The History of Skateboarding

The History of Skateboarding

In honoring the memory of one of the original Z-Boys, Jay Adams, here is a look at the sport he helped pioneer: skateboarding. Once an underground phenomenon, skateboarding is now a world renowned sport.

Jay Adams Photo courtesy of

Jay Adams Photo courtesy of

While no one can say for sure who came up with very first skateboard, its roots are buried in 1950s California, a time when surfing influenced the culture of the area. The early days of skateboarding were fueled by an energy and style that had been born out of the surfing culture. It faced an uncertainty where four wheels and a board could be taken.

1970s skateboard photo

While the 1960s saw a great decline in skateboarding, the 1970s provided some of the most important touchstones for the sport. Here are some of the most important milestones in the history of skateboarding:

Early 1970s: Cadillac Wheels started making wheels out of urethane, which became the new standard for skateboards, replacing clay wheels. These new wheels were safer and provided a standard of quality that has been improved upon to this day.

1975: The Zephyr team — better known as the Z-Boys —­­­­ debuted skateboarding style innovation that invigorated the sport and added a new interest into how skateboarding could reach a new potential. Members of the team included Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta.

In 1978: Alan Gelfand invented the Ollie, a skateboard trick where the rider and board leap in to the air without the use of the rider’s hands.

The late seventies were also a time when “vert” skateboarding was on the rise. Liability risks forced skate park closures, and once again, the interest in skateboarding declined.

The Oliie, Skateboard trick where the rider and board leap into the air without the use of the rider's hands


1984: The 1980s brought the invention of the VCR and with it, skateboarding came right into the living room. The Bones Brigade Video Show became the first of many skate videos that provided people a glimpse of skateboarding in a way they hadn’t seen before. The Bones Brigade team also featured a young Tony Hawk, a name that later became synonymous with skateboarding itself.

1989: Gleaming the Cube was released. The film features Christian Slater as a skateboarding teenager and included cameos from skaters like Tony Hawk, Mike McGill and Lance Mountain. Z-Boy Stacy Peralta served as the film’s skating technical advisor.

Early 1990s: A surge in popularity brought skateboarding to the forefront of underground culture. The growth in street skateboarding coincided with its induction into the punk rock culture, giving it an image that actively promoted an identity outside of mainstream.

Vintage Skateboards


1994: The World Cup Skateboarding organization became the host of the largest skateboarding contests in the world. Skateboarding was given a system in which a progression of skaters could be organized, which formed a means of measuring skaters’ skills from one event to the next.

1995: The very first X Games took place in Rhode Island, hosted by ESPN. The success of the X Games put skateboarding on the map in way it had never been before. Many nineties skateboard designs have been kept to this day.

Today, skateboarding is part of mainstream culture. The new millennium brought the creation of skateboarding video games and other forms of media, creating a rift in the underground skateboarding culture. However, skateboarding remains a popular sport/activity for people of all ages and skill levels.

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