the ultimate guide to skateboarding in the heat & not dying
Anyone that's skated in hot weather knows how much harder it can get. Fatigue goes up, pop goes down, everything seems to take more effort.
Our bodies literally function differently when the heat goes up and our capacity to skate goes down, but there's hope...
With the right knowledge and tools you can stop the sun from melting you alive and increase the chances of having better sessions when it’s intense and sweaty out there. This video/article is the ultimate guide on everything you need to know to skate in the heat and not die.
why skating is different in the heat.
Why do we need to do anything different when we’re skating in hot conditions? Well there are two main risks that could chuck shit at the fan - the obvious: dehydration, and the maybe not so obvious: an increase in your body temperature - both of these being connected and influencing each other.
Now, heat doesn’t just come from that massive fireball hovering in the sky, a massive amount is also coming from inside of you as well. For all the skating and movement you do, only about 25% of the energy gets used to actually power movement, and the other 75% gets converted to heat!
So the more movement you do when you skate, the more heat you create.
The thing is, our bodies don’t like to heat up. They’re picky bastards and like to stay within a very small and specific range of temperature.
They have a load of systems in place to make sure this happens, but the hotter you get, the harder these systems have to work to keep you in that temperature range.
Sweat is one of our main cooling systems when we skate, literally carrying heat out of our bodies. But, there’s a catch...
As sweat is mainly water, the more we sweat, the more chance we have of dehydrating, meaning our "sweat system" will become more inefficient and the worse our bodies will become at getting rid of heat. Ultimately increasing the chances that the cycle of overheating will begin.
In some research where scientists shoved thermometers into the rectal passageways of athletes (bum holes), they found that after just 45mins of exercise in the heat without water, body temperature started to rise to a potentially dangerous level and performance dropped.
Whereas athletes that stayed hydrated (but also penetrated by thermometers) maintained a body temperature below the danger zone without a drop in performance.
There’s already so much other research showing showing that overheating and dehydration will smite you down with literally everything you don’t want in your skating & life in general - increased fatigue, a drop in endurance, focus, strength, power, & movement precision (aka tricks), sweat patches from pit to nip, along with a spectrum of serious shit like heat illness and even death. Even one of the most common causes of death in athletes is heat related!
So obviously it’s something we want to avoid, and luckily there are many simple things we can do to get that done.
high risk groups.
Before we get to that, there are some high risk groups that need us to take extra care to avoid heat issues during exercise. For example, humans below 15yrs old or above 65, overweight people (BMI >27 kg/m), squirrels under 30, but skaters are a high risk group as well...
Why? Because we’re willing to almost die to get tricks.
We ignorantly believe our meaningless bits of trickery on our little wooden toys are the most important things in the world and we’re willing to sacrifice the existence of everything else to get them, even our own health (Didn’t Marc Johnson say he ruined his life trying to film his Fully Flared part?).
So it’s important to recognise that our obsession with getting tricks combined with our capacity to ignore pain and warning signs from our bodies, means we’re at a high risk of pushing ourselves too far in the heat, often without even realising.
Alright, so I’ve made it pretty clear that overheating and excessive dehydration can obliterate our trumpets, but how can we tweak our skating and what we do in the session to reduce the chances of these things happening?
Simply put, it’s down to two main interconnected areas:
turning down the heat and reducing the total heat stress we’re exposed to from both the outside and inside, and
And remember, any moderate to high intensity sessions longer than 45 mins can put us at risk of dehydrating or overheating, meaning this all applies to most sessions for most people.
external heat stress.
Reducing external heat is mostly self explanatory and involves avoiding the things that make it feel hotter outside.
High air temperature (the obvious)
High humidity (which inhibits your ability to sweat)
Low humidity (makes sweating easier, meaning you might sweat too much)
No wind (which would cool you down)
Heat radiating off other surfaces onto you
Clothing (that isn’t breathable - don’t be the fool that wears a beanie in the summer)
Skating indoors (if there’s shit air circulation)
The best thing you can do is just avoid the heat and not skate when it’s real hot & humid, like in the middle of the day (usually between 10am - 4pm), and instead skate in the morning or evening.
But I know when you need to skate, you're going to skate, so for these situations try and pick spots that are shaded, take more frequent breaks in the shade, wear sunscreen
internal heat stress.
Remember we’re also getting blasted by heat internally as a by-product of us moving, meaning the more intense our sessions - aka the more movement we do - the more heat we’re going to create.
The following things are going to influence how much internal heat you create:
Session length (longer sessions = higher chance of overheating)
Session intensity (more movement = more heat)
Not supporting your internal cooling mechanisms (hydrating / keeping cool)
Now obviously skating is all movement, so we can't just not move, but we can tweak our sessions to reduce movement.
For example, it’s probably not the best idea to go film a high speed Busenitz style line in the middle of the day, going for a long and intense skatepark session, or any kind of skating that feels really intense.
