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Top 5 Design Innovations in Skateboarding History

Over the years, the evolution of the skateboard design has had many turning points. Today we discuss some of the top changes that have been made to skateboards throughout it’s history.

1. Wheels: Metal > Clay > Polyurethane

Did you know skateboard wheels used to be made out of metal? Imagine trying to catch air with those clunkers holding you down or how much you could tear up some floors.

skateboard wheels

The next innovation was later on in the 60’s when manufacturers started producing boards with clay wheels. I would imagine a hard landing could almost shatter these antiques.

skateboard wheels

Then came the newest in the evolution of wheels; polymers. Polyurethane wheels of these days are much more tough and resilient, with good traction and better shock absorption than the older metal or ceramic wheels. What will they roll out with next?

skateboard wheels

2. Design: Flat > Kicktail > Double Kicktail

Larry Stevenson made the first innovation to skateboard design when he invented the kicktail on a skateboard deck. Basically an upturned back end that provided a higher level of control over the board itself which allows for a wide range of tricks and a way to “brake”. In 1969 Stevenson patented the double kicktail which modern skateboards are designed after. Unfortunately, Stevenson just died  March 25 2012 at age 81. Who will take his dreams to the next level?

skateboard kicktail

3. Thrust: Loose Ball Bearings > Precision Bearings

In 1975 Road Rider wheels are created. They are the first skateboard wheel to use precision bearings as opposed to loose ball bearings. Road Riders succeeded in bringing an end to Cadillac’s wheels which still used loose-ball bearings. Precision bearings mean cleaner, smoother, durable, less deformed bearings.

skateboard bearings

4. Footwear: Normal shoes > Protective Gripping Shoes

skate shoes

In the 1970s Vans, waffle-cup, diamond shoe pattern puts an edge on skateboarding shoes by providing superior gripping and foot protection technology with their signature rubber. Since then, Skate shoe companies have enhanced their shoes with a number of new features. These innovations have a number of functions preventing bruises, increasing flexibility, and enhancing grip. In a new recent development Vans is taking it even further.

 

 

5. Trucks: Rollerskate trucks > Skate Trucks

In the 1950s and 1960s skateboard trucks were actually part of roller skates that people just mode-podged together. Unfortunately, the roller skate trucks did not give skateboarders any turning radius, stability, control or speed. You could pretty much just roll.

skateboarding trucks

It wasn’t until 1973 that a skateboard truck was invented. Ronald Bennett of Bennett Trucks, known for its signature red bushings, was the first person to invent it. The Bennett Truck gave skateboarders the ability to turn and have better control on their skateboards. Skateboarders could adjust the tension on the bushings by tightening or loosening the king pin. The lower the tension, the easier the skateboard turns. There was also Tracker and Stroker trucks that made small innovations.

skateboard trucks

But it wasn’t until 1978, in response to the skateboarders’ demands, that Fausto Vitello, Jay Shuirman, Kevin Thatcher and Rick Blackhart got together and formed Independent Trucks. The Independent Truck Company then set to work manufacturing a durable truck that had a quicker turning radius as well as combining all the best features of it’s predecessors. The result was the Stage 1 skateboard truck that quickly surged in popularity. What will they come up with next?

View Comments (31)

31 Comments

  1. Anne Thomas

    March 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    That first one looks a LOT like street skate wheels, we used to have metal skakes that attached to shoes for outdoor use.

  2. chopo magazi

    July 14, 2012 at 4:00 am

    I great stuff to see who was the first person to make a board

  3. Larry Modes

    August 23, 2012 at 11:28 am

    #5-Trucks
    Your picture is exactly what our first skateboards used. Clamped to shoes you could get a 3 ft radius turn, but the longer wheelbase on a skateboard usually meant a 6 ft radius. Good enough for a lot of control and fun. Otherwise they never would have become popular. And they gave the daring, foot numbing speed on downhill slaloms.

    #1-Wheels
    The ‘clay’ wheels we used not ceramic like some dishes or vases. They were natural rubber with embedded clay particles for increased durability, like auto tires have carbon particles for the same reason. They were a big improvement over steel wheels. They were designed for the smooth concrete of skating rinks, but when used on rough streets and sidewalks they wore down to the hub in a couple years. Skateboards with rubber wheels were called Cadillacs because they ‘rode so smooth’.

    #1-Wheels
    Long-lasting polyurethane wheels, which are similar to what most skaters use today, were invented in 1972 by a surfer by the name of Frank Nasworthy. His San Diego company was called Cadillac Wheels. These wheels caused a resurence in skateboard popularity by providing durability with comfort.

  4. Michael

    November 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Great article, but I would like to add a few other changes.
    Nails to bolts to precession hardware, wood cut out to resin molds to wood press molds with silk screen graphics, and no grip to grip tape to graphic grip tape. I would also accredit some of our advancements to the many diverse styles and options of tools, made specifically for Skateboarding.

  5. Rex Gentry

    November 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Pic#1
    I built a dozen of these back in 1965 and sold them for $4 apiece. We road them down suicide hill(100 yrds of sheer terror). You either jumped off, fell off or crashed on the gravel road below. Everyone was permanently marked with scars.
    I only did it once — elbows,knees and shoulder. I was one of the first sidewalk surfers in Topeka, KS.
    rex

  6. Robb Smith

    February 22, 2013 at 10:41 am

    In the late 70’s I had a pair of solid one piece polymer trucks that I ordered from a skate magazine.
    I liked them because they flowed into turns and got stiffer feeling the harder you pushed them.
    They didn’t sell very well and disappeared.
    Does anybody remember them?
    What was their name?
    Robb, Jacksonville, Fl. (Skated these at NAS Whiting Field in the concrete drainage ditches in the 70’s when I was a sailor.)

