In all things skateboarding the hierarchy goes: style 1st, speed 2nd, and safety 3rd. Anyway, that’s how I see it. Welcome back to my Yeehaw! column here at Wheelbase Magazine. Don’t get the wrong impression about how I prioritize safety—it merely expresses the motivation of myself as a rider coupled with my particular experiences. “I decided to skateboard because it’s a safe alternative to team sports”, said pretty much nobody, ever! People do however get into skateboarding because they love the delicious style that comes from the desire and insatiable appetite for speed and flow, or they just need that adrenaline in their life as part of their “x-gene” genetic makeup (see earlier column here for some referential connectivity). Although many riders’ core motivations may not be directly seated with safety, the ability to continue to shred-the-radness out of a hill, bowl, park, or street is manifest in a skater’s regard for, and attention to, safety. This includes a personal, internal barometric-type measuring of your own skills, and weighed against the risks at hand—this may include the wearing of some safety gear to hedge your bets. In the end, the decisions made on the topic of risk and safety—how to mitigate it—will determine the overall skating experience—a deciding factor in how much you get broke off and how much you make it out in a pinch to skate another day.
Built into every one of our internal “gnar drives” is a tolerance factor for risk that determines how much and what kinds of risks are acceptable for where we are skill-wise as well as the terrain we are shredding. In an earlier column I called this the “x-gene”—how much of it do you have? Alec Honnald, a world famous rock climber, to me is totally insane as he free climbed the three tallest vertical faces in Yosemite national park; El Capitan, Half Dome, and The Matador—all in less than one day without ropes! That is a bit too much risk for me, but it boils down to different risks for different skill sets. As unavoidable as danger may be, sometimes there are decisions to be made in order to ensure you will be able to skate another day. At downhill races we wear leathers and full-face helmets for protection in an environment that is made for riders to push their limits, try new and risky lines, and take inside lines where there may be none to take. If you have ever crashed in leathers and a full-face then you know that it feels like something akin to invincibility. You may bounce off of hay bales like a pinball, but you don’t really feel a thing. It’s rad!
Shit happens though! Regardless of how invincible you feel in leathers, a full-face helmet, and the rest of a racer’s regalia, there is no guarantee you won’t join the hall-of-meat or land in the road-rash-lounge. I have fallen fully raced-out from head to toe and still managed to shatter my ankle. My good buddy Dustin Hampton was in a stacked heat at the infamous Barrett Junction Outlaw race back in 2011 and got his bladder exploded from a seemingly normal fall. All kinds of things can go wrong, and safety should definitely be a concern. Some riders believe that they have the most incredible luck and will cut blind lanes when skating down hills. Don’t do that! Cutting lanes is dangerous! Cutting blind lanes on an open road will set you right the hell up to, as Darwin says: “select your genetic material straight out of the gene pool party”. Cutting blind lanes in a consistent basis will most definitely end in catastrophe, and I do not recommend catastrophe.
Now you may be saying, “Pete, I am a shredder. I can handle it; I don’t need safety gear and skate etiquette. I’m gunna shred. SCREW YOU!” I met that type of guy once at a local skatepark who shreds with those Addidas sandals that wrap around your foot. He was throwing down the entire skillet of grilled-up fresh-ass tricks, on both transition and the street course, with some long smith grinds in the deep end and some varial flips over the pyramid. The guy obviously had the skill to pay the bills, and when I asked him why he skates in sandals he told me it was because he would not want to fall in sandals and afraid of doing so, therefore he lands everything. Perhaps you are something like Mr. Sandal Guy. If you are, good for you, you have incredible natural talent to make up for your preternaturally poor judgment. Just remember, I am not here to tell you what to do—just give some perspective on the Pillars of Shred.
Hey, I’m going to come right out and say it: Downhill skating is dangerous! Especially when you are pushing it. It’s not a matter of if you are going to take a hard fall, it’s simply a matter when. If you have been in the game for a minute then you’ve most likely either had your dose of mango chutney looking road rash, some close calls with vehicles, or maybe you’ve even had some broken bones here and there. Sometimes, not even wearing a full-race helmet and a leather suit can save you from getting utterly taken to the cleaners (or the ER). Remember to weigh your skills while navigating your wiggleboard so as to give yourself the maximum rad times, with a side of longevity. Stay safe, y’all and stay tuned in & tuned up for the final pillar in the Pillar of Shred series coming soon. The topic of the next and final column is: Fun. Yeehaw!