Learning Curve: Skate, Don’t Die.
Above: If you’re wearing shorts and don’t have much pop, you might want to think twice about early-grabbing the giant bonfire. If at first you don’t succeed, throwing yourself into the flames two more times might not be the best idea.
From driving a car to swimming in the ocean to being sexually active, pretty much everything worth doing in life is somewhat risky. Skateboarding is no exception. The trick is to acknowledge these risks and take appropriate steps to avoid them.
In a controlled environment, skateboarding is actually pretty safe, especially when compared to other sports. Most of our injuries are relatively minor: road rash, contusions (bad bruises), sprains, the occasional broken bone or dislocated joint. If you wear your safety gear and check yourself before you wreck yourself, you can usually recover from even the most brutal slam.
That all changes when you start skating open roads and at high speed. Getting hit by a car, running into a guardrail, or crashing out at speed can–and often does–result in serious injury or death. We don’t want to lecture anyone or sound like your parents; but playing in the street is dangerous and you need to be smart about it because no matter how good you are at skating, bad things do happen. I’ve hit guard rails and barriers, gone under the front wheel of a motorcycle, and seen sponsored skaters bounce off the front of a car on two separate occasions. Going to the hospital is the worst way to end a skate session.
A lot of this safety stuff is pretty basic: learn to slow down before you go fast. Wear appropriate safety gear. Know how to bail without crashing. Watch where you’re going. Don’t wear headphones on an open road. If you’re riding a hill with blind turns, use a spotter and take care to stay in your lane. Don’t skate when there’s heavy traffic. Know and respect your limits–your friends would rather wait for you at the bottom of the hill than at the ER.
Know your spots and skate accordingly. Here in LA we can skate fast because remote canyon roads don’t have driveways or intersections to worry about. Residential areas are a lot more dangerous; so you have to go slower and be more careful. If you want to go fully balls-out, go to an event with a closed road, haybales, and EMTs waiting.
Don’t count on people in cars or on motorcycles to know what to do when they see skaters on the road. Most drivers don’t know what sliding is or how we set up for turns using the whole lane. They do understand that dragging your foot on the ground is a way to slow down; so learn to footbrake and don’t be afraid to do it. If you see a car getting ready to pull out into the road in front of you, don’t assume the driver can see you coming or accurately judge your speed. Stop and let them go. If you can, have someone drive a follow-car to keep other cars from following too closely behind you on longer runs.
I certainly understand the desire to go for it, to cut the lane and haul maximum ass. I’ve done more than my fair share of stupid, sketchy shit and gotten away with it. I’ve also waited for my friends at the hospital after their luck ran out. At this point, I’m happy to err on the side of safety so I’ll be able to skate when I’m old. – Max