If you’re a skateboarding novice, you might have heard more experienced riders discussing and disparaging the act of ‘pushing mongo’ and wondered what that might mean.
If you’re disabled or know and love someone who is, you might also feel a bit affronted. ‘Mong’ is a word that has long been used to attack and admonish those with disabilities, particularly those that are visible or mobility-imparing.
Unfortunately, this is also common way to refer to a widely disputed method of riding, pushing your skateboard with your front foot as opposed to your back one. Whilst, yes, this is a questionable technique, it’s not an excuse to use a well-known slur.
Much like r*t*rd has fallen out of popular use (as it should have) it would be great if we could collectively refer to this particular riding technique as something less unpleasant. Why not FFF, or front foot first?
Not only is FFF the noise you might make if you see someone pushing with their front foot and hate it as much as many other people do, but it also doesn’t throw disabled folks under the bus. Delightful! I’ll start.
Riding Front Foot First – Why Is It So Hated?
Whilst some folks might think that the major problem with FFF is looking like a fool who doesn’t know what they’re doing, it’s not actually just the lack of visual finesse that skaters find fault with.
In comparison to a more traditional skating posture, you’ll take a lot longer to position yourself comfortably on the board, and it requires niftier footwork. You’ll also be much less balanced, as the majority of your weight is on the back of the board.
Going front foot first requires putting your back foot towards the centre of the board, primarily so you don’t fall over, whilst your front foot pushes. In order to then place two feet on the board, you have to readjust two feet rather than one.
As a result, your reaction time is a lot lower, which is a large inconvenience in such a fast paced sport. Combined with the instability, you’re just asking to fall over, and it’s likely that you will. Repeatedly.
Touching The Tail
As we’ve established, front foot first riding impairs your access to the tail of your board, as your non-pushing food is placed in the center of your board so as to maintain your balance.
Whether it’s to grind, avoid obstacles, hop or perform tricks like ollies and kick turns, the tail plays a vital part in a lot of skating technique, so the easier it is for your feet to get to it, the better.
Balance is key to successful skating, and a good center of gravity is important to maintaining that balance. Your stationary foot resting between the center of your board and its tail is asking for an unstable ride as you gain speed.
You’ll struggle to correct your movements if you stumble, and if something or someone is in your path, it will be much more difficult to change direction and avoid them – balancing, rather than ridinng, on your front foot is much easier.
Benefits to FFF Pushing?
Hey, if you push this way and it works for you, who am I to get in your way? Every skater has a different techinique in some way or another, and maybe this one is your favorite. It’s no skin off our elbows… just yours.
Riding ‘fakie’, or skating backwards with the tail facing frontwards, is a popular skating method, particularly in competitive skating for adding an extra edge to a well known trick.
If this impressive feat is something you’re interested in, riding with your front foot first means it will be much easier to learn how to safely ride ‘fakie’, as eventually you’ll be able to quickly flip the tail from behind you to in front.
Some of the greatest boarders in history have ridden front foot first – although it’s important to note that they eventually adjusted their techniques after experiencing significant backlash from audiences and critics alike.
From the likes of Randy Colvin, Chris Cole and, most infamously, Bill Danforth*, it’s possible to find footage of professional skaters pushing with their front foot, which I guess is all the justification you might need.
* Danforth was so well known for riding in this peculiar manner that some of his fans and older skaters might remember it being referred to as “pushing Dan”, which I personally am a fan of.
Learning To Skate ‘Properly’
In all board spoarts, there are two typically recognised riding stances, known as ‘regular’ and ‘goofy’ respectively. Riders very quickly learn which is their preferred way to skate, and this becomes their go-to stance when boarding.
To ride regular suggests that your left foot is leading on the board, with your right foot pushing, whlst a goofy stance is the opposite, right foot first and pushing with the left – practising regularly will allow you to do both.
In order to up the ante of their tricks, riders can ‘switch’, or change footings between regular and goofy stances, to increase the difficulty, widen the variety or change up the aesthetic of performances.
For instance, a ‘regular’ stance would require the rider to perform an ollie (jumping into the air on your board without using your hands) with their left foot forward, so a ‘switch’ ollie indicates the rider would stand with their right foot first.
Conclusion – Does It Matter?
Whether you’re a regular stanced rider, you like things a little goofier, or you broke the mold and prefer to push with your front foot rather than your back, all that matters is you’re comfortable and, most importantly, safe.
Trying to skate in a more ‘professional’ manner will of course improve your technique and hone your abilities, but it isn’t necessary to be a good skater, and choosing to opt for a different riding method doesn’t make you a bad skater either.
Whatever your preferences, remember there are plenty of disabled skaters out there, who I’m sure would much prefer it if our every day language was more inclusive and less potentially offensive.