  7. Karl Craig

    April 8, 2013 at 6:08 am

    i think tracker trucks may take issue with the last paragraph

  8. Chris Solomon

    April 8, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Nice list! #4 is questionable though in my opinion. Sounds more like advertising for Vans slipped in there. haha I don’t think shoes were that big of an innovation. Folks skating vert/street in the later 80’s and early 90’s were killing it and invented some of the hardest tricks yet….all while skating in “regular” shoes….basketball shoes…old Chuck Taylors…early skate shoes (Vision, Airwalk, etc). To this day, many of those tricks still are not done by today’s rippers…even with their “innovative” shoes. haha

  9. Packy

    April 8, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Why’d you have to use a purple indy truck for the picture?!

  10. John Fudala

    April 12, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I would leave out the shoes. There has been lots of decent shoes for skateboarding and basketball etc.

    I produce a skate camp and why can’t we loosen trucks for small kids that don’t weigh much.
    We do stuff like take the top washer off etc.

    • DD

      January 26, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Shoes? You guys wore shoes! Dangit, I wish I thought of that! John, just a thought for the lite tykes. Maybe if you cut down the rubber, it will create a looser truck…

  11. Larry Modes

    November 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    The clay wheels were NOT ceramic. They were clay-impregnated rubber. Their ride was way softer than metal. The clay decreased the wear rate. Even so, a set of clay wheels wore down to the axle in a summer of riding on asphalt streets to and from the beach.

  12. DD

    January 26, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Shoes? You guys wore shoes! Dangit, I wish I thought of that!

  13. J

    June 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Actually the bit about trucks not being invented until 1973 is false. The modern truck was designed back in the 50’s or 60’s. I have a 1964 Hobie with original modern trucks that say “patent pending”. I have several skateboards that I have collected over the years, some are similar to the modern truck, but Hobie is the oldest one that I have seen that has the exact same design as the modern truck. This is 1964 and NOT 1973 and NOT Ronald Bennett. This article is being spread all over the internet. Wish you would get your facts straight BEFORE you change history!!!!

  14. Paul McNutt

    November 9, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I think I was the first one to use the clay wheels. I made a big gun board back in early 1961 from my moms clay dance skates. I know all there was before that were steel. I lived in Oceanside Calif. and remember making a bunch and teaching others how to build them. From there the whole thing took off real fast .
    I also made some short boards, but the long board was my favorite. I have never met any one that made clay boards before me.

  15. Greg in Texas

    November 17, 2014 at 7:04 am

    Thank you everyone for all of your wonderful comments. It brings back a flood of memories of the mid to late 70’s that I remember so well. Simpler times before facing the inevitable of growing up, before the Marine Corps, before family and so on. One small (and painful) quip about those beloved “clay” wheels that no one spoke about was their incredible, “stopping power”, when you came in contact with the smallest microbial of a pebble…thats how you quickly learned the, “tuck & roll”, after a dozen face plants and rock encrusted knees…pre-knee pads…
    GOOD TIMES!!! I’d do it ALL over again!!!

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  17. Tony Roderick

    December 23, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    The person responsible for putting the seal precision bearing into skateboard wheels is Tony Roderick who also came up with the name Road Rider.
    He should be in the skateboarding Hall of Fame,

  18. HZ Helen

    January 11, 2016 at 7:49 am

    I think they should have talked about the different types of scatebords. I have a penny board and a long board, scatebording is not all about tricks. Over all I think it is a good article though.

  19. Skateboard Truck

    October 21, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Great innovations for the skateboarding world!

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  23. Mike

    December 26, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    “It wasn’t until 1973 that a skateboard truck was invented. Ronald Bennett of Bennett Trucks” I am mystified by the incorporation of trucks onto skateboards….I have seen Chicago Roller-skates from 1914 with rubber trucks just like we use today on skateboards plus they had rubberized wheels…

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  27. Gary Steven Bate

    June 27, 2017 at 6:13 am

    Frank is a kook.Modern skateboard wheels or the idea for the use therefore came from me and my skatebuddies. Growing up in Laguna Beach and attending junior high and high school there meant one thing….skateboarding. It was our means and transportation. We had amazing downhill runs we blazed quite literally !!! Riding our prized hobie flexes with white or fleshtone clay wheels we’d come flying down the hills so crazy fast that they would literally catch fire and chunks would fly off !!! If that wasn’t bad enough the wheels had little to no traction at speeds over 5mph and often we’d blow a wheel because we stressed out the bearings running only 5 or 6 instead of 8 because well as were kids and the bearings were loose and they got lost! Having 8 bearings in each wheel was considered a luxury. We used to go roller skating at the roller rink in Costa Mesa, mainly to pick up on girls but also because we loved gliding on the smooth wood floor and those smooth skates with the Metaflex wheels……yup you got it I bought the first set, yellow ones. They came in yellow, green, red. Red were the fastest and least grippy, yellow were slowest and very grippy. We knew what we wanted smooth and grippy. For speed we had the hills of Laguna Beach. Temple Hills was the first run.. About half way down I got off my board and felt like, well felt like I was the first man to experience flight. I stood there contemplating how our world had changed forever. About then perhaps a minute or two after I had stopped the rest of the guys caught up, how was it they panted? I don’t think I got to ride it for another hour or two. Within a week every kid in Laguna Beach had metaflex wheels on their boards and the local shop Oakstreet Surf had started carrying them. About 6 months later Oakstreet started selling a new wheel “Caddilacs”. What a bunch of flatland kooks we thought those “Z boys” were we thought….lol I have home movies from 1971 and 1972 of us using metaflex wheels pre Cadillac.

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