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Skateboarding 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 skater.

Skateboarding can be a recreational activity, an artform, a job, 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, the ollie, 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 kickflip and its variations.

History

The 1940s-1960s

Skateboarding was probably born sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s when surfers in Californiamarker wanted something to surf when the waves were flat. 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 "Sidewalk Surfing".

The first manufactured skateboards were ordered by a Los Angeles, Californiamarker surf shop, meant to be used by surfers in their downtime. 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 emulated surfing style and maneuvers. Crate scooters preceded skateboards, 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.

A number of surfing manufacturers such as Makahamarker started building skateboards that resembled small surfboards, and assembling teams to promote their products. The popularity 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.

The 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. Banana board is a term used to describe skateboards made of polypropylene 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 name.

Manufacturers started to experiment with more exotic composites and metals, like fiberglass and aluminium, 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, Bruce 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,then more 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 in popularity.

The 1980s

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 ramp skateboarding. The invention of the no-hands aerial (later known as the ollie) by Alan Gelfand in Florida in 1976 and the almost parallel development of the grabbed aerial by George Orton and Tony Alva 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 Mullen 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 was 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.

Trick skating

See Skateboarding trick for detailed descriptions of maneuvers


With the evolution of skateparks and ramp 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) or slalom.

In 1976, skateboarding was transformed by the invention of the ollie 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 in 1982. Mullen also invented the "Magic Flip", which was later renamed the Kickflip, 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.

Culture

Skateboarding was, at first, tied to the culture of surfing. As skateboarding spread across the United Statesmarker 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 Thrasher portray skateboarding as dirty, rebellious, and still firmly tied to punk, while other publications, Transworld Skateboarding as an example, paint a more diverse, and controlled picture of skateboarding. Furthermore, as more professional skaters use hip hop, reggae, or hard rock music 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 and Lords Of Dogtown, have 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 activity .

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 Tony Hawk.

Skateboarding video games have also become very popular in skateboarding culture . Some of the most popular are the Tony Hawk series, and Skate 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.

Miscellaneous

LCPL Chad Codwell of Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines carries a skateboard during military exercise Urban Warrior '99


Skateboard ban in Norway

The use, ownership and sale of skateboards were forbidden in Norwaymarker, 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 Corps tested the usefulness of commercial off-the-shelf skateboards during urban combat military exercises in the late 1990s in a program called Urban Warrior '99. Their special purpose was "for maneuvering inside buildings in order to detect tripwires and sniper fire".

Trampboarding

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 in numerous videos.

See also



Notes

  1. 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 Mutt
  • Skateboard Kings, a 1978 documentary on skateboarding
  • SkateSpotter, a directory of skate spots


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