In this article I am sharing my process of learning how to axel stall and the progress I have made.
First some background
So you can understand what I could and couldn’t do on a board before I started this process and how that may have helped, here is an overview of my skate history.
I was born in ’78 and started transition skateboarding on a mini ramp around age 11. My bag of tricks were small yet fun:
- drop in
- kick turn
- rock fakie
I took a break in my mid teens getting into aggressive inline skating and then started skateboarding again age 21 until about 23 /24. I learned a few more tricks on a 4 foot minicamp:
- tail stall
- half cab rock fakies
- rock n roll
- half cab rock n roll
In my 30s I had a brief period of skating a little in the local bowl before I fractured a bone in my foot on a small indoor mini ramp. I did go back to skating but it has been very inconsistent and I mostly just did kickturns in the bowl and cruised around empty car parks.
The basic skills I learned as a kid on a mini ramp which have mostly stayed with me are:
- drop in
- pump transitions
- kick turn
Those basics never really left me so each year I could go to a park alone and have a little roll but I never put the time in to progress.
I started to skate consistently again in September 2020, thank you pandemic (no travel), which allowed me to be in one place long enough to put the time in to make progress. I skate as many days as are dry and when my legs are not shredded from the previous days session. I skate almost daily wherever possible.
I lost the ability to do tail stalls, half cab rock fakies, rock n roll, half cab rock n roll, although I have done a few rock fakies and tail stalls but I do not feel comfortable with those mainly as I do not practice them. I’m mostly carving round the bowl as fast as I can.
I never learned to axel drop, axel stall or 50:50 as a kid, so I am learning this as an adult with what feels like all the fear!
Since the foot fracture I have felt more fear, feel injury averse, so I really do take my time and make sure I can bail out of things as safely as possible. I would say I take longer than most people to learn things, although by the time I do learn something new, I feel like a solid foundation has been laid. I generally don’t “send it” or go for it in a big way unless I am confident that I can pull it off. I am a huge fan of micro progressions and incremental gains. I do my best not to fall at all and don’t own pads yet.
With that in mind, I present to you my axel stall learning process, journey and things that helped me on the way.
First attempts – September 2020
My first attempts were not stalls but these tiny 50-50 grinds on this quarter. The coping is inset on this quarter so its very flush, which means less chance of hanging up. We call it “noping” a portmanteau of “no coping”. It is and odd ramp because the platform is angled up into a rollin, so it pushes you forward a little:
I don’t recommend jumping straight into 50-50s! These were so quick and somewhat uncontrolled and unconsciously incompetent. It was a bit “hit and hope!” I think the reason I could do them is because I was already comfortable kick turning and riding quarters.
This was a few weeks into in my first month of learning to skate transition again.
I was riding a Carver surf skate (impala model) – the trucks are higher than a regular setup and very easy to turn, which was great for learning to carve a bowl. I later switched to a regular setup because I knew I wanted to start progressing with coping tricks and going fakie was hard on this setup.
Focused Learning begins – November 2020
We have an indoor park nearby which has some small mellow quarters with no coping which I found good to learn on. No coping means your trucks are less likely to slip in the early stages of learning and they are small enough to run out of if you bail.
In the videos below you will see a small and medium quarter which I first learned these on. At this point I had ditched the surf skate and am riding a regular skate setup with independent trucks.
I kinda just went for it and this clip is after many bails that evening! The struggle for me was always to get on top of the platform and I would usually bail and run forward down the ramp face. The first vid is the medium quarter, then if you swipe left, you can see the smaller quarter and then some bails.
My bro who is filming always encourages me on and whereas I seem to underestimate my ability, he pushes me just enough to progress. Often it’s fear rather than ability holding me back and I can actually do more than I think.
Shortly after this, the park closed temporarily for lockdown until 2021.
First Axel Drop on coping – May 2021
Next, I wanted to start practicing on real coping. I had seen a few videos recommending to learn axel drops first so that you know you can get back into the trick once you are up in a stall. My friend helped me learn these on a small quarter by holding my hands the first time, then just my back hand. Then I went for it by myself.
Straight after that I was feeling confident in my ability so I went straight to the shallow end of the bowl. I think it’s around 4 foot. Again, my friend held my back hand the first few times to help me, then I went for it again. The most important thing for me was to feel comfortable and relaxed in the drop position, locking in the back wheel and front wheel before turning and dropping in.
Learning axel drops helped me so much because I knew that if I could ride up into the axel stall position, once I was up there, I already had the skill to able to drop back in, so I could feel relaxed and confident and I was less likely to bail at that point and just ride away smoothly.
I definitely recommend learning it that way, otherwise you might get into the stall position and then feel too afraid to try the next part. Also, knowing what the stall position feels like under your feet is really useful as you already know where your feet and board should end up and can aim for that as you pump up.
From that point on it was just lots of practice on various ramps with coping, attempting to ride up into the stall position. I found that part the most challenging!
Riding up into the stall position
After many attempts and bails, I eventually did a few axel stalls on these quarters:
I did 2 here that day:
This quarter involved a lot of me fetching my board from the grass behind the small quarter as I bailed and it would fall. It’s quite a drop behind and I didn’t feel comfortable up there, fearing I would slip and fall back so I usually bailed forward. My friend who is filming has the best encouraging laugh!
No coping medium quarter
I did a bunch of practice on this quarter, which I got really comfortable on. I learned little airs this year too!
You can see I still miss my font truck a little – there is no coping to lock onto.
Sidmouth shallow end bowl
This was a battle! I think I got a few out of 10s of attempts at the end of the day.
