Lurking in the shadows of its toey sibling, the heelflip has long been considered the inferior of the flips.
Or perhaps they haven’t—what do I know? All I’m saying is that a couple of decades ago, Zen master kickflippers like Tom Penny ushered in an era of pared-back trick selection, focussing on perfect renditions of the classics: the kickflip, the frontside kickflip, the 360 flip, and so on.
So regular old heelflips retreated into partial obscurity for a while there. Maybe it’s because they look like they take effort to do, while kickflips can be lazily thrown around. Maybe it was the tendency of ‘heelflippers’ to only do heelflips, or variations thereof, that made the rest of us give them a wide berth. But there we were, rolling right next to them, growing out our fringes and practising kickflips. Fashion is weird.
Of course, this argument is flimsy at best, and there are many exceptions. The switch heelflip, of course, is an evergreen staple in every self-respecting ledge skater’s repertoire. Frontside heelflips are jaw-droppingly impressive and rarely seen, apart from at pro level.
Interestingly, heelflips are enjoying a moment. They’re sort of this year’s bigspin, or the backside 360 before that—a basic trick that looks great when done well. It makes you wonder why you don’t just do every trick whenever you want, and stop being a sheep.
Here are a few great heelflips, and the heelflippers who heelflipped them.
This is what got me (and my DM chats, hi guys!) talking about heelflips last week. Slow-spinning, nicely caught, easy on the eyes—five stars. Taken from Quasi’s excellent Grand Prairie, 2021.
Lewis did incredible heelflips, but he did every trick like that—everything was beautiful. He was a stand-up guy and a really amazing skateboarder. This one was in his Nike SB Chronicles, Vol. 1 part from 2011.
Though Ed’s true heelflip strength lies in the backside variety, his straight ones are nothing to be sniffed at. There’s probably a better example but I’ve always liked this one up the stairs in 1995’s Heavy Metal. Such a great song, too.
This kid liked to huck a heelflip, alright; in fact, he looked downright uncomfortable doing anything else. Loved to grab ‘em, too. This one from Zero’s Dying to Live down the Hollywood 16 dropped a few jaws back in 2002.
Dill has tastefully sprinkled heelflips into lines in a few of his parts; this one over the Flushing grate is his opener in Rocco’s ‘96 epic Trilogy.
A bipedal/omnidirectional board flipper, Sablone handled this heavy heelflip over a Paris street gap in Cons’ 2020 Seize the Seconds, which arguably ushered in the trick’s current moment in the sun.
There’s nothing subtle about them, but they are spectacular. This one is taken from the 2013 Deathwish video.
Explosive pop and no-fuss style on rock-hard trucks and a toothpick, Marcus always had the sickest heelflips. In fact, this one down the two at Wallenberg in FTC’s ‘96 masterpiece Penal Code 100a could be a perfect example of the trick.
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Two decades apart, Young MC demonstrates his superior snaps and mastery of the form. Taken from FTC’s Finally (‘94) and a guest spot in Chico Brenes’ part in LRG’s 2015 release 1947, via the excellent @memoryscreen Instagram account. Coincidentally, Chico is the king of the nollie heelflip—but that’s another story.