Skateboarding goes back a lot farther than people might think. The roots of the sport can be traced back to roughly some point in the late 1940′s to the early 1950′s. It started as a past time for surfers when there were no good waves to ride. The early boards were home made creations made from boards or parts of wooden crates with the wheels off of roller skated placed on the bottom.
In the 1960′s a surf shop in Los Angeles, CA, created the first manufactured boards. Skateboarding enjoyed an early popularity from 1963 through 1965, but then died off around 1966. In part this was due to the unfortunate fact that at this time the available wheels to use were all made of clay which had the nasty tendency to stop very suddenly when they hit small rocks or other common minor obstacles found on roads and sidewalks.
However, in 1972 an invention was made that brought skateboarding back from the dead. The polyurethane wheel was developed by Frank Nasworthy who brought the Cadillac wheel to the market that year. Named Cadillac to express the vastly improved ride over the older clay wheels, the new wheels made such an improvement in traction and handling that it can be said that they might be the main reason skateboarding is still around to this day.
New materials weren’t just kept to the wheels though, the ’70′s also brought about a revolution in design for the decks too. Maple plywood was still the most common deck material, but aluminum and fiberglass entered the market too. Another design was the Banana Board, a board made of polypropylene with ribs on the bottom, this thin board was very flexible and came in a wide range of colors. Another innovation in board design was the creation of trucks (axles) designed specifically for skateboards.
With the new materials providing much more capable boards, much more elaborate tricks were developed by skateboarders. From the ’70′s, the Z-Boys are possibly the most famous skateboarders of the era. Sponsored by the Zephyr surf shop, which provided the Z in their name, they have had several documentaries and even a feature film created about them. They quite possibly are responsible for the trend of vert skateboarding when California was hit by a drought in 1976.
Due to the regulations during that time, home owners were unable to fill or maintain the water level in their in ground swimming pools and many of them sat empty. The Z-Boys noticed this and realized that an empty swimming pool could provide them with a new way to ride. Hunting down empty pools with no one at home, or eventually partially empty ones that they could drain, they created a new style that gave them more speed, and more control, and a whole new world of tricks that could be performed. Skateboarding as we know it now had been born in this outlaw environment, and that’s all before the eighties started.