Photo by Mila Zasou

What can the history of skateboarding teach us?

I came across a video of a guy who owns 5000 vintage skateboards. The guy’s name is Todd Huber and he is a skateboard collector and founder of Skatelab, which is a museum, a shop and an indoor skatepark.

Here’s the video:

What was the most interesting to me was not the number of skateboards he had, but how much the history of skateboarding was present in the collection.

Because this sparked my interest, I did some reading. That is why I compiled a short history lesson for you guys. At the end, you’ll find some pointers of what I learned in the process of writing this article.

The 50s marked the invention of skateboarding. As a spontaneous movement of multiple people, kids started making their own skateboards from planks of wood, nailed with roller-skates. Back then, if you wanted one you had to make one and kids started messing around in their parent’s garages.

In 1957, Alf Jensen’s “Bun Board” was the first commercial skateboard to be produced. The number of boards sold was manageable, and the metal rollers mounted on this board never broke through. The board served as a model for the first skateboard that was produced in 1959 by the Californian company Roller Derby Skate in large numbers. ~ Alex Lenz in his upcoming book The Lost History of Longboarding

By the 60s, clay wheels got introduced and replaced the metal wheels used before. The trend of skateboarding was high, but it soon kinda died. You can imagine why – skating on clay composite wheels was probably horrendous.

Back then, skateboarding wasn’t considered a sport, nor a hobby, it was just something a few kids did and the majority of adults were not paying attention to it. Multiple companies at that time separated from skateboarding because too many kids got hurt and it wasn’t good for their image.

In 1964 Jim Fitzpatrick, the first member of Makaha Skateboard team, which at the time produced the clay-wheeled skateboards, went on a two-month tour, traveling all over Europe to promote skateboarding and his brand.

He was also the first person to skateboard underneath the Eiffel Tower. In an interview I found, he said he skated there for about an hour while people gathered around him in a circle clapping. Later he carried his board to the top of the tower. In the ”Cult of the longboard” article in Trasher July 1995 magazine issue the author mentions Fitzpatrick as someone who personally introduced skateboarding to Europe.

During the sixties, kids were skating barefoot as grip tape wasn’t yet invented. Some of the wooden boards had grooves for extra traction, but you guys can guess how little that helped. The Randy 720 was the first shoe designed for skateboarding back in 1965. But the evolution of skate shoes has its own history.

Around that time Patti McGee was featured on the cover of Life magazine, the first skate magazine popped up called SKATEBOARDER magazine (which only put our four issues, but got renamed and relaunched in 1975), people started skating pools, vert and the first skateboard organization was formed.

In contrast, many shops stopped selling skateboards as they were considered too dangerous by public officials and cities started banning skateboarding on the streets.

In ’69 Larry Stevenson, the founder of Makaha Skateboards mentioned above, patented the kicktail enabling the evolution of skate tricks we know today. He, however, didn’t get much out of it as only a few companies decided to pay the royalties. Because of this, his patent later got ruled as invalid.

By the early 70s, Frank Nasworthy introduced a small batch of the first urethane wheels named Cadillac Wheels. The Dogtown and Z Boys era began and Alan Gelfand performed and named the first ollie.

Thought the seventies trucks also got their prime time when Ron Bennett built one of the first trucks specifically designed for skateboarding. Freestyle and slalom was a popular thing and the invention of the Stoker trucks created something for downhill. With the invention of the reverse kingpin trucks in 1977, longboards were as stable than ever.

Dennis Shufeldt in 1975 photographed by Warren Bolster
Dennis Shufeldt in 1975 photographed by Warren Bolster

Based on the info I got from various sources, the sport split into two branches: skateboarding and longboarding somewhere around this time period.

The story returns back to Jim Fitzpatrick. He worked for Powell Peralta in the 80s and 90s on the Bones Brigade and with the invention of the VHS the first skate movies got recorded. He also worked as a writer and production assistant for what came to be known as “The Savannah Slamma,” produced by Thrasher Magazine.

In the early 90s longboarding took off as mass production of the boards started in the US. Around that time sub-disciplines like freestyle, slalom, long distance and downhill gained momentum.

With the invention of the  World Wide Web in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee the promotion of skateboarding soon wasn’t limited to the only word of mounth and printed magazines.

The bottom line

And what can we take out of this brief history lesson? Well, quite a few things actually…

Be an active member of the community.

The influence of skateboarding teams and individuals was huge. Skaters back then did skate demos, talked with people and portrayed the sport the best way they knew how. Like some brands and individuals do today, organizing skate sessions, beginner classes, longboard events, and other meet-ups, still has massive value.

Attending local and international events is also has importance. Normally this is the only way to skate in a controlled environment and push your limits without the risk of ongoing traffic. It’s also a great chance to meet other skaters and make new friends.

Promote responsible and safe skating

By putting out media, one can be responsible and educational by raising awareness about safety gear and skating within your limits. Posting videos of one nearly escaping a collision with a car might get a lot of views, but the bigger picture is more destructive than positive.

