The Beginning (1950’s)
Skateboarding is one of the most popular sports among young people and shows no signs of stopping. Competitions are all over the world and serves as a proving ground for new generations of kids. Bigger and more daring tricks make skateboarding hard to keep up with. Skateboarding started way back in the 1950’s where surfers in California figured they would try and take surfing to the streets. Contraptions were being built out of boards and roller skate wheels attached to the bottom causing many kids to get hurt trying to ride them. Eventually, the idea caught on and in 1959 the Roller Derby Skateboard was the first skateboard on the market. The Roller Derby skateboard was just a plank with roller-skate wheels but that did not stop kids from buying them. Kids would now go out for a nice surf session on the waves and when if the waves were not good then they would hit the streets, taking the session to the asphalt. Skateboarding was not really about all the insanely technical flip tricks you see today, downhill, slalom and freestyle skating were huge among the first generation of skaters.
With the birth of the Roller Derby skateboard, came an increase in skateboarding. Surfers and other kids were taking skateboarding to the next level. In 1963, Larry Stevenson who was a lifeguard at Venice Beach at the time started his own skate company called Makaha. Larry wanted to make a board that imitated surfing and did just that when he made his first skateboard that was know as the “Surf Skate.” Larry’s board was the first board to feature pro components. He worked out of his garage, in Santa Monica making the boards by hand and eventually had the state’s top surfers skating his boards. Hobie Alter, a legend in the surf community, started Hobie Skateboards in 1964. The “Hobie Super Surfer” was Hobie’s first skateboard. The Hobie Super Surfer featured adjustable trucks that could be loosened or tightened to provide a precise turning radius allowing this skateboard to carve big turns and do things never before seen on a skateboard. In 1965, Skateboarding was shunned by safety experts who urged parents not to buy skateboards. A lot of people considered skateboarding to be a fad and as fads go, they die out. Skateboarding companies began to go out of business and skaters were reduced to having to make their own skateboard if they had too but some skaters were determined to skate regardless, they did just that. Meanwhile, Larry’s kicktail boards were sold by the thousands in the late 60’s and in 1971 he was finally awarded a patent for his kicktail boards. Makaha, Hobie and other companies held skateboarding competitions starting in the early 60’s. Skateboarding at this time mainly was either downhill, slalom or freestyle.
Downhill Skateboarding: Downhill skating was basically just a race in which skaters skate down a steep road at fast speeds. Sometimes sharp turns were involved where skaters had to be able to turn sharply and maintain their balance and speed. Loosened trucks were essential when curves are involved due to the increased turning radius.
Slalom Skateboarding: Slalom Skateboarding is when a skater weaves in and out between cones, trying to have the fastest time and the fewest number of cones knocked over. Typically, if a cone was knocked over then a penalty would be issued to the skater, usually for each cone that was knocked over, a second was added to the skater’s time. A race can be against the clock or against an opponent in a head-to-head battle.
Freestyle Skateboarding: Freestyle Skateboarding consisted of technical skateboarding on a flat surface. Often when a skater is skating freestyle, choreography and music would be incorporated in the routine. Freestyle started in the 50’s, imitating surf moves but when it became popular in the 60’s, the tricks would mainly come from dancing.
There were many popular skaters that gained fame in the 1960’s, including: Torger Johnson, Woody Woodward, Danny Berer, Bruce Logan and Mark and Bill Richards.
The early 70’s presented yet another crash in popularity but that was until a man by the name of Frank Nasworthy invented the urethane wheel by in 1972. With urethane wheels on their boards, skaters could now intensify the level of their skateboarding. Clay wheels were a rough ride and when you hit the asphalt, they vibrated terribly making the ride bone jarring literally. Now that urethane wheels were out, the ride was smooth and comfortable and the wheels provided excellent grip, allowing skaters to control their boards a whole lot better. Nasworthy called his wheels Cadillacs and to no surprise, he started a company called Cadillac Wheels. Now that most skaters had urethane wheels under their feet, a new interest was formed in skateboarding, and surfers and other people were starting to skate again. Numerous concrete skate parks were being built and professional skateboarders were being established. In 1975, a freestyle/slalom contest was held in Del Mar, California at the Ocean Festival. This is where the Zephyr team made their debut and opened the eyes of the world to what skateboarding could be.
