Rules are what bind society together. Without strict codes of conduct, jaywalkers would run rampant in the streets, hoes would come before bros, and people without shirts or shoes would freely buy slurpees. This we cannot stand for. Proper etiquette is important in groups of all kinds, even when that group is a loosely organized bunch of haphazard 6-wheeled downhillers.
With that in mind, welcome to the first in a series of articles on Freebord Etiquette. Today’s topic: safety. While many people see freeborders as having a death wish, it is actually possible to ride with life preservation as a priority. As dangerous as snowboarding the streets may seem, I personally ride dozens of miles a week and rarely feel unsafe or suffer grievous injury. Avoiding accidents is no accident. Here are some basic things that’ll keep you and your crew safe to shred another day.
Helmets FUCKING HELMETS!! – This is one rule that is not a matter of opinion. As a great rider once said, “Skin grow back, brain doesn’t.” Big hills, little hills, on film, off film. The 4ST policy is always, and always means always. Your bord and helmet should be one unit. Wherever your bord goes, the helmet should be strapped to your deck before you head out, and strapped to your dome before you step on. Always.
2. Know Your Terrain – Save blind drops for the Ray Charles dubstep remix. Scope any hill before you ride it to get any idea of the gradient, turns and pavement quality, keeping an eye out for any unexpected debris, cracks or dips. Generally speaking, big dips or waves in the pavement will screw up your slides more than rough texture. When in doubt, point your bord straight over sketchy stuff, using your slides for speed control before or after the obstacle. If one rider in your crew is more experienced with the particular hill you’re riding, let him drop first and follow his lead.
3. Riding in Groups – When bombing a run with other riders, respect each others shred space. Just like at the ski resort, the downhill rider has the right-of-way since he can’t be expected to be checking behind him while dropping. So if you’re going to pass, make sure you have plenty of room and be sure he knows you’re coming with a “Yeee!” if you’re in the Bay, or a “Wooloulou!” if you’re in the French alps. If you must ride with music, keep one headphone out or notch your volume down enough to still hear your fellow riders. As the rider in front of the pack, your responsibility is to clap or signal when you will be throwing a heavy slide or slowing down so you don’t get rear ended, and raising one hand high to signal approaching uphill traffic.
4. Traffic – The stupidity and recklessness of the average motorist is not to be underestimated. Comfy in their air conditioned metal cocoons, drivers will often show little to no regard for your safety. On steep and technical hills, you’ll occasionally find yourself going catching up to traffic, but more often than not the local traffic will be catching up to you. When shuttling eachother down long runs, the follow-car should have his flashers on and take measures to block any attempts to pass by road-ragers on your six. Hold out the stiff arm “no thank you wave” or pull into the center of the road if you have to block them. Nothing is worse than getting passed by an enraged driver who doesn’t know how our bords operate and puts our lives at risk to save 15 seconds on their commute. Give the riders a honk and let them pull over in a safe area if you want to let cars pass. Otherwise, let the asshole wait. Stay in your own lane and alert riders behind you if cars are coming up the hill. Wave or shout to drivers backing out of driveways or turning on to the run from a side street. You are much less visible than a vehicle, so make your presence known.
5. Baby Steps – As shredders, progression drives us. Pushing the limits of speed and control is a big part of any extreme sport, but it’s important to do it responsibly. If your butthole puckers up and you go into a cold sweat halfway down the run, stop worrying about impressing your crew and worry about getting to the bottom in one piece. Taking it slow, skipping the last run, or sitting out on a hill that’s over your head is always a smart call. There is no
shame in knowing your limits. No pro rider got to where they are by taking stupid risks. Building your skill set to a high level requires the exact opposite instinct. Look before you leap, stop before you slam, and practice before you push it.
Follow these rules or establish your own code before you ride and you’ll get a lot more out of your bord. Also, your mother will sleep better at night. You have her worried sick, you know that right?
Got a rule or tip that’s not listed here? Share it the comments section below. Stay thristy my friends.