Everything You Need To Know About The Origins Of Skateboarding

Skateboarding — the action-packed recreational activity where a person rides on a board with four wheels either as a form of transport or to execute elaborate maneuvers. It is known to be a popular activity amongst the youths, and has cultivated lifestyles and even fashion since its origin in the ‘50s. In this article, we detail the timeline of skateboarding back to its first documented use in the 50s till today. 

How it Started

The origins of skateboarding goes all the way back to the ‘50s, and early skateboarders were referred to as “asphalt surfers”. Apparently, many wanted to bring the adrenaline of surfing waves to the streets, which could have worked for those who did not live near or wanted to go to beaches anyway. In fact, the skateboarding hotspots were in California and Hawaii, places frequented by surfers as well. Initially, skateboards were constructed from smaller versions of surfboards attached to four metal wheels. Skateboarding reached peak popularity during the later part of the 1950s in the United States after the war. Thanks to the tremendous growth in the economy, the toy industry took the opportunity to innovate what was once just a board on wheels into the first official skateboard with better technical adjustments. This then gave skateboarders more creative freedom to ride around town.

Mass-Production of Skateboards

The 1960s saw the steady growth of skateboarding in popularity, which then propelled many companies to catch up on the trend. This evolved the skateboard from just a mere toy into a sporting good. In this era, more skateboards took on the iconic surfboard-esque shape and more publications released skateboarding advertisements. Even the fashion industry wanted a bite of this cake — shoe brands were creating shoes specifically for skating; which then saw the beginnings of stylish streetwear. 

 

1963 also saw the first Skateboarding Competition ever organised too! At this point in time, skateboarding had progressed past being just a laid-back past-time. Brands started looking into sponsoring competing skaters the more skateboarding grew in popularity. A year later, the first niche print publication featuring skateboarding culture was published. It was called “The Quarterly Skateboarder”. 

 

Towards the end of the decade, technical features like the kicktail were added onto the skateboard’s design to improve mobility and comfort of the board. Skateboarders today have Larry Stevenson to thank for that.

Further Developments

In the ‘70s, there was more focus in the design development of skateboards. For example, Frank Nasworthy pioneered the invention of urethane wheels, which provided more resistance to rough surfaces and were more durable. This new innovation brought even more interest towards the activity. He then went on to create his own skateboard company, Cadillac Wheels, with specially designed boards that improved the comfort, mobility and durability aspect of skateboarding. Different skateboarding practices like freestyle, downhill and slalom were at its peak in this decade as well. New skateboarding print publications like Skateboarder Magazine and more related events emerged too. 

It was only in 1976 that the first skate park was created with exciting features like ramps and kickers. Gradually, skateboarding caught on in Germany — the first skatepark was established, skateboard magazines were published and competitions were then held in Munich, the first German hub for skateboarding. 

 

WIth more skateboarders now joining the sport and bringing their own flavour to the floor, the skateboard started to evolve into different shapes and designs to cater to each individual. More variations in board width and design appeared in stores everywhere. 

 

The famous fundamental skateboarding trick called the “Ollie” was coined when skateboarder Alan Gelfand executed a jump with the board still “stuck” to his shoes. This paved the way for recreational and street skateboarding, where more elaborate tricks were invented.

A New Style

Street skateboarding piqued the interest of many thanks to the myriad of tricks emerging from different skateboarding enthusiasts in the 1980s. In fact, the first to transform the “Ollie” into more complex variations was Rodney Mullen. This new category of skateboarding spread like a wildfire. 

 

Print publications also took off in this decade. The famous “Thrasher Magazine” was born then, laying the foreground for skateboard culture, punk rock and the core scene. They even coined the popular skate phrase, “Skate and Destroy”. With videography now catching on, skateboarding was now made accessible to anyone around the globe. Additionally, even though fashion wasn’t so much the focus in skateboarding, skateboard shoe brands had established a stronger brand image that associated them with skateboarding. 


If you were a skateboard professional in the 80s, you would have been earning quite a comfortable income thanks to its popularity! This era definitely saw the climax of the skateboarding phenomenon not only in America, but in Germany as well. The setting up of the “Münster Monster Mastership” in Germany became a huge international skateboarding competition in the 1980s, which only saw more Germans joining the bandwagon.

Modern Skateboarding

The 90s saw the rise of other attractive extreme sports, which unfortunately diluted the attractiveness of skateboarding. However, this did not affect the sports thanks to countless events, publications, television shows and the Internet. More brands were launched in this period, which made it more accessible for anyone to buy themselves a skateboard. Furthermore, the design of the skateboard just kept evolving and improving, which bettered the quality of boards being sold everywhere. 

 

Worldwide Skateboarding championships and competitions helped to keep skateboarding relevant everywhere too. This brought about many skateboarding icons that we know and idolise today. 

Not only did skateboarding become a well-loved sport, it created industries, manufactured an iconic lifestyle and inspired innovation for a unique crowd. It has been fun seeing how far skateboarding has come — from a simple board on metal wheels to huge international contests, flagship brands, professional skaters and avid fans of the sport. For some, skateboarding may be a pastime; while for others, it is a rewarding lifestyle. We can only hope that this century continues to see more innovation and interest in skateboarding to pass down future generations. 

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