On falling: #1

Introduction by Ash Gavin
Write-up & Video by Ian Ball

There is an aspect of rollerblading that everyone experiences; it transcends skill level or number of years skating and is inevitable for anybody who decides to push his or her blading. That is, unfortunately, falling.

Some falls leave us bruised, scraped or swollen,while others sideline us for months or years with broken bones or torn ligaments. Some favorites like Cameron Card and Brandon Mateer have suffered even worse, and our community has experienced the tragic passing of Richard Taylor and Josh Waggoner due to blading crashes and falls. So although we like to focus on our successful attempts, it’s important to take a look at our all-too-common failures – what we see could save us from a lot of pain and months of recovery.

There are all kinds of ways to fall on blades – I’ve even tripped over the paint on the street. What we skate can sometimes limit the kinds of falls we might take, but each kind of obstacle has its own dangers. Skating rails puts us in grave danger of destroying our reproductive systems, as well as busting our shins, hips and ribs or coming off the rail too soon and tumbling down the stairs. Ledges may make us feel safer between the legs, but anyone who has missed a sweatstance on a ledge might be willing to trade places. The concrete doesn’t make falling on a ledge any better. Most things that involve flying through the air have some level of danger, and jumping gaps is no different. We can fall by not clearing the gap, or we can slip out or fall back on impact – not to mention the risk of over- or under- rotating on a spin and landing sideways. Luckily, by looking at the different kinds of falls we might take we can learn to prevent them and learn to protect ourselves once we know we’re going to bail.

Falling can be embarrassing sometimes, so we’ll start with a clip of myself getting 
smashed while trying to grind a ledge. Ledges can be brutal if they are made of some rough kind of cement that rips your skin up like a cheese grater. They are also dangerous because you can miss your trick on top of the ledge and have your legs taken out – like in this clip – where on a rail you would have just jumped over it. Also, locking topsides on ledges leaves less room for error than on rails, so missing them is easier and can be especially brutal – just see Aaron Feinberg in the fall section of Accidental Machines missing his sweatstance on the stair ledge.

In this clip I try to royale a ledge – a pretty standard, basic grind for any obstacle. This ledge is exceptional because I was trying to jump over part of it, but this fall could happen on any normal session ledge. The first mistake is that I grinded all the way into the tall ledge, which stopped my momentum and caused me to not jump as far as I needed to. That caused my back foot to hit the flat of the ledge and my front foot to slide out on top of the ledge; but this could happen at any session on any ledge if you jump too high and too far in, and your result will be the sameas mine. So as my front foot slid down the top of the ledge my momentum spun mearound and I slammed on the ground. Awesome! Much to my surprise, this fall didn’t even hurt. I think my body was so sprawled out as I hit the ground that the impact was spread out and I didn’t get such a smashing. But I’m no physics guy, so who knows. All I know is that this fall sucked.

Had I skated faster and jumped off the first royale sooner, this fall might not have happened. I couldn’t really save myself in any way, nor was I in any position to, but if this type of fall ever happens to you, the main thing is to make contact with the closest thing as soon as possible. The longer you slide out of control and off balance down the ledge or fly through the air, the harder your impact is going to be. The lower your center of gravity and the sooner you can slow yourself down, the better shape you are going to be in if you do hit the ground. And DO NOT extend your arms trying to catch yourself as you hit the concrete – you will break your wrist or arm. Here I was lucky because I put my arm out as a kind of shock absorber, not a momentum stopper. Next time we’ll look at someone do a Superman down a set of stairs and hopefully learn how to avoid that. Until then, have fun skating and stay safe.

-Ian Ball