Are you considering buying a hoverboard as a gift because, suddenly, they have become the “must-have” present of Christmas 2015? Do you have a child begging for one? Do yourself, and them, a favor: buy them a bicycle, skateboard, inline skates, a snowboard, skis, or a surfboard instead. Make sure to get them proper protective gear too. Helmets at a very minimum; they’re even a good idea for surfers.
Why all the hate for hoverboards? Well, hoverboards are illegal to ride in many jurisdictions, meaning that they must be used on private property. They explode, as Jessica Horne’s son Hayden’s did, as reported by Yahoo! The whole exploding thing has led to them being banned by most major airlines, as reported by Time. Plus, the hoverboards being marketed this Christmas season aren’t really even hoverboards. The don’t hover and they have wheels.
Here are two videos featuring bona fide experimental hoverboards. That’s the best skateboarder of all time, Tony Hawk, struggling like a 9-month-old attempting to take his first steps to maintain his balance on one from Hendo. The second hoverboard from Lexus looks slightly more functional, but for the most part, altogether completely unstable and un-rideable.
The reason these hoverboards are so difficult to ride is because there is nothing offering any type of lateral stability to stop the board from sliding sideways or tipping. Hoverboarders who are not in contact with the ground cannot hope to turn without some type of device analogous to a surfboard fin or a sailboat keel. At higher speeds the tail fins of an airplane would seem to be a good place to divine inspiration from, but at the speeds of a typical skateboarder, sails or fins with surface areas comparable to a windsurfer’s sail will be probably be needed.
And that’s just the experimental hoverboards that truly count as being hoverboards. The segway-like devices that are being sold as hoverboards for Christmas 2015 are downright bizarre.
Something that becomes quickly plain to see is that hoverboards are all but impossible to turn. The trucks on skateboards swivel to effectively simulate the carving motion a surfboard or snowboard makes when turning. The axle of a hoverboard does not swivel like a skateboard truck does, making turning somewhat of a joke.
Yes, a hoverboard can be turned if the rider puts all of their weight on one wheel, but it results in an incredibly sketchy, wobbly turn. It might be argued that skateboards or snowboards become more stable when being turned, when the stability is needed. Hoverboards become less stable in turns; the higher the speed, the less stable they become.
Video after video of teens using hoverboards on YouTube devolve into them riding the devices on their stomachs, spinning in one place, or throwing pies at each other. One would think that a functional hoverboard would hold the interest of teens. No hoverboard rider comes close to being able to perform the most basic skateboarding tricks. The lack of control would seem to make hoverboards dangerous for children and make them really only suitable for circus performers and acrobats.
It seems that just about everyone who rides a hoverboard ends up quickly falling to the ground. Wearing a helmet, as well as knee, elbow and wrist protection should be mandatory for children receiving hoverboards as Christmas presents. For kids that already have skateboards, snowboards, skis, and other equipment, a segway-like hoverboard might be a fun addition.
For children who don’t already know how to skateboard, surf, or snowboard, equipment for those sports will likely find much more use than a hoverboard, which, if it doesn’t explode, will likely find itself collecting dust in the corner of the garage or closet before long.
[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]