Becoming a skateboarder means different things to different people. It opens doors to new friends and styles, and it fills a void in your life you didn’t know was there. Skating made me who I am today, and it will do the same for you if you let it. But, there is a price. As Danny Way said, “You have to pay to play.” If you want to pay a cheaper price, though, you need to learn how to fall on a skateboard with minimal injury.
If you skate, you will fall. There is no way around that fact. The older skateboarders get, the more they are just a collection of injuries. No body part goes unscathed, and no good effort goes unpunished. The best you can hope for is to avoid hospitals while you progress. However, a lot depends on you.
The best way to avoid skateboarding injuries is not to skate, or not to try, but neither one of those is an option. Falling is a side effect of learning, so let’s look at some of the things we can each do to minimize the damage and get right back up and try again… until we stick it clean.
Don’t Hit Your Head
This is the number-one, never-forget, always-true rule when falling off a skateboard. Everything else is expendable in a fall, but your noggin is not. As you continue in skateboarding, pay attention to more experienced riders when they fall. Whether sliding or rolling, they will always keep their heads up. This is one of popular tips of how to get better at skateboarding.
This may seem instinctive, but it is not always. The risk of injury may not go down much the longer you skate, but the risk of head injury does. The reason is that experienced skaters learn a few basic tricks to avoid a cracked skull.
When you fall on your back, keep your chin in your chest. Either cover your head with your arms, or use them to leverage your top half off the concrete, but do not let your head impact the surface you’re skating. When crashing forward, either ninja roll – discussed shortly – or put your hands down and use your arms as a brace. Very rarely will a broken appendage lead to death, but a broken occipital bone might.
The best way to keep a safe skull while skating is to wear a skate-specific helmet. Should you, or someone you’re with, connect head to ground, monitor the situation closely. This WebMD article should help you make the call when it’s time to get help.
Arms and Legs
By far, the most common injuries in skateboarding are to the arms and legs. There is not much you can do about shin bashes. As you learn new tricks, you will nick your shins, but you can usually avoid a broken arm or leg.
The key is to know you are falling and to be aware of your position in space. Usually, skaters will use an outstretched arm to brace themselves. It is natural to do this, but make sure not to lock your elbow when you do. Either fall into a pushup, or allow your arm to fold and roll onto your shoulder and over onto your back. Using a locked arm to stop a fall is a sure way to break that arm or wrist.
If you mess this up, and you have a stinging or throbbing pain, seek medical attention. There is no shame in paying the piper with a cracked bone, so don’t pretend you’re okay. This article discusses the most common injuries in skating.
Ninja Roll: The Mark of a Skater
Without a doubt, the most useful falling technique is the one skateboarders affectionately call the ninja roll. Whether a rock stops your wheels cold or you’re jumping down a 12-set of stairs, the ninja roll can mean the difference between emergency surgery and a few scabs on your back. This maneuver is only done when rolling, and it will save your skull.
When thrown forward off your skateboard, simply tuck your back shoulder in the direction of travel, allowing your arm to contact the concrete. Tuck your chin into your chest and arch your back forward, then roll on your back and onto your feet. If you’re still carrying speed, run out of it. The ninja roll may sound advanced, but it is as basic as it gets. This aikido training Video demonstrates the technique.
The Roll Away
No matter how you skin it (heh), skateboarding means falling, after that you can dream about other interesting skateboard tricks for beginners. Sure, you can cruise to class and back and never kiss concrete, but if real skateboarding is in your future, so are injuries. Sorry. Just remember to keep your skull off the hard stuff, your limbs limber and your ninja rolls at the ready, and you’ll be okay. If this article assisted you is skating safer, please share it for the next guy, or leave a comment.
For added inspiration, check out the slam section from Zero Skateboards’ 2002 video Dying to Live. It’s proof positive that the only way to win is not to play.
For more proof, check out Antihero pro Tony Miorana’s Hall of Meat spotlight from Thrasher Magazine. Sorry Tony… but ouch. There are also many more Thrasher Hall of Meat spotlights, if you’re strong of stomach.