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Pads Are Cool » Skate safe and live longer with fewer injuries

You heard me right and I'll say it again, "Pads are cool!"
I think all the pix and videos showing pro skaters without pads does a real disservice to the younger skating community. Sure pads would look dumb in a lot of the photos seen in magazines, but not enough is done to reinforce their importance. More importantly, injuries among pros seem common and glorified. What the hell!?!

I'm not here to preach or change the status quo of padding, but I can't see leaping onto a handrail and not expecting my body to suffer greatly when I bail. Any new trick is likely to increase the odds of failure - or several failures until you pull it off. Since this site caters to the older set, pads are particularly important for the overall lengthening your skating career as well as keeping you on your board as opposed to being laid up in a hospital bed. Why risk injury when pads can so easily prevent them?

I first noticed the degeneration of my knees when I was in my early-thirties and actively snowboarding. Slamming my knees, on the boiler plates of the North East, woke me up to wearing thin knee pads under my pants. Not the coolest look, but I know I saved my knees over the course of many winters by cushioning them.

If you're just getting into - or back into - skating, start off wearing pads. You'll thank me later. Stop by your local shop or do some online research and you'll discover that pads have changed a great deal since the days of the old blue & yellow Rector pads. The design and technology hasn't change much, but the options are much greater. Several companies offer "Pro" models, that carry a higher price, but you're an adult and can afford them. So, buy these because they're designed to protect your old bones.

Types of Pads

To properly outfit yourself pad-wise, don't cheap-out and don't skimp. When you improve, you can peel away the layers of pads and see what works best for you. To start out, here's a shopping list in order of importance:

  1. Helmet
  2. Knee pads
  3. Elbow pads
  4. Wrist guards
Skateboard helmet Skateboard knee pads Skateboard knee pads Skateboard knee pads
Head protection is most important because your head controls everything your body does. No head - no control. And don't wear a bicycle helmet. There's a reason, beyond commerce, for having a helmet designed for skateboarding. Primarily, it covers more of the back of your head and is made of higher impact materials so it will survive the beating you force upon it.
Knee Pads:
Often neglected, knee pads will really go the distance in elongating your riding life and session duration. Sliding down a wooden ramp on your bare knees will remove most, if not all, of your skin. Obviously, they also protect against direct slams. Knee caps are a lot less durable than you might think - especially at your age.
Elbow Pads:
Elbow ads are a personal choice item. I rarely fall on my elbows, but when I do I'm glad to have the protection. Like knees, elbows are fairly delicate and don't react well to slams. Your choice.
Wrist Guards:
Hardly anyone wears them since wrist injuries are rare. You find a lot more wrist injuries in snowboarding. When you fall across your center of gravity, downhill, and land on your hands... wrists tend not to come out unscathed. In skateboarding they serve a similar purpose, without the "downhill" aspect. Most falls on ramps result in knee slides, but if you go all the way over and land on your hands, wrist guards will allow you to slide without ripping open your palms and they protect the wrist joint. I recommend them, but its your choice.

Benefits of "Pro" Model Pads

Is a pad a pad? NO!
Sure, wearing standard pads is better than not wearing them, but the Pro models have some pretty cool features that are worth looking into when shopping for a knee pad. My preference is the Pro models made by 187 (linked in Accessories). I'm no salesman and I doubt they'll offer me a commission on your purchase, but here's my pitch...

Pads can be uncomfortable mainly due to flexibility. Most pads use seams to alleviate this problem, but it forces the pad to flex only in the pre-determined joint area. 187's feature dual density foam with a seamless hinge. They also have a patented gel-core interior that really cushions your knee. Comfort-wise, they have an open-back design that also makes them cooler to wear on a hot day. Double stitched for durability, they also have thick caps attached with velcro for easy replacement. These pads will outlast everything else on the market. Get your local shop to cary 187 (one eight seven). Smith pads are excellent as well.

Testing the Protection of Your New Pads (learning to fall)

You don't wear your seat-belt in anticipation of a grand accident on your way to the local skate park. Like your skate pads, the seat-belt levels the odds... just in case. But how will you know if your pads are going to protect you? By testing them.

Susana Spears demonstrates how to wear pads while nude

Falling looks easy whenever you witness a knee-slide down the tranny of a half pipe, but it's actually a learned skill. Loosing your balance is easy. Learning how to fall takes skill, but you don't have to wait until you're flying through the air with a horrified look plastered on your face. Practice falling before you really fall.

Huh? Yeah, practice falling. Put on your pads and start with an easy one. On a flat stretch of pavement, get a running start and fall to your knees, in an upright position, and slide along dragging your toes (wear old shoes). When you get the hang of it, try it on the half pipe. Set your board aside and just drop in onto your knees and slide to the flat bottom of the ramp. Do this enough times until you feel comfortable enough to do it while skating. when someone makes fun of you, tell them to piss off - preserving your body is far more important.

What were children always taught to do if their body suddenly bursts into flames? Tuck, drop and roll. Works for skating too. If you know you're going to slam downward on your shoulder, don't take the impact and slide on your shoulder (only football players wear those pads), roll out of it. Elbow and wrist guards come into play when your body rolls out of a fall. Imagine skating along and your wheel stops dead against a large pebble - your body shoots forward setting up the perfect condition for a roll. You may want to practice this maneuver as well, to prep yourself for doing it in live action.
I recommend this practice session be held in private. Anyone who sees you purposefully throwing your body at the pavement and rolling around will instantly laugh at you, then call others over to laugh as well.
Don't let this dissuade you from learning to roll - your old bones will be grateful to exit a session in a car, rather than an ambulance.

Care, maintenance & Storage of Pads

If you're like me, you have a duffel bag, preferably a cool skate pack, in which you store tools, parts, pads, CDs, food and everything you think you'll need while out skating. After a session at the park or curb you probably lump everything back into your pack and head out for a beer. That's fine, but eventually you will go home - and when you do, don't leave your wet stinking pads in your bag. No one like cleaning things, but wearing rank moldy pads is worse.

Some pads (not your helmet!) are machine washable (read the tags to find out), but that's rarely necessary. What is important is to let your pads air-out and dry after each session. If its been several sweaty session since you washed them, run your pads under warm water and set them out to completely dry. No need to soap and scrub them... unless you really want to or if they are particularly scrungy or scorby. Your nose will be the best indicator as to the type of cleaning your pads require. You may not be out on the prowl for hot chicks, but you don't want to drive them away by your foul odors - even if its just your pads.

Just because you can't (and shouldn't) put your helmet in the washing machine, doesn't mean you can't do anything to keep it stink-free. The plastic outer shell protects a layer of styrofoam to which is attached (usually with velcro) a thin foam pad. This pad absorbs a lot of sweat - a whole lot. Just as you let your other pads dry out, do the same with your helmet. No need to remove the foam pad, just let it air-dry along with your other pads. This foam pad can always be rinsed in the sink as needed. I don't recommend putting the helmet's foam pad in a washing machine - it will likely get torn up.

One way to prevent your helmet from getting too nasty (drenched with sweat) is to wear a bandana inside your helmet. It will absorb a lot of sweat, making your helmet easier to keep clean and smell-free. If you're unsure how to "wear" a bandana, just stop by the local chapter of Hell's Angels for a free demo.

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