The Helmet Debate Rages On As We Head Into The Olympics.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

VPS Huntington Beach  Photo Ian Logan

Helmets. They've been a hot topic since the '70s when skateparks were being developed and skaters were challenging their limits beyond banked alleys and sidewalks.

To wear a helmet or not to wear one?

Skateparks back then charged fees to enter and full safety gear was required and enforced - so you had to comply. If you look back at most of the photos from that era of skateboarders in skateparks you'll see both pads and helmets.

Cindy Whitehead at Skateboard World Skatepark circa 1976

When you look at backyard pool photos from the '70s on you'll see a very different story - no rules being enforced and we were free to do as we pleased. And to be honest, scaling a fence to skate an empty backyard pool is not for kids who "follow the rules".

Some people wonder why you'd choose not to wear a helmet when it seems so obvious that your head is super important and needs protection in case of a fall. I personally know the feeling of flying up an empty pool wall and having my hair flying in the wind, it feels freeing and it takes me back to when we all started skating and there were no rules, pads or helmets foisted upon us.

There were times at the skatepark when I'd fall (with a helmet on) and have to go to the hospital, and after examining me and running some tests, the doctor would say to my mom "it's just a mild concussion".

These words used to comfort my mom and she'd breathe a sigh of relief. The problem is that now we know better. Any head injury or blow to the brain is never mild, or "nothing to worry about". Repetitive head slams add up to injuries that affect the brain in so many ways. We have seen these dire consequences with legends like Dave Mirra and Biker Sherlock.

So why do so many of us continue skating without a helmet?

When the skateparks started closing and dying out in the 80's street skating was born and no one wore pads or helmets, because there were again no rules or anyone to enforce that safety gear. And it was easier to skate without all that protection - pads included.

Lizzie Armanto on the covers of TransWorld Photo Jones  and Thrasher  Photo Micahel Burnett

Hardcore skateboard magazine also decided that they wouldn't feature skaters wearing pads or helmets as it wasn't as gnarly.  Part of that theory was if you even had knee pads on and didn't make a sick trick you could "slide out of it" so that wasn't core. You need to take a slam or be able to run out of it to be legit. This thought process has been ingrained into most of us at an early age in skateboarding.

Pro skateboarder Lizzie Armanto graced the cover of both Thrasher and TransWorld and while neither pic shows her wearing a helmet (she is a ProTec sponsored athlete), she does have knee pads on - so that's some progress!

In the past few years, we have seen people realize that skateboard helmets can be cool, lightweight with full protection and still look rad. In fact many OG skaters have now decided that their life is more imprtant than being a renegade when it comes to helmets.

In fact, our second Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word collaboration was for an XS Helmet that was matte black with our logo in gold on the side - it looks both badass as well as being fully certified for skateboarding. We felt that having a helmet as part of our partnerships was important in encouraging girls to skateboard.

Minna Stess  Photo Todd Fuller

Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word team rider, Minna Stess, wears hers daily and competes at the highest level as a pro skateboarder - she is 13 years old and hopefully helping to change the thought process surrounding helmets.

The Olympics are coming in 2020 and skateboarding will be part of that. The official ruling is that helmets will be required if you are under a certain age. We recently saw that the ruling was enforeced  at the UK National Championships (an Olympic qualifying event) and 10-year-old Sky Brown was seen wearing a brand new Pro-Tec during her events. We also see more and more girls here in the USA that skate park wearing helmets in competition.

Maybe it's this next generation of girls that will create the change, and make wearing a helmet as normal as putting on your sneakers to go out and skate.

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