From Sidewalk Surfing to Skateboarding to Longboarding – Some Longboard History
September 23, 2022
Sidewalk surfing was a combination of surfing and skateboarding. Sometimes surfers couldn’t practice surfing when the waters are quiet and the waves were very small. It has the same rolling motion and it mimicked the rolling waves of the ocean.
The plus side: you can do it anytime!
The surfers were still able to practice. The name sidewalk surfing got changed into skateboarding. Like Hawaii, skateboarding quickly became popular in California among surfers and teens. Over 50 million skateboards were sold in 1963.
The journey from skateboards to longboards
After sidewalk surfing/skateboarding got popular amongst the youth of America, skateboards evolved over the years and became shorter and wider for tricks. First skateboarding was made as a toy for kids, but when the kids grew up, the toy version became too small. Teenagers wanted a longer, smoother board and started to make them bigger. This was done mostly in their backyards. Early longboards were often made out of a plank of wood with old-fashioned roller skates or metal wheels. It wasn’t very strong, smooth and safe. As a result the sport longboarding and skateboarding declined tremendously, because people thought it was too dangerous.
But over the years, a small core of skaters were searching for a better, safer way to skateboard and metal wheels were replaced by clay wheels and trucks improved. But it was still an unsafe sport and popularity continued to declined.
Then the modern skateboarding and longboarding took off in 1973, also known as the second wave of the sport, when urethane wheels appeared.
Wheels, wheels, wheels… it’s all about the wheels
These wheels were smoother, safer, stronger, faster and had also more grip. With the new wheels skaters were able to do more than only flat terrain and some jumps.
It was crazy but on the rise…
The sport became more versatile and the popularity rose again. Instead of just flatland, you see freestyle, downhill and slalom too.
Bahne Cadillac was the first company that made urethane wheels that were sufficient for longboards and skateboards. After this, trucks were designed just for longboarding. They call it reverse kingpin trucks. Popular ones were (and still are) Tracker, Gullwing and Bennett.
The real explosion came when Tony Hawk and other celebrity boarders gained media attention through tricks and competition. Snowboarders started using longboards during the warmer months, so they were still able to practice. This made the popularity of the longboard rise again.
Did someone drain the pool?
One other style came out too that was called pool skating or pool surfing. Many surfers started longboarding and skateboarding in empty backyard pools. A drought in California made this happen.
Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Bruce Logan were put into many magazines and helped shape the sport. These pools were a forerunner for the modern skate parks. They were built all over the country. The first skate park was built in Florida. Many skate parks vanished in the 80’s because of the high insurance cost and lawsuits. Longboarding and skateboarding declined again.
It made a final comeback in 1993 and to this day longboarding and skateboarding are both very popular activities for young and old. Longboarders and skateboarders can be found on campuses, si dewalks, driveways and major competitions.
The gear keeps getting better, more durable and safer. Modern CNC machines (computerized machines) help to push the boundaries. Eco friendly materials as bamboo and composites like vinyl are starting to influence the never-ending change of the longboard gear. As people continue to innovate and see where new material can take them.