Last modified on August 22, 2016, at 17:44


Skateboarding is by some considered a sport, by others an art.

Invented in the early 1970s skateboarding became a way to practice surfing in the off-season. From there, it only progressed to become what it is today.

In 1998, the New York Times reported that skateboarding was "the fastest-growing sport in America."[1]

Skateboards and the public

An all-too-typical sign from a town determined to protect its citizens from the evils of... frisbees?

Skateboarding is usually regulated by local ordinances; "the laws" governing skateboarding vary from town to town.

Unfortunately some believed it was an unlawful thing and therefore the sport/art was despised by so many. However, it has come to be quite the opposite being one of the most common sport/art practiced today.

The first mention of the word "skateboard" in The New York Times is a 1965 story, "Montclair Official Plans an Ordinance to Ban Skateboards"[2] calling it "the latest juvenile fad on wheels" and quoting an official as saying "These devices are most dangerous... because of their speed on inclines and the difficulty in controlling them."

The early skateboard was referred to as a "banana board" for it's shape and bright, yellow plastic deck. Stacy Peralta was a pioneer of skateboarding in the Cailfornia Bay area in the 70's. He later teamed up with George Powell to create Powell-Peralta, the legendary skateboarding monolith that cultivated early skating powerhouses such as Mike McGill, inventor of the McTwist (a 540 degree aerial maneuver performed on a vert ramp) and Tony Hawk, who ultimately propelled skateboarding to the commercial success it eventually became.

Through touring and local "demos," professional skateboarders cultivated a massive following and utilized varying media, including magazines such as Thrasher and Transworld, in addition to SK8 TV (which aired for a brief time in the early 1990s on the cable channel Nickelodeon) and the 1987 cult classic film "Gleaming the Cube," starring Christian Slater as a rebellious teen, who uses skateboarding as the vehicle to change himself, while locating his brother's murderer.

Mike McGill is Mr. Slater's stunt double and Tony Hawk, among several other skaters, makes a cameo appearance as a Pizza Hut truck driver.

Upon the first wave of commercialism to hit skateboarding, the introduction of public skateparks became increasingly common. With the new terrain available to a wider populous of skateboarding youth, more and more amateur skateboarders entered the scene and challenged the monopoly of skateboarding companies such as Powell Peralta, World Industries (headed by Skateboarding mogul Steve Rocco) H-Street, Santa Cruz and Vision.

With more amateur skateboarders, there sprang up amateur skateboarding companies, such as Arise, a Christian Skateboarding Company, that enjoyed relatively far-reaching underground success. But without the distribution capability, Arise faded away. The youth still clamored for less of a "corporate" approach to skateboarding paving the way a new generation of companies to challenge the status quo.

From the larger companies sprang subsidiaries and offshoots such as Blind (a subtle jab at Vision) headed by Mark Gonzalez and Jason Lee as well as Plan B. In 1992, these two companies arguably changed the face of skateboarding forever with the release of two skate videos entitled "Video Days" and "The Questionable Video". These videos featured professional skateboarders defying the very laws of physics and popularized the use of music other than punk, hard-core and heavy metal. Skateboarding then became what the iconoclastic founders feared the most "trendy".

As skateboarding remains no exception to the rules of free market economics, the 1990s saw hundreds of companies enter the trend and subsequently die out.

Currently, skateboarding has entered the mainstream of youth pop culture with video games and televised commercials featuring the art. Public skateparks have sprung up, especially in the North East, where it was never dreamed they would. Skateparks are generally comprised of several concrete "mini-ramps," as opposed to "vert ramps" (or those ramps, which contain a vertical section beneath the coping).

Bases for Criticism

Skate Wax

Skateboarders have been known to apply layers of slippery wax to surfaces to facilitate their boards sliding or grinding over the surface. The wax eases the friction between the wood or metal on the concrete. There are two main types of wax, the first is known as "Beeswax" originally used for surfing to make the board more adhesive for a surfer's feet. The second comes from ordinary household candles. Although the waxing of curbs has been alleged to cause accident and injury to innocent pedestrians who have slipped on surfaces, there are no documented incidents of these accidents as the surface is actually made stickier when the wax is applied. Skate wax is also notoriously difficult and expensive to clean from porous surfaces once applied and can easily be spotted from a distance, causing skaters to gravitate toward the area.

Property Damage

The act of sliding or grinding an obstacle such as stone or concrete stairs, or handrails, is known to cause serious damage very quickly. Skateboarders who cause such damage typically will vacate the vandalized area in search of another piece of someone else's property which they might be able to destroy.


Some skateboarders are known to spray graffiti in places where they like to frequently skate. Skateparks are sometimes covered on all surfaces by graffiti sometimes depicting satanist or antisocial imagery or offensive slogans and captions. This began in the early 1980s and stayed within a tiny minority of the skateboarding population, who listened to heavy metal bands including Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. The perception of a link between satanism and cults with skateboarding became so prevalent, it was later mocked by the skateboarding populous in the late 1980s and early 1990s with skateboard graphics featuring Winnie the Pooh with sunglasses, devilish horns and a trident on skateboard company World Industries' owner Steve Rocco's deck and T-shirt. Other common themes and images included "ending racism" as scrawled on the bottom of professional skateboarder Tommy Guerrero in the 1989 Powell Peralta video "Ban This." Many abandoned concrete pools were generally painted with spray paint by both frequent skaters and graffiti "artists" who had nothing to do with the sport. Concrete is generally considered by graffiti artists, taggers and vandals as the best surface on which to spray paint as wood or plastic causes heavy dripping for the thin aerosol-based coloring.

All three of these methods of property destruction can be classified as vandalism, a crime.


Helmets should be worn. Skateboarder Tony Hawk notes

I wear helmets for protection after being knocked unconscious more than six times in my career. You never know what can happen, especially when you're starting out. I could have easily died without one.[3]

The National Safety Council notes:

  • Never ride in the street.
  • Don’t take chances. Complicated tricks require careful practice and a specially designed area. Only one person per skateboard. Never hitch a ride from a car, bus, truck, bicycle, etc.
  • Learning how to fall in case of an accident may help reduce your chances of being seriously injured. If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so that you will not have so far to fall. In a fall, try to land on the fleshy parts of your body. If you fall, try to roll rather than absorb the force with your arms. Even though it may be difficult, during a fall try to relax your body rather than stiffen.[4]

You should also wear wrist, knee, elbow, and ankle guards all the time to prevent harmful injury

Notes and references

  1. "New England Tries to Adapt to Sound of Skateboards," The New York Times, October 18, 1998, p. 33
  2. "Montclair Official Plans an Ordinance to Ban Skateboards", The New York Times, April 29, 1965, p. 37
  4. Skateboarding Safety