Essay

Who Really Invented the Skateboard and How Long Have Humans Been Using It?

Although they are widely used worldwide, skateboards originated on Californian streets. Ever wonder who created the skateboard and how long people have been riding them? The question of who created the first skateboard remains unanswered. It happened in the period spanning the 1940s to the 1950s. Skateboarding was developed as an indoor alternative to surfing in Southern California, the birthplace of the sport. Let’s examine the development of the skateboard from home-made creations made from disassembled roller skates fastened to wooden planks to popular sports.

Early Skateboards

Historians of skateboarding credit Bill Richards, the proprietor of North Hollywood’s Val Surf, one of the oldest skate, surf, and snowboard stores worldwide, with creating the first commercial skateboard. The Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Museum claims that Val Surf was the first skate shop ever established. The first commercial skateboard was made and sold by Bill and his son Mark. The board was a Chicago Roller Skate Company custom-built plank with wheels attached. For the roller skate maker, it was a first: they were the first company to sell skateboard parts commercially.

Skateboards had less design and were more basic before Richards created them, although his board had red paint on it. The Roller Derby #10, also known as the Richards skateboard, is available nationwide in drug and Val Surf stores. Because it made it possible for surfers to “surf” amid periods of flat waves, it was an enormous hit. The activity popularised by the invention is called “sidewalk surfing.” Skateboarders in the past would perform stunts all over their cities. They would build rudimentary ramps and tumble down sloping surfaces, such abandoned swimming pools, in the absence of skateparks.

When more young people took up skateboarding, the sport changed. The skateboard as we know it today was invented with assistance from other people. In his garage, surfboard manufacturer Larry Stevenson fashioned his own skateboard version of the design in the 1960s. The skateboards became popular after he advertised the kicktail in his publication Surf Guide.

Stevenson called the new business Makaha, after the famous surfing beach in Hawaii’s Oahu. With their greater manoeuvrability and clay wheels, Makaha skateboards were a revolutionary product. In 1969, he created a revolutionary curved rear skateboard known as the kicktail. The new design allowed skateboarders to do a motion popular in contemporary skate culture—kicking or launching the board with their feet. In Hermosa Beach, California, Stevenson even set up the initial skating exhibitions at Pier Avenue Junior High School. Skateboarding evolved and became more popular across the nation, attracting professional teams and more competitions.

Evolution of Skateboard Design

Early skateboarders compared the sport to surfing in order to convey their sense of exhilaration and freedom. The term “skateboarding” gained traction as the sport gained popularity, eventually defining its style and community. It quickly developed into a subculture that stands for creativity, disobedience, and liberty. Like it changed, the skateboard industry did too.

In the early days of the sport, there weren’t many options for skateboard wheels—the only possibilities were clay or metal roller skate wheels. Every substance had drawbacks. The skater would slide because the clay wheels were not durable enough and the metal wheels did not have enough traction. Then, Frank Nasworthy gave a skateboard some urethane wheels, which served as the inspiration for his next business endeavour, Cadillac Wheel Company. More traction, grip, and control were available to the skater with the urethane wheels, particularly when performing tricks. Urethane wheels are now considered standard.

When polyurethane wheels were available, the competition to improve the skateboarding experience erupted. Both skaters and manufacturers were looking for increases in weight, flexibility, and manoeuvrability. Axles, locknuts, and other pieces were changed to provide the skateboard better control and increased dynamic performance. Additionally, businesses addressed grip, a significant issue among skateboarders. Before grip tape was developed, early remedies included surf wax and Slip Check anti-slip spray, among other substances. The rough, gritted surface of the tape made it easy for riders’ shoes to “grip” the board.

Deck Improvements

The Hobie Skateboard was one of the most well-liked early skateboards with a wood design. Makers of skateboards would nevertheless experiment with new materials including fibreglass, carbon fibre, and plastic. After the initial attempts at deck reinvention failed, the wooden deck made a comeback, but this time it was stronger thanks to layers of wood.

The Birth of Skateparks

City officials began to receive complaints about sidewalk damage and the risks associated with skateboarding as the activity gained popularity. Due to California’s prohibition on filled backyard swimming pools, skateboarders began to use the empty concrete shells as a jumping platform in the 1970s. Notwithstanding criticism, the establishment of skateparks across the nation contributed to the growing popularity of skateboarding. In 1965, Tucson, Arizona’s Surf City became the nation’s first skatepark. However, by 1982, there were more than 2,000 skateparks in the US. They were open areas with rails, bowls, and other features that provided unlimited opportunities for skating.

Tricks of the Trade

New tricks gave lead to new terrain to explore. It introduced the “ollie,” a manoeuvre in which the rider and the board both soar through the air without using hands. The first flatground ollie and several more tricks, including the 360-flip, were created by Rodney Mullen as a result of this ollie. Ingenious skaters showcased their talents on the streets and in skateparks when there weren’t any. They bounced off city buildings, picnic tables, and monuments.

Revising the Skateboard

The result of all these feats and street skating was another iteration of the skateboard, but smaller in size. To make landings after ollies and other aerial tricks easier, the skateboard’s 10-inch width was reduced to seven or eight inches. Labels indicating wheel hardness changed the wheel size, giving the skateboard market more alternatives.

Socio-Cultural Impact

Although the original inventor of the skateboard is unknown, numerous people contributed to its development. Nowadays, skateboarding is a major part of culture. skating has evolved from a sport to a way of life, thanks to the growth of legendary brands like Vans and skating personalities like Bart Simpson from “The Simpsons” and Marty McFly from “Back to the Future.”

Skateboarding saw a meteoric rise in popularity in the 2000s. Athlete Tony Hawk and other trailblazers rose above the ordinary to become celebrities, and in 2020 Hawk’s action video game Pro Skater went on to become one of the all-time best-selling titles in video games. Skateboarding debuted at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in the same year. Skateboarding’s cultural significance, from “street surfing” to its inclusion as an official Olympic sport, was the result of decades of joint effort.