The history of skateboarding encompasses decades of change, invention, and development. The dawning of the sport as it is today began in the 1950s when surfing was at its peak, and though skateboarding has had its share of negative connotations, it is one of the most evolutionary sports to date.
The very first skateboards were born of the old wooden scooters without the milk crate fronts and handles. Essentially, they were two by four pieces of wood attached to roller skate wheels. Most of the very first skateboarding participants were also surfers, and when they realized they could simulate wave riding on the street, skateboarding began its evolving history. The Roller Derby Skateboard was the first retail board in 1959, followed by mass produced skateboards, which were inspired by surfboards.
In the years between 1960 and 1963, over fifty million skateboards were sold. Skateboarding was one of the fastest growing sports trends ever until it came to a crashing halt in 1965 due to safety concerns raised to and by the public from numerous sources. Companies up until this time had struggled to keep up with the demand for skateboards, and little if any research had gone into safety. There had been numerous accidents and even fatalities, which inspired safety advocates to discourage the sport, and it entered a slump that ended the craze – but only for a short while.
In the mid-1970s, skateboarding was revitalized after Larry Stevenson invented new decks with kicktails and the urethane wheel was introduced. More attention was given to deck design, trucks, and wheels, and the sizes and shapes of skateboards became more varied. Street skating became rampant once again, while some more daring skaters sought out thrills by skating empty swimming pools and other vertical surfaces. During this decade, skate parks emerged, but by the end of the decade, soaring insurance rates and lack of attendance caused most to close.
Skateboarding went almost underground in the early 1980s, with kids being forced to create terrain and ramps in their own backyards as skateboarding had been outlawed in many public places. However, by the end of the 80s, skateboarding began to shift from a rebellious pastime to an accepted sport. Vertical skaters like Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero and street skaters including Mark Gonzales and Mike Vallely gave skateboarding a professional sporting image.
In 1995, when ESPN covered skateboarding at the first X-Games, the sport began to be viewed as professional, and skateboarding has been included in the X-Games ever since. Many cross-training skateboarders have also been featured in the Winter Olympics competing in snowboarding. Today, it’s clear that skateboarding has carved its own niche in society and in sporting history. It carries its own style and attitude that has gone from rebel to mainstream.