Longboarding is all fun and games until you crack your head open like a watermelon on hard asphalt. Many have learned this the hard way but there’s no need for you to join the club.
Whether you’re going to only cruise on a longboard or if you’re planning to skate downhill, you have to consider that sooner or later you will fall and slam your head. The right longboard helmet will help you walk away without having serious head injuries or even save your life.
In this post, you will learn what kind of helmet is the best for longboarding, which ones aren’t good and how to choose the best longboard helmet for your needs.
Let’s start with the basics…
Two main types of longboard helmets
There are two main types of longboard helmets you should consider depending on what skateboarding discipline you (plan to) practice:
- FULL FACE and
- HALF SHELL helmets.
Half shell helmets are best for cruising, dancing, slalom, and freestyle. They generally offer less protection compared to full face helmets. Full face helmets provide more protection and are best for fast downhill skateboarding and freeride.
Full face helmets are more expensive than half shell helmets, so it’s very common practice for beginners to start with a half shell helmet and then buy an additional full face helmet later when they start skating down hills.
1. HALF SHELL longboard skateboard helmet
As a standard helmet in skateboarding, a half shell helmet (also known as “bucket”) offers basic protection suitable for cruising, longboard dancing, freestyle, slalom, street skateboarding and similar activities like roller skating or cycling.
However, a half shell helmet is not the best option for downhill skateboarding or longboarding. The classic bucket shape protects the top and back of your head, as well as the forehead, but it doesn’t protect your face, eyes, ears or jaw.
Hard-shell vs Soft-shell helmets
Most half shell longboard skateboard helmets have a “hard-shell”, which means that they are made of an outer ABS molded shell that cradles the inner lightweight EPS foam liner designed to disperse and minimize the impact. Definitely, avoid “soft-shell” helmets as they have a more flexible external layer and a softer multi-density foam liner which doesn’t provide the same level of protection as hard shell helmets with EPS do.
Another somewhat less popular shape of half shell helmet is a retro full cut which covers your ears as well. In addition to the safety aspect of it, a full cut helmet will also keep your ears warm when skating during wintertime. What doesn’t fall into the full cut category are half-shell helmets with removable ear pads you most often see in snowboarding or skiing.
Two types of Hard-shell helmet construction
There are two construction types of hard-shell helmets if we look at how the EPS liner is bonded with the outer shell: these are called a hardshell construction and an in-mold construction.
A Hardshell Construction means that the outer shell and the inside EPS shell are not directly bonded together but rather glued on various contact points. If you’ve ever had a skateboard helmet wherein both pieces came apart due to longterm wear, this is the reason why.
An In-Mold construction means that the EPS is foamed directly into the outer shell. This results in an extremely stable bond between the components that are not dependent on the glue strength otherwise used in the hardshell construction.
Multi-impact vs Single-impact helmets
When a helmet receives an impact, the EPS foam liner gets deformed or cracks in order to disperse the energy of the blow but with this, it becomes structurally compromised. Some helmets can take more than others…
Helmets can be multi or single-impact which indicates how many impacts they can withstand before they should be replaced with a new one. As the name suggests, the single-impact helmets should be replaced after they’ve received a single hit while the multi-impact helmets can withstand multiple impacts.
However, it’s also important to understand that multi-impact helmets are made to withstand a single high impact hit and/or multiple low impact hits before they need to be replaced. This means that if you’ve used your helmet for a longer time period, it’s more likely it received multiple small impacts due to handling and transport, potentially resulting in loss of protective properties.
Compared to the half shell helmets, the full face longboard helmets provide more protection as they cover the entire head and protect your eyes, face, jaw, and ears.
Also read: Best Full Face helmets for longboarding
Most of the full face helmets come with a removable visor in different tints that protects your eyes from dust and bugs, as well as sun rays blinding you while you skate. They are built pretty much the same way as all other hard shell helmets; with an outer ABS molded shell, an inner EPS foam liner and additional foam padding for a better fit.
Also, a full face helmet is required at almost all downhill skateboarding/longboard events, so if you want to participate at racing or freeride events, you will have to have it.
Designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, full-face helmets don’t have many vents but it all comes down to what’s the safest for you.
Unfortunately, full face helmet manufacturers share very little information about how big of an impact or the number of impacts their helmets can withstand. To make sure that you’re getting the best level of protection with your helmet, you should also check for certification marks the helmet might have (more information below).
Longboard helmet certification marks
When buying a longboard skateboard helmet it is extremely important to choose one that obtained the right certification marks. This ensures that the helmet was properly tested and that it met the required safety standards for this sport.
