The early years of skateboarding were dominated by truly awful equipment, poorly designed, and unstable trucks. The clay and metal wheels would stop dead at the smallest pebble, tiny boards with no grip tape, and ball bearings were poured into a space in the motor. It was a miracle anyone could ride the things at all. And as such, the first “boom” in skateboarding was over almost as soon as it began. Nothing was user-friendly, nothing was easy to ride, and lots of people got injured.
Frank Nasworthy was the pioneer of modern skateboard designs. He eventually realized that polyurethane could make an incredible skateboard wheel, and things started to take off again. Although it’s worth noting that he didn’t think to rectify the ball bearing issue, Road Riders put a sealed machine bearing into their urethane wheels and pretty much put Cadillac, Nasworthy’s company, out of the game.
However, the public image of skateboarding never got over that initial lousy experience. In Norway, skateboarding was even entirely banned until 1989 (The secret skateboarders who defied Norway’s 11-year ban – BBC News) because of the poor safety record of those old boards.
Nowadays, equipment is as safe as the person riding it (and how well they maintain it). Sometimes I look at the photos of the guys pushing the limits in the late 70’s – often barefoot and inboards I would not dare step on, much less race down hills or slash pool coping on – and wonder how they got the courage to do those things.
Of course, you still get the occasional idiot who tries things way out of his league (I once saw a local teenager snap his arm in two just by rolling off a curb going downhill. He’d never been on a board before – it was his idiocy, not the activity, which led to the emergency room that day). Still, generally speaking, skateboarding is sufficiently intimidating that most people know they have to build up to the more dangerous activities. By the time you get to the level of Jaws jumping the most significant stair set ever attempted, you’ve already built up enough familiarity with your board (and how to fall) that you’re probably going to be okay.
Compare that with any other physical activity – football, soccer, even baseball – where there is no barrier to entry, no expectation of injury. Every average Joe thinks they can kick a ball around safely, but every so often things will go wrong – and unlike the skateboarder, they don’t have years of learning how to deal with those moments to fall back on.
Meanwhile, even in the worst situations, professional skateboarders can find a (relatively safe) exit to conditions that should kill them.
When riding on any board,it is crucial to maintain the correct posture. However, each person has a natural preference for which foot stays on the board and which foot pushes the board, and to figure out which one fits for you, step on and ride the board in all positions and make a note of which one feels the most natural.