Skateboarding was first started in the 1950s, when all across California surfers got the idea of trying to surf the streets. No one really knows who made the first board — instead, it seems that several people came up with similar ideas at the same time. Several people have claimed to have invented the skateboard first, but nothing can be proved, and skateboarding remains a strange spontaneous creation.
These first skateboarders started with wooden boxes or boards with roller skate wheels slapped on the bottom. Like you might imagine, a lot of people got hurt in skateboarding’s early years! It was a sport just being born and discovered, so anything went. The boxes turned into planks, and eventually companies were producing decks of pressed layers of wood — similar to the skateboard decks of today. During this time, skateboarding was seen as something to do for fun after surfing.
In 1963, skateboarding was at a peak of popularity, and companies like Jack’s, Hobie and Makaha started holding skateboarding competitions. At this time, skateboarding was mostly either downhill slalom or freestyle. Torger Johnson, Woody Woodward and Danny Berer were some well known skateboarders at this time, but what they did looked almost completely different from what skateboarding looks like today! Their style of skateboarding, called “freestyle”, is more like dancing ballet or ice skating with a skateboard.
Then, in 1965, skateboarding’s popularity suddenly crashed. Most people assumed that skateboarding was a fad that had died out, like the hoola hoop. Skateboard companies folded, and people who wanted to skate had to make their own skateboards again from scratch.
But people still skated, even though parts were hard to find and boards were home made. Skaters were using clay wheels for their boards, which was extremely dangerous and hard to control. But then in 1972, Frank Nasworthy invented urethane skateboard wheels, which are similar to what most skaters use today. His company was called Cadillac Wheels, and the invention sparked new interest in skateboarding among surfers and other young people.
In the spring of 1975, skateboarding took an evolutionary boost toward the sport that we see today. In Del Mar, California a slalom and freestyle contest was held at the Ocean Festival. That day, the Zephyr team showed the world what skateboarding could be. They rode their boards like no one had in the public eye, low and smooth, and skateboarding was taken from being a hobby to something serious and exciting. The Zephyr team had many members, but the most famous are Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta.