If you (or your kid) are looking to get into longboarding, you may be wondering about safety. Longboards are a fantastic means of transportation, as well as a great sport that can provide a very nice workout (see this post for more about this). But many new riders ask, just how safe is longboarding ?
It’s no secret that many longboarders, including seasoned riders, have at some point sprained a knee, broken a hand or had their skin around the elbow or knee stiched up.
But longboarding is not an inherently dangerous sport – no more than biking for example. However, it is basically as safe as you make it !
Some longboarding disciplines involve more speed – and hence more risk – than others. Your ability to control your speed, the environment you ride in and the way you ride, the safety gear you use, all these will make a huge difference toward reducing accidents and injuries.
Is “beach cruising” on a longboard safe ?
If you plan to mainly do some relaxed riding on flat ground or mild slopes along the beak or in a park, longboarding will be quite safe for you. Few people ever get serious injuries from this kind of riding.
You may run into a small rock or sidewalk crack that will make you fly off your board – for a regular longboarder this may happen a couple of times per year. If you’re fit and alert, given the low speed you may be able to just run it off and avoid falling.
In some cases, you may not be able to get your balance back and you may trip off onto the sidewalk or pavement. You may end up with minor road rash, or if you’re unlucky, you may fall on your hands or elbows.
Many experienced riders agree that wearing protective gear most of the time is a smart idea. There is ongoing controversy about whether a helmet needs to be worn for cruising at low speeds (5-15 mph).
Yet the possibility of being tripped off by a pebble is always there. Wearing wrists guards and knee / elbow pads is a good idea no matter what.
Another valuable piece of advice when it comes to “beach” cruising, is to loosen your longboard trucks, which makes it easier to turn and avoid obstacles on the ground.
Is dance longboarding safe ?
Dancing on a longboard is a cool discipline that involves walking and crossing feet on a long and flexible deck while rolling on flat groung or mild slopes.
Dancing is a skilled activity which doesn’t involve high speeds. The main types of injuries you might incur with this type of riding are muscle and tendon injuries, sprains and strains around your feet, lower legs and ankles.
Of course, since you’re going to be spinning and twisting around on your board, you might still fall off, so a helmet and protective pads are recommended.
Is commuting / long distance longboarding safe ?
Now we’re getting into the more dangerous longboarding disciplines – if safety precautions are not taken. Longboard commuting often invoves riding on the open road, so road safety has to be your main focus.
Wearing protective gear may save you from serious injuries when you fall and hit the pavement, but it won’t be of much help if you get hit by a running car.
To stay safe when longboarding as a means of transportation, you should first be able to stop quicky and reliably. Before you get into traffic, make sure you practice your foot braking until you master it.
Another key commandment is : keep your lane ! That makes you more predictable for car drivers. If there’s a bike lane, use it – though you should still be on the lookout and get ready to stop at any time.
Respect road signs and traffic lights – like you do when driving a car. Don’t ride against traffic, turn / go straight only where permitted. Make yourself visible (e.g. LEDs) at night. All this will greatly affect how safe longboarding will be for you.
Is freeride longboarding safe ?
With this riding style we’re talking speed. Granted, the purpose of freeriding is actually to control your downhill speed through carving and sliding, so in theory you should not be moving too fast.
Sliding, however, is a risky proposition. If you miss your mark, fail to push your board hard enough sideways (or push it too hard), or miscalculate the amount of weight you need to shift onto your board’s rail, you can easily fly off while still at speed.
So no matter what, put on a solid helmet (certified CPSC for cycling or ASTM F1492 for skateboarding), some good knee and elbow pads (make sure the cap is in good state), and wrist guards.
Also, wear solid slide gloves for putting your hand on the ground when sliding and drifting – Sector 9, Loaded, Gravity gloves have good quality gloves.
A great skill to reduce the risk of injury is knowing how to roll into, and out of, a fall. This is not an easy thing to learn, however. But at least, if you’re wearing the right gear, you can always drop to your hands and knees and slide on your kneepads and gloves to stop.
Is downhill longboarding safe ?
Downhill riders and racers often get up to speeds above 50 mph, so you can imagine how dangerous this type of riding is. However, riders involved in this activity are among the most safety conscious longboarding group.
If you’re attracted to downhill speedboarding, you’ll start wearing a full face helmet, full body leathers, and back protection gear for serious sessions. You’ll also wear strong slide gloves for hands-down sliding before fast turns.
With this type of equipment, your risk of injury is much reduced, perhaps to a lower level than a casual longboard commuter hopping lanes in traffic and not wearing any protection.
If you get involved in organized racing, in most cases the event will be well planned with closed roads and emergency preparation.
If you plan to speed ride among friends, however, make sure you have a spotter in blind corners to alert you if a car is coming ! Particularly right-hand corners as you’re likely to drift into the oncoming left lane at speed.
Below : 6 seconds of video showing super dangerous downhill riding:
If you follow these simples rules, downhill longboarding doesn’t have to be dangerous, even though it may be inherently riskier than just cruising on your longboard.
Is longboarding safer than skateboarding ?
A study conducted in recent years concluded that longboarders are more likely to suffer severe injuries than skateboarders.
Based on a sample of patients hospitalized due to skateboard/longboard accidents, longboarders were found more likely than skateboarders to suffer head fractures, traumatic brain injury and intra-skull bleeding.
Skateboarders often ride at skateparks, where helmets are often mandatory. Longboarders, on the other hand, often ride on open roads, not necessarily wearing a helmet. As a longboarder, when riding on the streets you’re more at risk of being pushed into a curb, light post or sign post, and of getting hit by a car.
So, even though skateboarders often seem to perform crazy jumps and stunts, many do it in a very controlled manner and in relatively safe environments (skateparks).
Because longboards are so stable and fast, you may quickly feel comfortable and safe riding it downhill. You may not realize how fast you’re going, and may have not learned to properly stop / slide / fall. You may also not be wearing proper protection. And this is exactly what can make longboarding dangerous.
As a mature and intelligent person, you should take appropriate precautions before you start riding on your longboard, to make this awesome sport as risky (or risk-free) as riding a bike.
For one thing, make sure your longboard build is of decent quality, and that it’s well suited for your riding style. For example, if you’re cruising long distance, you should have big grippy wheels that easily roll over small obsctacles and cracks – vs stopping in your track and sending you flying in the air.
Obviously, gear up with protective equipment that’s appropriate for the way you ride – cruising at the beach, pulling freestyle stunts, freeriding or speeding downhill. If you’re going to do serious speed, wear serious protection gear.
Lastly, if you ride in traffic, use common sense and make yourself predictable. Likewise, anticipate drivers behaviors, abide by the road rules, and most of all, know how to stop on a dime !