There’s a certain kind of joy that comes with cruising around on a longboard. Feeling the breeze against your face. Gracefully carving around turns. Speeding down hills. It’s true that longboarding isn’t quite as popular compared to its counterpart (aka skateboarding). But it’s gained momentum in recent years because it makes for a great commuter board especially among college students.
No matter what kind of longboarder you are, it’s important to protect yourself against potential injuries. Enter the longboard helmet — your first line of defense against accidents. We’ll get into the nitty gritty details of choosing the best longboard helmet below. But first, a brief history lesson.
It should come as no surprise that longboarding has roots in California. However, it originated in Hawaii in the 1950s. Surfers decided that they wanted to shred pavement when they weren’t in the water. So, they got a little creative and expanded the size of their skateboard decks. Twenty some odd years later, longboard decks and wheels got a major upgrade. It was also during this time that the Z-Boys came onto the scene and transformed skateboarding. In the 90s, the brand Sector 9 began mass producing and selling longboards.
Today, more than 40 percent of skateboarders also longboard. Longboarders can choose from different styles of longboarding. There’s no one-size-fits-all kind of riding. And you might even find that you fall into more than one category.
PHOTO COURTESY OF @philippemartins
This is the most common longboarding style. It’s the one you’ll probably see and do the most. A longer board with large, softer wheels and trucks that span the width of the deck are ideal for everyday cruising.
Think Fast & Furious but instead of being in cars, you’re on a board. Downhill is a dangerous and extreme longboarding style that should only be done by experts. Riders reach high speeds of up to 60 MPH. Downhill riders wear gloves with plastic pucks to slide more easily and maintain balance on the road. (Check out the International Downhill Federation on Instagram for quality downhill skateboarding content.)
Freeriding is like downhill longboarding but more relaxed. It includes elements of sliding, carving, and spinning. Like downhill riders, freeriders wear slide gloves.
Like its name suggests, freestyle longboarding means anything goes. Riders will typically switch up stances, perform side-stepping tricks, do kickflips, and more. Freestyle may also be called “dancing” because these riders have fancy footwork.
Picture a downhill course with cones. Then picture skaters on longboards carving in and out of the cones at a high speed. The term often applies to carving around pedestrians as well.
It’s all about safety first when participating in any kind of activity on wheels (yes, that even means scooters and roller skating). According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 98 thousand people were treated for skateboarding-related injuries in the emergency room in 2017. Of those people, 47 thousand were aged 15 to 24. Here are a few ways to ride safely.
No matter which kind of rider you are, it’s definitely possible to take a spill and end up with an injury or, worse, a concussion. Wearing a multi-impact helmet will help protect you from life-threatening injuries.
When you fall, your first instinct is to put your hands down. Wrists end up taking the brunt of the fall, which could lead to sprains or fractures. Swollen elbows are also common. Protective gear like gloves or wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads can make for a comfortable and safer ride. Triple 8 has some fun sets for all riders.
PHOTO COURTESY OF @esk8kevin
Everyone is a beginner when they first start riding. Some of the riding styles we mentioned above are for intermediate and expert longboarders only. Practice, practice, practice. And always ride at your own level. Over time, you’ll start to feel more comfortable on your board and can “level up.”
Keeps your eyes and ears peeled for cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, and even other skaters. It’s possible that they may not stop or yield for you. Be sure to follow local regulations, too.
It’s common to promote the use of a bicycle helmet while riding a bike. And there are lots of guides available to make the search so much easier. Even though it’s recommended that longboarders wear a helmet, there seems to be less information out there about choosing the best one. We’ll break down a few key elements to consider while browsing Amazon’s selection, your local skate shop’s inventory, or on your favorite helmet brand’s website.
What comes to mind when you think about comfort? It might be fit, weight, style — or a combo of all three. Most adult helmets come in three sizes (small, medium, and large) with an accompanying numerical size range. The size range refers to the circumference of your head. Measure the circumference and compare it against the helmet brand’s size chart.
When you get the helmet home and try it on, it should sit just above your eyebrows. It should feel snug enough so that it doesn’t move around when you’re in motion. Many of today’s skateboard helmets feature an adjustable dial fit system to help you lock in the perfect fit. Adjustable straps allow you to further customize the fit. Be sure the strap closure sits under the chin and feels tight enough that there’s no slippage. Your helmet may also come with removable fit pads, which won’t compromise the integrity of the helmet if removed. It’s simply another way to tailor your helmet for your unique needs.
While you may not need to be as aerodynamic as, say, a cyclist, a lightweight helmet really does do wonders. It’s a sweatsaver for one, and it also packs well so you’re not lugging something that feels like a brick around. Most brands will share helmet weights in product descriptions, and weights tend to vary ever so slightly depending on the helmet size.
It’s true that wearing a helmet has gained in popularity among extreme sports like skateboarding, longboarding, and beyond. Think BMX riding, snowboarding, skiing, and others. With this shift came a focus on sleek, aerodynamic designs that resemble more of a half-shell helmet or fiberglass shell motorcycle helmet than a cycling or racing helmet. We know that the look of a helmet goes a long way toward influencing someone to actually wear it.
Generally speaking, all helmets are lined with expanded polystyrene (also known as EPS foam) and topped with a polycarbonate outer shell. The EPS foam liner and hardshell combo is a pretty standard style. Longboard helmets really don’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles. Consider features like a visor built into the mold so that you don’t need to pair sunglasses or a baseball cap with your helmet when it’s sunny. Sweat saver liners and built-in vents help keep your head dry and cool. Most helmets come with a snap or magnetic closure on the chin strap. The latter option makes getting in and out a cinch without risking getting pinched.
In terms of helmet designs for downhill and electric longboarders, consider extra protection around the jaw. A full-face helmet will protect both your head and face from accidental injuries. To keep your eyes safe from debris, you might consider a style with a transparent, shatter resistant flip up visor. This type of downhill racer helmet should have enough ventilation to keep the shield from fogging up while you wear it.
The good news is, all helmets sold in the U.S. are deemed safe because they have to pass certain safety standards before they ever hit the shelves. All certified helmets will have the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker on it. ASTM is another agency that provides helmet certifications. To be sure that you’re choosing a dual certified skateboard helmet, look for the ASTM F1492 label. It means that the helmet has been tested and approved specifically for skateboarding. In Europe, helmets that are certified for skateboarding will come with the CE EN 1078 safety label.
Many brands have leveled up their safety game by incorporating MIPS technology into their helmet safety design measures. MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. It helps keep riders safe from the rotational forces that can cause high impact injuries when they fall at an angle. (Learn more about MIPS.)
PHOTO COURTESY OF @yoshitech3
Cruising along on a longboard brings with it a sense of joy and free spiritedness that some other activities just can’t match. Whether you ride for fun, for transportation, or for competition, accidents are prone to happen. That’s why it’s so important to wear a longboard helmet. You only get one noggin’ after all.
Be sure to choose a helmet that’s dual certified by both the CPSC and ASTM agencies. Remember to keep in mind fit, weight, and style. Here are a few pointers we mentioned:
Ready to pick out the best longboard helmet to complement your style or personality? Thousand has your head covered. Shop our skateboard helmets available in 12 colorways.