is the act of riding and performing
tricks using a skateboard
. A person who
skateboards is most often referred to as a skateboarder, or just
Skateboarding can be a recreational activity, an artform, a
, or a method of transportation
. Skateboarding has been shaped
and influenced by many skateboarders throughout the years. A 2002
report by American Sports Data
found that there were 18.5
million skateboarders in the world. 85 percent of skateboarders
polled who had used a board in the last year were under the age of
18, and 74 percent were male.
Skateboarding is relatively modern. A key skateboarding maneuver,
, was developed
in the late 1970s by Alan "Ollie" Gelfand as a half-pipe maneuver.
Freestyle skateboarder Rodney Mullen
was the first to take it to flat ground and later invented the
and its variations.
Skateboarding was probably born sometime in
the late 1940s or early 1950s when surfers in California wanted something to surf when the waves were
No one knows who made the first board, rather, it
seems that several people came up with similar ideas at around the
same time. These first skateboarders started with wooden boxes or
boards with roller skate wheels attached to the bottom. The boxes
turned into planks, and eventually companies were producing decks
of pressed layers of wood -- similar to the skateboard decks of
today. During this time, skateboarding was seen as something to do
for fun besides surfing, and was therefore often referred to as
manufactured skateboards were ordered by a Los Angeles,
California surf shop, meant to be used by surfers in their
The shop owner, Bill Richard, made a deal with the
Chicago Roller Skate Company to produce sets of skate wheels, which
they attached to square wooden boards. Accordingly, skateboarding
was originally denoted "sidewalk surfing" and early skaters
style and maneuvers.
and were borne of a similar concept, with the exception of having a
wooden crate attached to the nose (front of the board), which
formed rudimentary handlebars.
of surfing manufacturers such as Makaha started
building skateboards that resembled small surfboards, and
assembling teams to promote their products.
of skateboarding at this time spawned a national magazine, Skateboarder Magazine
, and the 1965
international championships were broadcast on national television.
The growth of the sport during this period can also be seen in
sales figures for Makaha, which quoted $10 million worth of board
sales between 1963 and 1965 (Weyland, 2002:28). Yet by 1966 the
sales had dropped significantly (ibid) and Skateboarder Magazine
had stopped publication. The popularity of skateboarding dropped
and remained low until the early 1970s.
In the early 1970s, Frank Nasworthy
started to develop a skateboard wheel made of polyurethane
, calling it the 'Cadillac'
, as he hoped this would convey the fat
ride it afforded the rider. The improvement in traction and
performance was so immense that from the wheel's release in 1972
the popularity of skateboarding started to rise rapidly again,
causing companies to invest more in product development. Many
companies started to manufacture trucks (axles) especially designed
for skateboarding, reached in 1976 by Tracker Trucks
. As the equipment became more
maneuverable, the decks started to get wider, reaching widths of
and over, thus giving the skateboarder even more control.
is a term used to describe skateboards made
that were skinny,
flexible, with ribs on the underside for structural support and
very popular during the mid-1970s. They were available in myriad
colors, bright yellow probably being the most memorable, hence the
Manufacturers started to experiment with more exotic composites and
metals, like fiberglass
, but the common skateboards were made of
maple plywood. The skateboarders took advantage of the improved
handling of their skateboards and started inventing new tricks.
Skateboarders, most notably Ty Page
Logan, Bobby Piercy, Kevin Reed, and the Z-Boys
(so-called because of their local Zephyr surf
shop) started to skate the vertical walls of swimming pools that
were left empty in the 1976 California drought. This started the
vert trend in skateboarding. With increased control, vert skaters
could skate faster and perform more dangerous tricks, such as slash
grinds and frontside/backside airs. This caused liability concerns
and increased insurance costs to skatepark owners, and the
development (first by Norcon
successfully by Rector
) of improved knee pads
that had a hard sliding cap and strong strapping proved to be
too-little-too-late. During this era, the "freestyle" movement in
skateboarding began to splinter off and develop into a much more
specialized discipline, characterized by the development of a wide
assortment of flat-ground tricks.