If you have to skate, it's obviously better to go for more chilled sessions, but if you still want to push yourself, it might be better to hit spots where you’re just doing single tricks that don’t require a lot of frequent effort (with more time in between tricks). As crazy as it might sound it actually might be better to hit heavier, hammer style spots when it's real hot, just because you move less.
So think about how you need to skate at the spots you’re choosing and if possible, try to hit the more intense ones in the morning or evening.
Another thing you want to minimise is all the extra movement you might do in-between the tricks you care about: like running back up the stairs, or doing a load of extra tricks on flat. All this will just create unnecessary internal heat and fatigue.
This might seem a little random, but nose breathing might actually be a useful tool when it's hot.
I’ve been implementing it a lot recently whilst I’ve been on filming missions and it’s crazy how useful it is to keep you focused. You still get hyped, but it helps maintain a more "focused hype" over a "nervous" one.
When you're overly hyped you're more frantic, and you move much more. All this means potentially doing a load of extra high effort movement which will increase your internal heat.
On top of potentially limiting movement, it also has extra cooling benefits over mouth breathing too.
To try it out focus on breathing naturally through your nose, doing longer exhales than inhales. Don't force it though, because as intensity increases the impulse to mouth breathe will kick in to get in more oxygen. So listen to your body and be as natural as possible with this hack.
Another thing that can increase overheating is dehydration, along with all the other negative shit that comes along with it
Losing 2%+ of your bodyweight in sweat is the turning point where your physiology and skate performance start being negatively affected.
Two percent might sound like a lot, but you can lose more than 2L of sweat per hour skating in the heat, so you only need one hour to reach a point of dehydration where could affect your skating (like the experiment above mentioned where 45mins was enough for problems to kick off).
We’ll go deeper into this a bit later, but life threatening problems can kick off at 4% loss, and as sessions can last hours and hours, this isn’t too hard to reach. This was something Chris Haslam learned the hard way when he almost died skating.
Staying hydrated depends on water, but also the amount of salt (electrolytes) you have inside of you, and if you’ve ever scratched your gooch and licked your finger during a session, or licked your mate’s armpit, you’ll know that you're also sweating out salt.
This means our moistness maintenance (skate hydration) plan doesn't just depend on drinking water, but balancing it with how much salt we get in.
The following skate hydration plan is built around:
1. beginning our sessions hydrated
2. minimising fluid losses during our sessions, and then
3. replacing lost fluids after.
If you want to get deeper into hydration check out the skate hydration video/article here.
What we drink and eat before we skate will help us stay hydrated during the session.
For most people, getting about 3L (100oz) throughout the day from drinks and food and not holding back on salt will be enough (2L/67oz from drink 1L/33oz from food). This is on top of what you drink during your sesh.
Having an extra 500ml (16oz) about 1 hour before your session and if you’re a heavy sweater and you know you’re going for a long or heavy session, maybe an extra little sprinkle of salt might be a good idea too.
Another thing shown to increase performance and reduce overheating is something called “pre-cooling”, aka intentionally cooling your body so you start at a cooler temperature and therefore take longer to hit higher body temperatures.
Some athletes wear ice vests, others lick frozen lamp posts, but a more practical solution is to literally just drink an icy drink before your session.
sessions up to 45mins.
For sessions up to 45mins long, staying hydrated throughout the day and drinking water is all you need.
But once sessions are longer than this and especially if it’s hot, humid and the intensity goes up, you need to make an extra effort.
sessions longer than 45mins.
So how much should you actually drink during sessions longer than 45 mins?! Well, hydration needs change per person, meaning the following are just guidelines for most people in most situations based on the current research.
If you want to get real specific with how much you personally need, the best way is to weigh yourself before and after a set time (e.g. 1 hour) of skating at an intensity you normally skate at, and calculate the difference in weight (Minus any fluids you drunk during your session). Here's a hydration calculator and more info on how to do this.
Ok so first it’s important to realise that during exercise there’s a delay between thirst and how hydrated you are (kicking in at about 2% bodyweight loss in water), so we need to just drink regularly regardless of thirst.
A good go-to is trying to drink about 200-300ml (6-10oz) every 15 mins throughout your session, and for longer sessions ideally drinks or food that include some salt and carbohydrates.
Going for about 1/4 - 1/2 tea spoon of salt per hour - more if you sweat a lot or you’re a salty sweater - is a rough guideline for most people. Again, specific salt needs vary and can be calculated.
If you're freaking out thinking you've got to measure everything perfectly... relax! Just do your best to get as close to these guidelines as possible and keep it simple. For example drinking water and snacking on some bananas and salted trail mix will give you everything you need.
To make it even simpler you can go for sports drinks, which are actually ideal for longer sessions as they have all water, carbohydrates and salt, built in. If you don't want to buy sports drinks or you want a cheaper option, check out the DIY skate sports drink recipe I made for the ultimate moist-making beverage.
mid-sesh sum up.
