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The Invention of the Skateboard: A Brief History

Invention of the Skateboard

(Image from WikiMedia Commons)

Oh boy, hold onto your helmets, folks! Today, we're going to take a gnarly ride down memory lane and explore the groovy origins of everyone's favorite four-wheeled contraption – the skateboard!

You might think that skateboarding has been around since the dawn of time, but you'd be wrong. In fact, the skateboard is a relatively new invention, born out of a time when the sun was shining, the music was loud, and the fashion was… well, let's just say interesting.

But where did it all begin? Who was the mastermind behind this radical invention? And how did it become the icon of youth culture that we know and love today?

Don't fret, my dear friends. All of these questions and more will be answered as we dive headfirst into the wild and wacky history of skateboarding. So grab your board, kick off those shoes, and let's get rolling!

When Was the Skateboard First Invented?

One of the first skateboards

(Image from Collector's Weekly)

Believe it or not, the early version of the skateboard was around way back in the day, before TikTok, Instagram, or even Netflix. That's right, we're talking the early 1900s, when people actually had to go outside and make their own fun.

Now, these early skateboards weren't exactly sleek pieces of engineering marvels. In fact, they looked like a scooter that got into a gnarly accident and ended up with roller skate wheels attached on its underside.

Picture it - a two-by-four with a milk crate or wooden box attached to it, and handles sticking out for control. That's some DIY creativity right there.

The Kne-Koster (1925), Scooter Skate (1930s), Flexy-Racer (1932), and Skeeter Skater (1945) were some of the precursors to the modern skateboard. These early versions were probably made by surfers who were looking for a way to ride the waves on land. Talk about taking the beach vibes with you wherever you go!

Over the next few decades, the skateboard design continued to evolve. Steel wheels ripped from strap-on roller skates replaced the clunky wooden boxes, and the board itself became smaller and more maneuverable.

Who Were The First People to Start Skateboarding?

1950s Surfers in Southern California

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

You know what they say - behind every great invention, there's usually a group of mischievous, thrill-seeking rebels. And the skateboard is no exception!

It is suspected that in the 1950s, surfers in Southern California were looking for ways to catch a wave even when the ocean was flat. So, they grabbed their trusty surfboards, removed the fins, and attached roller skate wheels to the bottom.

But it wasn't just surfers who were getting in on the action. Kids all over the US were starting to experiment with skateboarding too, using whatever makeshift boards they could find. From wooden planks to metal crates, anything with wheels was fair game.

It wasn't long before skateboarding became a full-blown subculture, complete with its own language, fashion, and attitude. Thrashers, shredders, and grinders ruled the streets, defying authority and carving out their own rebellious path.

So, who were the first people to start skateboarding? It's safe to say that it was a collective effort - a bunch of freewheelin' mavericks who were determined to carve their own way through life.

How Did Skateboarding as a Sport Begin?

Larry Stevenson

As the years went on, skateboarding only got more popular. Tricks were being invented left and right, and competitions were popping up faster than dandelions in the springtime.

Back in the swinging sixties, the first-ever skateboarding competition was born out of the sunny beaches of California. Larry Stevenson's skateboarding company, Makaha, decided to host the event in Hermosa Beach, and like any good party, about a hundred thrill-seekers showed up to show off their skills.

The competition had two events - freestyle and downhill. In the downhill event, skaters had to navigate around cones on a steep hill, and whoever did it the fastest was crowned the champ. The competition was so popular that the attendees went on to create The Quarterly Skateboarder, the first skateboarding magazine.

The Quarterly Skateboarder

And if that wasn't enough, Makaha also invented the first-ever pro skateboard, named after surfing legend Phil Edwards.

Of course, since skateboarding was just a natural extension of surfing, it made sense that many of the early skateboarding greats were also surfers. In 1965, the first National Skateboard Championship aired on ABC, and it was a wild ride.

The boards were thin and had primitive wheels, making them almost impossible to maneuver. But inventor Larry Stevenson had a few tricks up his sleeve, and in 1969 he created the kicktail skateboard, a wooden board which allowed skaters to shift and maneuver better. It was a revolutionary invention that changed the game forever.

Looking for a modern trick skateboard? Check out our guide!

Before Skateboards Were Made What Did People Use?

In a world without skateboards, people had to rely on their feet or some sketchy looking contraptions to get around. Some even rode barrels, which sounds more like an accident waiting to happen than a mode of transportation.

