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Shock pads are made of polyurethane and rubber. They are very similar to risers but vary in the fact that their sole purpose is to cushion the board from the trucks. Since the trucks are metal and the board wood, whenever the board hits the ground after doing a trick, the energy goes through the truck to the board ─ this has caused boards to crack, split, or even break in half, and shock pads were created to prevent this.
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Slide your front foot as soon as you start jumping. Use the same movement you have been practicing to slide your foot towards the top end of the board, just as you jump off it and kick the back down. The front of your board should lift up as you slide your foot along it, with your foot hitting the top of the board at the highest point of your jump.
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When I was about 10, I broke my first skateboard by riding it into a ditch. A decade later, in college, I broke another skateboard within an hour of owning it (surely a record) in a short-lived attempt at doing an ollie. (Surprisingly, the store accepted a return on that board even though it was in two pieces.) Then I was gifted a really nice, high-quality skateboard. The first thing I did with it was ride it down a big hill, a valiant but ill-fated adventure which ended with me jumping off the skateboard, rolling down the grass, and arriving scraped up, deflated, and rather disoriented near the entrance to my college cafeteria. (In my defense, the wheels and ball-bearings on that skateboard had been pre-lubricated to minimize friction, and why would anyone do that, that's just crazy.)
The laws for skateboarding helmets vary from state to state. Many states require that skaters wear a helmet under a certain age, and some states like California make all skaters under 18 wear a CPSC Certified helmet at all times. CSPC skateboard helmets usually have an EPS protective liner that meets the safety standards for skateboarding. Make sure you check your state's regulations before ordering.