Disclaimer: I skated for the first time in my life this week, for not more than an hour. Everything I say in this post is based on personal experience, so use your own judgment before doing something silly and injuring yourself. The responsibility is all yours.
They say practice makes perfect, which is certainly true to some extent. However, like any other sport, there is a technique to doing it right that is far more important. Here’s a breakdown of what I discovered this week:
Bend your knees
This is true for almost any sport. Bending your knees automatically forces you into a crouching position, moving your weight ahead of your feet. This ensures that you don’t fall backward, which is painful and dangerous. The instinctive reaction to falling forward is to put one foot ahead and stop the fall, which is exactly what you need to do to start skating.
The simplest and probably the only way to gather momentum is to put one foot ahead and put your weight on that single foot. You have your knees bent, right? The trick here is to apply pressure on the foot not directly straight ahead but towards the side. That is, you push your right foot forward and towards the right, and then your left foot forward and towards the left alternately. This provides some control over your motion.
Don’t straighten up
…unless you know what you are doing. If you are moving slowly, it is alright to straighten up temporarily, but you need to bend your knees again before stepping again.
Don’t put you weight on both feet
Consider your normal walk: your front foot presses against the ground, while your back foot provides support. It’s the same principle at work here. Naturally, you can’t put pressure on both feet, otherwise your feet will drift wider and wider apart until you do the splits.
A possible misunderstanding by the novice is to imagine that the wheels would magically carry him ahead. In reality, the best analogy to roller skating is walking, except that the ground is rolling away behind you. Ergo, you need to lift up one foot at a time and place it ahead.
P.S. — How often do you get to use the word “ergo” in your posts?