Street skateboarding


Street skateboarding

Street skateboarding is the act of riding a skateboard on paved surface, whether that surface is found at a public school, a shopping mall, or somewhere else. Street skating, as it is most commonly known among skaters, may include skate tricks such as ollies, or ollie variations, but often it is simply the act of skateboarding on the pavement itself. Whatever the case may be, the act of street skating requires the rider to utilize objects which are found in urbanized settings, such as curbs, ledges, handrails, stairs, and other obstacles.

The origins of modern street skateboarding: the early 1980s

Historically speaking, street skateboarding has existed since the very inception of the sport itself. For example, in the 1970s, skaters would ride skateboards through city streets to transport themselves to popular surf spots. By the mid 1970s, skateboarders in Southern California were actively seeking out street spots at local public schools. Nevertheless, the origins of true street skateboarding were not to come until the early 1980sFact|date=July 2008. At this point in time, the skateboarding industry was experiencing a major recession, which forced the closure of the majority of the skateparks that were constructed throughout the United States in the late 1970s. The closures meant that the remaining hardcore skaters would be forced to either construct their own back yard ramps (such as half-pipes), or find somewhere else to skate altogether.

The golden age of street skateboarding: mid 1980s

In the early 1980s, skateboarding was deadFact|date=July 2008. At this time, the title 'professional skateboarder' was little more than a formality, and no pro could make a living through the sport aloneFact|date=July 2008. Not surprisingly, all contests, demonstrations, videos, and companies were underground, and far from mainstream. Vertical Skateboarding (aka, 'vert') dominated the professional scene and the magazines that covered it. However, it was at this time that upstarts such as Mark Gonzales (also known as 'the Gonz'), Natas Kaupas, and other top skaters in and around Los Angeles began to get creative with variations of vert and freestyle tricks on public terrain. The first "streetstyle" contest was held at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1983, and Tommy Guerrero won an upset victory as an unsponsored amateur. Guerrero, from San Francisco, also got the first, true, street skating part in a video, in 1985's "Future Primitive" by Powell Peralta. This video part coincided with a boom in skateboarding's popularity, and was a defining moment in influencing a new generation to street skate.

treet skateboarding in magazines

Magazines throughout the 1970s and early 1980s were dominated by vert skating and to a lesser extent freestyle skateboarding. 1984 is seen as something of a watershed in street skateboarding's history as Tommy Guerrero made the July cover, Natas Kaupas made the September, and Mark Gonzales made the November cover of Thrasher magazine. This level of exposure was unprecedented for street skating and marks the birth of the golden age of street skating.

The impact of a new medium - videocassettes

Just as VCR's were being purchased as the latest luxury item, the skateboard video revolution began in late 1984 with the release of Powell Peralta's "Bones Brigade Video Show". In it, street skating serves as just the backdrop of the videos various vert and freestyle parts as Lance Mountain cruises around Los Angeles, doing little more than bonelesses and acid drops, but the video itself helped skateboarding make a comeback. By 1985, both street skating and skateboarding's popularity was making an insurgenceFact|date=July 2008. Overnight, street skating eclipsed freestyle in popularity, though vert remained the preeminent form that got most of the attention. Photos of street skaters like Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas and Johnee Kop were seen fairly often, but this emerging form of skating was still not taken seriously by most and considered a fad. Up through 1987, most street skaters did mostly handplant and kicker ramp tricks. Just one year later the dynamic began shifting dramatically. The release of Powell Peralta's "Public Domain" and H Street's "Shackle Me Not" videos were an eye-opener for the skateboard world. In them a new generation of street skaters lead by Mike Vallely, Ray Barbee, and Matt Hensley departed from the handplant and jump ramp trends to progress street skating to a respectable level with major ollies, handrail boardslides and freestyle flip maneuvers. This was the point of no return where street skating began to progress at an extraordinary pace through the early 1990s, while vert's popularity waned rapidly.

