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By Edited Nov 13, 2013 16 8

Skateboarding is an activity that has seen more evolution in its history than perhaps any other sport. First bursting onto the scene in California in the 1950s as a new way to "surf on land", skateboards have gone through countless stages since the original prototype--a simple wooden plank with two roller skate trucks nailed to the bottom.

In the early days, skateboarding was considered an off-shoot of surfing. Often referred to as "sidewalk surfing", skateboarders used their basic wooden planks and wheels on land to emulate the feel of riding the waves. It wasn't until the rest of the country caught onto this new fad that it just blew up and became what we now see it as today--a highly competitive sport consisting of ridiculous stunts, tricks, and maneuvers using skateboards with perfect dimensions and intricate artwork.

Skateboarding Timeline


The first prototype of the modern skateboard was created. It was called the "Skeeter Skate", and it was made from aluminum and was ridden on four pedal-car style wheels. The surface of the Skeeter Skate was about 4 3/8 inches wide and 15 3/4 inches long. You could ride it with a handle attached or without one. Before the Skeeter Skate, a few other things came out resembling skateboards, but they never had steering; you could only go straight on them. This was the first skateboard-type device with axles that you could steer, known as "trucks".

Shortly after the Skeeter Skate came out, in 1947, a San Diego native and surfer named Peter Parken was the first person to ride on a wooden plank with roller skate trucks mounted on. It was the first true appearance of the modern skateboard.


Skateboarding began to pick up some serious steam as kids all across California start catching on to the new alternative to surfing. Youngsters figure out how to make their own kinds of skateboards using wooden planks and roller skate trucks, sometimes using milk crates as makeshift handles.


Skateboards go into mass production and the new fad really takes a turn, going from a simple activity kids enjoy doing when they're not surfing, to a full-blown competitive sport. Different kinds of skateboards like the Scooter Skate, Skee Skate, Roller Derby, Nash Sidewalk Surfer, Super Surfer, Sokol SurfSkate, and Sincor are manufactured. Skateboard trucks get some major makeovers and upgrades to make them easier to turn and more durable.

In 1963, the first recorded skateboard contest occurred in Hermosa, California at the Pier Avenue Junior High School. The contest was sponsored by Makaha, which was the very first company to produce professional skateboards, available through mail order for about $11 total.

Skateboarding continued to get more and more widespread as the decade wore on. Professional skateboarders sponsored by Makaha go on short tours in other countries across Europe, especially in the U.K. The first skateboard movie, Skater Dater, is created and later wins an Academy Award. The sport continued to evolve and expand as skaters were moving on from skateboarding on sidewalks and driveways to riding them in empty pools, a crude form of what we now call "vert skateboarding".

The 1960s proved to be a pivotal decade for skateboarding as the National Skateboard Championships are created in Anaheim, CA and are featured on ABC's "Wide World of Sports". Skateboarders even get their own quarterly magazine issue called The Quarterly Skateboarder. The magazine appeared to be a hit so they started issuing them bi-monthly and changed the name to Skateboarder Magazine.

Vans Footwear
The first skateboarding shoes were created by Vans Footwear in 1966. This shoe company is further evidence of just how ridiculously popular skateboarding had become. Vans Footwear was created by two brothers, Jim and Paul Van Doren, who started producing the shoes from a small shop in Anaheim, CA. The company started out producing surfing shoes, but thanks to the mass appeal and cross-overs between surfers and skateboarders, Vans introduced their line of "Off the Wall" skateboarding shoes and established a name for themselves as the number one skateboard shoe company. To this day, Vans Footwear is still highly respected and seen as a leader in the skateboard shoe industry.

In 1967, it became apparent that Canada was starting to catch on to the skateboarding craze as well as The National Film Board of Canada released a short documentary entitled "The Devil's Toy". The movie was about how skateboarding had really picked up steam in Montreal. As the title implies, it was also very revealing about what the general public saw skateboarding as at this time. While the sport did have its fair share of fans, it was heavily looked upon as a dangerous, rebellious activity--a stigma that has followed skateboarding for years and helped influence the very culture it created.

The designs of the skateboards themselves also see a nice little upgrade in 1969 when Larry Stevenson invents the kicktail. These allowed skateboards to be easier to control, and easier to "ride wheelies" with. The kicktail also opened up dozens of doors for the future of trick skateboarding.


Urethane wheels are invented in 1972 by Frank Nasworthy and skateboard trucks, decks and bearings also continue to see some major upgrades in durability and performance. More and more skateboard manufacturers started to spring up and skateboarding kept getting more exposure through major magazines, competitions, and movie releases. Tony Alva and the rest of the infamous Z-Boys kick vert skateboarding up a notch, being the first to actually air out of empty pools.

