History Of Skateboarding

Skateboarding History

Skateboarding is an extremely popular board sport worldwide, and is an Olympic sport as of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. It was developed relatively recently, with the first versions of a skateboard having debuted in the 1950s. Read on to learn more about skateboarding and its short but rich history.


Skateboarding History

Skateboarding is a relatively young sport when compared to other sports such as football or basketball, but its history still runs deep. Competitive skateboarding was first founded in 1963 when the first-ever competition was held in Hermosa Beach. It became so popular that over 50 million boards were sold in that same year. 

In 1966, skateboarding's fresh surge in popularity dropped because people were concerned about their children’s safety. Few competitors wore helmets, and the wheels were made out of clay or metal, so they skidded easily. However, in 1972, Frank Nasworthy, a young surfer at the time, created wheels that allowed for better grip, a model that skaters currently use to this day. 

This new model of skating allowed people to safely skate in more areas, such as swimming pools, which they began doing in 1976 to preserve water during a series of droughts that were hitting California. This period was when the aerial was first born. Santa Monica skater, Tony Alva, discovered that you could ride up the side of the pool and do a 180-degree flip in the air while coming back down in the opposite direction. 

In 1978, Alan Gelfand created the ollie: a trick where he jumped with his board in a way that made it look like it was attached to his feet. This revolutionized the way people skated and became the foundation for most complicated flip tricks seen in contemporary skateboarding. In the 1980s, new board shapes were also developed, so skaters could overcome different obstacles and customize their rides. 

Almost two decades later, in 1995, the X-Games were founded. This began the era of televised skateboarding and widely popularized the sport beyond the east coast. Street skateboarding also became very popular as the sport became a subject of pop culture and entered the mainstream. 

The 21st century brought the most growth to the skateboarding industry. In 2010, Street League Skateboarding was founded and street skaters suddenly had a universal format in which to compete against other skaters across the nation. There are now over 20 million skateboarders worldwide, and that number continues to grow. 

Which Country Started Skateboarding?

Skateboarding was invented in the United States, specifically by Southern California surfers who wanted to surf on flat land. Popular sporting events that have skateboarding competitions, such as the X-Games and Street League Skating, were also founded in the United States. The first X-Games were held in Rhode Island in 1995. In 2010, Street League Skateboarding was founded by professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, who wanted to grow the street skateboarding community. 

Who Invented Skateboarding?

Bill Richards invented the modern skateboard in 1958 when he attached rollerblading wheels to a wooden board. This was called the Roller Derby Skateboard, and it went on sale in 1959. These were extremely thick boards with narrow trucks and clay wheels. These boards were not nearly as safe as contemporary skateboards because they lacked quality grip.

Larry Stevenson is another skateboard inventor who innovated the industry. He invented the kicktail in 1969, which allowed skaters to have more control and perform tricks. His company, Makaha, was one of the first companies to use clay wheels instead of metal wheels. This allowed people to maneuver better on their board.

In the late 1970s, Alan Gelfand invented the ollie. This allows skateboarders to jump while on the board and is a fundamental aspect of almost any modern skateboarding trick you learn. These inventors and innovators each helped shape and shift skateboarding to what it is today.

When was Skateboarding Established?

The first-ever skateboarding competition was created in 1963 by Makaha, Larry Stevenson’s skateboarding company. About 100 competitors came out to Hermosa Beach, California, and Makaha was the first to sponsor a team.

Competitions consisted of skaters participating in the freestyle or downhill events. In the downhill event, skaters had to weave in and around cones on a steep hill, and the person with the fastest time was the winner. Thanks largely to the popularity of this competition, attendees later formed the first skateboarding magazine, The Quarterly Skateboarder.

In that same year, Makaha also made the first professional skateboard and named it after Phil Edwards, a legendary surfer. Since skateboarding began as an extension of surfers, most of the first great skateboarders were also master surfers. Two years later, the first National Skateboard Championship aired on ABC.

People in these early competitions rode very thin boards with primitive wheels, so it was extremely hard to maneuver. In 1969, Larry Stevenson corrected this by inventing the kicktail skateboard so that skaters could shift and maneuver better.

Skateboarding first became popular in the 1950s and 1960s when surfers wanted to surf when the waves were not so great. As a result, “sidewalk surfing” emerged with the invention of skateboards. Eventually, it grew so much in popularity that skateboard companies such as Makaha were formed, and by 1963, over 50 million skateboards had been sold.

Skateboarding experienced multiple downturns in popularity throughout its history, usually due to it being widely considered a dangerous sport with high risks of injury. However, the sport never died out and adapted during these downturns. Skateboarding experienced massive growth with the introduction of the X-Games in 1995 and along with the rise of international skateboarding superstars like Tony Hawk.

Skateboarding Timeline

  • 1950: Surfers in Southern California have the idea of “surfing on land,” and build homemade early versions of the skateboard
  • 1958: Bill Richards invents the first skateboard to be sold
  • 1963: Over 50 million skateboards had been sold
  • 1969: Larry Stevenson invents the kicktail
  • 1972: Frank Nasworthy revives skateboarding by inventing the urethane skateboard wheel, which allowed for more grip and safer skateboarding
  • 1976: Tony Alva and the Zephyr Competition Team invent the aerial
  • 1978: Alan “Ollie” Gelfand invents the “ollie”
  • 1995: The first X-Games are held in Rhode Island
  • 2010: Rob Dyrdek founds Street League Skateboarding
  • 2021: Skateboarding makes its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games

Key Facts

  • At first, skateboarding was referred to as “sidewalk surfing”
  • The first skateboard was made out of wood and old rollerblading wheels. 
  • Skateboarding was founded in California
  • Skateboarding is most popular in the United States and Spain
  • Larry Stevenson held the first-ever skateboarding competition in Hermosa Beach, California

FAQ

When was skateboarding invented?

Skateboarding was originally practiced by Southern California surfers in the 1950s looking to “surf on land” when the waves were mild. They would attach roller skate wheels to the bottom of wooden boards, and pioneered early versions of what would become the modern skateboard. Bill Richards built the first skateboard to be sold in 1958 and is credited as the inventor of the skateboard. The skateboard has continued to evolve over time, but still share the same basic features outlined by Richards.

Who created skateboarding?

Skateboarding was first invented by surfers looking for a way to surf when wave conditions were flat. For this reason, the first form of skateboarding was actually known as “sidewalk surfing” and the majority of the first great skateboarders were also competitive surfers as well. Before Bill Richards invented the first skateboard, these athletes used planks of wood with roller skates glued to the bottom.

Who made the first skateboard?

Though surfers were already skating on wood with roller skates attached, the first official skateboard sold was made by Bill Richards in 1958. This was called the Roller Derby Skateboard. Five years later, Larry Stevenson created Makhana, the first official skateboarding company, and began making skateboards that were safer and easier to maneuver.