It’s a fact skaters know and anti skaters willfully ignore: skateboarding has always, always been a culture of no rules, problem solving, creative inventors.
This no holds barred enthusiasm for life (and skating) is supremely evident in the history and evolution of the board itself. From peach crates to urethane wheels, it’s been quite a ride.
1. Steel-wheeled injury plank
Some say the skateboard originated in California--some point to France. But really, there was no one origin spot.
In the 40’s, bored teens the world over started to figure out that steel roller skate wheels on the bottom of a peach crate made a pretty decent rolling board.
Skateboards suddenly took off in the ‘60’s, selling like hot cakes. Surfers, some of the original skaters, hopped on the sport, particularly because it was something to do when the waves were bogus, turning early skateboarders into “sidewalk surfers.”
The thing was, this makeshift skateboard couldn’t turn. Or negotiate any sort of obstacle. Well-founded parental worries over broken bones drove mainstream skateboard sales into the ground.
2. Clay-wheeled death board
In the early ‘70s, clay wheels came out, which were better than steel wheels--the ambitious sidewalk surfer could maneuver a little bit more, and go a little bit faster.
Unfortunately, this whole “do more stuff” thing meant that the boards got more dangerous before they got safer.
3A. Urethane-wheeled trick board
Imagine trying for years to text someone on a fax machine, and then, suddenly, someone hands you a cell phone. That’s exactly what urethane wheels were for skateboards.
Suddenly, riding on a skateboard wasn’t rough--it was smooth as glass. The wheels could stick to all kinds of surfaces, not just flat concrete, and this unlocked an entire world of skating possibilities.
Throw in the invention of trucks, bearings, and the kicktail, and allofasudden, skateboards had power the likes of which nobody had ever seen.
It was during this period of skateboards that vert skating was invented.
With maneuverable boards and a wicked California drought that turned backyard pools into empty concrete bowls, skaters moved in to conquer this new terrain. Tony Alva, specifically, is credited with being the first to actually clear the lip of the pool (and also being the first to use maple veneers on his board).
3B. Urethane-wheeled trick board for professionals
It was also during this period that two major skateboarding crews arose, like Avengers with skateboards; the mid-70’s Zephyr Crew, and the mid-80’s Bones Brigade.
While members of former were more “punky,” members the latter were a little bit more clean-cut, which helped really convince parents that skateboarding was an okay hobby for their kids to have.
The Bones Brigade also went on tour and did demos; this and their skating-centric VHS tapes really helped expand skateboarding to the mainstream phenomenon it is today.
Next time you hear someone call skaters lazy or bored, direct them to the history of skateboards, or to this podcast about skateboarding. Because how could a lazy community ever turn a peach crate into a global phenomenon?
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