Why are electric skateboard ads such a bad influence?

They’re all over the place now. Inexpensive, lower performance boards that advertise mediocre specs and attract the impulse buyers. If you were ever thinking about trying out electric skateboarding in earnest, there is no shortage of low milage, lower speed boards that will happily get you started for just a few hundred bucks. The ads make them look sexy and fun and whimsical. Ride free like the breeze, they imply. Put the wind in your hair and a smile on your face. And chances are, they will do just that if you’re not already used to something with more speed and more smiles and more breeze. The ads also make you think they’re safer than they are, and they insinuate this by almost never showing anyone riding with a helmet.

Monkey don’t see, monkey don’t do

These ads seem to say that its ok to skip the gear, most importantly a helmet. Obviously if they’re not wearing helmets or pads then you don’t have to either. After all, how can you have wind in your hair when its all tucked into a helmet? And what about the cool shades? Shades are far more important than the skull they’re sitting on, so make sure you have them. The problem with this is that new people coming in to the sport will follow that lead. It doesn’t help things at all that traditional park skaters don’t wear helmets for a number of reasons they’ll give you. When that culture is combined with advertising it creates a kind of bad influence, but it may not be the influence you think.

“Its a personal decision, and people should have the choice! Don’t make me do stuff I don’wanna!”  screams the guy in the back. Fine. Feel free to do as you wish. After all, you’re not in a position of any real influence, and when your head hits the street it will be your own pain and death to cherish. However, by not including helmets and pads in the ads for electric skateboards, these companies aren’t presenting the safer option at all. What this means is that there is no choice given, so the audience isn’t really free to choose based on the information given. The idea of putting on a helmet is never presented to them, and therefor is not even associated with skateboarding, electric or otherwise, in their mind. The result of this scenario is that it will likely not occur to anyone at all to ever put on a helmet unless something comes along to make them think about it. That’s the kind of influence we’re dealing with here. Its not the kind of influence that makes you not do something. Its the kind of influence that makes you not even think about doing something. Its the kind that removes options from the table before one even knows what they are. So this isn’t really about ads “telling you what to do”, it’s about ads not being responsible enough to present the known safer choice so that people can then decide on their own to engage in reckless dumbassery anyway.

Personal responsibility vs corporate responsibility

Ultimately it is still up to the rider to put a helmet on. No one is going to hold them down and put one on their head. That would be assault. Everyone has to take responsibility for their own safety, or lack of it, in the end. But it would certainly help everyone out if the idea of safety was at least present in their minds, and that probably isn’t going to happen if ads keep telling us how awesome it is to ride without gear. For that to change, a little corporate responsibility would be required.

damon wood

Damon is a professional electric skateboard builder of over four years and builds under the brand Long Haired Boy Fine Electric Skateboards (LHB, LHB FES) and is also an active member of and leader in the electric skateboard building community. He's also a traitor and rides an electric unicycle, so don't fall in love just yet.