But let's be real, no one knows for sure what people rode before skateboards, so it's really just a guessing game.

In 1643, a Scottish adventurer named Sir Robert Gordon reported seeing people in London riding wooden boards with wheels attached. This might have been the earliest form of skateboarding, but we can only imagine how primitive and rough the ride must have been.

Fast forward a couple of centuries to the 1800s, and skating became a trendy pastime in America, with people inventing new ways to skate.

In 1876, James Plimpton, not to be confused with the modern-day actor and writer, invented the first roller skate with four wheels. This innovation made skating much easier and more comfortable, but the real game-changer came in the early 1900s when people started attaching metal plates to their shoes for a smoother ride.

Eventually, the wooden boards with metal plates attached evolved into the first skateboards.

But...Who Invented the Skateboard??

Kicktail skateboard - one of the first skateboards

(The patent for the kicktail designed by Larry Stevenson)

As we mentioned earlier, legend has it that the inventor of the skateboard was actually a group of surfers in California in the early 1940s.

But who exactly among this group of surfer dudes came up with the idea? Some say it was the legendary surfboard shaper and waterman Tom Blake, while others attribute it to surf shop owner Hobie Alter. Still more say it was Larry Stevenson, who we mentioned earlier, that invented the kicktail skateboard.

But really, does it matter who the mastermind behind this invention was? All that matters is that they gifted us with the joy and thrill of skating.

Since those early days, the skateboard has evolved and changed with the times, becoming a staple in popular culture and a beloved pastime for millions around the world.

So let's just give a big shoutout to those radical surfers who started it all and made our lives a little bit more exciting!

Which Country Started Skateboarding?

California is in the we're going with the good old U S of A. However, some claim that skateboard-like contraptions existed in other parts of the world for centuries, like the ancient Chinese who used to slide down hills on wooden blocks.

Whether it was California or China or Mars, it doesn't really matter. It's all about the attitude, the sick tricks, and the gnarly wipeouts. At least that's what we think.

What Did the Early Skateboarders Use for a Board?

The earliest skateboarders would scavenge for old pieces of wood and repurpose them into skateboards. Sometimes they would even use old furniture or other bits and bobs lying around the house! Who knew that an old dining chair could make a mean skateboard deck?

Roller Derby Skateboards

What About the First Real Skateboard?

The first skateboards were about as basic as they come, and were more like makeshift surfboards than anything else. The first skateboard we believe was made with a piece of wood and some wheels. I know...not that impressive.

As the sport evolved, so did the boards. People who loved skateboarding began tinkering with different materials, shapes, and sizes in search of the perfect ride.

Some boards were made of metal, others were made of plastic, and some were even made of good old fashioned fiberglass. And don't get us started on the wheels - the possibilities were endless! Metal wheels anyone?

When Did Skateboarding Actually Gain Steam?

The popularity of "sidewalk surfing" skyrocketed in the 1950s and 1960s, and soon skateboard companies such as Makaha emerged. In no time, over 50 million skateboards were sold, and skateboarders were popping up everywhere.

The Slow-Down

But, as with all things fun, there were those who said skateboarding was too dangerous and could lead to gnarly injuries.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, things were looking pretty bleak for skateboarding. The rise of other sports like BMX biking and inline skating left skateboarding feeling left out in the cold. Despite this, the skateboarding community persevered and adapted during its downturns, like a true rebel. Skateboarding is a fighter and it wasn't about to give up that easily.

The Comeback

The First x games

In the mid-1970s, skateboarding came roaring back with the invention of the urethane wheel. This new wheel allowed for smoother riding and more tricks, which made skateboarding way more fun. Suddenly, skateboarding was cool again, and people couldn't get enough of it.

The punk rock scene of the 1970s also played a big role in the resurgence of skateboarding. Punk rockers embraced skateboarding as a way to stick it to the man and rebel against the mainstream.

Young people were looking for an alternative to traditional sports, and skateboarding was the perfect fit. So, thanks to the urethane wheel and punk rock, skateboarding made a triumphant comeback in the mid-1970s.

Fast forward to 1995, the sport experienced a massive resurgence thanks to the X-Games, and the rise of skateboarding legends like Tony Hawk. Suddenly, skateboarding was cool again, and it seemed like everyone wanted to give it a try - even if they didn't have a surfboard in sight.

