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Smith Safety GearSmith started making recaps for other popular brands of kneepads in 1984. The recaps were innovative in that they featured an extended section below the knee that also protected the pad. They sold well, and he branched off into designing kneepads. He rented a sewing machine and taught himself how to sew different types of stitches and cut proper patterns. Smith also dissected every kneepad on the market to see what they were using for materials. He found foam that he felt had better memory–after impact it would rebound back to its original thickness. Smith also experimented with materials like neoprene when most pads were using elastic, which could stretch out.
By 1989 he had a successful design and was producing handmade pads for the likes of Tony Hawk and Joe Johnson, among other top vert pros.
But Smith had been tinkering with other safety equipment at the same time. After recaps he designed and sold shoelace protectors, fingerless thumb gloves (the thumb was full and the rest of the fingers were cut off halfway), and a neoprene horseshoe sleeve that was worn under the kneepad and had extra padding around the kneecap.
He inked a deal with Vision skateboards in the mid 90s, and now his full line of knee, elbow, and helmet gear is distributed by Select Distribution. The famous Smith kneepads are now available in a variety of different styles and prices.