Why Street Skaters Don’t Wear Helmets
Street skaters are notorious for their counter-culture life and risk-taking stunts. If you’re willing to throw your body down a handrail over a 12-set of stairs then what are the chances you care about a helmet?
Unfortunately, this risky stylistic choice has permeated skate culture and leads even beginners to not want to wear helmets. The idea is that helmets are uncool or that only people who can’t skate wear them.
This is simply not true. There are plenty of skaters who wear helmets both professional and amateur.
But why don’t pro skaters wear helmets?
Street cred was pretty big in skating in the 90s and 2000s and still plays a large role in a skater’s career.
Does that skater consistently put out quality street parts? Do they skate with style? Are they gritty enough to retry a trick after a hard fall?
All of these factors determine how the skater is viewed and then how much merch they can sell and what sponsors they can get. Unfortunately, wearing a helmet does not lend anyone street cred and so most pros don’t wear them.
I think skating is changing and maturing in a way that pro might start wearing more helmets. This is important because beginners imitate the pros that they look up to. Most pros understand how to fall and can limit risk in this way, but the example they put forth is probably the most impactful.
Currently, only skaters in certain styles like transition wear helmets. Think Tony Hawk.
If you’re curious about how dangerous skateboarding actually is or isn’t, check out my data-driven guide here that compares skateboarding to other sports.
Skate style and sometimes fashion is a thing in skating.
Street fashion in general has been heavily influenced by skateboarding. People sometimes say that a helmet is not stylish and that it is bulky and hard to skate with.
Most people do agree that wearing a helmet doesn’t make you look any cooler, but wearing a helmet shouldn’t impact your skating at all. The only real argument against a helmet is that being a pro skater is so image-dependent and wearing a helmet in street videos will not help their career. It simply doesn’t look as cool.
Again, I think this will change as more skaters will make a point to wear a helmet as they film sick video parts. But for now, helmets are not the norm.
Do Any Pro Skaters Wear Helmets?
So are there any exceptions to this? What pro street skaters actually wear a helmet?
Transition skaters all wear helmets, but pro street skaters who wear a helmet are fewer and farther between. There are a few notable exceptions though.
Andy Anderson is the coolest Canadian skateboarder out there.
He is an amazing technical skater and really has the ability to skate it all, though he focuses on street and freestyle competitions. He really has a unique mix of street and freestyle in his skate style. Plus he always makes a point to wear a helmet.
You can find the explanation in interviews with him. He talks about taking skate lessons early on as a kid and the instructor would tell everyone to wear a helmet, but then wouldn’t wear one themselves. He thought this was hypocritical and decided to make a point of always wearing a helmet.
His friends and other skaters would tell him things like that no girls would like him and he couldn’t have a professional career skating if he wore a helmet. All of these things are untrue.
Now Andy has skated in the Olympics, regularly competes in freestyle competitions, and is a pro rider for Powell-Peralta. He has a great attitude and is a loveable and goofy guy. He also has his own brand of helmets which look and feel great to wear.
So George Poulos isn’t exactly your normal pro skater, and he doesn’t consider himself a pro at all. However, he is a relatively famous YouTube Skater that earns a decent income through making skateboarding videos and reviewing different skate products.
One thing I love about him in his videos is that he almost always wears a helmet. He even does fun videos where he purposely wears goofy or bad-looking helmets at the park. He is generally a pretty talented skater and has a good very down-to-earth personality that is fun to watch.
I know some skaters don’t like YouTube skaters because they become popular and successful without necessarily being as skilled as the pros, but they provide something else other than amazing skating. They make entertainment, trick tips, and products reviews so need to hate them. They’re just doing it differently.
Go watch Mike Vallely’s Public Domain if you want to see a great and classic skate part. It was filmed on a classic more cruiser-style board and doesn’t involve huge grinds or flip tricks. It’s just Mike cruising and riding the streets with airs and gaps. You might also notice that he isn’t wearing a helmet.
However, that was the old Mike Vallely and more recently he has started to make a point to always wear a helmet when he skates. You can see this in any of his more recent videos since about 2015. He will even wear a helmet when teaching someone on flat ground.
You can go find interviews where Mike talks about starting to wear helmets because he wants kids to wear helmets.
Do You Really Need a Helmet? Should You Wear One?
You can never be absolutely sure that something unexpected won’t happen while you’re skating. The risk of a head injury might be low in some cases, but it is always there.
As a beginner skateboarder, you need to wear a helmet. This is because beginners are the most at risk for a head injury. Beginners have yet to develop good board control nor have learned to fall properly. There is always a risk of a head injury and something unexpected can happen. Head injuries can be fatal or have lasting impacts.
You might be cruising in the street and get hit by a car. You might lose control and fall with your head onto a curb. You want to slam your head after falling backward. I don’t want to be dramatic, but just for you to understand that there is a risk involved there and the best protection is a helmet.
If you want to read more about what safety gear is actually necessary, sizings, and when to wear it, check out my in-depth guide of safety gear here.
When Should You Wear a Helmet?
It is never a bad idea to wear a helmet, but let’s look at some situations where you should absolutely be wearing a helmet.
- You are a beginner
- You are skating stairs or handrails
- You are skating transition (bowls, miniramps, transition)
- You are cruising in the street
- You are skating around kids (they are very impressionable)
- Anytime you want to protect your head
Seriously, it is never a bad idea to wear a helmet and normalizing skaters doing so can even save lives. So if you want to immediately be a positive change in skateboarding, then you should wear a helmet. Luckily there are many sleek and stylish helmets that look and feel great to skate in.
Best Looking Helmet Recommendations
- Mind Control Helmets are a brand launched by Andy Anderson in 2021 and have been extremely popular so far through the year. Andy is one of the currently most loved skaters out there and his helmet is sleek and well designed. This is a stylish and clean look. Unfortunately, you might have a hard time buying one and they don’t stay in stock.
- The Thousand Helmet Heritage is a sleek line of helmets designed for BMX, skateboarding, and biking. The helmets are consciously designed with vegan leather straps and a light-weight and well-ventilated design. These helmets are also very popular recently and are a far cry from the clunky and ugly helmets that people normally imagine.
- Lastly, the classic and well respected Triple-8 helmets are always a good choice. Triple-8 sponsors big-name skaters such as Tony Hawk, Mike Vallely, and Lizzie Armano. They are also a bit cheaper than Mind Control or Thousand Helmet Heritage helmets. The company has been around for a long time and you can easily find their helmets on Amazon or even at your local skate shop.
How to Look Cool While Wearing a Helmet
It can be nerve-wracking going to the skate park with a helmet. You can easily worry about other skaters judging you or thinking you’re a complete beginner because you wear a helmet.
You shouldn’t worry about looking cool while wearing a helmet. Skateboarding is about having fun and expressing yourself, not looking cool. The best way to look cool while skating with a helmet is to be confident about your choice to wear your helmet. Otherwise, just don’t think about it. Other skaters really don’t notice as much as you might imagine.
So be brave and go skate like you don’t care about other people’s opinions. Skating is about having fun, not looking cool.
If you get anxious about skating in public, check out my guide on getting over the anxiety that comes with skating in front of others or at the skatepark.
So that’s it.
It’s never a bad idea to wear a helmet, but many pro street skaters get a lot of pressure to not wear one by their corporate sponsors and by other skaters alike. Helmets just don’t match their street image which is critical to their career.
I hope this changes and you can be part of that change if you make a point to support skaters who wear helmets and even wear one yourself. I try these days to wear a helmet if I skate even flat ground which is pretty unnecessary but doesn’t hurt.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and look out for more content from Board and Wheels.