Skateboards and Skateboarding Tricks - a Brief History - By: janet ashby

In California in the early 1950s surfers began the skateboarding trend when they wanted something to do when the surf was low. By attaching roller skating wheels to planks or wooden boxes they produced the very first skateboards and began the trend that was called at the time 'sidewalk surfing'. Bill Richards, a surf shop owner in California, was the first person to manufacture skateboards commercially again using roller skating wheels, obtained from the Chicago Roller Skate Co, attached to wooden boards.

More manufacturers got in on the trend by making skateboards modelled after surfboards and skateboarding began to become more popular. The first skateboarding magazine to sell nationally, Skateboarder Magazine, was launched at this time. The first nationally televised international skateboarding championship was aired in 1965 and skateboarding became extremely popular with one manufacturer, Makaha, selling skateboards worth over $10 million in the two years from 1963 to 1965.

The late 1960s to the 1970s

The sport suffered a decline after 1966 however and Skateboarder Magazine ceased publication. Skateboarding sales dropped significantly until the early 1970s when popularity started to rise again. During this time skateboards were improved, mainly by the use of the newly developed polyurethane wheels which gave the skateboards much better traction and hence improved performance. Skateboards became more maneuverable and were produced in wider designs that gave the skateboarder much more control. More companies started to invest in development and production as the popularity of the sport continued to increase. A notable trend at this time was the introduction of polypropylene decks that were flexible and narrow, produced in many bright colors and dubbed banana boards from the bright yellow color of one of the more popular styles.

Most of the decks were made from maple plywood although other materials and composites including aluminum and fiberglass were also used. As the maneuverability and handling improved skateboarders began introducing innovative ways of using them. Notable skateboarders at the time were Bruce Logan, Kevin Reed, Ty Page and Bobby Piercy. The vert trend was also introduced at this time by the Z-Boys who used empty swimming pools to skate up and down the vertical walls. The increased control also led to the introduction of the tricks that we are so familiar with today, including slash grinds and frontside-backside airs. Specialized safety protection was also introduced developed as the speed and potential for more dangerous tricks developed. Flat ground tricks, in a style known as freestyle skateboarding, were also being developed during this time.

Unfortunately the vert trend resulted in higher liability costs for skate parks which led to many being closed down. The vert skaters began to make their own ramps and the free skaters developed flat ground styles that only needed a hard surface.

Probably the most famous skateboarding trick, the ollie, which is a no hands aerial was developed in Florida in 1976 by Alan Gerfand. Other tricks developed during the 1970s include the grabbed aerial which was developed in California by George Orton and Tony Alva. Although vert ramping was very popular at this time and it was also being pushed by many of the commercial interests there was a lack of vert ramps so most people enjoyed street skating. Freestyle skating was kept at the forefront of the sport by such pioneers as Rodney Mullen and many of the freestyle skating tricks that are popular today, such as the Impossible and kick flip were developed during this time.

The 1980s and 1990s

Despite all these innovations in skateboard decks and designs the skateboarding trend again suffered a decline during the 1980s. Many of the companies that produced skateboards in the 1980s were run by skateboarders who kept the sport alive.

By the end of the 1990s skateboarding was very popular but there were very few skate parks available which resulted in skaters using shopping malls, sidewalks and public property. The owners of the properties and businesses were not too happy about this trend and skateboarders were banned from many of these places.

Present day

Today skateboarding is still popular and is dominated by street skating. Boards are lighter and more manageable than ever before with small, hard polyurethane wheels giving the ability to perform an enormous range of tricks. The relatively narrow width of the deck and a symmetrical shape clearly shows their origins in the freestyle boards used during the 1980s. The sport is celebrated on June 21 every year on Go Skateboarding Day which was initiated by the skateboarding manufacturers to promote the sport.

Skateboards have developed from crude wooden planks with roller skating wheels used by the early 'street surfers' of the 1950s to the highly maneuverable, lightweight decks used today. The famous ollie and many other tricks performed by skateboarders worldwide were introduced by innovative skaters during the 1970s when skateboard designs were significantly improved.

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