The Evolution Of Skateboarding – A History From Sidewalk Surfing To Superstardom

skateboard-history

It occurred to me this morning that Skateboarding has been around for quite some time now. People where shredding on clay wheels long before I was born paving the way for what has surely become a global phenomenon. It seems to me that Skateboarding is reaching heights never dreamed of and is finding its place among traditional sports like baseball and football. Parents aren’t so resistant to the idea of their children preferring to skate versus trying out for short stop on the HS Baseball team. I find this fascinating that in such a short time Skateboarding has gained such ground. Lets dive a little deeper into the history that’s shaped Skateboarding today.

skateboarding history evolution The Evolution Of Skateboarding   A History From Sidewalk Surfing To Superstardom

1950s

Surers in California get the bright idea to surf concrete and invent Skateboarding. The origin of the first skateboard has never been proven as it seems to have been the spontaneous invention of multiple people. Wooden boards with roller skate wheels slapped on the bottom where the makings of the original boards these pioneers took to the streets. Could you imagine the looks on the faces of people seeing this for the first time? Long haired shaggy surfer duded ripping up the streets on 2×4’s and roller skate wheels! The world ‘Radical’ comes to mind in such true original form.

1960s

By 1963 Skateboarding was all the rage. Popularity of the sport was at its peak. Companies such as Jack’s, Hobie, and Makaha started having real competitions consisting of Downhill Slalom and Freestyle where skaters like Torger Johnson, Woody Woodward and Danny Berer paved the way for future skaters. Then in 1965 for some reason Skateboarding seems to simply die. Considered to be a fad that came and went, skateboarding seemed to fade over night. Some few stayed true to the sport and continued to create homemade boards and fine tune their craft. One of the reasons I suspect skateboarding loosing some of its ground was the fact that the sport was very dangerous. The clay wheels they used were everything but safe and lead to many injuries.

1970s

Then like all things, in a moment, everything changed for skateboarding. The invention of urethane wheels by Frank Nasworthy in 1972 made it possible for skateboarding to make its comeback. He started the company Cadillac Wheels. In 1975 skateboarding got the boost it needed. In Del Mar, California a slalom and freestyle contest was held at the Ocean Festival. That day, the Zephyr team showed the world what skateboarding could be. They rode their boards like no one had in the public eye, low and smooth, and skateboarding was taken from being a hobby to something serious and exciting. The Zephyr team had many members but as some of you might know the most notable of them where Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta. Then in 1978 Alan Gelfand (nicknamed “Ollie”) invented a maneuver that gave skateboarding another revolutionary jump. He would slam his back foot down on the tail of his board and jump, thereby popping himself and the board into the air. The ollie was born, a trick that completely revolutionized skateboarding. At the end of the 1970s skateboarding took another hit when the public skateparks that were being built suffered from the outrageously hight insurance rates due to the danger factor of skateboarding.

1980s & 1990s

Skateboarding continues to grow as the anti-establishment subculture that we all know it as. Skateboarders had become hell bent on progressing their passion for the sport so they started building there own ramps in their backyards. It’s no secret that this became a problem for local construction companies when they started to notice their lumber was disappearing. But lets not forget that construction companies where part of the establishment so to hell with them they thought. Aside from the ramps they built in their backyards to skate on they saw the whole world as there skatepark and took to the streets. During this time many new board shapes took form allowing for skaters to overcome obstacles otherwise impossible. Another invention in the 1980s played a major roll in skateboarding history. The intention of VHS. Stacey Peralta and George Powell’s Bones Brigade team starts recording skateboarding videos that will reach kids all over the world. The team included Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen, Stacy Peralta, and Kevin Staab. This is the team responsible for The Bones Brigade Video Show.

At the end of the 1980s skateboarding took yet another dive in popularity when vert skateboarding became far less popular than street skateboarding. In the early 90s skateboarding starts to rise again as it finds some common ground with the emerging punk music. Then in 1995 ESPN holds the first ever X-Games. The event was a huge success and brought skateboarding into the mainstream light sparking interest in many more young kids.

2000s & Now

Skateparks pop up everywhere and skateboarding video games lets every kid be a skater. Tons of companies emerge and become more and more acceptable in society. The notion of skateboarders being criminals starts to dwindle. The X-Games continues to become more and more popular with Skateboarding at the helm. One of the big factors today that makes skateboarding so huge is the fact that pros make real money. Wining events can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kids are realizing that you don’t have to become a doctor or lawyer to make a buck. Skateboarding has also played a big role in fashion earning its place among the masses. Companies like Diamond Supply Co, Hurley, Vans, and RVCA all making millions off the skateboarding lifestyle.

If this is what happened in the last 60 years I can’t help but wonder what skateboarding has in store in the next 60 years. I found this cool video that gives a visual representation of the evolution of skateboarding.

-Stephen Rodriguez

Tony Owen is a web developer, skateboarder, designer, musician, traveler and blogger. Founder of Arkitecht and Skateboarding Magazine.

19 Comments

  1. Kallie

    April 25, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Thanks for this! It was great to read and I loved learning more about skateboarding <3

  2. Eden

    May 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    where did you originally get that image at the top.”The evolution of skateboarding.” I am doing a research paper on skateboarding and would really like to know where that image came from. It would be a perfect visual source. Thanks!

