There's a new campaign bouncing around my social media feed from Triple Eight and Mike Vallely called Get Used To It. In the lead video and accompanying pages, skateboard legend Vallely describes how he's changed his mind after a long career of skating without a helmet and decided to always wear a helmet from now on. The video combines Vallely talking about safety and the evolving culture of skateboarding with some beautiful footage of him skating around New York City, doing tricks, and generally looking awesome. The title of the site comes from his new response to skaters asking why he wears a helmet - "Get Used To It". Viewers are encouraged to always wear a helmet when skating and share that message on social media.
It's no surprise to anyone who has read my site or heard me talk about safety in person that I love the spirit of this campaign. The combination of macho posturing and punk-rock hipsterism among a certain set of skaters that sneer at helmets is toxic and has lead to unnecessary injuries and ruined lives. It's an important step for highly-respected members of that culture like Mike V to come out and give a clearly-spoken argument for change. Mike says that he hopes that "Kids who are starting skating now and wearing helmets now will just stay in them. That the peer pressure will be reversed, that if you take the helmet off you're doing something wrong" and I agree 100%. Obviously there is commerce involved here too - Mike V is presumably a paid spokesman, Triple Eight is trying to sell more helmets - but if the message works, then the changes in culture will benefit everyone.
However, all that good feeling is marred by a massive black mark after a closer look at the video and at Triple Eight's product catalog, because the helmet that Mike V is wearing is Triple Eight's "Brainsaver With Sweatsaver Liner", which is a horrible garbage bullshit excuse for a helmet. This helmet does not meet the CPSC single-impact standards for bicycle helmets, nor does it meet the ASTM multiple-impact requirements for skateboard helmets. It would be illegal for Triple Eight to market this helmet as a "Bicycle Helmet" in the United States, but because no similar law regulates "Skateboard Helmets", they can and do continue to sell it to skateboarders and derby skaters. When non-certified helmets like this are brought to labs by folks like the Athlete Recovery Fund or Wicked Skatewear, those tests show that they transfer twice as much energy to the head compared to certified helmets. More force transfered to the head in an impact means a higher risk of concussion and skull fracture. In fact, in those two separate cases, both parties were told by the lab that they would not test the non-certified helmets from the CPSC standard drop height because to do so would ruin the test equipment.
Now, Triple Eight does sell a Dual Certified version of the Brainsaver helmet, but the non-certified "Sweatsaver" version is much more popular, more heavily marketed, and must be a much better money maker for the company. Using that cynical logic, it makes sense that the non-certified version is the model that Mike V is wearing in the Get Used To It video, but this directly cuts against the video's pro-safety message. Promoting helmet use for safety while simultaneously pushing a substandard, unsafe helmet is bullshit. What's worse, it enables a strain of cynicism I regularly see among skateboarders and derby skaters: the idea that helmets don't really do anything, they're all the same, nothing can prevent concussions so who cares. That attitude leads people to make dumb decisions about their own safety, and Triple Eight should be ashamed for promoting it.
If Triple Eight wants to be serious about promoting safety in the skateboarding community, they should immediately do the following:
- Take all non-certified versions of the Brainsaver helmet off the market
- Offer a free exchange for a dual-certified helmet to anyone who purchased a non-certified Brainsaver since the start of the Get Used To It campaign
- Issue a public apology to the skateboarding and roller derby communities for marketing the Brainsaver With Sweatsaver Liner as long as they have