Skateboarding proved once again that it's not just a sport, but a way of life, and nothing can stop it from rolling on. And now here we are today, and we can see how the skateboarding industry and modern skateboarding continue to evolve.

Skateboarding - The Timeline

Let's break this down and make it easy to follow:

1925: The early precursor to the Skateboard, the Kne-Koster is invented
1950s: Southern California surfers caught a gnarly idea of "surfing on land" and fashioned early versions of skateboards with their own hands.
1958: Bill Richards becomes the first skateboard salesperson in history with the invention of his board.
1963: The Roller Derby Skateboard is Created by Barry Jacobs
1969: The Kicktail from Larry Stevenson makes it debut
1972: Frank Nasworthy gave a much-needed boost to skateboarding by inventing the urethane skateboard wheel, enabling skaters to grip and ride with a greater degree of safety.
1976: Tony Alva and the Zephyr Competition Team take skateboarding to new heights with the invention of the aerial, while Alan "Ollie" Gelfand takes it to the next level with the revolutionary trick, the "ollie."
1995: The X-Games are held in Rhode Island for the first time
2010: Street League Skateboarding is started by Rob Dyrdek
2021: Skateboarding debuts at the Olympics in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games

Is There a Link Between Surfing and Skateboarding?

Page from the Quarterly Skateboarder

Let's talk about surfing and skateboarding, two gnarly activities that may seem alike but are actually quite different. Both involve shredding on a board with style and grace, but one is done on the open waves while the other is on land.

And let's not forget, skateboarding tricks require some serious technical skills that even the most epic surf moves can't match. So, are these two sports related? Well, it's a bit of a mixed bag, like trying to decide between catching a gnarly wave or pulling off a sweet ollie.

Can Surfing Make Me a Better Skateboarder?

Some folks argue that shredding the waves can make you a gnarly skateboarder. The reasoning behind this claim is that both activities demand balance, coordination, and awareness of your body. Plus, both sports involve harnessing waves or waves of energy.

However, there are some significant differences between the two. Surfing requires more upper body strength than skateboarding, and salty water can take a toll on your skin and eyes, yikes!

So, can surfing make you a better skateboarder? It's not set in stone, but it's worth a shot! At the very least, it'll give you a better appreciation for waves - both in the sea and on the streets.

How Far Has Skateboarding Come?

Modern Skateboarding

Back in the day, skateboarding was a far cry from what it is today - with skaters forced to ride empty pools or DIY ramps without the luxury of X-Games, skateboarding magazines, or even video games to pass the time.

There wasn't such a think as a skate park - it was mostly street skateboarding back then. In fact, the first skate park, Surf City, didn't open until 1965. If you didn't like street skating you were pretty much out of luck.

Don't have a skateboard park nearby? We have you covered!

But boy oh boy, has the industry boomed since then! From Transworld Skateboarding to boatloads of online outlets and even Amazon getting in on the action, it's clear that skateboarding has become a bonafide phenomenon.

Even roller derby may have had a thing or two in common with freestyle skating back in the day, but now the sport has evolved into something truly unique - with professional skateboarders winning championships, hopping into snowboarding, and even selling more wheels than any other type in existence.

So whether you're playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater or catching Lords of Dogtown on the big screen, there's no denying that skateboarding, aka "Sidewalk Surfing" has gone mainstream - with everything from scooters to Street Skateboarding making it more accessible than ever before.

Wrapping Up

Well, there you go - a rundown of the roller-coaster history of skateboarding. Skateboards have gone from homemade planks to high-tech gear, and the industry has exploded like a ramp jump gone wrong.

While we appreciate the ocean and the mountains, there's nothing quite like cruising on a skateboard down the street.

Skateboarding FAQs

  1. Who invented the skateboard?

  • The skateboard was invented by surfers in California in the late 1940s.

  1. What is the purpose of a skateboard?

  • Skateboards are used for transportation, recreation, and sport.

  1. Is skateboarding dangerous?

  • Skateboarding can be dangerous, and riders are at risk of a variety of injuries. However, proper safety gear can help minimize the risk of injury.

  1. How has skateboarding influenced popular culture?

  • Skateboarding has influenced fashion, music, and art, and has provided an outlet for creative expression and individuality.

  1. Can anyone learn to skateboard?

  • Yes, anyone can learn to skateboard with practice and determination. However, it is important to start slow and use proper safety gear to minimize the risk of injury.

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