To Radio or Be At One with Risk

To Radio or Be At One with Risk

Adventure, VideoNov 20 2017

The use of 2-way radios while downhill skateboarding has been a long going debate that frankly should be taken into consideration of how you personally like to ride.

Consider the moment at 2:00 where Nico signals (before he sees the car) that he has received a signal through the radio that we were about to encounter a vehicle. This warning provided us seconds of notice crucial to safely manouvering through this technical part of the road.

To explain:

The driver goes ahead of the riders to scout the traffic dangers the riders are about to encounter. They will hit the alarm button upon seeing a vehicle and follow with describing the make, style, and color of the vehicle. In my experience, the driver has held the button continuously and either repeated incessantly “safe, safe, safe” or something along these lines (quite annoying and distracting), played music from the vehicle radio (which adds the complexity of turning down the volume when wanting to speak clearly, yet pumps up the vibes), or provided an on tour guided experience such as by the infamous Sombrero Chavez (Hello, I will be your captain today, …).

The rider(s) have an earpiece in one ear. They follow the driver at a safe distance, yet not too far as the intel received should be accurate to the coming seconds and remove doubt that the situation changes such as someone pulling out of their driveway, or an unexpected U-turn. The riders can take the warning as a signal to stop to allow the vehicle to safely pass. They could also ride cautiously until the signaled vehicle passes (offering a warm “let’s keep skateboarding legal” smile & wave) and continue with their ride.

On an autumn afternoon Nico Gallman, Patrick Switzer, Jan Späth & crew make a downhill skateboard descent with the support of in-ride radio guidance from Sombrero Chavez.

Positively constructive comments:

  • Riders should continue treating the roadway as it is open to traffic and not take chances on the inside of blind corners so a tragic communication error does not take place.
  • Riders should not be riding at 100% velocity thus to not pressure the driver to drive faster, more dangerously and not have the ability to give timely comprehensive traffic signals.
  • The group should ride at a similar tempo to stay as a pack. As the riders spread out, the warnings received become more inaccurate and misleading.
  • The driver should utilize a headset with a voice-operated switch instead of a push-to-talk button to put be able to put both hands on the steering wheel and remove the need for one hand to be constantly busy holding a radio with the talk button pressed. This would allow the channel to not be continuously in use so the riders could make communication with the driver to notify of an unexpected pause in riding or an accident.

Considerations in opposition to radio use:

  • Batteries die
  • Communication, i.e. human errors can happen
  • It adds a high level of complexity, trust, and reliability to what is meant to be a fun activity of finding flow with alone or with friends
  • A radio in your ear can be an unneeded distraction which could lead to lack of focus while riding
  • All road users must treat an open road as if it always has a car on the inside of a blind corner
  • Taking chances because of a false sense of security puts your life and that of your friends in danger and is just plain disrespectful
  • If you are an adolescent, your prefrontal cortex may not be developed to a point of making conscious risk evaluation. This is not an excuse to ruin the mental stability of an innocent driver.

Considerations for the use of radio:

  • Why not use technology to improve safety
  • Practice makes perfect. Once your crew is used to using a radio it will become common practice and a helpful aid
  • Increases trust between the driver & riders
  • Can lower the chance of injury
  • Provides the public/police with a sense of security when they know riders are being safe and conscious of the dangers of their place on the road
  • If someone stops to speak to you about the dangers of what you are doing, you can kindly inform them of the make and colour of each vehicle which is about pass to hopefully lessen their worries and show your mature consideration towards risk to yourself and the public

It could be considered egotistical to say that one is perfectly capable of navigating the dangers of an open roadway without aid. This is mainly a question of experience and ability to handle oneself when confronted with a tight & dangerous situation. One must understand what the difference between the race & safe line is.


Wide-apex-wide is the name of the game, yet on an open road that means in only one lane!


Riding on the 1/4 of the road closest to the yellow line leaves the rider with little margin for error, a very nervous oncoming driver, and a very kooky looking P~Swiss.


The tragic death of a 21yr old skateboarder in the corner infamously nicknamed “Dead Man’s” is another reminder where one should and should ride to not take risks.


When we speak about “riding within our limits”, this “limit” should also be considered.


When riding alone I will personally continue riding without the assistance of a radio. When with a crew who utilizes them, I don’t see the harm of joining in consideration of group safety.

However you would personally like to ride is of course up to you and your crew, no discussion needed. What IS important is that the risks, problems which do arise and feedback is given to foster trust within the group. This way we can all ride another day.

Please share your experience riding with radios below.