Rad History: Skateboarding Origins


Jayleen C., Staff Writer

You see it on the beach, you see it at your local park; skateboarding! But did you know there’s a lot more to skateboarding than meets the eye? Let’s dig into some history about how wheels on a board got so popular.

It all started in the 1950s when teens were attaching roller skates wheels to wooden boxes. Eventually, those wooden boxes turned into planks that resemble today’s decks. The first commercial skateboards appeared in 1959, but homemade versions of skateboards were first built after the early 1900s. In 1963, the first skateboard competition was held in Hermosa, California. It included freestyle skateboarding and downhill slalom events.

Skateboards were revived in the mid-1970s after the development of the faster, more maneuverable wheel. Introduction of the kicktail, the raised rear of the board that makes kick-turns possible also contributed to a rise in popularity. The first skate park was built in Florida in 1976, and many others began to appear in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, all with a variety of slopes and inclined surfaces for sudden turns and stunts. In Del Mar, California, a freestyle competition was held at the Ocean Festival. That day, a skateboarding team called Team Zephyr showed the world what skateboarding could be. They rode their boards like no one else. Skateboarding went from being a hobby to something serious and exciting.

In 1978, just a few years after the popularity of this new style of skateboarding, Alan Gelfand (nicknamed “Ollie”) invented a new skateboarding maneuver. This trick consisted of kicking the tail of the board with his back foot and jumping, popping the board, and lifting himself into the air. The ollie was born! This trick completely revolutionized skateboarding for most of the current tricks are based on performing an ollie. Empty pools were soon used as semi-tubes and U-shaped driving surfaces were used to perform all kinds of tricks.

By the early 1990s, skateboarding had almost completely become a street sport. The image of the poor, angry, punk skater surfaced. Surprisingly, this helped boost the popularity of skateboarding. Since the 2000s, products such as skateboard video games, children’s skateboards, and commercialization have attracted great attention to skateboarding. With more money invested in skateboarding, there are more skateparks, better skateboards, and more skate companies to keep innovating and inventing new things.

One of the benefits of skateboarding is that it is a very individual activity. There is no right or wrong way to skate. Skateboarding has not stopped evolving and skaters are inventing new tricks all the time. Boards also continue to evolve as companies try to make them lighter and stronger or improve their performance. Skateboarding has always been a personal discovery and all about pushing yourself to the limit.