Like any sport, skateboarding comes with risks and dangers that a skater needs to understand and accept when riding.
Aside from safety techniques, there are some basic, essential items that every rider should consider purchasing to get the ultimate protection in case of an accident.
There is a lot of gear to choose from and various types with different features so it can be overwhelming trying to pick out the best gear for your grind.
Hopefully this breakdown will help you out for your next purchase!
Helmet – Most Important Item
First and foremost is your lid, cap, brain saver, whatever you call it; your helmet
I rank a helmet as the most important item in your protection arsenal so be prepared to spend some serious coin on it.
For fast freeriding, downhill longboarding and racing it is most beneficial to have a full face helmet meaning it covers your head and face.
There are a few qualifications you should check before purchasing your helmet from your local skate shop. Some of these qualifications are safety ratings/certifications, weight, visibility, and price.
The magnitude of helmet certifications can be confusing and we don’t have much information as to how the tests for each certification are conducted or the pressure in which the helmets are put under.
So, choosing a helmet that is “safe” is somewhat at your discretion. The International Downhill Federation has recently updated their Helmet Policy and you can’t go wrong when following their guidelines.
Their basic guidelines are that a helmet must be one solid piece, must have certification from a credible source such as ATSM, CE, CPSC, SNELL etc., and must have EPS foam as their principal form of impact.
That might sound like a lot of expectations, but many popular helmets still fit into these requirements!
Some of these popular brands and styles include the TSG Pass, Predator DH6, NewOlders Avatar, Triple 8 Racer, Nork One, and Bell Drop.
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All of these helmets come with a visor to protect your eyes which is always recommended to wear but is not necessary.
Whatever helmet you choose, always be sure to wear it to the manufacturers recommendations and secure the chin strap before riding.
The next most important piece of safety equipment to never be caught without is a pair of slide gloves.
Some people might not value slide gloves as the second most important piece of safety gear, but after 20 some years of falling, you learn to go right to your hands to break your fall.
Without these gloves and pucks your fall, and palms, would be a lot worse. There are a ton of different companies producing great gloves for you to try out and a lot of the decision is personal preference so it’s hard to say what the ‘best’ glove is.
What makes a good glove is sound construction, a close and comfortable fit, and ventilation. Leather, Kevlar, and Cordura are all suitable materials to be accompanied by cloth, mesh, or other breathable materials.
Before dropping in on a hill slap some pucks on your gloves and tighten them to your wrist and you’re golden!
Pads and other longboard equipment
Following your head and hands are all the auxiliary pads that you see some people wearing on different occasions.
These pads are your knee pads, elbow pads, crash shorts, spine protectors, and leather suits. These are in no way mandatory to have a successful run, but they’re definitely a good idea.
Knee pads and elbow pads are very similar in their function and profile. Depending on your desired function of the pads, you should think of the impact absorption, the abrasion resistance, and the comfort/bulk of them. In the event of a race, it is popular to wear impact absorbing pads under your leather protective suit.
This is done to have extra protection where it matters without sacrificing your aerodynamic form.
For freeriding or non-competitive downhill skating, the abrasion resistant pads are more popular to wear. We can attribute this to a few factors.
Some being that aerodynamics isn’t as crucial as it is in competitions, you have more chances to high side or ice out while freeriding, and you’re typically not wearing your abrasion resistant leather suit.
Both abrasion resistant and impact absorbing pads have their time to shine and you can’t go wrong purchasing either one.
Some popular brands that are seen frequently on skaters are G-form pads, S9 gaskets, TSG, 187, and Triple 8 Pads.
Less commonly seen than elbow and knee pads are crash shorts.
Crash shorts are used for impact absorption, not abrasion resistance. The most common brands of impact shorts used for longboarding are G-form, TSG, and Triple 8.
Other brands are suitable and will give you added padding, however if they are made for snow sports be careful not to overheat in them as they may add insulation against colder temperatures.
Some of these other brands include Shock Doctor and Demon. All companies have their own size charts so be sure to check your fit before purchasing!
Spine protectors and leather suits
For the advanced skaters, spine protectors and leather suits are important to have.
A leather suit works best when it is fitted tightly to your own body. It aids in aerodynamics and protects against road rash when you fall.
These suits are commonly called ‘leathers’ though not all suits are completely made with leather. Some suits substitute leather for Kevlar to make the suits more affordable, but both materials will work fine.
Spine protectors are to add protection to your back, and choosing to wear one is personal preference. These range from $40 to over $200, but all will add some extra protection.
Some popular brands people wear when longboarding are POC, Demon, and Sly Tech.
Pro Tip: if you are getting a leather suit, have a professional take all your measurements and be sure to be measured wearing exactly what you would be wearing on race day (pads, clothing, and spine protector).
Always wear the gear you have to manufacturers’ instructions, and skate within your limits!
Safety should be your top priority and with this guide you can increase your safety arsenal!
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