The History of Skate Boarding

A bit of history into the beloved board-straddling sport, and some awesome summer camp options to choose from in the USA

How Boarding Began

Skateboarding initially breezed into popular culture and recreation in California in the 1950s. Although it’s generally assumed that a group of people with a common interest in riding and gliding invented the trend, to this day no one knows for sure who exactly is responsible for it. Nevertheless, its exact origins aren’t exactly cause for mass concern when it comes to its popularity; skateboarding has become somewhat of a revolution in terms of style and ingenuity, with emerging fads in terms of the appearance of the boards as well as skateboarders themselves.

The Early Days

These first skateboards were somewhat crude innovations, crafted from wooden boxes or boards with roller skate wheels affixed to the bottom. Made from raw and basic materials, the safety of early versions wasn’t exactly top priority. As time and the trend evolved, these primitive skateboards took the form of planks, and eventually companies began rolling out new incarnations of them constructed from pressed layers of wood, much like recent ones. Skateboarding was on its way to shaping up from just a fun activity to an actual form of popular sport.

Popularity Increases

By 1963, skateboarding had become a full-fledged trend, well-known, well-loved, and practiced by countless enthusiasts. This set off somewhat of a frenzy, and skateboard manufacturers Jack’s, Hobie, and Makaha began organizing skateboarding contests with eager participation. Different skateboarding disciplines such as downhill slalom and freestyle became popular, with Johnson, Woody Woodward, and Danny Berer as pioneers in their creation. Freestyle, in particular, is likened to ballet dancing, or simply ice-skating with a board. Today, plenty of more revolutionary styles have become incredibly well-known among skateboarders.

A Steep Decline

In 1965, skateboarding popularity began to wane due to limitations such as maneuverability as well as increased warnings from safety professionals. This led to the closure of many skateboard companies, and the production of the boards themselves steadily decreased. Regardless, and perhaps defiantly, people skating onwards and upwards. Many were seen using clay wheels for their skateboards, a practice regarded as  quite rudimentary and unsafe. The year 1972 saw the creation of the first urethane skateboard wheels by Frank Nasworthy, then the CEO of Cadillac Wheels. A revolution in safety and optimization, these skateboards share many similarities with the boards used today. This invention rekindled the lost interest of skateboarding in surfers and youths, and a resurgence was born.

A Resurgence In Board Culture

By 1975, skateboarding was evolving into the sport as we know it today. The Del Mar Championships, which is one of the largest skateboarding competitions, was held with over 500 contestants, a mark of its enormous popularity at the time. Sponsored by Bahne Skateboards & Cadillac Wheels, the contest lasted for two days to introduce a new skateboarding discipline by the Zephyr team. This ushered in a new boarding style that skaters widely adopted. 

The Zephyr team had twelve members, but the most notable ones were Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta. Many who loved and embraced the style contributed to its edginess and prominence, leading to the Zephyr skateboard team’s immortalization. They became known as the Z-Boys, one of the most influential teams in skateboarding. With increasing recognition, the sport took a big jump when Alan Gelfand built a stylistic maneuver in 1978. This gave birth to a new style called the Ollie, which was Gelfand’s nickname. The move involves slamming the back foot on the board and jumping while the board is in the air. To this day, most tricks involve an Ollie, as well as other styles. The Ollie, as it turned out, has given rise to a new trend called street skateboarding. An example of Gelfand’s prominence and popularity, he was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame in 2002. 

Backtracking a bit, the 1970s are known as a renowned era in skateboarding. Ground-breaking publications such as Skateboarder Magazine were launched, as well as the first human-made skatepark in 1976. The creation of this park saw the arrival of new elements such as vertical ramps and kickers. 

By the middle of the decade, skateboarding was welcomed in Germany amid much fanfare and excitement. American soldiers introduced it to the nation, which gave rise to the launch of Munich’s first German skateboard center.  Accompanying this was the country’s first skate park, skateboard competitions, and skateboard magazines. All the while, different styles of boards were evolving, and their shapes became wider and concave, complete with nose and tail.

Another Decline, Another Uphill Climb

But in the late 1970s, skateboarding lost its momentum once again. It began to be considered a dangerous sport, and public skateboard parks became low maintenance due to increased insurance rates. This compelled many people to stop skateboarding altogether, thus resulting in the close of the skate parks. The ardent skaters didn’t submit to defeat, however, and by the 1980s skateboarders had devised another way to keep up the sport by erecting ramps at their homes to skate as they pleased. Skateboarding began gaining momentum once again as boarders went on boarding, creating their own makeshift skateboarding areas wherever they could.