The Zephyr Team: or the Z-boys for short were a local group of boys from dogtown. Dogtown was the poorer side of Venice Beach. A shop was opened on Main Street in 1973 called Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions. Jeff Ho, Craig Stecyk and Skip Engblom founded the surf shop. Nathan Pratt who was 14 when he was hired by Skip Engblom to work there after school everyday became the founder and the first member of the Z-boys. The Zephyr Surf Team gained Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Allen Sarlo, Darius Anderson, Chris Cahill and Stacy Peralta in 1974. They surfed the cove, which was the area near the abandoned Pacific Ocean Park which was nicknamed, “Dogtown.” They did not just surf, that was a bit of an understatement, and they owned the surf, tearing up every wave that came their way. Surfing was frowned upon by most people in society around that time, a sport of the rebels but it was all those boys had. They often hung out at the surf shop and eventually it became their home away from home. When the ocean was flat, the boys would get their skateboards and surf the street, copying their surf moves and making up new ones. At the time, most people skated with an upright trick style but not the Z-boys, they had a low style of skateboarding that most people had never seen and they were always creating new tricks. In 1975, Peralta, Alva, Pratt, Adams, Cahill and Sarlo, after begging to create a skateboarding team along with the surf team, became the founding members of The Zephyr Skate Team. The new skate team was a success and grew in popularity adding new members like, Paul Constantineau, Wentzle Ruml, Peggy Oki, Bob Biniak, Shogo Kubo and Jim Muir. The team would usually practice at Bicknell Hill, which was located near the Santa Monica beach under the coaching of Skip Engblom who pushed the team to excel at skateboarding in every aspect. The Del Mar Nationals, in 1975 was where the Z-boys made their premiere and added Dennis Harney to the team on the first morning of the competition. Jay Adams was the first one to compete and by the end of the competition, half on the finalists were composed of Z-boys. No one had really figured that the Z-boys started a revolution but eventually they made the 60’s style of skating obsolete with their crazy airborne moves. The Z-boys became known after the Del Mar Nationals and went back to the banks, streets and hills of Western Los Angeles to work on their tricks and invent new ones. Because of the drought in Los Angeles during the 1970s, swimming pools became the new terrain to the Z-boys. The Z-boys would sneak back and skate inside the empty pools, surfing around the sides and up onto the coping. One day the boys were skating the “Dogbowl,” a pool over in Santa Monica, when Tony Alva spontaneously went airborne over the top of the pool and spun back around to land back in the pool and single handedly invented aerial tricks and maneuvers. Craig Stecyk began writing articles and taking pictures of the Z-boys and published them to Skateboarder magazine where they were called the Dogtown articles. The Z-boys became known everywhere and were famous because of skateboarding but eventually they became superstars. Big companies everywhere were offering them large sums of money to skate for them and the team eventually drifted apart. Jeff Ho tried to keep the remaining Z-boys together but it failed to work and by 1976, the Zephyr surf shop closed down.
In 1978, a revolutionary new trick was invented that changed the world of Skateboarding. Alan Gelfand rammed his back foot down on the back of his board, jump and the slide his front foot forward making the board appear it magically lifted off of the ground. He called this trick the Ollie thereby giving him the nickname, “Ollie.” Unfortunately though, skateboarding experienced another crash in popularity that seemed to show up at the end of each decade. Skateboarding had been seen in the public eye as an extremely dangerous sport due to some of the injuries sustained during. As a result, insurance rates skyrocketed and less and less people showed up at skate parks causing almost all of them to shut down. Skaters that still wanted to skate had to do so without the aid of a skate park.
So the skaters that still wanted to skate decided that since they could not go to the skate park, they would just build their own ramps. Ramps were being built at home and in empty lots, skateboarding was becoming an underground activity. Skaters began skating wherever they could, making use of absolutely anything. Handrails, walls, anything was fair game to skaters now as they just wanted a place to skate. Rather than large skateboard companies, skaters started opening up smaller skateboard companies that were skater owned and operated. Those smaller companies could do anything they please, not having to conform to any demand so as a result, Different shapes and styles of skateboards and trucks began showing up allowing for more tricks to be created. Stacy Peralta, who was a former Z-boy, and George Powell created the Bones Brigade which was skate team compiled of young, very skilled skaters.
