Roller Derby Books
Roller Derby Videos
The history of skateboarding from its first appearance in
the 1950's to the present day.
The first skateboards were actually more like scooters, with the
undercarriage consisting of rollerskate wheels attached to a two
by four. Once the pushbar of the scooter-like contraption was broken
off, skateboarding was born.
It wasn't until the 1950's, when the surfing craze was in full
swing, that people realized skateboarding could recreate the
feeling of riding a wave. This connection with surfing gave
skateboarding a direction that would influence everything to
come, from maneuvers and style, to terrain, fashion and attitude.
It was during this time that modifications were made to the trucks
making it easier to maneuver. By 1959 the first Roller Derby
Skateboard was for sale.
In the early 1960's companies such as Larry Stevenson's Makaha and
Hobie Alter's Hobie began to mass-produce the first true surfing-inspired
skateboards. Some of the early proponents of surf-style skateboarding
included Bill and Mark Richards, Dannu Bearer, Bruce Logan and Torger
Johnson. Skateboarding became very popular almost overnight, and
companies were fighting to keep up with demand. Over fifty million
skateboards were sold within a three year period, and the first
skateboard contest was held in Hermosa Beach, CA in 1963. Then in
1965 a slew of so-called safety experts pronounced skateboarding
unsafe - urging stores not to sell them, and parents not to buy them.
The skateboarding fad died as quickly as it had started, and the
sport entered its first slump. Skateboarding would experience other
slumps in its history. This pattern of peaks and valleys would come to
be known as the "ten-year cycle," although the slumps weren't exactly
ten years apart.
It was during this first slump that Larry Stevenson invented the
kicktail, and the first generation of skateboarders laid down the
foundation of tricks and style. However, they were still largely
limited by equipment. Then in 1973 the urethane wheel was invented,
revolutionizing the sport. The new wheels provided much better traction
and speed and, combined with new skateboard specific trucks, allowed skaters to push the difficulty of maneuvers to new levels. Tricks at this time consisted of surfing maneuvers done on flat ground or on banks. Empty swimming pools and cylindrical pipes were exploited as terrain for the first time.
During the 1970's skateboarding experienced a large growth stage
whish saw the construction of numerous concrete skateparks, a rank
of professional skaters, magazines and movies. During this period modern skateboarding evolved to include vertical skating among its disciplines of slalom, downhill, freestyle and longjump.
Key advances in the sport included the aerial, the invert and the
ollie, which may be the single most important trick in the evolution
of skateboarding, next to the kickturn. This was the first time skateboarding had stars, some of the first really big names being Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta. The look of skateboards also changed from being six to seven inches in width to over nine inches, providing better stability on vertical surfaces. Near the end of the 70's, spiraling insurance and slowing attendance forced all but a few skateparks out of business and skateboarding entered its! Second slump.
In the 80's the plywood ramp and streetstyle revitalized skateboarding
just as the urethane wheel had revitalized the sport in the 70's.
Forced to take an underground, do-it-yourself attitude, skaters began
to create their own wooden skate ramps in backyards and empty lots
and turn previously unrideable street terrain, such as walls an
handrails, into free-skate parks. Skater-owned companies became the
norm and innovations in board and truck size allowed the trick envelope
to be pushed even further. This generation had its own group of skate
stars, some of whom still compete today including Tony Hawk and Steve
Caballero. Towards the end of the 80's the focus shifted to street skating
and Vert riding became less popular, it was the era of the first street
stars like Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas and Mike Vallely.
With all this grass-roots action taking place it was inevitable
that skateboarding would go through another growth phase.
This time the cycle peaked around 1987 after skateboarding had
directly influenced international culture ranging from the
hard-edged punk style of music that most skaters preferred
to the baggy, earth-tone clothes and retro tennis shoes
that skaters wore.
The current cycle of skateboarding has been fueled by many items
including new companies, more varied and difficult terrain,
a new, more hard-core, almost dangerous attitude, and most
importantly by a new generation of kids who have discovered
the exhilaration feeling of rolling along of a board with wheels.
Some of the people who exert heavy influence on the sport are
former pros who have started companies like Steve Rocco of
World Industries. The ollie has come into its own as the
foundation for 80% of street tricks and about 60% of vert
tricks, with the focus being on more technical and larger tricks.