You can see I’m still leaning so far forward.
Staplegrove mini ramp
I don’t have a video of my only 2 stalls there. I tried 10s of times and I kept bailing forward. This is the ramp so you can see the size and transition. It is quite mellow.
P.S. Ignore the bad form rock fakie, don’t do them like this, and clip the front wheels / truck!
I then went back to the smallest, easiest quarter with coping I could find locally. Shout out to Wavegames boys Al and Sam for the lesson and encouragement on a previous early morning session.
I just about got locked in on this video. These were still inconsistent and somewhat hit or miss. I’d get maybe 1 or 2 out of 5 attempts. I think I got 6 this day so it was definite progress and it felt really good.
I also tried a bunch of stalls and 50-50s a bunch in the bowl shallow end. Here is an uncontrolled hit and hope attempt at the end of my run:
What usually happened is that I would lean forward and bail / run down the transition.
Despite my friends ongoing encouragement to lean back and stand up more, I just could not seem to hop out onto the platform.
My board would stay up on the coping and I would run down / fall forward.
At this point I was very comfortable doing axel drops in the shallow end of the bowl and even on bigger quarters (not pictured and I am guessing they were 5 and 6 foot high) yet the riding up kept alluding me.
At the end of this run you can see a failed attempt on the noping quarter:
Progression session – November 9, 2021
During my most recent solo session I tried hoping out of the small quarter with no coping at a 90º angle, onto the top of the platform, almost like a feeble position (back truck on the coping and front truck behind the coping on top the ramp) to get the feel of getting up and out of the ramp and with my foot being solid on my back foot. Sorry, no video or picture.
That’s when things started to click. A few friends had suggested this to me (thanks James and Sean) and I was too scared so I was happy to start being able to start practicing this.
Things that helped
Prior to attempting them this day I was doing lots of airs out of the no coping quarter like this:
Plus I was also trying stalls on the noping quarter which I had been doing a few sessions before and felt like I was getting closer.
So I had all these attempts under my belt and felt more comfortable with where my feet were, how it feels riding up, judging my speed etc. I think this all helped.
I was also trying airs out of the quarter with coping, I think this helped, giving me a feel for getting out and up onto the top of the ramp. I don’t have a recent video of this so here is an old one although I was airing out it rather than a little roll.
Then I just dropped in and went for it on the small quarter, fully committed and really pumped my weight up the ramp using my arms and threw my shoulder up and forward so much more than I would normally, due to fear that I would fall, and to my surprise and delight, I ended up on top of the platform and rolled along. I felt very comfortable and I realised, oh I can actually do this!
So I did it a few more times and each time I was consistently getting on top the platform. I did around 10. I grabbed the camera to capture it:
I’m overshooting on to my toe edge wheels and not locking in my heel wheel and still this felt so much better than the alternative of bailing and running down the ramp.
I was happy to get the feel of going up and out rather than bailing even though I wasn’t locked on well. I figure that bit can come with practice.
After more attempts I did a few more actual stalls here and rode them out. Or I could roll back onto the coping and axel drop in again. I felt very solid on my feet.
Before this, I didn’t realise how much I needed to pump up or if I did I was too scared to try it. The platform isn’t very deep to land on and I was afraid of falling off the back so I may have been holding back.
Moving it to a bigger quarter
At this point I started to try stalls whist skating back to drop in on the bigger quarter with coping.
At first I just kinda hopped out straight.
Then I angled the approach a small amount.
Eventually I got a feel for it and almost did it.
I was gonna go home at this point but I wanted some clips of my attempts to review, so I set up the camera.
And I got the closest ever:
You might be able to see my back wheel is overshooting onto my toe wheel rather than locking in my rear wheel and I was just so happy to be up there and not baling by leaning forward.
At this point in the session I was totally done and had nothing left, so I packed up and left.
I will go back and do them on that quarter as soon as it is dry again and then take it to the bowl shallow end which is a bit bigger and steeper. At which point my mission will be complete! Then I’m hoping for 50-50 grinds!
I have been getting a little bit more friendly with the coping in the bowl. Here my front truck goes on first and I didn’t get the back truck on, but I stayed on my board so its all progress.
Here ends my axel stall essay!
It’s been a year long mission for me. I’ll post an update when I get them properly on the bigger quarters!
To recap, here is what I found useful.
- Learn to axel drop and really get a feel for the lock in position.
- Keep practicing axel drops whenever you skate
- Practice on the smallest ramp you can find.
- If you have a no coping quarter this can be useful stories begin with.
- Really pump your arms up, you gotta give it way more attack than you might think, even on a small ramp.
- Regular practice helps, micro progressions all add up.
- Getting familiar with how the board feels under your feel every time you share and attempt puts coins in the muscle memory and confidence bank.
- Take your time
- Plan your bail / run out to start with
- Keep practicing!
Tutorials I used
I found these tutorials useful to aid my understanding of what to do:
I’ve not full locked in like this on the way up yet. Still practicing!
Finally, this is the video I wish I had seen first and only just saw after I wrote this. The part about throwing your arms up is so true. I mean everything he say is true and I wish I had seen this earlier.
If you made it this far, wow, thanks for reading and watching!
I hope this article gives you an insight on what might help you learn this trick and that it encourages you to keep pushing forward! There is no substitute for practice. Pump those arms up and let’s go!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I will do my best to point you in a direction. Feel free to share your progress with me!
The best place to connect with me is instagram: @emmaholmez
Shred on, shredders! 💕🤘🏽