  3. jason bouskill

    August 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    why are skateboard shop owners now a days cluseless and rude to people who want oldschool skateboards the original clothing and why don’t the new shops have oldschool as a choice if that’s the style you like if I want vision street wear shoes and a vision street wear hat or t-shirt they should have it it isent really oldschool skateboarding its just another style of skateboarding style being a hobbie I should be able to deside what style of skateboard I want and what skateboard brands I wanna wear skateboarding lacks this now a days if I want a gotcha shirt or a vision deck they should have everything I want that’s the way it was in 86-87- and 88 like I said it is a hobbie not a corporate free froll and theres a huge lack of choice when it comes to the original skateboard companies and that’s sad I wish you could still buy skate rags jackets and OJ TEAMRIDERS and G&S TRUCKS.also skateboard shops don’t anymore let you hang out at the sk8 shop in the old days in 1988 in Oakville Ontario at off the wall skateboard shop they always let us hang out at the sk8 shop

    • j

      February 23, 2014 at 8:35 am

      EXACTLY!! I think it’s cus the young generation think that they invented skateboarding and don’t want old school coming back because it means that the older generation had it right and that their “fad” of skating on bandaid boards may be over. I am not really saying that it is a fad… just digging in there. But for the last 30 years that “fad” has dominated skateboarding and everyone forgot how fun it is to go FAST down a street and carve like a surfer. They want it their way or no way. Fact is, there are different styles of skateboarding, bandaid boarding is just one of them (and don’t ask me what a bandaid board is… look at a bandaid and tell me what it looks like… those giant double rounded bi-directional boards shaped like a boat with that ugly A black sandpaper on top! LoL). It’s one style of many. I recently saw a post by a kid asking why a particular shop didn’t carry Penny boards… their response… because plastic boards are crap. Really?? Has he ever tried one? NO! True, wood is better overall, but for slalom…. uhmmmm PLASTIC! Got to Amazon, they have plenty of the old school and retro stuff….

    • Thad Jeschke

      February 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

      cuz there stuck up prudes ive been skating the whole 17 years of my life and never once have i stayed in a skate shop for more then buying anything because they dont make you feel welcome.

    • Andrew Cerra

      March 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

      invest in elephant skateboard brand

    • Qdawg

      September 18, 2014 at 7:46 am

      yeah

  4. jason bouskill

    August 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    also if oldschool skateboarding is your style shouldn’t the shop have what you need in oldschool gear clothing and boards really im tired of the the boring newschool products and not enough choice in the oldschool skateboarding style that’s why I wanna open up a oldschool only skateboard shop for skateboarders out there that only like oldschool skateboarding and the original companies oldschool sorry to say is skateboarding skateboarding has lost its original rad style and has become way to corporate oldschool was fun not really corporate anyone interested in helping me run a oldschool skateboard shop e-mail me at jbjthrasher@gmail.com

  5. Pingback: The Evolution Of Skateboarding – A History From Sidewalk Surfing To Superstardom | board bureau

  6. Pingback: From Surfing to Skateboarding | To The sea

  7. Aiden Flint

    February 10, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Hi i am doing a school project on this and was wondering if i could ask you some questions.

    Interview Questions

    1) What did the first skateboard you remember riding on look like?

    2) What is the biggest change you have seen come to skateboarding in your opinion?

    3) Is there anything that you wish had stayed the same on the skateboard?

    4) How the type of skating changed as the skateboard has evolved? (for example,

    Vert, street, bowl etc.)

    5) Has the skate culture changed in any way as the skateboard has evolved over

    time?

  8. j

    February 23, 2014 at 8:28 am

    First, the image of the “evolution” keeps out plastic boards – which were a major factor in the popularity of skateboarding in the mid 70’s. Every kid had a skateboard and the majority of them were plastic. The plastic boards made turning on a dime a cinch and were the board of choice for the quick carves required in slalom. Also, punk music was in the 70’s, I think what you meant was “grunge” music. Interesting article, but I would have spent more time on the evolution of the wheels, the de-evolution, and the re-evolution…. of the wheels and boards. The components are what is important here, not the riders and the areas to ride so much. From steel to clay to plastic to clay to hard urethane to soft urethane to hard urethane and back to soft urethane. From loose ball bearings to encased ball bearings. From solid trucks, to sliding trucks to the truck patented in the 60’s which is the same basic design used today…….

  9. morgan

    March 12, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Thanks this was sick. theres also a typo. The first word should be surfers

  10. Eli

    April 1, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for posting this i think its pretty rad that some people still have respect for the “oldschool” style. Truth is nowadays the skater image is a bunch of disrespectful teens running around damaging up everything when if you look at the past the true reason to skating is to find yourself and express it in the true art of skating. I personally love the surfer dude penny board and long board style just because i love a peaceful cruise every now and again. And it seems like someone should open a skate shop just for the people who love and care for the respect of cruise riding. Im not saying street style and bandaid boards are a bad thing, ill ride mine around sometimes too, its just variety is everything…we should get our place in society too.

  11. Rondo Alazar

    September 24, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    I don’t know where most of you are from but there are plenty of skate/surf shops in Southern California where they sell “old school” style boards. I’m sure elsewhere in coastal California as well, I’ve been to shops in Pismo, Santa Cruz etc where there are old school boards. By the way, Skateboarding Magazine, please give me a job as a writer or an editor or something, there are a plethora of grammatical errors in your articles as well as articles that seem just plain lazy such as this one.

  12. Rondo Alazar

    September 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    and punk was still prominent in the nineties, both my parents were punks during the late eighties/early 90s

  13. tyler blake

    November 17, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I love skating, I don’t know what I would do without it!

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