History of Skateboarding
Skateboarding started in California in the 1950s. It evolved from surfers' desire to simulate wave riding out of water. "Sidewalk surfing" was born. These early skateboards were no more than wooden boxes or boards attached to metal or wood rollerskate wheels.
In the late 1950s the first commercially produced skateboards were manufactured. These were flat planks of wood about 24 inches long with metal, squeaky wheels.
Skateboarding became an immensely popular sport in the early 1960s, with millions of skateboards sold. Throughout the 1960s skateboards didn't evolve much. They remained flat pieces of surfboard-shaped wood, had no grip tape to keep you from slipping off, and were equipped with metal or clay wheels.
Unfortunately, in mid-to-late 1960s, skateboarding came to a screeching halt due to the numerous injuries related to the sport and the lack of safety equipment.
In the early 1970s, Larry Stevenson invented the kicktail or "skateboard with incline, foot depressible level," and shortly afterwards, Frank Nasworthy came up with the idea of manufacturing the first polyurethane high performance wheels.
With the advent of improved features and new technology related to the sport, skateboarding was revived. This new revival led the way for the improvement in design of other skateboard parts and helped the sport regain popularity.
As with the evolution of skateboard engineering and performance, so too, did differing skate styles emerge. Slalom, downhill racing (downhill), freestyle (flat ground tricks and spins), street luge, street skating (skating on urban architecture, curbs, handrails and transitions), and vert skating (transitions that go to vertical such as empty swimming pools, giant concrete drain pipes) were among the most popular and still remain so today.
The 1970s brought on some true legends in the history of skateboarding. Popular at the time were Tony Alva, Stacy Perelta, Shogo Kubo, Jay Adams, Peggy Oki, Rick Blackhart, Ellen O'Neil, Tay Hunt, Russ Howell, Ty Page, Bruce Logan, Chris Yandell, Henry Hester, Roger Hickey, John Hudson and the list goes on. These skaters set the foundation for a sport that is now ingrained in many cultures around the globe.
During the California drought of 1976, daring skaters migrated to the many empty backyard swimming pools to ride the transitions and walls as if they were surfing a concrete wave. This was the birth of vert skating, and the seeds for future extreme sports such as can be found in the X-Games were planted.
Vert skating brought on a whole new arsenal of tricks such as the Front-side Aerial (front-side air), Axle Grinds (grind), Rock-n-Rolls, Laybacks, Tail Taps and Berts (named after Larry Bertlemann). For the first time, skateboard parks emerged. Skateboard parks started in Southern California and Florida, then spread throughout the rest of the United States. Almost every big city had a concrete paradise.
Unfortunately, between the years of 1982 and 1984, skateboarding started to lose popularity. Decline of skatepark attendance and skyrocketing liability insurance rates forced 95% of all skateparks to close their doors. The remaining concrete parks held on just a few more years until the late 1980s.
As skateparks dissolved during this period, a handful of hardcore skaters, not willing to give up their passion for the sport, took to the streets. Thus, a new style of skateboarding called street-style was born. Street-style was a blend of freestyle and skatepark riding performed in urban cityscapes on flat ground and on obstacles such as embankments, curbs, drain ditches, park benches, stairs, junk cars, fountains, and handrails.
To make things more challenging, skaters built portable plywood street ramps with transitions typically 2 to 4 feet high to accelerate up vertical walls and launch through the air.
The migration of vert skating into backyard suburbs occurred as desperate vert skaters were persistent in keeping big transition skating like that of the skatepark pools and bowls alive. Skaters became carpenters by trade and built magnificent, and not so magnificent, vertical half-pipes in their backyards. These ramps were smoother than their concrete predecessors, allowing new levels of technical skating and big aerials to evolve. Skateboard competitions, both vert and street-style, continued throughout the 1980s in backyards, parking lots, and at public events.
The 1980s marked the birth of the NSA (National Skateboard Association). The NSA was founded by Frank Hawk (Tony Hawk's father), a true hero whose dedication to his son and to skateboarding was well known. The NSA helped the discovery of some of the greatest skateboard heroes to date: Jeff Phillips, Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi, Chris Miller, Neil Blender, Bill Danforth, Bill Tocco, Steve Steadham, Ray Underhill, Kevin Staab, Joe Johnson, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill (inventor of the 540 McTwist), Rob Roskop, Lester Kasai, Alan Losi, Mickey Alba and many, many more.
From 1989 to 1993, skateboarding faced near-extinction once more. It appeared as if a whole generation was skipped to carry on this great sport. During this period, only the truly passionate stayed with skateboarding, and the only skateboard companies remaining were mostly owned and operated by skateboarders. At this time these did not do very well. However, in 1995, many of these skater-owned companies who had been able to hang on despite the sports struggle, found themselves in the midst of the 1st X-Games. Who knew at that time that they were sitting on multi-million dollar empires?
Skateboarding once again resurged into the spotlight, receiving a warm welcome during the widely televised and promoted X-games of 1995. Skateboarding took off once again and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Skateboard companies have produced videos, video games, music CDs, popular clothing and sneakers, as well as reaped the benefits of snowboarding and other extreme sports' merchandising. 14 years later, skateboarding is stronger than ever.
We now see skateboarding on advertisements, cereal boxes, vitamins, and on all forms of media advertisements. Many of our favorite celebrities ride skateboards, as well as ordinary moms and dads. Public and private concrete skateboard parks have been built in hundreds of cities across the U.S. and thousands throughout the world. There are skate parks in South Africa, China, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Japan and in numerous other countries.
Although girls have been a part of the skate scene right from the start, they were few and far between. The sport was dominated by teenage boys. It wasn't until the mid-to-late 1990s when the sport began to capture the attention of girls. Tremendous mainstream exposure, fashionable skatewear & shoes, the surge of skateparks around the world, and better safety equipment all contributed toward the surge of interest. Skateboader moms and dads from the 70s and 80s passed on their favorite pastime to both their sons and daughters. It is now more the rule than the exception that no sport is too tough for a girl.
From the late 1990s to present, female skaters and younger skaters alike saw a growth spurt. Today, skateboarding girls have a huge impact on the sport and frequently steal the spotlight from the boys. The likes of Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins, Mimi Knoop, Karen Jonz, Cara-Beth Burnside, Gaby Ponz, and Leticia Bufoni, to name a few, have dominated the skate scene. But let's not forget to give thanks to skate legends Patti McGee, Peggy Oki, Vicki Vickers, and Ellen O'Neil who had paved the way for girls in skateboarding!
The new millenium has brought even greater skateboarding exposure, putting the sport at the top on a global scale. The hype has caused a resurgence of veteran skaters to get back on board. Sponsored competitions for youngsters and seniors alike have hit the mainstream. Here are a couple of snapshots of over-40 skaters shredding as hard as they did when they were 18.
All skateboard riding styles from the 1950s to the present are back in popularity. New styles of skating, along with new innovations in skateboard and safety equipment technologies, are keeping the momentum going. Skaters range in age from 2 to 65 years old. Classic skateboard collectors are paying top dollar for those hard-to-find skateboards from past eras. Skateboard graphics are hot! They can be found on display in art galleries around the world.
Throughout its varied history, skateboarding has spawned not only a new style of sport culture but also a new style of creative expression. It still remains an immensely popular sport around the world.
Cheers to skateboarding for another 50 years and beyond!