This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
When you first start skating backwards it is very difficult to watch
where you are going. Get a friend to skate beside you and watch for
you. Later on, when you don't have that escort, ALWAYS watch where you
1) Start by pushing off the boards. Just a gentle shove, then coast
until you feel secure with the general idea. A helmet isn't a bad
idea, by the way!
2) Get your posture/balance right - your body should be upright, chin
up, with your knees bent - if you normally lean forward while skating,
this will seem like leaning backwards. If you do lean forward or let
your head/eyes drop you'll find yourself scraping your toe picks.
3) Get your feet at a normal track width - not necessarily clicking
heels, but less than shoulder width. Many skaters let their legs
spread out when they feel insecure, but you can't "stroke" from that
4) At this point try to keep yourself moving with a "sculling" motion
-- moving both feet out-in-out-in as if tracing coke-bottle curves.
5) Next, you need to get comfortable with gliding on one foot, so that
you can be pushing with the other. Just pick up one foot - half an
inch is fine - and glide on the other. This will require that you get
the gliding foot centered under your weight! (see 2 above).
6) Finally, you are ready to stroke - just push one leg out and to the
side while you glide on the other, then at the end of the stroke, pick
up that skate and set it back alongside the other. Alternate feet, and
as you get the hang of it, you'll find that you can maintain and build
7) Expect it to take a while for you to get comfortable, just try a
little backwards action each time you go out to skate. You also want
to get in the habit of looking over your shoulder to see where you're
going. Looking only at where you've been leads to surprises.