Nowadays skateboarding is a worldwide phenomenon that involves not just kids skating down the street but international sporting events that are worth millions of dollars. That’s a long stretch from the days when skateboards had clay wheels and were made of just wood.
Nowadays you’ll find skateboards made of a variety of materials as well as the trucks and wheels. Many experiments have been conducted over the years and skaters can tell you what worked and didn’t. Skaters can feel the change in performance to the smallest degree. Speed, durability, maneuverability and more are all at a professional skater’s touch. The wild moves and environment that today’s street skaters and pro skaters put the decks through call for stronger materials and the ability to maintenance the boards faster than the old skate keys people used to use.
Add to that the culture of skateboarding. Things skaters do today would have caused an international riot but that’s okay nowadays as it comes with the territory.
Over the decades kids have tried new tricks with skateboards that really have put the manufacturing companies to the test. There were engineers and designers who didn’t know what kids were going to do with skateboards next. The adults were just as bad as they hopped on skateboards and tried their own tricks and maneuvers. If the surface was smooth, people would skate on it. They would bring along their dogs on leashes to drag them along.
That was back in the 1960s and companies cranked out skateboards depending on their popularity in various parts of the country. Because the parts of the country that were sunnier and warmer like California had more pleasant weather, people rode skateboards year round and enjoyed the fun as well as increased their skills. TV shows would feature those California kids on skateboards to add to the popularity of the state following the surfing craze of the 1960s as well. There were no major skateboard movies like there were surfing movies but the fun of skateboarding continued.
It was in California that the skateboarding culture and manufacturing dominated and from that the future would see a growing wave of culture and counter culture from the sport. The 1970s saw more improvements on decks, trucks, and wheels. Polyurethane wheels and other substances came out and were tested rigorously in the labs and on the streets. Pool riding had grown into the ultimate test of territory and now more sports related skaters became legends in their realm. Magazines and fanzines appeared as well as numerous clubs.
The hardcore skaters avoided the limelight and many became street legends who eventually went on to fame and fortune. It was the late 70s that saw that next boost and marketers saw the potential and jumped in. This caused a clash as devoted skaters felt the long arm of Fifth Avenue had finally encroached on their lifestyle. The counter culture wave of skaters who showed contempt was growing and soon would turn into not only a point of cultural interest but turn into a bona fide movement that not only expanded in the skateboarding area but also into the general population.
Some companies and communities had tried to make skateboarding a general fun past time that included minor stunts, contests and a fair like atmosphere. This was good for the communities that saw the skateboard as the same as the Frisbee or Hula Hoop. Families and communities had fun and there was a smoothness there until in the 1980s the skateboarding world would fragment into something akin to the days when bands went from playing on stage in tuxedos to smashing their guitars on the ground and setting the stage on fire.
Skaters from New York, Philadelphia, and of course California, skaters who either didn’t fit in with the clean-cut skaters being promoted broke off into their own bands, skating against inclement weather and becoming public nuisances. The harsher weather in the Northern and Eastern states bred a different kind of skater. One who had to endure cold, rain, sleet, snow and metropolitan dangers. They didn’t have sunny skies and dry streets almost year round so skaters in places like Seattle, Baltimore and Hell’s Kitchen in NY City had to skate in rough weather if they wanted to keep up with their counterparts in the warmer regions.
This didn’t mean that the sunnier states didn’t have their champions as California remained the leader in skateboard champs. However, the California scene had its own counter culture of skateboarders that would dominate the sport and industry for decades to come. The ‘bad boy’ element that arose during the 1980s not only spread through skateboarding but also hit the areas of music, radio, television, comic books, and movies. New Wave or Punk music that had risen during the late 70’s now had taken hold and was where the hardcore skaters were gravitating. Marketing and licensing started to rise and street skaters would find themselves the target of the magazines and news that would propel them into celebrity status as well as marketing gurus.
Shops spread, manufacturing and engineering increased and skateboarding was ready to take on its next phase that would test both sides of the fence, mainstream and independent.
Now came the test. Would the hardcore street skaters settle for local or underground celebrity or embrace the growing global market. As computers and the internet were on the horizon many skaters ventured into the computer field, entertainment and other industries. They brought their skateboards with them. As these skaters grew up to be executives and business owners themselves, they then ventured back into the sport bringing their expertise and helping their communities as well. Video games and the internet of the 1990s then supercharged the sport. There was more than enough room for the mainstream skaters and the true street enthusiasts. Now one could find skateboards all over as well as their sister product, the Snowboard that allowed people to slide down the snowy slopes of the ski resorts. This sport saw Olympic recognition and its own fandom and communities.
Now, in the 21st century skateboarding and related activities have taken their own dominance in the sporting world, economics, entertainment, politics, and more. With now over 50 years of skateboarding having taken place it doesn’t look like the activity and industry is going anywhere soon.