As a result of the "vert" skating movement, skate parks had to
contend with high-liability costs that led to many park closures.
In response, vert skaters started making their own ramps, while
freestyle skaters continued to evolve their flatland style. Thus by
the beginning of the 1980s, skateboarding had once again declined
A skateboarder "Ollies" over a rubbish bin.
This period was fuelled by skateboard companies that were run by
skateboarders. The focus was initially on vert
skateboarding. The invention of the no-hands aerial (later
known as the ollie
in Florida in 1976 and the
almost parallel development of the grabbed aerial by George Orton
in California made it possible for skaters to perform airs
on vertical ramps. While this wave of skateboarding was sparked by
commercialized vert ramp skating, a majority of people who
skateboarded during this period never rode vert ramps. Because most
people could nt afford to build vert ramps or did not have access
to nearby ramps, street skating
gained popularity. Freestyle skating remained healthy throughout
this period with pioneers such as Rodney
inventing many of the basic tricks of modern street
skating such as the Impossible and the kickflip
. The influence freestyle had on street
skating became apparent during the mid-eighties, but street skating
was still performed on wide vert boards with short noses, slide
rails, and large soft wheels. Skateboarding, however, evolved
quickly in the late 1980s to accommodate the street skater. Since
few skateparks were available to skaters at this time, street
skating pushed skaters to seek out shopping centres and public and
private property as their "spot" to skate. Public opposition, and
the threat of lawsuits, forced businesses and property owners to
ban skateboarding on their property. By 1992
only a small fraction of skateboarders remained as a highly
technical version of street skating, combined with the decline of
vert skating, produced a sport that lacked the mainstream appeal to
attract new skaters.
The 1990s to the present
The current generation of skateboards is dominated by street skateboarding
. Most boards are
about 7¼ to 8 inches wide and 30 to 32 inches long. The
wheels are made of an extremely hard polyurethane
, with hardness(durometer
) approximately 99a. The wheel sizes are
relatively small so that the boards are lighter, and the wheel's
inertia is overcome quicker, thus making tricks more manageable.
Board styles have changed dramatically since the 1970s but have
remained mostly alike since the mid 1990s. The contemporary shape
of the skateboard is derived from the freestyle
boards of the 1980s with a
largely symmetrical shape and relatively narrow width. This form
had become standard by the mid '90s.
Go Skateboarding Day
created in 2004 by a group of skateboarding companies to promote
skateboarding and help make it more noticeable to the world. It is
celebrated every year on June 21st.
- See Skateboarding trick
for detailed descriptions of maneuvers
With the evolution of skateparks
skating, the skateboard began to change. Early skate tricks had
consisted mainly of two-dimensional manoeuvres like riding on only
two wheels ("wheelie" or "manual"), spinning only on the back
wheels (a "pivot"), high jumping over a bar and landing on the
board again, also known as a "hippie jump", long jumping from one
board to another (often over small barrels or fearless teenagers)
In 1976, skateboarding was transformed by the invention of the
by Alan "Ollie" Gelfand
. It remained largely a
unique Florida trick until the summer of 1978, when Gelfand made
his first visit to California. Gelfand and his revolutionary
manoeuvre caught the attention of the West Coast skaters and the
media where it began to spread worldwide. The ollie was adapted to
flat ground by Rodney Mullen
Mullen also invented the "Magic Flip", which was later renamed the
, as well many other tricks
including, the 360 Kickflip, which is a 360 pop shove it
and a kickflip in the same motion. The
flat ground ollie allowed skateboarders to perform tricks in
mid-air without any more equipment than the skateboard itself, it
has formed the basis of many street skating tricks.
Skateboarding was, at first, tied to the culture of surfing
. As skateboarding spread across the United States to places unfamiliar with surfing or surfing
culture, it developed an image of its own.
For example, the
classic film short Video Days
(1991) portrayed skateboarders as reckless rebels.
