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September 23, 2009

How many baseball gloves do you go through before you finish high school?  How many football helmets?  How many basketballs or soccer balls?  I think of these items as one time purchases.  I got quite a shock on Tuesday during a conversation about skateboarding equipment.

Serious skateboarders expect shoes to wear out every four to six weeks.  The same lifespan for wheels.  Less for decks.  (!?)  It’s shocking but makes sense.  Logan spent five hours skating yesterday and would have spent more time, if I hadn’t kept him in lessons until two o’clock.  The top of a skateboard is covered with ‘grip tape’ which is basically rough grit sandpaper.  Constantly pivoting on this sandpaper wears out the sole at the ball of his forward foot.  His other shoe wears out at the heel (from pushing off the ground).

The deck is a 33 x 7 inch piece of plywood with a kicktail at each end.  The tips of these tails often contact the skate surface (road or ramp), which wears them down like a belt sander would.  Eventually, they wear down so much that they start to splinter and you need to replace the board.  Alternately, boardslides and other moves bend the plywood at the midpoint, so boards ultimately split in half.  Luckily, you can remove and reuse the trucks.

The wheels are so small that they rotate once every six and a half inches, so their odometer spins pretty quickly toward replacement, never mind the abuse they receive from constantly slamming into solid surfaces.  It’s also common to “blow out a bearing” during such high impact maneuvers.  The metal trucks are designed to be light, allowing skaters to flip their boards up and around with minimal effort.  However, these lightweight trucks must also carry the skater’s weight as he or she grinds on metal rails and other obstacles, which results in grooves and scratches in the trucks.  The damage gradually adds up.

The bottom line is that I have to start thinking of all skateboarding equipment as disposable, like tennis balls, not durable, like football pads.

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