April 2, 2016
Unlike most of the sports we play and hobbies we have today, skateboards are a relatively new phenomenon. No one is entirely sure when the first skateboard was made and by whom, but it’t generally thought to be sometime in the mid-1940s in California in the United States. In docks it was common practice to have the bed of a crate attached to wheels to make it travelling round quicker. From there it is possible that these crate-boards were shortened to having only one plank, which is more or less the skateboard as we know it today.
What is known is that skateboards first gained popularity amongst California’s surfers especially in times of disappointingly calm seas. It’s unsurprising therefore that skateboarding’s spiritual ancestor can be considered surfing. In its early days it was often referred to as street surfer and it borrowed from surfings culture by people skateboarding barefoot and mimicking many of the actions performed by surfers. Even today both sports share some common vocabulary.
Like almost every sport or industry its early days were made up of people who designed and built their own equipment, but by the 1960s this new sport had begun having a following of its own and a number of Southern Californian surf board manufacturers started making specially designed skateboards. Most of these early boards looked like miniature surf boards with wheels. It was so popular that in 1964 there was even a market for the first skateboarding magazine, called The Quarterly Skateboarder. Although is only survived for a year in its first incarnation it was published again beginning in 1975 and has been publishing under the title Skateboarder ever since then.
The first major development of the skateboard came in the 1970s when Frank Nasworthy developed a polyurethane wheel that replaced the metal or clay wheels that had been in use until that time. It was such a game-changing development that popularity skyrocketed and by the late 1970s the first designated skateboarding parks were popping up all over America.
It was also in the 70s that the first competitions began being organised. Unlike many other wheeled sports it wasn’t necessarily speed that was being compared by rather style and tricks—perhaps here too one can see surfing’s influence. Today skateboarding is so popular as a competitive sport that websites with sports picks allow fans to bet on the outcome of such competitions.
The 1980s however was, in a sense, the golden age of skateboarding. In the 80s many of the competitors from the 70s began forming companies dedicated to the manufacture of skateboards and improving designs. This was what we might call the start of the popular skateboard and allow styles changed slightly in the 90s to smaller ‘city skateboards’ it was this revolution in design and production in the 80s that has given us an enduring legacy.