Oregon is one of a handful of states that have reported Beverly Hills accidents involving skateboard towing. Emergency room physicians and safety advocates around the world are noting an uptick in the number of so-called skitching accidents, and the injuries they report are serious. In addition to the expected broken bones, ERs have seen patients with spinal fractures and traumatic brain injuries — that is, if the skater has survived the accident at all.
Skateboard towing — also called skitching, longboarding and bumper surfing — is not a new practice. According to seasoned skateboard pros, skitching is a long-accepted mode of transportation in cities like Portland that are friendly to non-motorized vehicles.
Skaters around the country claim that “Back to the Future” had nothing to do with the widespread adoption of skitching. Rather, it came about when city dwellers were pushing their skateboards to work right alongside cars and trucks. The skaters were able to keep up with the commuter traffic, and they soon realized it would be just as easy to hold onto the car in front of them as it would be to push along behind it.
Pros do warn that skitching is a “don’t do this at home, kids” practice. Unskilled skaters and skaters who are just skitching for kicks — “gaming” — should keep off the roads.
Even experienced skitchers can get hurt, though. One man, described by a colleague as a ripper, fell in traffic and was run over by the car behind him. He is now in a wheelchair.
But that was an accident, says another pro. People get hurt in all sorts of activities, but it doesn’t mean the activity is inherently dangerous.
Safety experts — including a neuropsychologist — voice considerable concern about skitching, though. In a car-versus-skateboard accident, the skateboard is going to lose. And skaters tend not to wear enough or appropriate protective gear. As football players have found out, a helmet can’t protect you entirely from a brain injury.
It looks as if skitching is here to stay, especially considering the number of skaters out there who believe they skate better than they walk.