Your son or daughter has asked you for a skateboard, but you are not sure if it’s a great idea. Perhaps you never skateboarded in your youth. Or maybe you are afraid of the culture sometimes associated with boarding. It’s up to you, how you want to raise your child, but skateboarding is what you make it. The more you are involved, the more you can guide your child into a sport that is physically challenging, and good for the self-esteem. But you should know a little about the equipment and the safety aspects too.
- History: Skateboards have been around quite a while. The first editions were in the 50’s. Then there was a resurgence for a while in the 60’s. In the late 70’s the Zephyr team with Tony Alva redefined what skateboarding was, and the sport has been advancing steadily since then. The popularity of skateboarding comes and goes, but with most cities having permanent skateboard parks these days. Skateboarding is here to stay.
- The Equipment: The skateboard itself is a very simplistic device. Essentially a board, some trucks (the axles) and wheels with bearings. There is a lot of technology that goes into the board design and materials, as well as the wheels and trucks. Another aspect of the boards is the graphics. Skateboards are very personal, and people take the graphics seriously. The design is considered an extension of themselves, and a statement, like a tattoo. Blind Skateboards from Skate Connection is a good example of a company that takes the graphical element seriously and offers a wide variety of options and customiasation. A positive aspect of skateboarding is that it is relatively inexpensive, and you will possibly spend more on safety gear then you will on the board
- Safety Equipment: Skateboarding has a bit of a reputation for being dangerous. This isn’t quite fair. Skateboarding is not as dangerous as trampolines for example. And it is likely safer than the growing sport of axe throwing. But skateboarding does involve a lot of falling, and for this reason it is important to get the right equipment and educate your child about the importance of wearing the gear. Most hospitalizations from skateboarding are related to head injuries. And that is something virtually eliminated by wearing a quality helmet. The main pieces of safety gear are, the helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. These cover the areas that contact the ground during falls. Mostly they are there to save a little skin from concrete rash.
- The Venues: Where you choose to skateboard has a bigger bearing on safety, then how your skateboard. If you practice the sport in a well-designed park the risk of injury is greatly reduced, and because these areas are generally quite public. Your child should be safe there from the gang elements and the ne’er-do-wells that are sometimes associated with the sport. The greatest risk of serious injury comes from skateboarding near traffic, or in areas not designed for skateboarding, like outdoor stairwells.
- Starting Out: First, make sure your child has all the safety gear, and an appropriately sized board. You can get help with sizing at any board shop. Go to a location that is not busy, it doesn’t have to be a skate park yet. An area with flat and clean concrete is fine. Maybe your driveway. Then just get your child comfortable standing on their board, and they can try pushing off with their back foot a little to get a sense of rolling and the balance required. Stay close, be ready to catch them for the first little while. Soon they will advance to where they can zoom around a little. They will figure out steering on their own, which is done by leaning towards where you want to go. Your next move is to get them comfortable rolling on slight hills. Once they are moving around with relative ease, it will be time to go to the skate park. Skate Australia has information on Skate Park locations.
- The tricks: At the skate park your kids are going to see everything that can be done. So, there is no need for you to learn them. But there are some terms you are going to hear that would be good to know for communication. At the beginner level they will first learn kick turns, which are just a 90 or 180 degree turn with the front wheels up. As they start to attempt half pipes, they will learn how to pump to gain power, and they will become obsessed with doing Ollies. Which is a way to pop your board up in the air and then landing back down on it.
Once they are at this stage, the best you can do is support them and enjoy the experience with them. Keep them in good locations and be a good parent, and this will become a great alternative to screen time.