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 fitness through longboarding).
However, it’s no secret that many longboarders, including seasoned ones, have at some point sprained a knee, broken a bone or lost some serious skin from crashing or falling off their board.
So, just how safe is longboarding ? Longboarding is not an inherently dangerous sport. However, it is basically as safe as you make it ! Some longboarding disciplines involve higher speeds, 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 make a huge difference in reducing your risk of accident and injury.
Is 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 injured doing this kind of riding.
Of course you might run into a small rock or sidewalk crack that will send you flying off your board – for a regular longboarder this can happen a couple times a year. If you’re reasonably fit and alert, at this kind of low speed you can probably just run it off and keep yourself from 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’ll probably end up with minor road rash, or if you’re unlucky, you may bruise 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, so wearing wrists guards and knee / elbow pads is always a smart move (I do).
A good “safety tip” when it comes to beach cruising is to loosen your longboard trucks a bit to make it easier to turn and avoid obstacles on the ground.
Is longboard dancing safe ?
Dancing on a longboard is a cool discipline that involves walking and crossing feet on a long and flexible deck while rolling mostly on flat ground.
Dancing is a skilled activity that doesn’t involve high speeds. The main types of injuries you might incur with this type of riding are muscle and ligament 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 some knee pads are good to have.
Is commuting / long distance longboarding safe ?
Now we’re getting into slighty more dangerous longboarding styles – unless safety precautions are taken. Commuting on a longboard often invoves riding on the open road, so road safety needs to be your main focus.
Wearing a helmet and protective pads may save you from serious injuries when you fall and hit the pavement. However, this won’t be of much help if you get hit by a running car !
To stay safe when longboarding as transportation, you should first be able to stop quicky and reliably. Before you get into traffic the first time, practice your foot braking until you really 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, but even so, you should still be on the lookout and be ready to stop at any time.
Respect road signs and traffic lights – as if you were driving a car. Don’t ride against traffic, and turn / go straight only where permitted. Make yourself visible (e.g. LEDs) at night. All of these things will greatly affect how safe longboarding will be for you.
Is freeride longboarding safe ?
With this riding style we’re talking speed. Although, a main focus 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, can be a risky move. 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 at speed.
So you’re going to need a good certified helmet – CPSC for cycling or ASTM F1492 for skateboarding, some knee and elbow pads – make sure the caps inside the pads remain in good state.
Most importantly, you need some solid slide gloves for putting your hand on the ground when sliding and drifting – Sector 9, Loaded, Gravity gloves all make good quality gloves.
A recommended skill to acquire in order to reduce your risk of injury is knowing how to roll into and out of a fall. This is not an easy thing to learn, however. If that’s not for you though, and if you’re wearing the right protection gear, you can try to just drop on your hands and knees and slide on your kneepads and gloves for stopping.
You can check out this post for more about how to stop on your longboard.
Is longboard downhill safe ?
Downhill riders and racers often get up to speeds above 50-60 mph, so you can imagine how dangerous this type of riding can get. However, riders involved in this activity are among the most safety conscious longboarding group.
If you’re attracted to downhill speedboarding, you should get yourself a full face helmet, full body leathers, and back protection gear for serious sessions. You’ll also need sturdy slide gloves for hands-down sliding before those speed corners.
With this type of equipment, your risk of injury is much reduced, perhaps making your ride safer than a casual longboard commuter hopping lanes in traffic without any protection on.
If you get involved in organized racing, in most cases the event will be well planned with roads closed off and emergency preparation.
If you plan to speed ride among friends, however, make sure you have a spotter around 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 dangerous downhill riding:
If you follow these rules, you can keep the hazards of downhill longboarding under control, 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 as a result of 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 typically required. Longboarders, on the other hand, often ride on open roads, not necessarily wearing a helmet. As a longboarder, when riding 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 way in a relatively safe environment (skatepark).
Because longboards can be so stable and fast, you may quickly feel comfortable and safe riding your board downhill. You may not realize how fast you’re going, and may not know how to properly stop / slide / fall. You may also not be wearing proper protection. That’s exactly what can make longboarding dangerous.
Protection gear recommendations
If you got the message from this post and want to gear up before hitting the road on your longboard, but aren’t sure what to get, below is some decent, OK priced equipment (except for the hardcore racing stuff) you can get on Amazon :
- Knee and elbow pads : Pro-Tec street pack, or standalone knee pads
- Wrist guards : 187 Killer Pads
- Freeride helmet : Pro-Tec Classic certified helmet
- Downhill speed full head helmet : Predator DH6
- Freeride Slide gloves : Loaded Boards freeride gloves
- Downhill racing slide gloves : Loaded downhill leather gloves
- Padded shorts : Triple 8 Roller Derby or Bumsavers (thicker and bulkier)
- Racing leather suit : Sector 9 Bomber race suit (check eBay before you buy this !)
As an 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 is of decent quality and well suited for your riding style. For example, if you’re cruising long distance, you should have big grippy wheels that can roll over small obsctacles and cracks, not stopping you in your track and sending you flying in the air.
Be sure to gear up with a helmet, pads, and/or gloves as appropriate for your riding style – cruising around, pulling freestyle stunts, freeriding or speeding downhill. If you’re going to do serious speed, wear serious protection.
Lastly, if you ride in traffic, use common sense and make yourself predictable. Likewise, try to anticipate drivers behaviors, abide by the road rules, and most of all, master stopping on a dime !