You might think wearing a helmet will make you look like a poser, but the reality is skaters don’t actually care if you’ve got one on. There’s honestly no reason to be self-conscious about this. Get a skate helmet from Triple Eight, which fits oval-shaped heads best ($60 on Amazon, $70 from Triple Eight). For rounder heads like mine, try a helmet from Pro-Tec or S1. Make a point to put it on anytime you go out for a session, have fun, and keep yourself from a possible traumatic brain injury. Pay the small extra fee to get an ASTM 1492-certified model, which ANSI designates specifically for skateboarding safety.
If you’re a new skater, you’re going to fall … and if you’re an experienced skater, you’re going to fall. Like helmets, a set of pads can help keep you out of urgent care. If you have a day job using your hands (even as a keyboard jockey), it’s wise to slip on your elbow pads and, maybe even more importantly, wrist guards. Knee pads are key too. It feels great to pull myself off the ground after a failed trick attempt (or five) and walk away with no throbbing in my hands or joints. 187 Killer Pads makes a great pad set. Get it for $59 from 187 Killer Pads, or for $73 from Amazon. Pro-Tec’s $43 option is good too, and a little cheaper for kids.
Beginners may also want to sport a set of padded shorts ($50 and up) under their pants; they’ll literally save your ass.
A quarter-pipe (even a small one that’s not quite a full quarter) is a lot of fun for all skaters. My advice is to dig up some plans, ask nicely for wood scraps at a construction site, and get building. But if you want to ensure you’ve got a quality setup, you might opt for a ramp kit that supplies CNC-cut, predrilled plywood and lumber, metal coping, a steel sheet for the threshold, and all the necessary fasteners—you just need a driver to pop it all together.
OC Ramps offers a lot of kit options; I have their 3-foot quarter-pipe ramp ($389) and my own DIY micro-quarter ramp connected together with some masonite in my garage to make a funky, mismatched mini ramp that’s a ton of fun to skate on rainy days. Keen Ramps is another quality ramp kit manufacturer to consider.
The Skatepark Project app by the Tony Hawk Foundation (iPhone only, Android users can use the functionally similar Smap app) offers a nearly complete listing of parks with user photos, 3D aerial maps, and iconography for park features. Don’t see a fave spot on the app? The database is user generated, so you can add it yourself. I just did exactly that with a park near my folks’ house, in fact.
If cruising street spots is more to your liking, the ShredSpots app covers the stairs, curbs, ditches, and ledges that many skaters consider skateboarding’s natural terrain.
When you do head out to skate different places, you’ll probably just toss your board and helmet in the trunk of your car. Add your pads and stuff and it’s nice to have a bag to carry everything. I use one of those big blue Ikea bags for my gear—it’s huge, has hand and shoulder straps, and costs only 99 cents. Requires no thinking, just toss things in and go.
When I’m doing something a little fancier, I use a $60 skateboard carry bag by OID. I can wear it like a backpack, as a sling, or carry it like a duffel bag. There are some cheaper versions on Amazon, but the ones I’ve tried tend to be undersize and prone to snagging. In truth, however, you don’t see many skaters using these.
Vacation/business travel tip: Most airlines will actually let you carry on your board and store it in the overhead compartment. I find it more convenient to stash mine in my oversize suitcase as checked luggage. The board fits diagonally (I wrap it in an old towel or use that OID bag to keep the grip tape from scuffing my slacks); my helmet and skate shoes go next to that, and there’s still plenty of room for my day-to-day clothes. Use your skate park app to scout out some spots near your destination and plan for an early morning or later-evening session. So much tidier than lugging your golf clubs with you—and so much cooler too.