Some skaters just look completely natural on a skateboard. For those lucky few, skateboarding seems like something they were born to do. They have that magic that we call flow. It’s a special skill, but it is one that can be learned.
To begin with, here's an example of what regular pushing typically SHOULD look like...
There are things that skateboarders can do that can wreck their flow. Flailing around, exaggerating movements and looking scared are major flow-wreckers. But the worst flow destroyer of them all has to be pushing mongo.
What is mongo?
One of the most basic things skaters have to learn to do is to push. From the beginning, you should learn to push with your dominant foot. That foot should go toward the rear, which is why we call it the back foot. If you’re regular-footed, it is the right foot. It’s the left foot for goofy footers.
Pushing with the back foot makes everything look easy and natural, while pushing with the front foot looks brutish and clumsy. Mongo pushers are always hopping around, twisting to push and shifting their weight around to get back into a natural position on the board. Like throwing a ball with the wrong hand, pushing mongo makes you look like you’ve never done this before.
Why you shouldn’t do it
Using the correct foot to push is not a matter of opinion. There are many issues that pushing mongo cause for skateboarders. The way it looks is only one of the problems. Skateboarding is difficult enough, but pushing mongo makes it harder in several ways.
Pushing with the proper (back) foot weights the board in the front, making it easier to steer and giving you a solid base while you push. When you push mongo, your body weight shifts to the rear of the board. This weight shift causes a couple issues that make accidents more likely.
First and foremost, weighting the back of the board makes it much easier for the front wheels to pop off the ground as you push. When that happens, the board will skip around when the front wheels strike anything – from tiny rocks to small cracks in the pavement. The result is a hectic ride and imprecise steering.
Weighting the board so far back also makes it much easier to slip out and lose control of the board. Skaters who push mongo really do slam more often, simply because they sometimes place the back foot slightly farther back toward the tail than they usually do. Pushing mongo requires far too much precision in foot placement, which brings us to the next issue.
It complicates things
When you push with the back foot, your feet will almost always be in a natural position on the board. This is true both for when you step off to push and when you place your foot back on the board. There is seldom any need to adjust foot placement. You can simply position your front foot on the board where it will need to be for whatever trick you are about to try.
When you push mongo, the opposite is true. The back foot has to stay near the truck bolts for there to be any stability at all. You will then have to place the front foot back onto the board at the exact position you need it to be in for the upcoming trick, which never happens. Instead, you will have to reposition the back foot onto the tail and the front foot into ollie position before you get to the obstacle.
All of that shuffling around requires time that you simply will not always have. Stairs, gaps and ledges often have only a limited amount of run up. Pushing mongo eliminates your ability to hit any spot that does not have a runway of pavement leading up to it. If you’ve ever wondered why mongo pushers always seem rushed when they skate, that is the reason.
It looks silly
The history of skateboarding is full of iconoclasts doing their own thing. In truth, there have been a few (very few) successful pros that have pushed mongo for their whole careers. Even those guys looked weird doing it, though. There just isn’t any way to look natural while pushing mongo. It always seems forced.
Of course, no one is suggesting that skaters should waste their time worrying about the way they look when they skate. Skateboarding has always been a loose collection of individuals, and those individual styles are what make skating unique. But some things in skateboarding will just never look right. Pushing mongo is like mounting your trucks backward. You can do it if you want, but it will always look funny.
When is it okay?
To every rule there is an exception, and the “never push mongo” rule is no different. The major exception for pushing with the back foot is when riding switch. Even for reformed mongo pushers, using the dominant foot to push soon begins to feel as natural as walking. But when you turn around and ride backward, the dominant foot will be in front.
Most skaters will naturally push mongo when they are learning to ride switch. It is so common that most people will assume you are riding switch when they see you pushing with the wrong foot. It’s fine to do that, but even skating switch looks better when you push with the back foot. If you force yourself to push with the back foot – whether skating switch or regular – it will soon begin to look and feel natural. Switch tricks look best when they don’t look switch.
What about cracks and rough roads?
Some people say they feel more comfortable pushing mongo because the board seems to hop over debris without any effort. It’s true that your front wheels will pop up when they hit things, allowing you to cruise over pebbles and cracks, but there is something else you can do in that situation.
If you are pushing mongo to cope with wheel bite, try this: When you see something in your way that might stop your roll, simply take all the weight off your non-pushing foot. Lifting your front foot off the board that way will allow the front wheels to skip over all but the biggest cracks. You can then simply place your weight back on the board as if nothing happened. You’ll maintain your flow and you’ll always look natural.
No matter what anyone ever tells you, there is no wrong way to skate. This isn’t about being cool, fitting in or looking a certain way. We’ll leave that to the trend followers out there. Skateboarding is self-expression. It’s about doing your own thing, and that will always remain at its core.
Pushing mongo is not a matter of style, though. It’s a bit like skating in flip flops. You can do it if you like, but it will always be problematic. Pushing with the front foot is dangerous and unnecessarily complicated. As you learn to ride, you should always be striving to improve your flow. The best skateboarders look like they were born to do it. Pushing mongo makes skating with an easy flow nearly impossible.