Skateboard agency seeks to build helmet culture 

click to enlarge Nick Cruit and San Francisco-based skateboard company Freebord are working to reach out to riders — not parents — about boarding safety. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • mike koozmin/special to the S.F. examiner
  • Nick Cruit and San Francisco-based skateboard company Freebord are working to reach out to riders — not parents — about boarding safety.

“Wear a Helmet 4ST” is a battle cry from Freebord, a San Francisco-based niche skateboard company, for riders to protect their heads.

Sam Trowbridge (ST), a Freebord pro team member, was not wearing a helmet when he suffered a fatal brain injury last year while Freebording. The company coped with the tragic loss of one of its own by trying to inspire preventative measures.

Running the campaign at Freebord is Nick Cruit, 26, a passionate skateboarder who is attempting to impact a culture change, focusing the message directly to the boarding community.

“Helmet advocacy groups go after the parents,” said Cruit, adding that conventional wisdom dictates that parents are frequently not perceived as “cool” in the eyes of their kids. “In our campaign, we’re trying to get to the riders. It’s hugely important to us, and we’re putting time and a little bit of budget into it.”

Riders affix decals supplied by Freebord to their helmets in return for pledging their commitment to fasten their chin straps. “Coolness” plays a significant role in the decision to protect one’s head; consequently, if wearing a decaled helmet passes the “cool” factor, and helmets become a growing phenomenon, more riders will place them on their craniums.

With his helmet secured, Cruit commutes on his long board from his Mission district home to the company’s Potrero Hill site. His short board is used for his freestyle boarding, performing tricks in select spots around The City.

A Freebord is similar to a long board, but with two additional wheels on castors that allow 360-degree spinning and lateral sliding.

“It’s a snowboard cross-trainer or simulator,” said Cruit, who grew up in Virginia Beach, a mecca for action board sports. San Francisco’s Lombard and Quintara streets are Cruit’s preferred riding hills on his Freebord.

A gifted catcher played with future major leaguer Ryan Zimmerman at the University of Virginia, Cruit was forbidden by his baseball coaches to snowboard.

After graduating from UVA, Cruit drove out west, his goal to make up for lost time and exist for a while as a Tahoe ski bum.

“I wanted to snowboard as much as I could,” said Cruit, who never did become a “bum” of any sort.

The English major secured a job as a reporter at a Sierra newspaper, and after eight months switched to the advertising side of the business.

Cruit moved to San Francisco in 2010, and last summer joined Freebord, which offered a career that combines his passions for writing, promoting and boarding.

“It’s great. I’m getting paid for reading skating magazines and watching skating videos,” said Cruit, who may also be helping to save some lives.

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David Liepman

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