Small-sized skateboard companies, created and owned by skateboarders themselves, began to spring forth during this decade. The companies become quite innovative, creating even more new styles and shapes of boards.

In the early 1990s, skateboarding had gained new and solid ground as a street sport. Its popularity continued to grow and then dwindle again, but mid-decade it revved up fiercely with the emergence of angry punk music characterized by discontentment. There arose a trend of furious skater punks, which further helped to promote and revolutionize skateboarding.

Extreme Boarding

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Skateboarding gradually became mainstream as cable television station ESPN hosted its first Extreme Games in Rhode Island in 1995. These novel X Games were a huge boon, gaining massive exposure among skating enthusiasts. This led to hosting the first Winter X Games in 1997, with skateboarding finally being registered as a professional sport.

Skateboarding Enters The Mainstream

Skateboarding has become increasingly prominent as skateboarding video games and children’s skateboards have become commercialized. More and more funds are being channeled into skateboarding to establish a wide range of skate parks, improved and innovative skateboards, and the creation of many new skateboard companies. 

One crucial advantage of skateboarding in terms of popularity is that it is mostly an individual sport. Since there are no specific rules governing the sport, anyone can board in any fashion that they like. The sport is evolving and will continue to do so as many new tricks and styles are constantly created. Companies are forever devising means to make the boards lighter, more durable and with improved performance. 

Skateboarding is often seen as a journey to self-discovery, an empowering activity that can help promote not only fitness of the body but of the mind as well. With the current climate of forging onwards and self-improvement, the future of skateboarding is bound to continue to increase in popularity. New styles and new trends will continue to delight and amaze skateboarders and spectators alike.

What’s The Appeal?

According to a recent American survey, skateboarding is the third most-famous sport for teenagers, with football and basketball taking the top spots. Skateboarding is well-known all over the world, with professional competitions running all year long. So what exactly makes skateboarding so wildly popular?

  • Simple Self-Expression

Skateboarding is undoubtedly a form of self-expression. If you’re soulful, reflective or even melancholy, your skateboarding style will likely reflect this. If you crave speed and fast-paced action, this will also be evident in how you choose to board. Your nature will always come out in your skateboarding style, whether you’re graceful, a daredevil, or a comedian. One of the biggest benefits of skateboarding is expressing oneself authentically while developing your own personal style. 

  • Simplicity and Affordability

One reason why the sport is so famous is its simple anatomy. To participate well at skateboarding, all that’s really needed is a skateboard and yourself. Specific or particular shoes aren’t a necessity, although they will better promote safety. Because of the lack of equipment, skateboarding is very affordable, especially if all you require is a simple board. Also, the sport doesn’t discriminate: whatever your stature or age, there’s always a board and a skating style that’s the right fit for you. 

  • Sense of Belonging

In skateboarding, just name the stereotype: you’ll find punks, nerds, jocks, goths…all kinds of labels. And, sometimes, specific individuals don’t seem fit into a specific label at all. However, they all have one thing in common: they’ve all chosen skateboarding as their sport. 

This absolutely speaks for why boarding is so popular across wide genres of people; skateboarding can accommodate anybody, as long as the interest is there. You may not be a pro at the sport, but if you make a good effort and have a love for skating, you’re in the club. 

Fear of not fitting in? Not a concern. You’ll find the proverbial jerks at a skatepark, but you’ll also see a good number of friendly, experienced skaters advising beginners; older skaters cheering the younger ones; and also complete strangers blending into the crowd with one another, hanging around and enjoying themselves. Sure, there may be a lot of “attitude” at skate parks, but rest assured that it is most positive in nature. The culture of skateboarding can accommodate everyone. As long as you want to be there, there’s definitely a place for you.

  • Adrenaline and Pride

Fear of injury or the known holding you back? The consciousness of minimal danger and the pride of overcoming the fear associated with it contribute to the popularity of the sport. Perhaps this is why non-skaters enjoy watching skateboarding so much: the activity is simply a skateboarder and a skateboard – no safety net and simply spinning and flipping through the air and downwards to the ground. And that, in itself, is awesome!