Connect with the media outlets you like

Why not can connect with and support the magazines, websites, and blogs you like? They are there to distribute and present your content, support the sport and present it in an objective manner to a wider public. If you want to promote longboarding to the masses, don’t just settle with your limited circle on socials.

Help and support beginners

Every skater also has a chance to educate others. So many times beginners bought a cheap longboard, road it once and then stopped because it wasn’t what they expected – just like the situation with the clay wheels.

Be open-minded and connect with others. If you have a newcomer on your local skate spot, teach him/her a thing or two so they get a push in the right direction. With the basics, they can start practicing on their own just like you did and actually learn a lot faster.

Together we can provide a positive environment without hate or judgment and show newcomers and the general public that longboarding is not as dangerous and as lawless as it looks at a first glance.

Bowl under construction in Lombok, Indonesia.

The Power of Sharing – Building a bowl in Lombok, Indonesia

Wherever you go, there´s always somebody with a dream. However, sometimes there are only a few chances to turn someone’s dream into reality. “Sharing is the best way to make the chance bigger” said some friend to me while we were chilling in a small bar.

This is his experience with his dream of supporting skateboarders building a bowl in his home country Indonesia while living in Germany.

Bowl under construction in Lombok, Indonesia.
Bowl under construction in Lombok, Indonesia.

He collected old stuff from his German friends and tried to sell it to make money for the bowl´s construction and send the rest that couldn’t be sold to Indonesia.

He tried, but failed. Bureaucracy and distance made it impossible. He tried again, but the results was still not satisfying.

He was sad, but with every trial and tribulation, he started to become aware that he is not alone out there, and that there would always be someone to help realise his dream. Someone he just had to find.

Eventually he met this person. Her name is Dina.

It all started with a jam session in a small park. Then they became friends, spending every session on the hill together, talking during the breaks in which he told her about his country, until he finally revealed his dream.

After he’d shared the project and she got involved in the workflow, everything went well.

She did anything possible to raise funds. She sold her BMX, skateboard, longboard stuff & spare car parts and collected donations from local longboard businesses, like quinboards and Concrete Wave Cologne skate shop.

She collected anything from friends and her family that she could sell and of course she was asking for donations in several events like ISPO, Insul Race, etc.

Heavy rain filled up the bowl with muddy water.
Heavy rain filled up the bowl with muddy water.

Even her grandmother chipped in with some cash. Grandmas are the best. We know, it is not easy, it takes time, effort, patience and loyalty, things that I experienced, though not comparable to what she did.

One time she complained to me, “This sucks! I’m trying to sell a set of used wheels for 5 Euros, but prospective buyers still try to bargain the price by asking me : Does the price include postage?” Though life.

But, she kept doing it!

So, finally,  with the help from a local skateboard pioneer, Ozzie Anwar, who gave his land for the bowl location, the constructs started in the end of 2016.

Stoked kid shredding the half finished bowl in Lombok, Indonesia.
Stoked kid shredding the half finished bowl in Lombok, Indonesia.

Amazing.

Since then, he named the project “Project Love”. Just because she has done and still does everything based on love. This will be her third time to visit his country. Still with the same mission. To show her love for Indonesia and the local Skateboard scene. She´s on a special mission to finish this Project.

After hours of talks & glasses of beer, he ends our conversation with wonderful words, “Dreaming & sharing are two things with which everybody in this world can accomplish any task, no exceptions. So keep dreaming ‘n sharing it”.

So, I share this friends story to you all, to inspiring all of us. Share it, if you’re inspired 🙂

For traveller who’s gonna visit Indonesia, the bowl location is in Lombok, anyway, come over feel the warm people on the hot island!

Dina with Indonesian kids.
Dina with the Indonesian kids excited about skateboarding.

Update: Dina’s last post before flying

“I’m packing my bags for the trip to Indonesia and taking 1630 EUR with me! Folks, you’re awesome! Thank you so much for any donation, each wheel, anything you bought from me! For one year I’ve been selling any kind of stuff and all together collected 2494 EUR and had the pleasure to deal with kind-hearted and some pretty dimwitted buyers as well. Now the bowl not only is getting done, some money will be left over and a roof or something else supportive can be built as well.

One question I don’t want to hear anytime soon Did you send the package already? I definitely need a break from selling. 16th March is starting time, pictures will follow. Last but not least, THANKS!”

Living Room Bowl

Opening of the Living Room Bowl in a 400 years old house across the Pogo farm

Few days ago, on November 21st, I was working late into a night when a chat window popped out at 3:50 am. It was Reinhold (Skoa Trucks), replying to a message I sent him earlier that evening. He was saying “Hi! Sorry that I haven’t got much time… I was helping a friend to get his bowl inside a 400 years old house ready for the opening today… Its now 3.50 o’clock and we are done!!!“.

There you have it! The opening party video 🙂 Watch it and if you are interested to see more photos of the bowl in the making as well as some more shots from the party, check out Confusion Magazine’s post here.

Congrats to Pogo crew for such a cool project! Looks like the guys ‘n gals are going to have a place to play during this cold winter. Have fun!