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How to Ice Skate for the First Time: Everything You Need to Know

As a figure skater, I've always loved teaching people how to skate for the first time.

Cool fun in Copenhagen.

Cool fun in Copenhagen.

Is Ice Skating Hard?

No matter what your age is, if you are in fairly good health, you can ice skate and have fun doing it. I always recommend that adults try ice skating at least once or twice because so many just stand on the sidelines out of fear of falling or "looking silly" as one mom said.

You may be shocked by the workout that you get, particularly when you always thought that skating was for kids and figure skaters never seem to break a sweat. When you go ice skating, even if it's 80+ degrees outside, you should go prepared with gloves, a jacket or sweatshirt, and a couple of pairs of socks if you will be renting skates. Preferably, you should not wear shorts or anything that exposes the skin on your legs because if you fall, you may have to literally peel your skin off the ice.

Before you get to the ice, you've got to get skates. Make sure that you know what your street shoe size is and ask for that size but be aware of the fact that a number of rinks only offer whole sizes. Bring a couple of pairs of socks with you in case your feet get cold, or you need to make your rental skates less roomy so that you don't get blisters.

Also, the rental skates are in a word, cheap, so don't expect to receive the support from the boots that you may see figure skaters or hockey players enjoying from their skates. Make sure your boots are reasonably comfortable, and your laces are tied up and preferably tucked into your boot or under the other laces.

Rockerfeller Center Ice Rink

Rockerfeller Center Ice Rink

You are actually skating on a thin film of water atop the ice when ice skating.

You are actually skating on a thin film of water atop the ice when ice skating.

Time to Skate

Try not to get on the ice when there is a group of people rushing or pushing to quickly get on. This usually happens when the ice was closed for resurfacing or for a practice or event that was closed to the public. Most often, it will be the little ones and early teens pushing and shoving to get on the ice, but not always. Hang back and be patient if you haven't skated before or you may take a spill before putting a blade onto the ice.

How to Enter the Rink

  1. When it's safe for you to get onto the ice, place one hand onto the hockey boards or railing if there is one so that you can balance yourself. You will likely have to step up, over, or down to actually put your skate onto the ice.
  2. Make sure that you keep your knees slightly bent at all times when skating — locking your knees when skating is equivalent to asking for a fall if you are a beginner.
  3. Push from one foot to the other to get moving and try to move slowly around the rink if you've never skated or have not skated in a long time. You will need to lift one foot off the ice for a short period of time before switching feet and pushing off from the other. Observe the skaters who skate with ease to get an idea of what to do.

How to Prevent Falls

If you feel that you are falling backwards, bend your knees and try to make your rear hit first. Don't tense up; try to sit down, using your hands to catch yourself. If falling forward or to the side, put your hands out to catch yourself. If you have gloves on, it might be easier to catch yourself because your hands won't slip as much as they would if they were bare. It is very important to try not to tense up so much that you become rigid because that is an excellent way to get hurt.

What to Do If You Fall

When on the ice, get up immediately if you are not hurt. I've seen many spectacular falls and injuries because someone lounged on the ice and another skater came along and ran over/into them or their fingers. To get up from a fall roll over onto your rear and then to one knee with both hands on the ice. Next, stand up and remember to keep your knees slightly bent. Now you can start skating again. If you are hurt, someone will come to help you.

What If You Need Help?

There are skate guards and figure skaters at some rinks who might be helpful if you ask, but understand that it is not their job to teach you to skate. If they give you a couple of minutes of their time helping you to skate, thank them and let them get back to what they were doing. If you fall in love with skating and are interested in lessons, most rinks have qualified instructors for group and private lessons. Just ask for information and the staff will be able to point you in the right direction.

Beautiful black ice in Austria.

Beautiful black ice in Austria.

Ice Skating Tricks and Tips

Skating Backwards

If skating forward is no problem, you may be wondering how to do a trick or two. First, you will need to work on skating backward to impress yourself and others. When you skate backwards, look over your shoulder the entire time so that you see who and what is behind you. If you don't, you could really injure yourself and others.

The most basic way to learn how to skate backwards is to push both legs in and out at the same time. Think about a pair of scissors. Each half moves with the other, and that is what you must do with your legs to propel yourself along. Practice makes perfect and makes for a pair of strong and lean legs too.

Two-Foot Spins

Another option is the two-foot spin. This is an easy way to make yourself smile. Start with both feet shoulder-width apart while standing still in the center of the rink. Put both arms out and bend your knees. Swing your arms and begin to lessen the knee bend at the same time. You will need to pull your arms in close to your chest to spin faster. If your weight is not centered, you may bobble back and forth, but again, if you practice, you will be able to perfect it. Even when it's not perfect, it is very fun to do.

Shoot the Duck

Shoot the duck is another fun thing to try. Simply skate forward bend one knee deeply and lift the other leg off the ice in front of you. The position that you are attempting to reach is similar to sitting on the ground with one leg bent (knee near your chest) and the other leg straight out in front. Take that image and try to put it into a forward motion on the ice. If you fall, your behind is already just a few inches off the ice, and the only thing that might be hurt is your pride.

Taking a break that wasn't necessarily planned.

Taking a break that wasn't necessarily planned.

Figure Skating Tricks for the Beginner

© 2012 H C Palting


Ayla Aliyeva on April 16, 2019:

İ liked it. İt was awsome!!!!!!!!!

I would like to skate right now . But "NO"!!

thomas phan on February 01, 2017:

I will sakte

H C Palting (author) from East Coast on June 16, 2015:

You're welcome. I hope that you have fun :)

Sandeep Rathore from New Delhi on June 10, 2015:

Informative and encouraging hub! Thanks...

H C Palting (author) from East Coast on August 28, 2012:

Oh Vermont sounds like skating country to me! Thanks for stopping by Billybuc.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 28, 2012:

I have never ice skated, which I find amazing considering the active life I have lived. I even lived in Vermont for two years, but I was too busy with my business to try skating. It sure looks like fun and you have some great tips here for beginners.

H C Palting (author) from East Coast on February 13, 2012:

Thank you Peggy. It must have been a major change to go from Wisconsin to south Texas.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 12, 2012:

I only ice skated with my family when I was a child. After moving to south Texas from Wisconsin and turning 13, there was no ice available so that is where it ended for me. At my age now, I'd probably kill myself on the ice. Ha! But I do remember the fun! Enjoyed this hub and voting it up, useful and interesting.

H C Palting (author) from East Coast on February 04, 2012:

Thanks Frank, I always find your hubs engaging and beautiful.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 04, 2012:

Express10 what a very useful hub great share :)

H C Palting (author) from East Coast on February 04, 2012:

As a competitor, believe me I have been there. Nevertheless, it is always fun, even when I Zamboni the ice with my rear.

H C Palting (author) from East Coast on February 04, 2012:

Thanks. You should try it. It's good exercise and a lot of people over the age of 18 turn it into more of a social event where they just have some fun with their friends.

MrNick from London on February 04, 2012:

Great advice thanks. Last time I tried ice skating with the Mrs she was skating rings around my bruised, beaten body laying prone on the ice...maybe it's time to give it another shot!

sarcasticool from New Zealand on February 03, 2012:

What a great hub, I have always wanted to ice skate properly but I was so bad at it ans lacked confidence to do any more than hold on to the side and let go for a bit. Only ever been about 5 times to a skating rink. After reading this I may attempt it again, though we do have constant earthquakes here so it could get tricky, but thanks for taking time to write this hub, very interesting. voted up :)