In regards to the "ten-year cycle," the sport once again
started on an upward swing in 1995, due in part to exposure it
received from ESPN's first Extreme Games in Rhode Island.
This served to bring skateboarding, which had long been viewed
as a rebel sport, perhaps because of the danger and occasional
illegality of the endeavor, a step closer to the mainstream.
Many of the skaters who competed felt that ESPN's coverage of
the sport raised skateboarding's overall image with the general
public and is a good thing for the future of the sport. In 1996
the Extreme Games were again held in Rhode Island, once more
exposing the sport of skateboarding to millions of people. Skateboarding
was also included in the 1997 Winter X Games in the form of a CrossOver
event that also included in-line skating, bicycle stunt, and snowboarding.
The impact of media coverage on skateboarding has moved it from
an underground sport to a spectator sport over the last four years.
It was brought an influx of companies and their advertising dollars,
which had previously ignored skateboarding, as a vehicle for
promotional purposes. Advertisers have seen that skateboarding
has become a prime sport through which they can reach their
favorite demographic: youth males.
Skateboarders have been present in campaigns for products from soft
drinks to potato chips, candy to phone companies. Thus, most of what
is happening in skateboarding today is coming not from the skateboarders
themselves, but from corporate sponsors and the mass media. The primary
focus of the sport remains on street skating, as can be seen throughout
both the editorial and advertising pages of the major skateboard
magazines, where street skating photos continue to dominate. However
vert skating is making a comeback, due in part to the large number of
new skateparks being built. These skateparks have also given boost to
the skating community in many towns. The many different ramps, pipes
and bowls present at these parks have led to a change in equipment.
These technological changes applied to skate products have improved
skateboarding hear steadily over the last two decades. While in the
early 90's small boards and tiny wheel ruled, now there is a wide range
of boards and wheels being seen under the feet of skateboarders. Wheel
diameters are larger, deck width continues to grow, and longboards are
gaining in popularity, especially in beach communities and among those
that just want to use their skateboards to cruise or as a mode of
transportation. Downhill skateboarding has also seen resurgence in
recent years due in part to the visibility of the street luge.
One of the biggest trends at work is among softgoods. In the past,
clothing fashions have consistently reflected the changes influenced by
those who skate. Footwear is currently getting all the attention.
According to the Transworld Skateboarding Business Summer 1998
Retailer Survey shoes represented 26.5 % of the market share, followed
by decks (26%), apparel (16%), trucks (11.5%), wheels (11%), and
There have been many organizations and governing bodies for skateboarding
throughout its history. The two main organizations today are the IASC
(International Association of Skateboarding Companies), and World Cup
Skateboarding, which is the leading competition organization.
World Cup Skateboarding is run by former NSA (National Skateboarding
Association) president Don Bostick, with competitions featuring
Street and Vert disciplines. Competitors are usually on factory
teams, rather than national teams. This is due to the growth of
sponsorship and sponsorship dollars put into events, which has
changed the face of competitive skateboarding tremendously.
Skateboarding is beginning to earn respect as professional athletes
and are receiving greater amounts of purse money from contests.
"Today a pro can make anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 a month," says
Danielle Bostick of World Cup Skateboarding and the X Games. These
earnings are based on winnings, depending on how well a skater places
in any given competition and how many competitions a skater competes
in during any given month. Most skaters who are sponsored also earn a
monthly salary from one or more companies, which sponsors them as team
riders. This is a considerable change from the past when pro skaters had
to work a regular job as well as compete according to Bostick.
Skateboarding can be enjoyed by kids as young as two years, but
the majority of pro skaters' range from early teens to early twenties.
Most skateboarders don't train in any usual sense of the word, and they
don't even think about their diet. Skaters just do what they love to do:
skate, all the time. Skateboarding is fun, and when having fun is the goal,
it never seems like training. Of course many skateboarders do other things
for fun as well, such as surfing and snowboarding, which is actually
extreme sports cross-training.
(Reprinted courtesy of the Mobile Skatepark Series)
Skateboarding - Main Menu
ESPN X Games
Skating in Africa
Skating in Asia
Skating in Europe
Skating in Oceania
Skating in The Americas
Skateboarding Wall Posters