The image of the skateboarder as a rebellious, non-conforming youth
has faded in recent years . Certain cities still oppose the
building skateparks in their neighbourhoods, for fear of increased
crime and drugs in the area. The rift between the old image of
skateboarding and a newer one is quite visible: magazines such as
skateboarding as dirty, rebellious, and still firmly tied to
, while other publications,
as an example, paint a more diverse, and
controlled picture of skateboarding. Furthermore, as more
professional skaters use hip hop
, or hard rock
accompaniment in their videos, many urban youths, hip-hop fans,
reggae fans, and hard rock fans are also drawn to skateboarding,
further diluting the sport's punk image.
Films such as Grind
Lords Of Dogtown
helped improve the reputation of skateboarding youth , depicting
individuals of this subculture as having a positive outlook on
life, prone to poking harmless fun at each other, and engaging in
healthy sportsman's competition. According to the film, lack of
respect, egotism and hostility towards fellow skateboarders is
generally frowned upon, albeit each of the characters (and as such,
proxies of the "stereotypical" skateboarder) have a firm disrespect
for authority and for rules in general. Group spirit is supposed to
heavily influence the members of this community. In presentations
of this sort, showcasing of criminal tendencies is absent, and no
attempt is made to tie extreme sports to any kind of illegal
Gleaming the Cube
, a 1989
movie starring Christian Slater as a skateboarding teen
investigating the death of his adopted Vietnamese brother was
somewhat of an iconic landmark to the skateboarding genre of the
era . Many well-known skaters had cameos in the film, including
Skateboarding video games have also become very popular in
skateboarding culture . Some of the most popular are the
Tony Hawk series
for various consoles
(Including hand-held) and personal computer.
Skateboarding as a form of transportation
The use of skateboards solely as a form of transportation is often
associated with the longboard
. Depending on local laws,
using skateboards as a form of transportation outside residential
areas may or may not be legal. Backers cite portability, exercise,
and environmental friendliness as some of the benefits of
skateboarding as an alternative to automobiles.
Skateboards, along with other small-wheeled transportation such as
in-line skates and scooters, suffer a safety caveat where riders
may easily be thrown from small cracks and outcroppings in
pavement, especially where the cracks run perpendicular to the
direction of travel. However, high average travel speeds help
mitigate this; injuries are more likely to be minor , although very
uncommon, head injuries still pose a major health risk.
LCPL Chad Codwell of Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines
carries a skateboard during military exercise Urban Warrior
Skateboard ban in Norway
ownership and sale of skateboards were forbidden in Norway, during the
period between 1978 and 1989.
The ban was said to be due to
the perceived high number of injuries caused by boards. The ban led
skateboarders to construct ramps in the forest and other secluded
areas to avoid the police.
Military experimentation in the United States
The United States Marine
tested the usefulness of commercial off-the-shelf
skateboards during urban combat
in the late
1990s in a program called Urban Warrior '99. Their special purpose
was "for maneuvering inside buildings in order to detect tripwires
Trampboarding is a variant of skateboarding that uses a board
without the trucks and the wheels on a trampoline
. Using the bounce of the trampoline
gives height to perform a tricks, whereas in skateboarding you need
to make the height by performing an ollie
Trampboarding is seen on YouTube
- Snyder, Craig Gasbag, Transworld Skateboarding
Magazine (October 2005, p. 44)
Further reading and information
- Borden, Iain. (2001). Skateboarding, Space and the City:
Architecture and the Body. Oxford: Berg.
- Hocking, Justin, Jeffrey Knutson and Jared Maher (Eds.).
(2004). Life and Limb: Skateboarders Write from the Deep
End. New York: Soft Skull Press.
- Weyland, Jocko. (2002). The Answer is Never: a History and
Memoir of Skateboarding. New York: Grove Press.
- Hawk, Tony and Mortimer, Sean. (2000). Hawk: Occupation:
Skateboarder. New York: HarperCollins.
- Thrasher Magazine. (2001). Thrasher: Insane Terrain.
New York: Universe.
- Brooke, Michael (1999) The Concrete Wave — the History of
Skateboarding. Warwick Publishing
- Mullen, Rodney and Mortimer, Sean (2003). The
- Skateboard Kings, a 1978 documentary on
- SkateSpotter, a directory of skate spots