Created in the 1950s, Skateboarding was created by California surfers as a way to surf the concrete streets. It’s unknown who made the first skateboard — instead, it seems that several people came up with similar ideas at the same time. Several people have claimed to have invented the skateboard, but nothing can be proved, and skateboarding remains a strange spontaneous creation.
These first “skateboarders” started with wooden boxes attached to about a 30 inch two-by-four with roller skate wheels attached at the on the bottom. It was a sport just being born and discovered, so anything went. The boxes turned into planks, and eventually companies were skateboarding companies were created who then started producing skateboard decks which consisted of pressed layers of maple wood — similar to the skateboard decks of today. During this time, skateboarding was seen as something to do as a warm up on the way to a surf spot or just for fun after surfing.
In 1963, skateboarding became a highly sought after hobby which is when its popularity peaked, and skateboard companies started holding skateboarding competitions. At this time, skateboarding was mostly either downhill slalom or freestyle competition. The kind of skateboarding tricks that were performed at this time looked almost completely different from what skateboarding looks like today! The style of skateboarding at the time was called “freestyle” and is more like dancing ballet or ice skating with a skateboard.
Then, in 1965, skateboarding’s popularity suddenly took a dive. Most people assumed that skateboarding was another fad that had died out. Skateboard companies started shutting down production, and those who were still dedicated to the sport had to again make their own skateboards from scratch.
Although skateboarding started to die out people still wanted to skateboard, even though parts were hard to find and skateboards were home made. As a result, Skaters were using what they could find to develop skateboards. Clay wheels, which were extremely dangerous and hard to control, were being used at the time. Luckily, in 1972, Frank Nasworthy invented urethane skateboard wheels, which are similar to what skateboard wheel manufacturer’s use today. His company’s, Cadillac Wheels, invention thankfully sparked new interest in skateboarding among surfers and other youngsters.
In the spring of 1975, skateboarding took off on an evolutionary boost toward the sport that we see today. At a slalom and freestyle contest in Del Mar, California the Zephyr team showed the world what skateboarding could be. The Zephyr team rode their skateboards like no one ever had in the public eye, and from there skateboarding was taken from being a hobby to something serious. The Zephyr team had many members, but the most famous are Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta who are still legends to the sport today.
As the Zephyr team gained popularity with their amazing skateboarding abilities and edgy appearance, skateboarding took on a strong anti-establishment sentiment that still remains somewhat in skateboarding today.
In 1978, only a few years into the popularity of the Zephyr style of skateboarding, a skater named Alan Gelfand (nicknamed “Ollie”) invented a maneuver that would later completely change the course of skateboarding. By slamming his back foot down on the tail of the skateboard and simultaneously jumping into the air, thereby popping him and the skateboard into the air, he created a trick known as the Ollie. The Ollie is the single trick that completely revolutionized skateboarding — most tricks today are based in performing an Ollie. The trick still bears Gefand’s nickname, and for his trick creation Alan Gelfand in 2002 was inducted into the skateboard hall of fame.
Unfortunately, near the end of the 1970’s skateboarding faced yet another crash in popularity. Public skate parks had been being built at a rapid rate, but with skateboarding being such a dangerous activity, insurance rates increased causing less interest in the sport. These issues with skateboarding combined with less and less people using skate parks forced most skate parks to close.
But those completely dedicated to skateboarding kept skating. Through the 80’s skateboarders started to build their own ramps at home and started to skate whatever else they could find including curbs, stairs, banks, and other city structures. Skateboarding began to be more of an underground movement, with skaters continuing to ride, turning the world into their own skate park.
During the 1980’s, skateboard companies owned by skateboarders started cropping up. These were smaller companies but this enabled each company to be creative and do whatever they wanted – creating new styles and shapes of skateboards.
It was also during the 1980’s that the VCR came on the scene, and opened up the world of skateboarding to any kid, anywhere. Professional skateboarders such as Stacey Peralta and George Powell created a company under the name Powell Peralta and pulled together a team of young talented skateboarders and which they named the Bones Brigade. Stacey had a talent for filming, and in 1984 filmed the first of a long series of revolutionary skateboard videos – “The Bones Brigade Video Show”. The team included Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Stacy Peralta, Rodney Mullen, and Kevin Staab, among piles of other huge named skaters. Stacey made more Bones Brigade videos – Future Primitive in 1985, and the famous Search for Animal Chin in 1987 and many more. With the birth of these videos Skateboarding began influencing clothing styles, music and culture.
Again, near the end of the 1980’s, skateboarding took yet another dip in popularity to other commercial sports. As skateboarding fell in the late 80’s, vert skateboarding which was extremely admired during the 1980’s, quickly lost a lot of attractiveness to street skateboarding in the early 1990s.
As skateboarding took a dive in the late 80’s through the early 90’s skateboarding still remained, though it became primarily street. It was at that time when two skateboarders by the names of Natas Kaupas and Mike Vallely that came onto the skateboard scene and pushed street skateboarding even further.
As the 1990’s continued, skateboarding started to regain its popularity, this time with an edgier, more raw and dangerous attitude. Coinciding with the rise of angry punk rock music, and the general discontent of “the system” that raged throughout this time period. Call it Post Modern frustration or call it what you want, but the tougher image of the poor, pissed off skater came to the surface loud and proud which, helped to fuel skateboarding’s popularity.
As the 90’s continued into 2000, so did the rise in popularity for skateboarding, fueling more and more commercialized skateboarding competitions like the X Games which, brought back vert skateboarding and CBS coverage of skateboarding events. As time goes on, skateboarding is seen more in the media pulling skateboarding more into the mainstream. The advantages to this is the money being pumped into the skateboarding industry, which is creating more skate parks, better skateboards, and more skateboarding companies to keep innovating and inventing new things.
With all this history crammed into such a short time period, it’s easy to see that no one knows where skateboarding will truly go. Skateboarding still has not fully evolved, and skaters are continuing to invent new skateboard tricks all the time. Skateboarding has always been about personal discovery and pushing oneself to the limit, but where will skateboarding go from here…Olympics? No one knows for sure but it will be fun to watch it grow.