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    Hopkin Skate Blog — Safety

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    Words from Ben Hay: Elements

    Learning all the skills and how to be a good rider while having loads of fun is basically what most skaters aspire to do. Although some things cant be practiced and learnt in short time, time on the board and being witness to hundreds of different incidents teaches you a lot more. Experience is something that never stops - every rider no matter how long they have been doing it constantly learns new things and governing factors that further add to our knowledge and therefore help us to become better riders. Adapting to the prevailing conditions is vital to perform well at a race or even getting down a hill safely. Knowing what effects that the surrounding conditions may have on the way you need to ride the hill is something that is hard to be taught. Personal experience is improved by having an open mind and learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. After a certain time your brain begins to take these inputs of information and turns it into whats known as 'second nature' or 'instinct' - doing it without thinking about it. It is at this stage that your riding really starts to improve. With your skating being lead by instinct and second nature it becomes easier to put your mind on other things that become beneficial to your added personal progression. Being aware of the prevailing wind while high speed racing or riding has huge benefits - Knowing the parts of the hill where its a head wind is beneficial when planning tactics for racing or passing. Also knowing how a tail wind will affect your braking is important. Skating a hill one day with a slight headwind can trick your mind and set a standard for how you perceive the hill can be ridden. Returning to the same hill with a solid tailwind can turn what was a seemingly  fun and basic hill into a crazy fast beast swallowing up skaters and spitting them out. Newtons nation 2012 was a classic example of favourable conditions, with riders being able to catch plenty of air - The elbow had never seemed so friendly. The constant progression in riders abilitys was also a big factor but im calling a return to heavy braking the next year if we have conditions similar to 2009 when it was a 30kt tailwind hurling riders down the top part of the course. Tailwinds also affect a riders ability to slow down behind other riders - pulling out of the draft and standing up to catch some air has way less of an effect if its a tailwind. Slight speed checks or a tap of the foot are more commonly needed to slow down and keep you and your buddy's safe. Another disadvantage with skateboarding down fast and open mountain passes in strong winds is a riders ability to stay in control and on the road. Roads in mountainous areas tend to follow gullys wich can create wind tunnels were wind can funnel through, gusts bounce of protruding bluffs on the hill and can hit the rider side on forcing them off their line. As the rider attempts to fight against the sidegust to stay on the road, the gust eases initiating a high speed twitch and the skater goes down. In other situations you can also struggle to hold the line you need to make a turn. The forces of gravity coupled with a 40kt wind can be to much for a human body to control. Once the wind suddenly lets go and is no longer forcing a skater in a certain way, its easy to lose your balance as you no longer have to fight against that force and all of a sudden you fall. Alpine areas and higher altitudes or places with extreme and quickly changing climates seem to host some crazy out of control winds. Checking a new hill first before riding is always good idea. Check for damp or wet spots before mobbin' in at ridiculous speeds. Being aware of the dangers and all the aspects that govern your ride down the hill makes it safer and easier - good riders are smart riders and have more on their minds than just doing a sick skid.