courtney on her longboard

While longboarding is fun, it can also be dangerous.

Longboards are appearing all around campus, and so are trips to the emergency room. According to an article at, “Longboarders are at much greater risk of head fracture, traumatic brain injury and bleeding inside the skull (intracranial hemorrhage) than skateboarders.”

I myself have fallen off my longboard several times, but the embarrassment of falling on campus doesn’t match the possible bodily injury that could happen.

Here are some DOs for staying safe on a longboard:

  • DO skate in the street. First of all, it is illegal in most states to skate on a sidewalk (same with bicycles). That being said, if you plan to skate in the road, you must abide by all road rules that bikes and cars do; you must indicate turns, stop at stop signs and lights, have lights- in order to be safe and legal. However, the roads in Winona are not particularly safe for longboarders. There are lots of potholes, rocks, gravel and glass that make many of our streets difficult to ride.
  • DO ride like you drive. Ride with traffic if you can. Indicate your turns and stop at all stop signs and stop lights.
  • DO ride in groups. This increases visibility and assistance if someone falls. Do not obstruct traffic in your group, however.
  • DO ride in bright colors. Drivers aren’t trained to look for longboarders like they do for bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Avoid getting hit by an a person opening their car door, or hit by a car by being noticeable.
  • DO ride around the lakes. The lakes have been recently paved and ensure a smooth ride! It is safe, as long as you avoid other pedestrians!
  • DO ride in (empty) parking lots and on campus. These open spaces without cars or cross streets are good for practice and goofing around. There are fewer chances of collisions here, but your risk of falling and get hurt remains.
  • DO wear protective gear. Helmets, wrist guards and knee pads will aid in your riding experience. Slap some stickers on your helmet if you feel like a square– better safe than sorry.
  • DO wear shoes. It may be tempting to ride barefoot, but the Winona streets will cut up your feet. Keep flat shoes on when riding, and make sure they are fastened or tied properly.
  • DO take care of your board. Check the wheels and pay attention to the looseness or tightness of your trucks. Know how to fix them with the proper tools when you need to.
  • DO stay in control. You are not the only one on the road. Know that if you goof off or try to show off, you are not only risking your life, but others’ safety as well. You are responsible for damages if you cause an accident so leave tricks, experimenting and risk-taking to safe, closed off areas.

Now for the DON’Ts:

  • DON’T ride while wearing headphones. Headphones are great to set the mood, but restrict your safety and ability to know what’s going on around you. You need to always be aware of what’s in front of you and in your periphery, but also know what is behind you. If you MUST listen to music, ensure that you are constantly looking around you.
  • DON’T ride under the influence. There are clear problems, such as loss of balance and coordination coupled with impaired decision-making, with riding while drunk or high, not to mention you probably won’t be any good.
  • DON’T bomb Garvin Heights. You won’t be able to stop your longboard unless you fall. Or are hit by a car. Garvin is the biggest hill in Winona, but also the most dangerous for longboarders. A friend try to ride it and ended up losing all the skin on his back. He was lucky he wasn’t hit by a car coming around the blind corner.
  • DON’T grab cars to hitch a ride. It’s illegal and unsafe. However, being pulled around the lakes by a bicyclist friend is actually really fun and safe 🙂
  • DON’T leave your longboard unattended. I once had mine stolen after I left it out on the porch at a trusted friend’s house. Just like bikes, longboards are lucrative target for thieves so keep a close eye on your board.
  • DON’T ride wet. Avoid riding in rain or after it rains. Your wheels won’t like the rain, and neither will your board. If your feet are wet, the top of your board will get slippery, which is begging for an accident.

If You Fall

If you follow these safety tips, you will be less likely to have any accidents. But if you do fall, don’t get up right away. Assess your injuries: does your head hurt, did you black out, does it feel like something is broken? Hopefully you are not riding alone and your friends can assist you. If you are alone, try to call for help on a cell phone or shout. If you are in the street, try to scoot to safety if you can. If not, make yourself well lit (such as using the flashlight on a cell phone) and make yourself as big as possible so people in cars can see you and help instead of hitting you.

If you only remember one thing from this blog post, know that you are not invincible. In fact, we are all subject to cuts, broken bones, head injuries and even death. You must know and accept these liabilities before you ride and be smart the way you enjoy this fun sport.

Happy riding, Winona!

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Courtney McCaw

Courtney graduated in 2015 with a BA in English and a Women's and Gender Studies minor. She is from Madison, WI and her interests include feminist activism, snowboarding, longboarding and petting dogs.

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