A plank of wood with roller-skate wheels… the original skateboard was born in the 1940s to entertain Californian surfers when the waves were flat.
Skaters carved the urban landscape to emulate the feeling of riding a wave. Using the angles that hills, kerbs, and driveways provided, the surfers of California created the first-ever skateboarding experience known as ‘sidewalk surfing’.
As ‘sidewalk surfing’ gained traction, it began to evolve, abandoning its Californian confines as a wave rider’s pastime replacement. Grommets and enthusiasts began to explore the huge potential and aesthetic styles that could be produced by this plank of wood fitted with roller-skate wheels.
As the styles changed, the board changed. Moving on from the elegant street surfer the skateboard evolved into the classic shortboard that you think of when you read the word skateboard. This opened up a more aggressive style that took off in the nineties, as punk skate culture was born.
The likes of Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, and Bam Magera took skateboarding to the next level, and skaters ruled every aspect of the street. they could now ollie, kick, flip, shove, and grind the board in any way they wanted, attacking stairs, chairs, and rails. Everything concrete was now theirs.
Skateboarding was plastered all over pop culture, with punk music, magazines like Thrasher, and the Tony Hawk video game franchise showcasing the new rebellious and gritty culture.
Tricks became more and more complicated, Aaron “Jaws” Amoki jumping a flight of 25 stairs, Rodney Mullen’s reinvention of street-style skating, and Tony Hawk landing the first-ever 900 at the X Games.
So what happened? Why are fewer people skateboarding today? And why is it considered a dying sport?
Let’s drop into the 2000s. As each record was broken, the ceiling of the sport continued to rise, and soon it was nearly impossible to replicate anything the pros did. The encyclopedia of tricks became so technical that the dream of going pro was becoming further and further out of reach for the everyday skater.
Skateboarding had become too dangerous and challenging for new audiences, and with cultures shifting, punk was out, gnarly stacks had grown stale and skaters went back to surfing concrete on pennies and longboards.
But then, on the 29th of June 2007, childhoods were changed forever. Christmas mornings greeted kids with a new smartphone instead of a four-wheeled plank of wood, and the youth became obsessed. Fast forward 15-years, we’ve seen the release of countless consoles. I mean, we’re probably not far away from the release of the PS6. These devices created a new culture. A life that purely exists online.
These days, scooters and electric skateboards offer a simpler and safer alternative to skating. Instead of listening to punk, alternative kids listen to Tame Impala Currents. Add in the risk of being labeled a “softboi” and skating lacks allure for young generations.
But skating is sneaking its way back into pop culture. A remake of Tony Hawk pro skater was released last year and the Tokyo Olympics included skateboarding as an official Olympic sport. So maybe there’s hope yet for a skateboarding comeback.