Skateboarding has had an exciting and relatively recent history. What began as a regional sport quickly turned into an international pastime in nearly every country in the world. Some of the first skateboards were similar in appearance to scooters, having the bottoms fastened unto the wheels of roller skates. When the handles were dislocated from the front of the scooters, the modern day skateboard was created.
During the 1950s, the golden age of surfing was in full bloom. People from all walks of life went to beach to enjoy the waves in the southern parts of California. Unfortunately, not all had the equipment to surf whenever they wished. Beachgoers soon began to alter simple boards in a way that could simulate the same effects of surfing, but took place entirely on the ground. In 1959, the first mass produced skateboard was manufactured by the Roller Derby Skate Company.
Not long after, skateboard prototypes were being sold that would better mimic the near floating effects of riding on surfboards. Companies such as Hobie and Makaha were some of the first to streamline skateboards from the more rudimentary models. The earliest known people to perform on surfer style skateboards were Bruce Logan, Torger Johnson, and Bill Richards. Almost instantaneously, it became a trend. Millions of skateboards were being sold every year with companies competing heavily to win over enthusiasts.
After the first skateboard event that took place in 1963, the general public began to perceive skateboards as a dangerous form of sport that needed to be regulated or prohibited from being sold. From this point, skateboards saw a decline in sales and saw a slightly negative reputation from the public due to skateboard safety concerns. However, there were key innovations that also happened during this period.
Skateboarding Techniques Are Born
In the 1970s, skaters started to practice and name different styles and techniques. The kicktail, created by Larry Stevenson, was one of the first names. Additionally, urethane skateboard wheels were placed on boards, which helped to revive the sport. These gave riders better acceleration, traction, and allowed them to perform moves that were once impossible to do. Most of the tricks were done on level asphalt that did not have hills. However, unused swimming pools and pipes became known as great places for practice that were confined and did not pose a risk from vehicular traffic.
Later in the decade, skating once again exploded in growth with skate parks being built, editorials being published that were devoted to the sport, and even motion pictures such as Skateboard being played at theaters throughout the United States.
Other tricks that were perfected and branded by riders include the invert, aerial, and the ollie, the latter being one of the most important techniques that facilitated the second rise in skateboarding. As a result, skateboarders begin to make a name for themselves and become overnight sensations. With this newfound acceptance in the mainstream, boards with larger dimensions were conceived that made it easier to skate on inclined surfaces. As the 1980s were in sight, the number of skating parks diminished. Some claim that the economic recession contributed to their reduction.
Street Skating Becomes A Fad
Much like urethane wheels, plywood ramps boosted skateboarding sales during the 1980s. This time also saw more independent methods established for skating locations. Personal ramps and inclines were being built in skater’s backyards so there would be no reliance on more commercial skating locations, as they had since decreased in number. This drove the sport to become known around underground circles and was oftentimes viewed as rebellious and alternative. Street skating took off and popular performers such as Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk were credited for being some of the pioneers of the subcategory. Skating became synonymous with the punk lifestyle which helped it’s influence grow among the generation’s teenage and young adult youth, both stateside and internationally.
Unlike the previous decades, the 1990s saw an even higher increase in skateboarding. Television shows such as ESPN’s Extreme Sports Games and MTV Sports gave it exposure to people who had never regarded skateboarding as a form of athletics. Skaters viewed these program’s positive look on the sport as the driving force behind the prior stigma of it being too dangerous and edgy. In 1997, skateboarding was featured in that year’s Winter X Games and was watched by millions of people and fans of the pastime.
The news-media, broadcasting networks, and emerging celebrity statuses of skaters quickly changed it from being an underground talent to a respected sport that brought about endorsement deals and heavy advertising. Even with young men being their target audience, women saw it as a worthwhile activity during this time as well.
Skateboard athletes saw a presence in marketing beverages, food, and clothing. Sponsors drove it’s growth the point where skateboards were seen in the households of many people, children and adults alike. Although the main attraction of the sport did not change, it’s primary focus remains on urban and street skating abilities, as what is seen in articles and sales pages of popular skateboard magazines. Vert skating tournaments also increased due in part to the high amount of new skateboard dedicated parks that were being rebuilt.
Many towns, both big and small, saw skate parks developed or already existing parks add in skating ramps and inclines. The varying bowls and pipes present in such places led to alterations in equipment. These specialized changes given to skating goods improved safety and the number of injuries that were happening. While the early part of the decade had many small boards with narrow wheel dimensions being sold, a greater range of boards and wheels gradually developed for skateboarders. Wheel diameters became larger, deck width grew in size, and longboards saw gains in sales and popularity, particularly in areas close to the beach and among riders that wanted to use their boards as an efficient form of transportation, much like a bicycle.
Skateboarding downhill also emerged as a once again choice for riders since it contributed to good speed boosts and the ability to luge with better accuracy. As mentioned, one of the largest trends at the time was in streetwear. Clothing and accessories continually mirrored the changes that were impacted by all skaters. Shoes also became a very important part of the look, with some brands making footwear that allowed skaters to grip the base of the board easier. It brought about rises in athletic wear, company market shares, and annual sales.
Skateboarding Into The 2000’s
During the beginning years of the 21st century, skating became a full time sporting job that allowed participants to earn as much as six figure salaries, especially those who took part in sponsored events. This is the current place in which the sport stands. Riders can be seen in events as varied as East Asia and southern Latin America.
Skater’s salaries are typically based on how much they win, also factored on how well a skater does in any given event. The number of competitions a skater takes place in on a monthly basis also drives the sport from being a pastime to a means of employment. Most skaters that are sponsored can also make a monthly or quarterly salary from competing in only a small number of events which in turn markets them as consistent participants. This is a significant change from skateboarding’s past when professional skaters had to work as normal salaried employers for companies that had little to do with their sporting talents.
Skateboarding can also be done by young children, with some companies making specialized training boards that have handles for the child or parent to hold. However, the majority of experienced skaters are past their teenage years. Most of them don’t train under the same stipulations as what can be found in other professional sporting categories. Many skaters also do not take on dieting, although this has changed with some athletes who compete for monetary gains.
There have been many companies and organizations dedicated to skateboarding in it’s youthful history. Two of the primary labels today are World Cup Skateboarding and the International Association of Skateboarding Companies (IASC), leading in terms of the level of competitions and events held. Run by former National Skateboarding Association president Don Bostick, World Cup Skateboarding features competitions in both street and vert styles of the sport.
Teams are typically managed and funded by sponsors, similar to racing participants in NASCAR and Formula One. This is in part due to the development of marketing and endorsement funds that are placed into performances, of which has altered the premise of competitive skateboarding in a positive light for fans and skaters. Skateboarding now is respected and watched by other professional athletes and is enjoyed live and on television by all people, both young and old. This trend is sure to continue and could one day lead to national teams in the near future.