An example are the Icaro helmets used in DH some years ago…well the brand had to warn customers that that’s not really what they were made for…
Warning: There are shops out there that are selling paragliding helmets like Icaro SkyRunner and claiming that these are “ideal for downhill skateboarding”. That is not correct. Do not use Icaro helmets for downhill skateboarding or longboarding because they have EN 966 certification for free flight and microlight sports, not for skateboarding. You’ve been warned and the folks at Icaro are saying the same thing:
Anyone selling a helmet has to ensure that it is certified for the sport in which it will be used. Selling an uncertified helmet is an offence liable to criminal prosecution! Source
Here are the certification marks that your longboard skateboard helmet should have…
ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials (USA)
ASTM is an international standards organization that develops technical standards for different kinds of materials, products, systems, and services.
When you want to buy a half shell helmet for cruising, dancing, and freestyle riding, you should look for an ASTM F1492 certified helmet. This is a standard specification for helmets used in skateboarding and trick roller skating. Helmets that comply with this standard are designed to protect your head for more than one moderate impact, but for a limited number of hits.
Another mark you may find is the ASTM 1447 for use by recreational bicyclists or roller skaters. These helmets, however, provide less protection than those with an ASTM F1492 mark.
If you want to buy a full face helmet for downhill and freeriding look for ASTM F1952; this is a standard for helmets used in downhill mountain bicycle racing, which also provides performance criteria for chin bars on full-face helmets.
CSPS U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USA)
As an American government standard, a CSPS certification means a helmet is safe for bicycle use. Currently, the CSPS does not have a standard specific for skateboarding helmets, but they are tested and marked with the CPSC 1203 certification for bicycle helmets.
CE certification mark (EU)
If you’re buying a helmet in Europe, it should have a CE certification, which means it meets the health, safety and environmental protection requirements of the European Economic Area (EEA). For longboard or skateboard helmets the most common is the CE EN 1078 certification.
This standard specifies the requirements to withstand a single high impact and a few puncture impacts for bicycling, skateboarding or in-line skating.
Warning: Pay attention to the CE mark if you’re buying a cheap skateboard helmet from China. Chinese manufacturers apply a logo similar to the CE mark, which actually means China Export and has nothing to do with the CE certificate.
AS/NZS 2063:2008 (Australia)
Longboard skateboard helmets which have this certification mark meet the current Australian Standards certification to withstand a single high impact in non-motorised recreational bicycling.
So that’s it…
When buying a longboard skateboard helmet make sure that it’s a hard shell helmet with an EPS liner and that it’s certified. If you hit it hard, replace it to keep skating safely :)
How often should you change your longboard helmet?
Depending on what kind of certification your helmet has, a single or multiple impact, you should replace it if you went through a hard slam or a serious crash.
Even multi-impact certified helmets that went through numerous hits don’t offer the same amount of protection as when they did when they were new. With each slam, even these helmets provide less and less protection. If you don’t know if the helmet still offers good protection, you should replace it.
If you’ve been wearing your helmet for a few years now and never experienced a crash, you might also want to consider replacing it. The materials of the helmet can age and lose their protective properties more rapidly when exposed to sweat and heat, meaning they will not offer the same protection. Because of this, it is advised to replace a helmet after 3 years, even if you never exposed it to a fall or a crash.
Are other helmets like cycling or motorcycling helmets also good for longboarding?
Any helmet is better than no helmet but to maximize your safety it’s best to wear a helmet that is certified for the sport you’ll be practicing.
If you can’t get your hands on a skateboarding helmet, use whatever you have but be aware of the following downsides; Cycling helmets don’t offer enough protection, motorcycling helmets are too heavy and paragliding helmets (like Icaro SkyRunner) are not really made to be smashed against the asphalt and do not have certificates required for skating.
The best alternative to a longboard full-face helmet would be a mountain biking helmet. An example is the POC Coron Air Carbon SPIN mountain bike helmet on the photo which includes all of the certification mentioned above.
However, these are bulkier, feature lots of vents which means that they aren’t as aerodynamic as you want them to be. The downside is also that they don’t come with a visor, so you would probably have to make one yourself.
Do you really need a longboard helmet?
You may have heard about skateboarders not being fans of helmets and that they take away the freedom. In case you need convincing, especially after seeing many street skateboarders hatin’, you should know that the stats are not on your side.
Check out these results from the research done in 2014:
Longboarders suffered twice as many injuries to their heads and necks (23.3% vs. 13.1%, p < 0.000) and twice as many severe neurological traumas (8.6 vs. 3.7%, p < 0.000) while skateboarders suffered more injuries to their lower extremities (33.7% vs. 24.7%, p < 0.002). Source
Keep it safe out there!