By: Justin Felisko August 26, 2014@ 07:00:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. – There are two sides to every coin and Chase Outlaw and Markus Mariluch understand that when it comes to riding with a helmet or cowboy hat.
Outlaw recently switched back to a bull riding helmet two weeks before the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Built Ford Tough Series event and has continued to ride with it ever since, while Mariluch returned to the BFTS by riding with a cowboy hat for the first time since shattering his face in 2008.
Both riders made the switch due to different scenarios and understand there are pros and cons to their decisions.
Outlaw’s change was a result of breaking his left cheek bone in two difference places during Showdown Sunday at the Calgary Stampede this past July when Crazy Bull bucked him off and kicked him in the face.
“To be able to ride six weeks after, for them to release me, I had to wear a helmet so I just put it on,” Outlaw said.
It is not the first time the 22-year-old has chosen to ride with a bull riding helmet. When he first arrived on the BFTS in 2012, Outlaw rode with a helmet and even won the Houston event. He had ridden with a helmet for the majority of his time on the BFTS until last year’s summer break.
Outlaw, whose grandparents have always pushed him to wear a helmet, could have switched back to the cowboy hat now, but he has decided not to mess with a good thing after winning his first event with the helmet earlier this August at the Monroe, Louisiana, Touring Pro Division event.
He also won Round 1 of the Express Employment Professionals Classic in Tulsa with an 88.25-point ride on Crystal Pistol.
“I used to ride with one a little bit,” Outlaw said. “I don’t really like it, but it is a safety issue and I don’t want to get stepped on ahead of something and be out because of something dumb like that. It is safe. It is a business decision and smart on my part.
“I would rather have a cowboy hat, but if I can get it done with the helmet why wouldn’t I?”
Mariluch is all too familiar with the damage that can come as a result of not wearing a helmet. A week before the 2008 ABBI World Finals, Mariluch suffered multiple facial fractures at a non-BFTS event.
“I broke my eye socket, I broke my cheek bone and I broke my nose,” Mariluch said. “There was 20-something breaks in all of those. I broke my nose in six or seven different places and then my cheek bones broke in 12 places. My eye socket was broken a couple.”
The Elko, Nevada, native still ended up competing at the ABBI Finals in Las Vegas and wound up tying Cody Ford for the event title despite his eyes being swollen. He has competed with a helmet basically ever since.
So why make the switch after almost six years?
Well, Mariluch served as one of the stunt doubles for Scott Eastwood earlier this summer during filming of “The Longest Ride” in North Carolina. It was in the Tar Heel state that Mariluch attempted to ride again without a helmet.
He liked the results.
“The first time was in Jacksonville,” Mariluch said. “I got on a young bull of Jerome and Tiffany (Davis) and he kept rearing in the chute and stuff. I was a little nervous, but as soon as I nodded I rode him and just felt comfortable. Now it is like nothing. I don’t even think about my helmet now.”
The 28-year-old ended up getting on an estimated nine bulls over the course of a week in North Carolina and liked what he felt. He didn’t feel as claustrophobic as he had in the past when wearing a helmet. He also had a better idea for where he was in the arena following a ride or buckoff as he had better peripheral vision.
“I feel much more aggressive and am looking forward to riding without it for now,” Mariluch said. “I am not really nervous about it now. Just the first few, I hadn’t rode with my cowboy hat in so long. It was so different. It feels so much better.”
The 13th ranked bull rider in the world standings also understands there are benefits to riding with a helmet. He also is aware of the risks that come with riding without a helmet.
“A helmet works real good though when you take a hit,” he added. “It has its ups and it has its downs.”
Mariluch failed to record a qualified ride in Tulsa wearing his cowboy hat – he was bucked off by Thunder Bolt and Apollo Stripes – but he plans on continuing to ride without a helmet for the foreseeable future.
“I am going to ride without my helmet for a while and see how it pans out,” he concluded. “I love riding in my cowboy hat.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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