A Quick History of Skateboarding
Take a step back in time and learn something about the roots of skate.
wheel up that plank
“Let’s put some roller skate wheels on a wooden plank and roll around or down a hill”, was the idea behind the original skateboards. While kids in the California area had started the sport of wheeled planks through out the 1950s, the roots of longboarding and modern day skateboarding date back to the late 1950’s in Oahu, Hawaii.
Surfing (which actually dates back to 400 AD!) had been introduced to American soldiers at Pearl Harbor in the 1940s and was growing in popularity. Surfers would frequent the waves at Makaha, Sunset and Waimea beach in Oahu through the 1950s as more and more photographers and filmmakers contributed to the massive expansion of the surf lifestyle across the states and into California. When these surfers we’re not catching a wave they needed a land activity to keep busy. Enter ‘Sidewalk Surfing’, which would eventually become known as longboarding.
skateboards/longboards hit the marketplace
Enter 1963, venice beach. Wooden planks and shotty wheels just couldn’t cut it any more. Makaha Skateboards founder, Larry Stevenson, brings the first ‘modern day’ full component skateboards and longboards to the market place as ‘surf skaters’. Fit with clay based wheels, the 33″ Commander was the first commercially availible longboard. Other companies would soon follow with more steel and clay based wheels on nicely carved planks.
As the first big wave of the 1960s grew older into the late 1960s, many considered the boom of skateboarding as a fad and participation died down. Core riders still lived through the dull times until the next revolution would take place…
the wheel. re-invented.
The 70’s was a huge decade for the advancement of skateboarding. In 1970, Larry Stevenson and Makaha continued pushing the evolution of the skate deck and developed a patent for the first front and back kick tail on a skateboard.
Shortly after in 1972, Mr. Frank Nasworthy introduces a new technology that would change skateboarding forever, the polyurethante skateboard wheel. Nasworth was influenced was drawn from a roller skate company that began making polyurethante based wheels for a softer feeling ride with better grip. He named his company Cadillac Wheels Company after the smooth ride you experience on a urethane based wheel. Racing and slalom come back strong and we start to see the growth of organized skate teams.
Enter, the Z-Boys, the original surf and skate team that represented the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica, CA. The Dogtown movement was born with legendary riders like Allen Sarlo, Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta to name a few. Eventually Pool skating grew in popularity mainly due to the major drought that rolled into Southern Cali during the mid 1970s forcing pool owners to drain their pools.
skate or die man
In 1978, (we know, thats not the 80s…bear with us here) Alan Gelfand, nickname ollie, invents the basic move that is the foundation of all trick boarding as we know it today: The Ollie. This in combination with easy access to video film spawned the skateboard video revolution and imfamous names like Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen and others would revolutionize the sport on the vert ramp.
Board shapes would change in the 1980s to a style generally reffered to now as ‘old school’. Vert skating was blowing up so riders needed a shape that would give them a wider platform for stability and a kick tail for airs.
skateboarding’s not a crime
Expanding out of the lull of the late 80s and early 90s, the mid 90s saw another revival of skating re-invented with a raw, edgy and extreme attitude influenced by angry punk music and the backlash against establishment. Vert riding tamed down slightly in popularity and street riding became the dominant riding method. The twin shape of the traditional skateboard trick deck was born to cater to multi-directional trick skating. Downhill and slalom also gained popularity among longboarders with the tech going into making faster and more stable boards advanced. The official term, ‘Extreme Sports’ was coined in 1995 when ESPN hosted the first X games which still continue to be the most dominate competition to date.
2000s and beyond
welcome to the mainstream
Skating eventually grew out of its rebellious phase and in recent years has grown more and more mainstream. The exposure from the X-Games and action sport video games have spawned a younger generation of people who shred for the love and thrill of the ride. Extreme sports have become more about the performance than the rebbelious attitute as companies try to revolutionize the tech that goes into every product. Unique board shapes, cambers, concaves, materials and the like are constanly evolving to push the sport in to the beyond…