimes more depending on the trick) causing the board to flip.
One key piece to the flick is that the foot moves as more of an elastic reflex, as opposed to a classic muscle contraction. The foot relaxes and flops over, stretching the elastic components around it and then bounces back, like an elastic band. It's role is really just to release the energy created by the rest of the leg and apply it to the board to get it to move the way you want.
So the whole leg is essentially acting as a lever to speed up how fast the foot moves to flick the board. With a lever that's anchored at one end, the longer it is, the less force you need to apply to get the other end to move at a given speed. So flicking from the hip, as opposed to just from the foot (which pretty much no one does, I know) means you can flick faster with less force.
So the majority of the force with the flick is really coming primarily from:
The muscles around the hips and knees. Combined with your whole leg acting as a lever to speed up how fast your foot slides up and off the board.
The foot and ankle are really just releasing the energy created by the rest of the leg.
Common issues with the flick
Now there are two main categories where people face the most common problems with the flick and eradicating the donkey kick. Flick technique and Physical limitations in ya bod (covered in part 2 here).
Now let’s be real, when it comes down to getting better at skating, the main piece is getting out there and actually skating and it’s no different with improving your flick. Practice, practice, practice combined with paying attention to what’s going on for you personally is the foundation.
That being said, in my opinion there are some common issues people face when they're on their boards trying different tricks. I've briefly broken these down below, but if you want a full breakdown, check the video above.
Timing is king with skating. Some of the biggest problems people face with the flick is getting the timing right. If you look at people with a nice flick, there's a slight delay between the flick and the pop.
Precision of flick
In the same way that a board 0.25 inches wider than what you're used to can change everything, a slight change in the direction of your flick can too.
Related to the precision of the flick is foot position. A slight change in the position of your feet can completely change the way your board flips. First you need to find a position for both feet that allows you to be stable throughout the trick (most importantly when you're at the bottom, squatting down to pop). Then how you place the front foot on the board will change the way you flick. For example for kickflips, placing it a bit more off the board on the heel side will get you a faster flick.
Speed of flick
Now many pros I've spoke to have said that a fast flick is the key to tech skating, and if you look at some of the techest skaters in the game they've got an insanely fast flick.
The way you pop sets up the rest of the trick. A fast, snappy pop is what you want as it'll set you up for not just having more pop, but also better timing of the flick foot and probably a faster flick too.
But even if you feel like you've got all those things in place you can still flick your tricks like a mule stuck in quicksand, your problems might be related to the second category: physical limitations in ya bod. Here things like your mobility, anatomy, strength, and endurance can get in the way. Check out part 2 of the flick series here to learn more.