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Federal regulator issues warning for Santa Cruz-based Onewheel

SANTA CRUZ — A national consumer safety watchdog panel issued a public warning this week urging users to immediately stop using a Santa Cruz-produced electric skateboard.

A Onewheel is photographed at the offices of Future Motion in Santa Cruz, on Oct. 30, 2017. Onewheel is an electric-powered board invented by Future Motion founder Kyle Doerksen. The device rides on a single go-kart racing slick that gives the sensation of snowboarding on pavement or off-road. (Gary Reyes — Bay Area News Group file) 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “evaluated the Onewheel products and found that they can cause the rider to be ejected from the product, which can result in serious injury or death to the rider,” the regulatory agency wrote in a news statement distributed Wednesday.

“There have been at least four reported deaths between 2019 and 2021 and multiple reports of serious injuries after the product failed to balance the rider or suddenly stopped while in motion,” the commission’s statement reads. “The reported deaths resulted from head trauma. Reported injuries include traumatic brain injury, concussion, paralysis, upper-body fractures, lower-body fractures, and ligament damage.”

In response, Onewheel manufacturer Future Motion Inc. issued a response describing the commission’s warning as containing “unjustified and alarmist statements.” The company sees no reason for users to stop using its Onewheel products, according to its statement.

“Onewheel electric skateboards are safe when operated following common-sense safe riding practices that are common to any board sport,” Future Motion wrote.

While empowered to issue mandatory recalls and prohibit product sales, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had not made such an order for the Onewheel, to date.

The agency, however, characterized talks with Future Motion as ending with a company that “refused to agree to an acceptable recall of the product.” The commission, according to its news release, intends to continue pursuing a Onewheel recall for consumers. Future Motion fired back in its own statement that, “rather than collaborate on how to further improve safety, the CPSC has unfortunately issued a sensational message about a product that brings joy and exhilaration to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

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Hundreds of users posted supportive comments and likes to Onewheel’s Facebook page Wednesday after the company publicized a response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s warning. The social media post began with the appeal, “Dear CPSC, Let us ride” and attached photographs of a six-page letter further responding to the commission.

Riders aware

Onewheel founder Kyle Doerksen told the Sentinel on Thursday that Future Motion is collaborating with the commission’s technical staff, “exploring and evaluating a variety of ways to enhance Onewheel safety.” Overall, the product, he said, is safe to operate.

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