Have you seen those incredible back-flipping skaters of Instagram? It's a fact that many of them were gymnasts when they were younger, and have retained the muscle memory required to still perform such incredible feats. For the rest of us mere mortals, falling is all too easy, potentially meaning time off your skates!
The adrenaline rush of skating makes us feel alive and free. Protective gear can inhibit this feeling by restricting your movement or making you too hot. But it's so easy to injure yourself on skates, and especially in a skate park, that if you are trying something new, it's always advisable to wear some level of protective gear. (And actually, when trying something new, even the backflipping gymnastic types wear protective gear too.)
So, you're new to roller skating the choice of pads may seem overwhelming. You will need protection that will minimise impact as well as be comfortable.
Our top picks:
S1 helmets are stylish, lightweight and durable. We have used several other helmet brands before, but these are our favourites. They fit snugly, the strap doesn't dig in and they fit close to your head, while still providing solid protection. They come in a huge range of colours, just make sure you measure your head before ordering! When the padding inside needs to be renewed, you can purchase just this part, and your helmet is as good as new again!
For skateparks, or when you require maximum padded knee pads, where you know you will be falling a lot and need to rely on these, (eg. roller derby) S1 pro knee pads are great. They have a double fastening system so are very secure, and don't slip down even the shiniest leggings! To date, (over a year of regular wear), the elastic has not stretched noticeably, which definitely happens on cheaper pads over time. They can be taken on or off while keeping your skates on, rather than a 'sleeve' type of knee pad.
For lighter protection such as recreational skating a lighter knee pad may be all you need. We suggest that you consider how you fall - if you are accustomed to dropping to your knees, something like the 187 Fly knee pads would be great. If you have trained yourself to fall with your knees to one side, a lighter shell type will be fine.
Elbow chips can be very painful! You may not always need to wear these, but you'll know how you fall. Do you regularly bang your elbows on the floor? Maybe you need them. In a skate park, we would recommend elbow pad use for people new to this environment or when learning new tricks. 187 provide reliable protection and are comfortable. They should feel snug when you first put them on, as there will be a slight relaxing of the elastic over time.
These are a matter of personal preference. Some people like to immobilise their wrist with a very stiff guard, while others prefer more movement. Consider the type of skating you will be doing, and how you fall. Do you fall with your arms outstretched? Do you regularly fall to your knees and end with hands on the floor?
We suggest these are used by beginners and new skate park users. (Picking splinters out of your hand after the first visit is unlikely to encourage you to go back.)
Wrist guards are available with a single or double splint. It's worth trying some on, as companies size their wrist guards quite differently!
We like the Seba wrist guards for outdoor skating, as they have a single split to cover the palm of the hand, so offer 'just in case' protection. In skate parks, we prefer a double split wrist guard, such as the 187 brand. Some higher level skate park users do not wear wrist guards as they are working on upside down tricks, and have trained their body to fall in a certain way so they do not land with their wrists on the floor.
Falls can happen at any time, and we highly recommend you get used to falling over when skating, so that you build the muscle memory of how to fall. Come to a class, workshop or meet up to learn how to fall over! Or check out this video from Planet Roller Skate.