For those of us who grew up in the 80s, arguably the golden dawn of the sport, Skateboarding can be traced back through our culture as a movement that split into two veins: trick riders and street riders. Though the sport itself finds its origins in post-WWII California, it has roots that appear to stem from all over the world. For the last 30 years we have seen skateboarding permeate popular culture, moving from a sport practiced by a selective few to a worldwide phenomenon.
I started riding when I was just six years old, in Hespeler, Ontario. A thin “banana board” was my weapon of choice, and led to no fewer than three stitches across my relatively tiny chin when I took a faceplant after handling a hill the wrong way. Skateboarding may have started with surfers who were looking for things to do on days where the waves were flat, it still isn’t much consolation when you’re hitting the pavement faster than you should. That said, before we get into the thick of things, if you’re skating for the first time please a) check with a physician to see if this kind of activity is appropriate for you, and b) secure some safety gear like kneepads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a helmet.
Skateboards have a long and storied history; we’ve already talked about how skateboarding as a cultural movement found its roots in California, but there are records of kids bolting roller-skate wheels onto the bottom of boards and crates as far back as 1945. The evolution of the board from the 40s through the 80s saw a mixed of hard, flexible, and soft woods used in an effort to find the perfect deck. Much as surf boards have evolved with technology, so too have skateboards changed, with materials like maple, polyurethane, rubber, steel, and aluminum coming together to create products that were unique in prototype, but ubiquitous after being adopted by the skateboarding world.
Every piece of the board has been revolutionized in the past 30 years. Even something as simple as the shoes that skaters wear have evolved from no shoes at all to specific shoe types. If you’ve never owned a pair of Vans, you may not understand, but for years they, along with other brands like Converse and Etnies, have become synonymous with skating.
When it comes to names that scream skating, though, there’s one that is almost as omnipresent as Coca-Cola in soft drinks: Tony Hawk. He’s lent his name to boards, clothing, and video games–and for good reason. Tony Hawk is as talented as the hype would suggest, like a Wayne Gretzky of skateboarding. Someone for whom hardware intersected with natural talent producing an athlete who did things that were previously considered impossible, opening the door for a range of skaters that following him to break new boundaries and try new things. It’s amazing what happens when one athlete refuses to accept that something can’t be done, and just goes and does it instead. There have been some duds: the Tony Hawk video game with the skateboard controller rode the Rock Band/Nintendo Wii wave of having extra hardware in our living rooms and it didn’t really pay off, but for the most part Tony Hawk’s name has suggested quality.
The Tony Hawk 36” longboard built for getting you around, cruising as transportation and some very light tricking. With 6” aluminum trucks and 60mm wheels and some pretty bold Tony Hawk graphics, it’s extremely friendly for first time riders to get started with. It’s made of strong 9-ply maple wood, and while it’s probably not going to fit the bill for advanced riders, it’s a good call for your first board or as a gift for a friend or family member who you know wants to get out on the streets.
For a bit of a tighter ride there’s the 27” Airwalk, with 5” trucks, 60mm wheels, and ABEC-3 bearings; it’s a great choice for cruising around as well, and if you’re fashion conscious there’s a sharp graphic on the top and bottom that will serve as a strong canvas for when you’re looking to get started adding your own personalization to your board. It, too, is made of sturdy 9-ply maple wood.
For those who have their own boards looking to have a bit more fun with tricking, there’s the D6 Sports Quad Skateboard Mini Ramp with Fun Box. Good for skaters, trick cyclists, and even those with scooters, it’s a stable ramp that is built to help get you and your riding-device of choice up in the air. The surface has some texture to it to help you grip as you go. Make sure you’ve got the right board for this for the best results.
If you’re looking forward to the future of skateboarding there are two ways to look: in the real world there’s the Zboard Class Electric Skateboard. At 33lbs it’s not light if you’re carrying it, but there’s a reason for that: it includes a rechargeable battery and electric motor that lasts for up to 1 hour of riding (or up to 8km). It takes about 5-7 hours to charge, but the fun you’ll have with this smart board is evident: lean forward to get started, lean back to brake, lean from side to side to turn. It does have a handle built-in to help you carry it, and when you’ve got your wheels under you it can travel at up to 24km/hr.
In the digital world, it’s back to Tony Hawk. The worst kept secret in gaming, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is coming out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and older systems like PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. You can play as one of 10 professional skateboarders, or personalize your own rider, and pull off tricks we were all pulling digitally over a decade ago. It’s going to be awesome.
So there’s a high-level overview to get you started with skateboarding. Been a boarder for years? Add your advice in the comments below–I’d love to hear what experts have to say.
Introductory Photo Credit: skateboardtricksforbeginners.com