To sum up mid-sesh hydration when it's hot and sweaty, focus on consuming EVERY HOUR, either:
About 1L (32oz) water + 500ml (16oz) sports drink, or
About 1.5L (50oz) water + carbs + salt (e.g. a banana and some salted trail mix)
And whatever you drink, try to go for cold drinks if possible as they'll help keep your body cooler.
At the end of your session you want to focus on replacing lost fluids by blasting yourself with water along with some salty, carby snacks.
You might be like "ehhh fuck it, the sessions done! I’m over hydration, get me a beer!" But the worse you do at rehydrating after your session, the more chance of dehydrating in your next session.
So if you go for beers, make sure you at least get some water in first. A rough guideline is about 0.5-1L (16-32oz) water as soon as your session ends.
But if you want to get real specific you can weigh yourself before and after the session and drink 1.5-2x the amount you lost in weight, in water.
2 simple hacks for hydration.
Let's just hit a final couple of hydration hacks before we move on...
I think one of the biggest blocks to staying hydrated when we skate is literally just not taking enough to drink to the spot… No one wants to end their session or stop battling a trick to go get water, so if you run out, chances are you’ll keep skating and head even quicker towards overheating & dehydration.
Two easy things you can do are:
1. Take much more water than you think you need.
Remember a 2 hour session could need as much as 3L of fluid!
2. Put your bottle at the run up, or where you spend most your time.
By having it easily accessible, you'll be much more likely to drink regularly.
In other questionable experiments that left even more athletes thermometrically penetrated and confused, they found that a period of getting acclimated to the heat - aka about 12 days of progressive exercise in the heat - triggered adaptations in the body that reduced overheating and increased performance in the heat.
So at the start of summer or if you’re going on a skate trip/for a competition in a hot climate, trying to treat the first 7-12 days as an acclimation period would be a good idea.
Go for 60-90 mins of lower intensity skating for 5-10 days, progressively increasing intensity and length as you adapt. Less time will be needed if you’re already used to a lot of skating and training, more if you’re not.
Ok we’ve arrived at the potentially most boring but most important part of the article, so don’t click away yet!
Like I said, serious, life threatening problems can kick off if you overheat and dehydrate too much.
Heat illnesses are actually a leading cause of death in athletes, so doing everything you can to avoid them, and knowing what to look out for and when you absolutely need to abort mission and potentially get to a hospital, could save your little muffin.
This is purely educational, I’m not telling you how to self-treat, but I think it’s useful to know what symptoms to look for. If you do start to notice severe symptoms and you’re not sure, assume the worst and seek medical help.
It's also important to note that any of these issues can kick off suddenly and symptoms can vary for each. They also don't work on a continuum - one doesn’t lead onto the next.
The least serious is heat cramps which are strong, painful cramping of large muscle groups.
This comes about due to a drop in sodium levels (salt), and can usually be avoided by making sure you stay hydrated with water and salt before and during exercise.
Next up you’ve got heat exhaustion. This typically comes about from a big drop in blood volume (through sweat), and your cardiovascular system not having its number 1 tool to supply your body’s needs or regulate temperature.
Heat exhaustion usually occurs during 45min+ moderate-high intensity exercise in the heat, but isn’t always accompanied with extreme body temperature (like heat stroke, which we'll get to next).
Common symptoms are: extreme fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting, weak/rapid pulse.
People who suffer from heat exhaustion will often recover quickly by trying to cool them down quickly, getting them out the heat, taking hot clothing off, and drinking cold fluids. Resting on their back with their legs elevated above the heart can help promote blood flow.
On the extreme end of the spectrum you’ve got heat stroke, which is a serious life threatening condition that requires medical attention.
The reason it gets so serious is because your body’s cooling systems essentially fail, and your body temperature continues to rise into the danger zone, putting you at risk of coma or even straight up dying. It seems like heat exhaustion would lead to heat stroke but it usually isn’t the case and they’re separate conditions.
It’s not always obvious whether someone’s experiencing heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as many symptoms are similar. But, the keys to identifying heat stroke are a body temperature greater than 40°C (by rectal temp only) and mental symptoms like confusion, disorientation, unconsciousness, and sometimes a cessation of sweating.
These are signs of your brain overheating meaning “Brah! The trick’s not worth it!”
To bounce back from heat stroke you need to be cooled as quickly as possible as the longer you stay at a dangerous temperature, your chance of serious problems rapidly increases.
You’ll need medical attention where they’ll try to lower your body temperature by ideally submerging you in ice water.
bringing it all together.
So even though old mate Sun is essential for life, he can also destroy our skating and put us back into the circle of life.
To make sure you can skate as good as you could, and not die when it's hot outside.
Acclimate to the heat,
stay on top of hydration before, during, and after your session,
try and avoid long, intense sessions when it’s super hot,
mix up your skating to reduce how much internal heat you produce,
and realise that heat illnesses are serious shit.