It’s the one experience common to everyone who has ever set foot on a board: we’ve all fallen down.
No one ever means to, no one ever does it on purpose, and you can’t stop it; it just happens. One minute you’re in total control of the board, the next things slide into slow motion and you idly wonder where the board went and why the sky is underneath your feet before gravity painfully catches up with you.
If you’re lucky, the moment after that you’re picking yourself back up. But being able to get back up, laugh off a crash, and keep on skating actually has very little to do with luck, and much more to do with preparedness.
This page outlines the key equipment necessary to ensure that when you take your board out for your next spin, you’ll come back not just uninjured, but alive.
We’re all tired of hearing the scare-tactics about helmets, but the truth is that non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. By not wearing a helmet you’re pratially guaranting that one day, you won’t be getting back up.
The sad fact is most boarders don’t wear helmets. Doctors in trauma wards refer to the prevasive lack of head protection as a ‘silent epidemic’ amongst the youth who make up the majority of longboarders. 50% of children under 14 who are hospitalized for bicycle, in-line skating and skateboarding-related injuries are diagnosed with a brain injury.
Let me repeat that: worst case scenario, you’ve got a 50% chance of brain damage.
Luckily, simply wearing a helmet can dramatically increase the chances that you’ll get up and ride away from your next crash with no ill effects.
Certification and Ratings
When buying a helmet, you should look for one that has been approved by either the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), or the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Helmets approved by these agencies must meet stringent safety standards.
- Helmets.org lists helmets certified to both bicycle & skateboard standards
When shopping for a helmet, there are some general rules of thumb to follow. Make sure you look for hard plastic that will stand up to a few good knocks rather than soft, pliable plastic which does less to dampen impacts. Also, make sure the plastic is thick as thin plastic is more likely to fracture.
It’s important to ensure you buy a helmet which fits properly as a helmet which doesn’t fit is nearly as dangerous as no helmet at all. Below are a few tips on ensuring a properly fitted helmet:
- The helmet should fit snugly and not move around on your head.
- The front edge of the helmet should be two finger widths above the eyebrows.
- The front and back straps of the helmet should form a V just below the ear
- The front straps should be vertical and the rear straps should be flat.
- The chin strap should be snug when you open your mouth (one finger should fit between the chin and strap when the mouth is closed).
- Wipeout.knowledgenetwork.ca provides education about helmets and head injuries
- Helmets.org is a website dedicated to helmet safety
- About.com lists the best skateboard helmets
Next to helmets, slide gloves are the most important piece of equipment a longboarder can wear. A helmet protects your head and slide gloves protect your hands. After all, what’s the first thing you do when you start to fall? You put your hands out to try to soften the fall.
Slide gloves are hardy gloves with hard plastic pucks attached firmly to the palms and usually across the fingertips. This ensures that it’s the plastic that takes the brunt of the blow, and not your hands. Some professionally produced gloves even have foam wrist inserts to cushion and protect against breaks and sprains.
The other thing about slide gloves is they open up a whole new style of boarding to you. When you start wearing slide gloves you’re no longer limited to putting 4 wheels and your feet on the ground; you can throw your hands in there too!
Making Your Own
No rider should be without slide gloves, and luckily they’re easy to make on your own. All you need to do is get a hardy pair of wood-working or gardening gloves, a plastic cutting board and some industrial strength velcro, all of which are easily found at your local hardward store.
Basic gloves can be put together in a mere 15 minutes by cutting the cutting board down to the shape you want your slide pucks to be, and then applying the industrial velcro to the bottom of the puck and the palm of the gloves. While you could simply glue the pucks to your gloves, the velcor ensures that you can reposition the pucks if you need, and easily replace
For more thorough instructions:
- D-I-Y Slide Gloves @ Instructables.com
Elbow & Knee Pads
Many longboarders avoid pads as they can be bulky and restrict movement, but if you’re an aggressive skater or are going to be taking on large or steep hills, pads can save you from some nasty knocks.
Elbow and knee pads come in two types: slip on/off and quick on/off pads. Both types of pads feature a foam pad usually with a plastic cap to protect the pad from the wear and tear of repeated falls. Quick on/off pads attach via two elastic bands which wrap around the back of the knee or the inside of the elbow to keep the pad attached. Slip on/off pads will have a material backing so you can slide the pad up your arm or leg. Slip on/off pads may also have the same plastic bands to tighten the fit, but generally require adjustment less frequently than quick on/off pads.
When looking for pads there are three things to keep in mind: pad size & shape, cap size & shape, and cap material. The size and shape of the pad will determine how much of your elbow or knee is protected against falls; the larger the pad, the more protection. The same principle applies to the cap size and shape; the larger the cap size the more the pad is protected against the wear and tear of repeated fall. The cap material will generally determine the overall flexibility of the pad. Softer camp materials will flex with the foam pad but will wear quicker, while hard plastic caps will afford more protection but flex less.
Anything that makes you more visible to cars is definitely a smart addition to your safety arsenal. Reflective arm bands are cheap and usually easy to find at your local dollar store. Reflectors will catch a car’s headlights and reflect a brilliant glow, drawing the driver’s attention. Reflectors do work during the day but are indispensable at night when visibility is low.
If you want to add a little bit more visibility for night time riding and don’t mind a little bit more height on your deck, you can install one or a pair of SunRiser lights. Sunrisers come in both white and red, so if you ride a directional board like a pintail, you can set your board up with head-lights and tail-lights.
Each SunRiser has 3 ultra-bright LED bulbs rated for over 100,000 hours of use. The plastic casing is easy to disassemble to replace the common calculator battery that powers the SunRiser.
If you’re more of the do-it-yourselfer, you could always follow the simple instructions to build your own board lights.
Since your board is low on the ground, the light cast may not always be directly visible to cars, but are still a worthy addition to your safety gear. At the very least, the headlights will illuminate pavement cracks and grit you may not otherwise spot when you’re out night riding.
Clothes & Shoes
Finally, making sure you wear easily fitting clothes and a good pair of shoes are both very simple ways of making your ride that much safer. A pair of jeans instead of shorts will provide your legs with sturdier protection and a shirt, although nothing more than a piece of cloth, can make all the difference between walking away from a fall with only some road rash or ending up bloodied.
A good pair of shoes are indispensable to the longboarder. It is more difficult to ride confidently in scabby old shoes; if your shoes are frayed or have holes or cracks they may catch or let small stones or grit in, which is never comfortable. Always make sure your shoe laces are done up and the excess is not overly long; standing on your own laces will introduce you to the pavement much more quickly than you will enjoy.