Posted on 05 March 2008.
Whether street or vert skater, on a longboard or concave trick board, newbie or pro-slams are an uncomfortable inevitability facing anyone mounting a skateboard. Sooner or later, whether through slight miscalculation in timing, a sudden gap in the terra firma, or simply bad luck, just about every board misses a scheduled appointment with the pair of feet that rely on it.
Whether the outcome is a sheepish smile and a suppressed wince of pain or a visit to the local emergency room will depend largely on the grace and presence of mind you bring to your bails.
Recovery technique is part of the art…the style that will save you. Despite widespread warnings and ample close calls, the vast majority of skaters have stubbornly refused to adopt helmets and padding for recreational board play. As a predictable result, there have been a rash of bone-cracking mishaps amongst the skating public.
Fortunately, unless the impact is from several stories or involves a skateboard crash with a moving automobile, such incidents are rarely fatal. Even the ugliest slams usually break nothing more serious than the wrist of the hand absorbing the blow. This only increases the daring of young skaters, often filled with an illusion of invulnerability with the power of flight beneath their feet.
Unlike most other sports, skateboarding does not necessarily take place in an environment created specifically for the activity-and when it does, it occurs on a surface of concrete or metal, on props designed to enhance acceleration without any concession to softening the landing of a vehicle so propelled.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that approximately 50, 000 people end up in American hospital emergency rooms because they didn’t know how to safely bail. The statistics show that a third of these involve new skaters – kids who have been skating for less than a week. Most accidents of this level take place on rough, discontinuous skateboarding terrain.
Without crimping your style, an ounce of prevention can save you a pound of hurt. Build up to new tricks gradually, mastering each move before jumping on board the next ollie impossible contest. The vast majority of skateboard crashes are the result of impulsive challenges tackled too soon.
The art of falling is nothing new; in fact, many martial arts, particularly Judo, emphasize taking the inevitable impact off of vulnerable body parts. Skaters who have also received some training at Judo will not only be better equipped to handle violent drunks or muggers…they will be likelier to walk, or at least limp with dignity, away from a skateboard crash.
The most important skill in bailing safely is knowing when to quit. Too many skaters lose the groove at the worst possible time and at high altitude, while still trying to finish the trick. Switching at high speeds from a center of gravity appropriate to riding to a posture for rolling away from your board requires more than just balance-it demands lightening fast reflexes and an automatic adjustment to the unexpected screw-up.