Skateboarding: Surfing The Streets
Although no one has been credited with inventing skateboards is pretty certain that during the 1950s unknown surfers invented a way to surf on land. Perhaps needing to be able to surf when there were no waves or possibly creating a recreational diversion that could be enjoyed before or after a surfing trip, the first skateboards seem to have appeared in California during this time.
The original skateboards are generally accepted to have been skateboard wheels attached to the underside of a 70 cm long piece of 50 x 100 mm wood plank, and attached to the top side of this was a wooden box, possibly a fruit box or other box readily to hand and available on the streets.
As time progressed the boxes disappeared leaving only the plank of wood and the rollerskate wheels. As soon as the popularity reached a critical mass several companies started to produce boards made out of several layers of Maplewood glued together form a plywood skateboard. The sizes and shapes were varied but generally today's skateboards had been invented.
In the early 60s the hobby of "skateboarding" became so popular that some skateboard companies began organising competitions. The styles of expression by the borders would not really be recognised today as "real" skateboarding; it was much more of a freestyle, almost dancing/ballet expression by the competitor.
Like many crazes throughout the 20th century popularity peaked and then died off. Once the profit potential has lessened several companies reduce their production capacity and many closed for good. That is not to say that no one was boarding any more, just that the mainstream fad left the true proponents of the sport to continue using what ever equipment and components they could find.
At this time the least successful component was the wheels; apart from rollerskate wheels there were many wheels made of clay. It was well known that the clay wheels were prone to catastrophic failure, sometimes leading to serious injury. However in 1972 Frank Nasworthy is credited with inventing a wheel for skateboards made of urethane. This provided a boost to the popularity of the pastime, presumably removing some of the fear surrounding skating on clay wheels.
Although there were many influences during this time that can be seen in skateboarding today, in 1975 there was a slalom and freestyle contest in Del Mar California. It was at this event than an incredible team of skateboarders showed the world skills that had rarely been seen in public. The Zephyr team which consisted of many many members but famously included Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta. For those who know their skateboarding history these three names will always be associated with this sport changing event.
A bit like the Harlem globetrotters, the Zephyr team, with their incredible skills and somewhat individual style of dress helped skateboarding take on an alternative attitude to the status quo. This anti-establishment angle is an important part of the history of this great sport.
As we head into 1978 one final event brought this history into line with the modern skateboarding world. Alan Gelfand (Ollie) demonstrated a technique that one could reasonably argue underpins all tricks in the modern world of skateboarding. He pushed down on the tail of the skateboard at the same time jumped up in the air and then landed back on the skateboard, them both having left the ground and parted company in the air, and continued skateboarding. This trick was nicknamed an Ollie.
The world of modern skateboarding had been born.
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