The story of skateboards

Roller boards have existed for a long time. Information about their various modifications can be found in old photographs and in patents from the end of the X! X century. They were a children’s toy, they made craftsmanship on their own or in small volumes by craftsmen for marketing.
USA, 1947
Skateboarding. Washington, 1922

Skateboarding, as a mass phenomenon, originated in California, the USA, in the fifties of the last century, in the wake of the popularity of surfing. The owner of the surf shop “Val Surf” Bill Richard (Bill Richard) from Southern California drew attention to surfers who, during periods of absence of a wave, while away time on land and fitted their wheels to the boards. Realizing that you could make money on this, Richard ordered the company that produced roller skates to make smooth wooden boards for him, equipped with wheels from roller skates. In 1959, the first Roller Derby skateboard appeared on sale.

It remotely resembled what we used to call a board in our time. The similarity was only in the presence of wheels, which were then metal, and a deck, which was an ordinary board without bends, about 24 ‘’ (60 cm) long. Initially, skateboarding was called “sidewalk surfing” (sidewalk surfing). Many teenagers became interested in skateboarding, perceiving the “board with wheels” only as a means of transportation. They went on skateboards to school, the beach, etc. It was necessary to be able to do a little — just steadily stand on the board and go around obstacles.

How to make a skateboard yourself (Petersens Surfing Yearbook, 1964).

The first one to take seriously the newfangled trend of youth culture is Larry Stevenson, who at that time published the Surf Guide magazine and made surfboards under the Makaha brand in his garage. It was he who, in the sixties, began to actively promote the newly made sport to the masses, which, in his opinion, was to become popular in continental areas where there is no sea and waves.

In 1963, Stevenson created Makaha and designed the first professional skateboard (the first batch was 74 pieces). It is believed that this was the impetus for the competition in skateboarding among adolescents.

Skateboard Makaha “Molokai” with rubber wheels. 1963 g | Larry Stevenson

The first competition took place at Pier Avenue near the Junior High School in Hermosa, California. Gradually, skateboard teams began to appear.

Danny Bearer skater of the first team of Makaha

Skateboarding gradually gained momentum, and in 1964 the first Skateboarder magazine appeared, which was founded by the guys from Surfer magazine.

In the same year, the first skateboard company was formed — Hobie skateboards, founded by Hobie Alter, a former surf star. He was the first to promote riding on the streets.

The mid-sixties is the peak of the popularity of skateboarding. Over the past three years, Makaha has sold more than 50 million boards. In every California city, you could see a teenager with a skateboard.

Larry Stevenson and Makaha were the first to use the striped deck, rubber wheels and the first to make a 33 ‘’ longboard.

The wave of popularity has been replaced by a wave of decline. This was due to a large number of injuries and even deaths among skaters. Then there was no special protection, no special shoes. We rode like a surf — barefoot and in “Bermuda”.

The California Medical Association has called this sport a “new medical hazard.” Many government officials and organizations are beginning to denounce skateboarding as dangerous, urging stores not to sell, and parents not to buy skateboards for children. Many cities are beginning to ban skateboarding on the streets. Popularity is fading, skateboarding is declining sharply, manufacturing companies are suffering big losses.

In 1966, the first skate park was opened in Anaheim, sponsored by Hobie and Vita Pakt.
In 1969, Larry Stevenson patented the kicktail (Patent US # 3,565,454) as a device giving greater control over the rider board. This invention later became a device for performing stunts. Stevenson also owns the invention of a two-kicktail skateboard.

The first model with a kicktail 1971

Second rebirth

Wheels (Cadillac Wheels)

Many companies began to produce pendants specifically for skateboards, modifying and improving them. Bennet and Tracker have designed a new type of suspension that makes skateboarding more professional. There were ideas for improving bearings and suspensions, thanks to which it was possible to make grinds.

Skateboarder Magazine opens America to riders like Bruce Logan

Russ Howell, Stacy Peralta, Tom Sims and Greg Weaver. Many of them later founded their own companies, such as Vision / Sims and Powell Peralta. Now every skater wanted to ride like them and be as famous.
In the mid-seventies, a real estate crisis hit the United States, and hundreds of homes and pools were abandoned. For swimming on the board, these pools were very convenient because they had rounded walls. So the new Pool Skating style was born, i.e. swimming in the pool, a little later they began to build ramps, which gave rise to vert-skateboarding (ramp riding).

Pool skating 1975. Photo by Hugh Holland.

In 1976, the first professional skatepark was built in Florida, which made it possible to ride the board in any weather. The boards became wider, which allowed skaters to make tricks easier and more stable. There are more and more different tricks, and as a result, there is a greater interest in skating.

Then came a turning point in the history of skateboard, which forever separated skate from surf. At the very end of the 70s, a guy from Florida named Alan “Olli” Gelfand invented a new trick — he will soon be called “allies”. He snapped the tail on the ground and bounced, while sliding the front foot of the brace. He jumped over immovable objects such as benches and walls. Why surf on the pavement when you can fly?

