The Skate Bible: Origins (1950 - 1975)
From wave to curb, ocean to concrete
Okay, so picture this. It's the early 1950's. You're in California standing over a golden beach and ocean of opportunity. You're clutching on to your surfboard with your soul in the sea and your eyes dazzling beneath the glimmer of the sun. But, those waves you're planning on riding – they're nowhere to be seen. The sea is settled and you're left wandering aimlessly with a thirst for the adrenaline coursing from the depths of the deep blue. You're drifting away into mindless boredom – and you need an escape. You need something fresh and exciting to kill the bad vibe and fill you with ecstasy.
So, what happens next? Do you call it a day and vanish into the shadows? Or do you create something new and experiment with the tools needed to build something never been seen before? Well, for the surfer kids in Cali back in the 50's – the latter was the blatant choice. And from those experimental methods and striking ambition came something that would change the world of extreme sports forever. For on that special day, skateboarding, was born.
Built with roller skate wheels plastered to a plank of wood or surfboard came the newfound sport called "sidewalk surfing". This sport stemmed from the same style as surfing, only on a much different type of terrain and a little more dangerous. Plus, with the pioneers of skateboarding being familiar with the surf tactics, it was not uncommon to "sidewalk surf" with bare feet and a pair of swim shorts. Kind of wild to think considering the safety precautions made in todays world, eh?
Sidewalk surfing became a hobby for when the waves were flat and local kids had nothing better to do to cure their boredom. It became something that would later revolutionise a sport and build on something that would eventually rock the world. But, at the time, the kids of Cali saw it as nothing more than a temporary game to keep their minds active.
As the early 1960's rolled in, the sport managed to capture the eye of various surfing shops dotted around Southern California. Because of this, the founders would begin constructing new ideas and shifting their focus on to building skateboards in order to promote the new and exciting hobby.
In 1963, the first skateboarding exhibition was held at the Pier Avenue Junior High School in Hermosa Beach, California. In the showcase, where surf shop owners displayed their tweaked surfboard models, a popular TV show titled "Surf's Up" captured the latest craze and featured it to the world. After this, skateboarding became rather fashionable, and between 1963 and 1965, Makaha Skateboards alone managed to accumulate over ten million dollars in sales. This is when skateboarding began to carve its presence in the very stone of California. And, from 1965 onwards, everybody lured towards the trend as if it was something otherworldly.
"Today's skateboarders are founders in this sport—they're pioneers—they are the first. There is no history in Skateboarding—its being made now—by you. The sport is being molded and we believe that doing the right thing now will lead to a bright future for the sport. Already, there are storm clouds on the horizon with opponents of the sport talking about ban and restriction." - The Quarterly Skateboarder, 1964.
Pushing on a few more years and the media had established a major concern over the extreme sport. And, even with newly sponsored locals touring the country in order to inform aspiring skaters the safety precautions needed before taking it up – sources still felt reluctant to promote it due to its dangerous nature. Because of this, shops started to remove skateboards from their shelves and parents felt the urge to reject skateboarding from their children's wish lists.
By 1966, sales had dropped drastically, and skateboarding became a passable trend which had already had its five minutes of fame. Skateboarding magazines stopped publishing, locals found other things to keep them busy, and the world evolving around the sport began to seek alternatives. This, sadly, was the first time in history where skateboarding as we know it came to a grinding halt.
However, thanks to an ambitious inventor, the wheels of motion began to roll once more in 1970. This is due to the development of polyurethane wheels for skateboards, which would look to replace the basic clay or metal ones. That might sound like a minor detail to most, but in the evolution of skating, it was this certain material that improved both traction and performance, and, would eventually become the sport standard.
1972 settled in, and soon enough promoters were looking to fuel the sport and bring it back for a second round. This meant new enthusiasts soon stepped forward and looked to build on skateboarding as a professional career. With that, California was back on the map and the place to be for skating. People were finding new light in the sport and willing to accept it as a craze that just wouldn't quit. Skating was reborn. And it was blowing up in the most glorious light one could imagine.
Local tournaments soon sprawled out across the country. Teams of skilled skaters were being formed to show off various talents. And, the media surrounding the controversy of skateboarding finally looked to embrace the hobby with a much more open mind than ever before. That's when, for most, skateboarding officially launched in the world of extreme sports.
1975 swung by, and skating wasn't just this childish pastime anymore. It was a passion fuelled by devoted people. It was far more than a Sunday afternoon pick-me-up. It was a way of life that people were quickly adapting to and making their own. And, as for the many, many layers slapped over the 1970's timeline of skate origins, well, there's plenty more to tell there. But, we'll come to that in the next chapter.
Are you ready for more?
NEXT UP: The Skate Bible: Origins (1975 - 1995)
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