Basic turning is not only very easy to learn and virtually effortless, it's a wonderful safety tool for novice skaters. Long before you have mastered the heel brake, you can learn to swerve away from a sure crash or the jaws of gravity.
Much of the elegance of in-line skating comes from gliding smoothly through turns. In even the slowest coast, a turn results when you push against the inside arch of one skate while turning your upper body away from that skate. If you have ever skied, you will recognize this as the "snowplow" or "wedge" turn. Many people learn turns all by themselves. When teaching it, inline instructors call it the "A-Frame" turn.
Prepare yourself first by going through the motions while standing on a non-rolling surface (carpet or lawn).
- Stand in the A-frame stance:
- torso is upright,
- skates are at least 18" apart if not wider,
- helmet is centered evenly between your feet, and
- hands are out to the sides at waist level, within view.
- Push against one skate's inside wheel edges. Because your feet are wide, the skates will be naturally tipped onto the inside edges. When rolling, pressure against one set of inside edges causes a turn.
- Relax into an evenly-weighted wide stance. Now swing your head, shoulders, and hands toward the left. As you do so, you will feel increased pressure on the inside of the right skate. When rolling, pressure on the right skate will cause a turn toward the left, and vice versa.
- Repeat your upper body rotation toward the right and notice how the left skate receives more pressure as a result.
Tip: Don't lean when you rotate, or you risk shifting your weight to the wrong side, which removes the pressure that causes turning. Instead, imagine your body is like a spinning top. Your helmet needs to remain centered between your hip bones and feet to keep your weight properly distributed.
- Skate a few strides to build up moderate speed (not so fast as to be scary, not so slow you lose your balance).
- Begin coasting upright with hips, knees and ankles nicely bent. This is known as the Ready Position.
- Push your skates outward into a wide A-frame stance. The wider your feet, the more stable you will feel.
- To start the turn, swing your head, shoulders, and hands toward the left while you push against the pavement with your right skate. It's OK to steer the right skate forward into your turn as long as you do not lean over your left skate. The left, inside skate should feel almost unweighted as you complete the turn. In A-Frame turns, the inside skate is just a "passenger."
- Enjoy the wonder of turning away from the jaws of gravity! Be sure to repeat the above steps to start turning in the other direction. Then try linking a series of turns left, right, left, right to actually enjoy gravity itself!
Tip: Always enter a turn headfirst by looking in the new direction of travel. Good upper body rotation and a wide A-frame stance results in a successful turn.
Practice making different sized turns, starting big, with your helmet as the top of the A. To make smaller turns, your waist can be the top of the A. Try to make tighter turns by adding more pressure from the lower leg. Finally, press your knees together to form the smallest radius A-Frame turns.
If you haven't learned to stop and control your speed with the heel brake yet, that's your most important next step. Even with your new turning ability, you will feel an urgent need for braking skills the moment you master basic forward movement, Strides 1 and 2.