skateboarding in 70s England

The Origin of Skateboarding

Skateboarding came about during a time when surfing was popular all over the world, and particularly sunny southern California. Teenagers lived for waking up early to catch the first waves of the day, but as any surfer knows, there’s not always those glorious, perfect waves to ride into the night. Some days, the waves are flat, and when surfing those big boys is what you lived for day in and day out, the flat hills left you with a void. Consider this void the beginning of skateboarding as we know it.

On one of these days when the waves went flat, surfers in SoCal decided to take the sport from the water to the streets and design something comparable to the effect of surfing. Who came up with the idea of skateboarding first is still unknown, but it appears that many individuals came up with similar ideas right around the same time. These original skateboards were made from wooden boxes with roller skate wheels attached to them. These boxes eventually evolved into the planks, similar to the boards used today.

Evolution of the Skateboard

The first manufactured skateboards were ordered by a surf shop in Los Angeles, where the owner, Bill Richard, wanted them to be used primarily by surfers in their downtime. The company with whom he purchased them, the Chicago Roller Skate Company, made a deal to produce a set of skate wheels which they then attached to square wooden boards. These were ridden barefoot and rode like surfboards, a sign of the close similarity between skateboarding and surfing.

Russ Howell SkateboarderPopularity of skateboarding grew in the mid-1960s when Patti McGee, one of the earliest-known sponsored athletes in the sport, made the cover of Life magazine in 1965. McGee also helped boost the popularity of skateboarding when she made appearances on shows like The Mike Douglas Show, What’s My Line? and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. While, she wasn’t the first pioneer, she helped the sport gain massive popularity.

By 1966 though, the popularity of skateboarding took a dive for the worse. Sources claimed the sport was very dangerous, and that it, like hula hooping, was a fad that had run its course. The clay wheels were dangerous and hard to control, causing many injuries and a decrease in sales by protective parents. It was essentially dead until 1972 when Frank Nasworth invented polyurethane wheels, similar to what is used today. The popularity grew once more and hasn’t stopped since. Nasworth’s company, Cadillac Wheels, boosted investors more than at any point in the history of skateboarding, and sales of skateboards skyrocketed.

Tony Hawk First Skating

From here, skateboard super stars were born and championships were won. Now, thrill-seekers of all ages are being introduced to for, the first time, something cherished by many generations past, and without a doubt, many more to come.

Craving more? We have some pretty killer boarding vids in the journal. Or find out about the origin of longboarding, or as the Hawaiian’s first called it, ‘sideways surfing.’

Longboarding pioneers

The Origin of Longboarding

During the the 1950s and 1960s, a small group of skateboarders branched out from the popular sport and created something of their own – longboarding. It started out as an underground hobby, but gained some serious momentum in the 90’s. The longboarding pioneers said that they felt like the sport was a form of self-expression. They weren’t going to be constrained to the skate park. These guys were, just like the skateboarders of the time, influenced by surfing.

Skateboarder Magazine - The Cult of the LongboardBack in ’59, the first longboards originated in Hawaii and the locals called it ‘sidewalk surfing.’ Surfers had already been introduced to skateboards and were using them for tricks, but these dudes were looking for something longer and smoother to better mimic the motion of the waves. The longboard was a God-send.

The first boards were primarily homemade by teens and surfers in their garages, using old Kryptonic wheels from the 70s or roller skate wheels. Just like the boys from Apple, some of the greatest started in the garage. Tom Sims and Brad Stradlund rose to the scene when they were featured in a 1978 Skateboarder Magazine article entitled Cult of the Longboard.

After seeing the pros rage down gnarly hills, safety became a growing concern for the masses. The clay wheels, like those used in the early skateboards, weren’t conducive to the kind of shredding these guys were trying to do and it seemed no one had a good solution. With the safety issue and a raise in popularity with some other extreme sports, longboarding popularity saw a dip and it wouldn’t pick back up for quite some time. Sidewalk Surfing

It wasn’t until the early 90s that longboarding became ultra-popular, when celebrities like Tony Hawk made a name for himself in skateboarding. It was then that longboards were being mass-produced, and being talked about over the Internet, something fairly new to the time period as well. The types of people talking about it, though, were a very specific niche. Hardcore fans were the ones who primarily did so, and they also brought the most money to the industry.

Though longboarding was built from the foundation of skateboarding and surfing, there has been some friction between the sports through the generations. Longboarding has been known as a more casual sport, with the board itself designed for people who want to drift down the street and not preform tricks and jumps, whereas skateboarders, who use the smaller board and more easily-maneuvered wheels, live for making jumps and tricks out of whatever they can find. The friction didn’t survive many decades, and longboarding has been long credited for bringing more women, surfers and former skateboarders into the present-day skating community.

Vintage LongboaringFrom the 1990s to present day, the popularity of longboarding is undeniable. Skateboarding and longboarding alike have evolved into a competitive sport, and have brought about well-known competitions like the X Games and World Cup Skateboarding. Longboarding lives strong today and will only continue to gain popularity.

Craving more? Check out this killer longboarding video shot with the new GoPro. It features some friends bombing ‘Smoothie’ hills in Mercerdes Norte, Costa Rica