This post by Max Dubler
A bunch of top skateboard racers are currently Mad On The Internet about the increasing presence of speed suits at races. These glossy, stretchy, spandex or latex suits are worn over leathers to decrease drag. The jury is still out on whether or not they’re actually faster than smooth, logo-free leathers, but for our purposes I’m going to assume they are faster.
From what I gather, people have four main objections:
- They’re expensive.
- They’re uncomfortable.
- They’re unsafe.
- They look dumb.
Let’s go through these.
While actual custom made latex speed suits are quite spendy, most dudes are rocking the wet-look pvc knockoffs you can get for $26 on Amazon. (If you were wondering, yes, it does come with free Prime shipping.)
Strangely, nobody has objected to the $1200+ custom NJKs worn by all the top pros on cost grounds.
The people making the “they’re unsafe” argument mostly focus on their lack of breathability and the potential to induce heatstroke and dehydration. As someone who has spent all day out in the sun on a 100º day at Maryhill in black leathers, I am sympathetic but unmoved. Dudes can chug gatorade and put their suits on at the start line.
So far as I can tell, the real safety risk with speed suits comes from latex rubber’s tendency to grip the ground and induce the kind of high-speed tumble that causes injuries, where leather tends to slide smoothly along the ground while slowing riders down. If the IDF does ban speed suits from World Cup races, it should be on these grounds.
As for the “they look dumb” argument, which is sometimes dressed up in the language of “marketability of the sport” and its appeal to beginners, it really comes down to “speed suits resemble gay fetish gear and I don’t want to have to look like a faggot to be competitive.”
One pithy definition of homophobia is “the fear that other men will treat you the way you treat women.” I find it hilarious that the leaders of a subculture that ceaselessly caters to straight male sexuality and requires women to objectify themselves to secure sponsorship is thrown into such a panic by the prospect of possibly having to wear something that will cause them to be sexually objectified by gay men.
Guys, I have some news for you: gay men already objectify you. “Skater” is a masculine archetype that shows up in gay porn. With regard to downhill racing specifically, dozens of gay leather fetishists follow my Flickr account to see photos of fit young guys in their custom made skintight leather jumpsuits*. Racing shots and have been added to groups like “PERV IN PUBLIC,” “GAY LEATHER PORN,” “BOOTS AND UNIFORMS,” and “hot hunks lederexpo.” You’re hot. Gay men are looking at you. Get over it.
Personally, I think downhill skateboard racing looks cool in large part because the gear is so radically different from street clothes. The colorful, superhero-like leather suits and customized speed helmets are otherworldly and badass. I do not see shiny over-suits as some kind of radical aesthetic departure.
I do not care whether speed suits get banned or not. I think there’s a pretty good case for requiring leather and/or Kevlar suits for racing because they prevent people from tumbling and do a good job of slowing riders down as they slide across pavement.
That said, I have zero patience for this whining about the safety dangers of overheating, the cost of speed suits, and bullshit concern for our public image and the need to make the sport look accessible for beginners. If you want to be a top racer, you should be prepared to do what is necessary to gain every available competitive edge without breaking the rules. If you are not prepared to do that, shut up and stick to freeriding like I do.
Finally, the World Cup season is over. If you feel strongly about this and want speed suits banned, the IDF elections are coming up in a few months and you should make your concerns known to the candidates.
*In case you were wondering, no, I am not into skaters or leather. Thanks to several years of riding in the back of sweltering U-Haul trucks full of pimply teenagers in leather jumpsuits, I associate the sheen of perfectly-fitted cowhide with dudebros asking me if I “got any good shots today,” not fearsome and dominant masculine authority figures who want to exploit their power and have their way with me. This is one of many tremendous sacrifices I have made for skateboarding. You’re welcome.