The 1970s was also the decade in which safety gear for the sport was implemented consisting mainly of hockey equipment. Skate parks began springing up all over the U.S., but most were short-lived due to insurance issues and the fact that skateboarding still had not reached the point of being a highly profitable sport.

In 1978, the ollie was invented by Alan Gelfand. For the first time ever, skateboarders were figuring out how to jump with their boards without using their hands. The ollie was the single-most groundbreaking skateboarding trick ever invented, and it paved the way for the sport to expand beyond what anyone ever thought possible.


More upgrades with skateboards and all of the components kept happening, further evolving the sport at a rapid pace. The traditional vert skateboarding found a new friend when street skateboarding started to make some headway, largely due to the fact that skate parks were suffering huge losses and closing down left and right. The culture makes a major shift in the 1980s going from surfers to outright rebellious punks, giving the sport a bad stigma that followed it for years.

Skateboarding tricks became a lot more advanced during this period as well. The new street-style sweeping the nation combined with all of the performance-enhancing upgrades happening with skateboards gave skaters many more options to work and compete with.

X Games

Skateboarding remains in a slump for the first half of the 1990s, but in 1995 things started to look better for the sport. ESPN 2 puts skateboarding in front of millions of viewers when they are the Extreme Games in Rhode Island.

In 1996, there were less than 10 public skate parks in the entire United States. Thanks to a few legislators and IASC director, Jim Fitzpatrick, over 2000 more skate parks were built across America by 2004.


The sport finally gains acceptance among the majority of the population and is looked at as a legitimate activity that requires skill, talent, and an incredible amount of practice and concentration. The media and internet play a big part in the world-wide skateboarding phenomenon and thousands of skate parks continue to be constructed. Soft goods, mainly skate shoes and apparel, fuel the sport financially with their stylish designs and performance-based features, often outselling the skateboards themselves. Video games, songs, movies, television shows, and products of all kinds help keep skateboarding in the mainstream, and the sport continues to evolve and grow leaps and bounds to this very day.

The Pioneers of Skateboarding

Alan Ollie Gelfand
Alan Gelfand

Alan "Ollie" Gelfand was the inventor of the ollie, a no-handed jump with a skateboard. The Ollie paved the way for skateboarding to evolve exponentially over the next 3 decades, giving skaters a whole new aspect to expand upon.

Tony Alva
George Orton & Tony Alva

Pioneers in pool skateboarding, Orton and Alva made their claim to fame by being the first skateboarders to air out of empty pools and do tricks. These two were both part of the Z-Boys and even had a movie dedicated to their achievements and life called "Lords of Dogtown". Alva was professional skateboarding's first world champion, earning the title in 1977.

Steve Caballero
Steve Caballero

Steve was a skateboarding prodigy who earned his first sponsor at the age of 15 from one of the most popular companies at the time, Powell Peralta. Caballero enjoyed many years of success in the sport despite his scoliosis, and even invented some influential tricks like the frontside boardslide and the Caballerial, also known as a Fakie 360 ollie.

Tony Hawk
Tony Hawk

By now Tony Hawk has become a household name. Everyone and their mother knows Tony Hawk, and that just goes to show how much he has truly impacted the sport of skateboarding. Tony not only invented a laundry list of tricks for vert ramps, he also has set numerous world records and single-handedly brought skateboarding to the mainstream with a series of massively popular video games and even his own clothing line. Without Tony Hawk, who knows where skateboarding would be today.

Rodney Mullen
Rodney Mullen

Rodney Mullen was one of skateboarding's unsung heroes for many years. Rodney is arguably the best skateboarder to ever live, having invented almost every single flatground trick there is, including the most basic ones like kickflips. Mullen is looked up to by just about every professional skateboarder and for good reason. Go ahead and watch one of his skate videos and try to keep your jaw from dropping...it's pretty much impossible.

Natas Kaupas
Natas Kaupas and Mark Gonzalez

Heralded as the kings of street skateboarding, Natas and Gonzalez took skateboarding to a whole new level, away from the traditional vert-style that dominated the scene in the 1980s and prior. Thanks to these two pioneers, street skateboarding opened up countless doors for the future of the sport and created yet another off-shoot of what was once simply known as "sidewalk surfing".

