EXPLAINER: Stalefish, nollie and other skateboarding lingo

Jul 23, 2021, 1:20 PM | Updated: Jul 24, 2021, 1:50 am

TOKYO (AP) — At the Tokyo Olympics, it’s best to distinguish salad grinds from stalefish.

Not tasty Japanese delicacies, but choice morsels from the rich lexicon of skateboarding. The new Olympic sport — competition starts Sunday — comes with a language all of its own.

For skaters, the jargon these athletes use to describe their acrobatic tricks allows them to understand each other, regardless of where they’re from. An ollie, for example, is an ollie in Paris, Portland or Perth.

“You can meet friends skateboarding really fast because of that,” says U.S. skater Alexis Sablone. “Even if you can’t say much of anything else, you can still skate together and cheer each other on (because) you know the names of the tricks.”

Skate-speak saves time, too. Far easier to say “ollie” than “skating’s basic trick where the athlete makes the board take off by pushing down hard on its tail and, once airborne, then levels it out before landing.”

And a nollie? Basically the same trick, with the take-off impulsion applied via the nose. Nose. Nollie. Get it? There’s a logic to much of the lingo. Olympic fans will be speaking skating in no time at all.


THE ABCs: In the “street” competition, skaters will rattle over stairs, rails, ledges and other urban furniture. The men go Sunday, followed by the women, including Sablone, on Monday.

The 20 contestants will be judged for their skills and style over two runs of 45 seconds and five individual tricks. The top eight then go again in the final. In the “park” competition, in week two, skaters will roll around a giant, feature-filled bowl.

Some, like Sablone, skate “goofy,” with right foot forward, as opposed to left-foot forward “regular” skaters. Unless, of course, they skate “switch,” riding against their natural preference. Either way, they’ll need stunts that are “gnarly” — both risky and amazing.

TALKING THE TALK: Sometimes, the names of tricks tell their story. Scraping one or both “trucks” — the sturdy axles on the underside of the board — along a rail, curb or other obstacle is a “grind,” evoking the screech of metal on metal or metal on concrete.

But it’s a “slide” when the surface doing the scraping is the wooden board itself, including its mid-section between the wheels (“boardslide”), the underside of the nose (“noseslide”), or tail (“tailslide”).

Also somewhat self-explanatory are names of some tricks that include degrees of rotation. Like the “frontside 180 ollie,” with skater and board rotating half a turn whilst airborne, or doing a full rotation for the “frontside 360 ollie.”

And there are all sorts of “grabs,” clutching the skateboard in mid-air with a hand. The stalefish, grabbed between the heels, is one.

From there, the variations are almost endless.


Some tricks pay homage to their creators. The 360-rotated “caballerial,” ridden backwards, is named after Steve Caballero. The salad grind owes a debt to the surname of skater Eric Dressen, which sounds like the dressings that go on salad. That play on words inspired the name.

When it comes to naming tricks, “there are no rules,” says Greg Poissonnier, who’ll be commenting on Olympic skateboarding for French TV and contributed to an illustrated guide, or “tricktionary,” of skating stunts.

“Sometimes, it’s just what they called it at the moment it happened,” he says. “They’re like, ‘We’ve done this, now what are we going to call it?’ And they give it a name.”


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A pitch invader runs across the field with a rainbow flag during the World Cup group H soccer match...
Associated Press

Protester with rainbow flag banned from World Cup matches

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The protester who ran onto the field during a World Cup match carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue Superman T-shirt with messages in support of Ukraine and Iranian women was banned Tuesday from attending any more matches during the tournament in Qatar. The World Cup organizing committee said in […]
1 day ago
FILE — Voria Ghafouri, right, fights for the ball with Iraqi midfielder Hussein Ali, during the A...
Associated Press

Iran releases soccer player ahead of match against US

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian authorities said Tuesday that a former member of the national soccer team arrested last week over his criticism of the government has been released on bail. The announcement came hours before Iran was set to play the U.S. at the World Cup in a match that authorities are heavily promoting […]
1 day ago
Cameroon's head coach Rigobert Song arrives to the field for the World Cup group G soccer match bet...
Associated Press

Cameroon goalkeeper Onana leaves World Cup after dispute

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana has apparently left the World Cup and is going home after being dropped from the country’s squad for disciplinary reasons. A photo posted by a Cameroonian journalist on social media shows the Inter Milan goalkeeper at the airport on Tuesday. The Cameroon team spokesman did not […]
1 day ago
Associated Press correspondent Isabel DeBre films a selfie video in front of Lusail Stadium in Lusa...
Associated Press

4 World Cup matches in 1 day? An AP reporter’s challenge

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Qatar’s World Cup is the most compact in history, with all eight stadiums radiating from the capital city in a country smaller than the U.S. state of Connecticut and the two farthest stadiums barely 41 miles (66 kilometers) apart. That led to a question during the tournament’s group stage: Can a […]
1 day ago
Canada head coach John Herdman yells as Canada forward Alphonso Davies (19) looks on during the sec...
Associated Press

Canada heads home from the World Cup with work to be done

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — While Canada is understandably disappointed to be heading home following the World Cup’s group stage, in a way the team’s work is just beginning with an eye toward 2026. The Canadians will turn their attention to their preparation for the next World Cup, which they will co-host with the United States […]
1 day ago
Spain's head coach Luis Enrique walks off the pitch with the players at the end of the World Cup gr...
Associated Press

Veterans keep important role in Spain’s young World Cup team

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After the final whistle of Spain’s 1-1 draw with Germany at the World Cup on Sunday, coach Luis Enrique went out to the field and began talking to some of his players. He spent more time with one in particular, Sergio Busquets, the only remaining member of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad […]
1 day ago
EXPLAINER: Stalefish, nollie and other skateboarding lingo