Perhaps this discovery led to the fact that the skateboard died a second time. Fearing constant crippling and subsequent trials, city governments began to ban skateboarding on the streets. In some places, skateboarding has even become illegal. The cost of health insurance has also increased dramatically. Attendance at the skate park began to decline and parks began to close. Many skate parks and skateboard companies have closed … By the mid-80s, all parks had been closed in California, the birthplace of skateboards.

But skateboarding did not die, it was reborn again, and again in a new quality. Due to the closure of skate parks, the most persistent skaters who could not remain without their favorite sport took to the streets, using city landscapes and obstacles such as curbs, drainage ditches, park benches, stairs, fountains, and handrails for skiing. This is how street skateboarding came about.

Sketboarding in the 80s

In 1981, the new Thrasher magazine published an article on small cash-prize-winning skateboarding competitions. This was the reason for the next revival of skateboarding. A year later, Tony Hawk wins his first competition at the Del Mar Skate Ranch.

Later he became the world champion in vertical skateboarding, and now he is a living legend. He came up with many tricks, some of which to this day only he can perform.

1983 brought America one of the most popular skateboard magazines, Transworld Skateboarding. For the first time, a magazine of this kind could be subscribed. In 1984, the skateboard company Powell Peralta released the first skateboard video, Bones Brigade.

In the mid-eighties, shoes and clothes for skateboarding Airwalk, Vans, Vision / Sims, Santa Cruz appeared. Now skaters dressed in clothes with logos of skate brands and skated in shoes specially designed for skateboarding. Infusions of business and advertising significantly increased prize fees, and sponsorship contracts allowed professional skaters to earn good money.

By the end of the 80s, many skaters began to leave their sponsors in order to open their own companies. One of the first such people was Steve Rocco, who founded World Industries. It was Steve and several of his friends who gave rise to the “new school” of skateboarding, based on allies, flips and technical tricks.

Fourth wave

In the early 90s, a wave of setbacks and an economic crisis came again, as a result of which many small companies ceased to exist.

In 1992, another skateboard magazine appeared — Big Brother, known for its extraordinary presentation of material to readers and articles such as “How to commit suicide.” In 1995, the fourth and final wave of popularity swept the world, which continues to this day. The reason for this wave was Extreme Games — a kind of “Olympic Games of the new generation.”

Skateboarding was further promoted by the emergence of specialized TV channels about extreme sports: Extreme Sports Channel (1999), Massive-Sports TV, Boardriders TV, Skateboard TV and others. A wave of skateboarding has swept the whole world and skate has become one of the most popular extreme sports.

A very interesting change in the skateboard can be seen in Sean Cliver’s book The Disposable Skateboard Bible.

Sketboarding in the USSR and Russia

Unlike the historical homeland, the United States, skateboarding in the USSR appeared only in the late 70s — early 80s. This is primarily due to the “Iron Curtain” that separated our country from the capitalist world. If anything leaked through it, it was “bourgeois clothes” and “their music” imported by employees of diplomatic missions and trade missions. In 1978, drawings of the “roller scooter” were published in №6 of the appendix to the journal “Young Technician”.

Drawings of “Roller Scooter” USSR

Interest was fueled by a demonstration in cinemas of American films about skaters: “Clash” (Thrashin ‘, 1986) and “Reaching the impossible” (Gleaming the Cube, 1989). Soviet cinema did not stand aside, showing skateboarding as a youth culture in the films Courier (1986) and Primorsky Boulevard (1989). Until the 90s, skateboarding in the USSR existed in the form of slalom, mainly due to the unsuitability of Soviet skateboards for other disciplines.


Skateboarders were fond of in large cities — in St. Petersburg, Saratov, Riga, Sevastopol, Yalta. Federations were created, competitions were held, mainly where skaters had connections in the governing bodies of the Komsomol. In 1989, a team of pro-skaters “THRASHER” visited Moscow.

Thrasher in Moscow near the University. 1989 Photo by Denis Markhasin

The Americans showed the real art of riding on boards, and in parting gave their equipment to Russian friends.




Do you need a thing with an individual design? send a sample of the pattern to me at

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

A Revisionist Look into Sickness and Health in African American History

The Death of King Edward II, 1327

Star Trek or US Space Force?

It is a threat to the Revolution

Sue Greenhagen Is Bringing The Dead Back To Life

How to Become a Tyrant teaches how to reach power

Image from the documentary series How to Become a Tyrant (Courtesy/Netflix)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Black Square Design

Black Square Design

Do you need a thing with an individual design? send a sample of the pattern to me at

More from Medium

Vancouver’s Newest Vintage Scene

Shoppers look through racks of clothing in an industrial-style building.

British Organization Provides Care Packages for Muslim Prisoners During Ramadan

The Kindly Ecosystem: making it easy to be kind

Why anyone who loves to write needs this magic tool in their life