Street Skateboarding

Street skateboarding consists of riding around on paved areas such as streets, playgrounds, schools, and malls. This style didn't exist until the late 1980s, and completely exploded in the decades that followed. Street skateboarders are very versatile and will do tricks down sets of stairs, grind on handrails, ollie off of big ledges and over long gaps, and use common things like sewers, ledges, sidewalks, and parking curbs as obstacles. For years after its conception, street skateboarding was heavily frowned upon and even outlawed in many areas. The rebellious nature of the skateboarding culture proved to be too intense for the general public, not to mention the property damage involved for a lot of the tricks. This style of skating still thrives to this day, however, and has been a pivotal aspect to the growth of the sport.

Vert Skateboarding

Vertical skateboarding, or "vert", is the term used to describe skateboarders who ride on half pipes, quarter pipes, bowls, and pools. This style consists of going back and forth on the inclines and doing tricks either on the lips and coping, or airing out of the ramps themselves and coming back down into them. Vert was the first true off-shoot of skateboarding with pioneers like Tony Alva, Tony Hawk, and George Orton pushing it to new heights. Most popular in the 1980s, the style still lives on today and is featured in all major skateboarding competitions.

Trick (Technical) Skateboarding

This style of skateboarding was heavily influenced by pioneers like Rodney Mullen and Daewon Song, who both put on masterful displays of technical tricks with their skateboards. Technical skateboarding consists of the ability to do multiple or consecutive flat-ground and tricks in a single session. Both Mullen and Song had several videos together where they would "face-off" in a technical skateboarding battle to see who was superior. Originating in the 1980s, this style is a big fan favorite and if you were to watch some of the best technical skateboarders in action, you would understand why.

Skateboarding Culture

The skateboarding culture has, for the most part, always been seen as a rebellious youth movement. It began as an off-shoot of surfing, so naturally the surfing culture had some influence. However, as the years wore on, skateboarding began to separate itself from the surfing culture and earn its own unique stigma. The rebellious nature of skateboarding originated back when the sport first started to sweep the nation. Back when skateboards weren't as well-made as they are today, it was a much more dangerous activity.

The rise of street skateboarding also played a big part in the stigma, as the majority of the general public saw those skating in the streets as a bunch of hooligans with nothing better to do with their time than destroy public and personal property.

Skateboarding Culture
It wasn't until skateboarding started to become more mainstream in the 1990s when the stigma finally started to level out a bit. With the popularity of the X Games, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series for Playstation, and professional skateboarding videos, the public began to get a little more comfortable with the sport, and many started to respect it as more and more professionals pushed the envelope with their amazing stunts.

Music has always been a large part of the skateboarding culture. Punk rock, heavy metal, and even some forms of hip-hop have some very strong ties to the skateboarding culture. The reason music is so influential to the skateboarding culture is because many of these genres are looked at in the same way--a rebellious youth movement. These types of music also have a certain quality to them that attracts skateboarders. Between their lyrics, guitar riffs, and beats, skateboarders find them very easy to not only relate to, but also use as their own personal soundtrack while they are skateboarding. The music itself often used as an ambiance for skateboarders to "find their rhythm" and ride more comfortably.

Nowadays, the culture has taken some major leaps and the sport is widely accepted as a positive outlet for young kids and teens to spend their time practicing. No longer looked upon as a rebellious activity, parents are now more liable to buy their kids a skateboard to help keep them occupied, give them a productive hobby that they love, and eventually can become very good at. The professionals are also a big reason why the sport is so highly respected as the vast majority of them are great, positive role models.



Mar 9, 2011 7:32pm
Excellent article on skateboarding, Travis. I remember when skateboarding was popular with our kids back in the late 1970's. The skateboards were so skinny, then. One of our daughters would have our dog pull her around the neighborhood on her skateboard. Some of our old friends still laugh about it! The sport has changed tremendously since that time!
Mar 11, 2011 1:06pm
It seems they always show those street skateborders getting nailed in the groining while going down railings on television shows. Other than that, it's a pretty cool sport. Good Article!
Mar 21, 2011 7:24am
I had a friend a long time ago who would ride his skateboard in the middle of the city, between the lanes of traffic, with arms open wide - hair flying in the wind - free as a bird. Thanks for dredging up that wonderful memoory.
Mar 22, 2011 12:12pm
I took a look at Rodney Mullen's skateboarding videos and he left me at awe. Wow! Now I know why my son has his large poster of Rodney on his bedroom wall!

Fantastic article Travis!
Apr 8, 2011 12:58pm
Great article on skateboarding. I've never been into it, but I have had friends that di it.
Aug 20, 2011 1:17pm
I love Tony Hawk! I never doubt you'd include him in your post... Nice article!
Nov 19, 2011 1:26pm
I used to love the Tony Hawk's pro skate game
Mar 15, 2015 8:32pm
Very in depth article about the sport. Great work!
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