Bones Brigade Members: Steve Caballero, Per Welinder, Ray Barbee, Danny Way, Alan Gelfand, Mike Vallely, Chris Senn, Tommy Guerrero, Jim Thiebaud, Kevin Harris, Steve Rocco, Tony hawk, Rodney Mullen, Bucky Lasek, Lance Mountain, Guy Mariano, Colin McKay and Mike McGill.
Peralta loved filming and had a skill for it and skate videos began showing up featuring the Bones Brigade. The first video was produced by Powell Peralta in 1982 called Skateboarding in the Eighties. A more notable video appeared like The Bones Brigade Video Show in 1984 and The Search for Animal Chin. Music and clothing styles started to become more skater oriented as skaters began wearing baggy clothes and classic, retro tennis shoes and listening to a punk music, a completely new culture of skateboarding appeared. Skateboarding became more of a way of life instead of a sport. Of course like with the rest of skateboarding history, as the 80’s came to a close, skateboarding experienced yet another dive. Skaters began riding only street as vert skating quickly became unpopular. With the birth of street skating came the birth of new stars such as Mike Vallely, Natas Kaupas and Mark Gonzales.
With the beginning of the 90’s, skateboarding in general started becoming popular again. Kids came along who listened to angry punk music which helped fuel their more dangerous attitudes; these kids were raw and doing crazy stuff on a skateboard. Powell-Peralta continued to make videos until the last video in 1991. Then it was just Powell who produced videos, from 1992 to his last in 1999. While skateboarding was becoming more popular, skaters were not. People looked at skaters as punks who were always angry as society and this became the normal look for the skater. In 1993, Ron Semiao, the Programming Director for ESPN came up with the idea for a competition catered just for extreme athletes. It took two years to plan out the event but finally in 1995, skateboarding received a tremendous boost in popularity when ESPN held the first Extreme Games in Rhode Island and Vermont. 198,000 people attended this event and people around the country watched this event, skateboarding was on its way to becoming a mainstream event rather than an underground activity. The Extreme Games which became known as the X-Games were held once again in Rhode Island in 1996, further helping the skateboarding image grow in popularity. At the 96’ X-Games, officials announced that there would be a Winter X-Games in February, 1997 The Winter X-Games took place at Snow Summit Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, California featuring skateboarding, inline skating, BMX and snowboarding. 38,000 spectators attended the Winter X-games. Extreme sports were now a legitimate sporting activity enjoyed by spectators and people watching from home. Vert skating was thrust back into the skateboarding world with the help of the X-Games and is now a staple in many skating events enjoyed by many spectators. Many popular companies started seeing skateboarding as a means to advertise their product and because their target demographic was young males, skateboarding would provide a prime opportunity. Skateboarders appeared in several media marketing campaigns for almost anything; candy, chips, soda and much more. Street skating is still the most popular among skaters but vert is rising in popularity slowly. More and more skate parks are being built in cities and towns, giving that community a growth in skaters and providing an avenue for vert skating to gain popularity. Ramps, mini ramps, bowls and other features have become common at most skate parks presenting a need for a change of equipment. Deck width and wheel sizes have gotten bigger than their 1960 and 1970 counterparts. Now you can choose the width of your board, the size of your wheels and trucks to make your board completely custom. In beach communities, longboards are becoming popular and used by the general public as a means of transportation or just a way to cruise around leisurely. Dangerous attitudes and the street luge have helped make downhill skateboarding popular once again. Skateboarding is allowing a person to be more of an individual with the rising amount of soft goods on the market. Custom shoes, decks, wheels, trucks, apparel and accessories make up the soft good industry and provide a substantial amount of income for the economy. Sponsors are putting more money into competitions allowing for the winners to receive a larger amount and to make a living just from skateboarding rather than having to work a job along with skating.
2000 to Present
Professional skaters can make an excessive amount of money from skating. With most skaters having more than one sponsor who pay them a monthly amount plus winnings from competitions, skaters are left with quite a hefty paycheck when it is all said and done. Skateboarding is one of the most popular activities enjoyed by kids, teens and adults alike. Competitions are abundant and professional skaters are getting more and more intense making it harder for one to go pro but that does not stop people from skating. Skating is here to stay and is growing increasingly larger among today’s youth so whether you are doing it for fun or trying to go pro, keep skating!