Why do figure skaters always spin in the same direction?

From above, they all spin counter-clockwise. No matter what the move, it’s always done in the same direction?

Have you not noticed, no Southern Hemisphere nation has ever hosted the Winter Olympics? Skaters CAN’T easily spin clockwise in the northern hemisphere, so they practice counterclockwise their entire lives. Similarly, they can’t easily spin counterclockwise down under so they just don’t skate south of the equator.

Apparently, it’s more of a personal preference of the skater. The analogy that I read compared it to handedness. Like most people being right handed, most skaters spin counter-clockwise. There are clockwise spinners though.

Most skaters spin in the direction away from their dominant hand/foot. So for righties it’s to the left (counter-clockwise as you say). But some skaters can spin/jump both directions.

Reddit gave me this video that shows a skater (Rohene Ward) doing a jump combo with one jump in each direction (starting at 1:46): Rohene Ward Audition #2 - YouTube

Spinning counterclockwise gives them extra time to finish their routine, of course!

Johnny Weird said last night that if you want to know which way your kid would spin let them walk down a hallway away from you then call their name. Which shoulder they look over to respond will tell you which direction they’ll spin.

Your natural spin direction also depends on which eye is dominant; you’ll generally have that one going forward. My mom is right-handed, but left-eyed; she spins clockwise. I think Vince Carter is the same; arguably his most famous dunk not over a seven-footer is a 360° clockwise windmill dunk with his right hand.

Other clockwise skaters: the aforementioned Johnny Weir[d] (USA), 2002 Olympic champ Sarah Hughes (USA), and the last two Olympic bronze medalists: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) and Carolina Kostner (ITA).

Apparently I would spin clockwise. Who knew?

That’s interesting – that works for me. I’m 46, but I only really learned how to skate about 10 years ago. I can only do hockey stops going counterclockwise. Clockwise feels completely unnatural to me. The left shoulder is totally the more natural shoulder for me to look over if I need to see something behind me. I am right handed and right eye dominant.

I like that you know this about your mom. I don’t think I know anything that specific about my mom!

I was watching one of the ski trick jumping contests (flips and whatnot) and they talked about how the judges wanted to see the ability to spin/rotate in either direction (not in the same trick, of course), and that being able to do so both ways was a challenge, since most people have a natural inclination to one direction or the other.


We ask that people please hold off on joke responses until after a thread has at least a few serious responses, please.

Derek Zoolander explained it best.

At public skating secessions you almost always go widdershins around the rink. I find it very awkward to turn right - not because of any biological inclination to turn left, but because I turn left a hundred times more often than I turn right. If figure skaters start learning at pubic rinks maybe they develop an early bias.

Some rinks they will actually alternate every so often, but, yes, for the most part, it’s been counterclockwise at public rinks. That said, I developed my preference to turn counterclockwise (or to hockey stop in that direction) on empty rinks when I was learning and I had a choice to go either way. I tried to skate equally clock-and counterclock-wise, but counterclockwise felt more natural and intuitive for some reason.

(Just to say that this thread illustrates one of the reasons this is such a great site. A good question evokes a number of reasonable speculations and suggestions - informative anecdotes and provocative ideas - that help inform a rational, and possibly not entirely simple, explanation. Rightly or wrongly, the SDMB helps stamp out (my) ignorance one day at a time. After all these years, still my favorite site.)