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.
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.
Popularity 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.
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.