treet skateboarding takes over: the early 1990s

During the early 1990s, vertical skating nearly disappeared, and street skating was the dominant style practiced by successful professional ridersFact|date=July 2008. The mainstream popularity of skateboarding began to decline once again during the early 1990s. By 1993, the sports popularity was at an all time low point. But during this period, hardcore skaters continued to practice in any way they could, just as they had following the skatepark crash of the late 1970s. A strong foundation for street skating had been established from the mid to late 1980s, to the point where dozens of pros were known almost exclusively for their performance on the streets. Now, it was possible for pros to build upon that foundation, and take skateboarding to new levels. Young street professionals such as Frankie Hill and Ed Templeton had borrowed from freestyle, but also continued to push the limits of handrail skating. Plan B's 1992 production, The Questionable Video features some of the best skaters of the era, including a young Pat Duffy, who was then known as a "handrail destroyer"Fact|date=July 2008.

Little flips and small wheels

Street skateboarding in the early 1990s looked nothing like that which was performed even a few years earlier in the late 1980s. Riders now rode both in normal and switch stance and would perform flip tricks and ollie variations that were mostly invented in the 1980s by world champion freestyler Rodney Mullen. Mullen himself became a street skater during this period, due to the death of freestyle. Most of the tricks that were once street staples such as the streetplant and boneless as well as any trick that involved picking a board up from the ground, were now considered cliché. Grace and speed were not encouraged in street skating at this time, and it was not uncommon for a rider to stumble off his board momentarily after landing an extremely technical flip trick. Another peculiarity of street skating in the early 1990s were the tiny wheels that were preferred as a light weight solution for flip tricks from 1991 to 1994. Such wheels were often smaller than 45 millimetres, some of which at their lowest point in 1993 were reduced to a tiny, nearly compression bearing size of just 38 millimetres.

treet skateboarding goes mainstream: 1995-2001

The skateboarding industry experienced major growth starting in the mid 1990s, and many factors are to thank for this. The global recession that had affected so many during the decade's early years was coming to an end, which generally meant more disposable income for young people Fact|date=February 2007. As a result, more time and money could be invested into adolescent pastimes. A new skateboarding-related culture started to form. Pop punk bands such as The Offspring, Rancid, NOFX, and Green Day began to sell millions of records in 1994, and this introduced many people to the "alternative" lifestyle, which included skateboarding Fact|date=February 2007. Although the mainstream has brought in money, many skateboarders feel that the mainstream has tainted skateboarding as a whole Fact|date=February 2007. Wanting to 'cash in' on a wealthy demographic, ESPN introduced the Extreme Games (later renamed the X-Games) in the summer of 1995. The games showcased activities such as rollerblading, BMX biking, motocross and other events, including skateboarding. While skateboarding was a major part of the X-Games showcase, most skaters featured during the first few years of the competition were oriented to ramps that are commonly found in skateparks. Accordingly, the major role that the X-Games played was turning the mainstream population onto the sport itself, at which point potential riders would be much more likely to be influenced by industry sources (such as Transworld Skateboarding Magazine, or Thrasher), that were still focusing on the street scene.

Influential videos

Like no other time before it, the period between the mid 1990s and the early 21st century saw an incredible amount of influence originating in promotional videos released directly by skate companies themselves. Whereas skate demos and competitions continued to maintain their important role that had been established in previous skate eras, hardcore skaters now focused the majority of their attention on videos, and the tricks being performed in those videos. Skate videos in the mid 1990s were almost exclusively street based, with absolutely no freestyle, and very little vert to mention. Some videos, such as Girl Skateboards' Mouse (1996), and World Industries' Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song (1997) followed the tradition of technical flatground skateboarding that had been spawned from the ashes of freestyle in the early 1990s. Others, such as Toy Machine's Welcome to Hell (1996), and Zero Skateboards's Thrill of it All (1996), represented the direction that street skating took in the late 1990s — handrail skating and other types of skating such as ledges and flat bars.

tairs and Rails

Handrail skating originated in California in the spring of 1986Fact|date=July 2008 and was pushed prominently into the limelight in the early 90s by Pat Duffy and his part in the Plan B "Questionable Video". Although it is generally accepted that Mark Gonzales is the first to skate a handrail, it's also acknowledged that Natas Kaupas skated a handrail at this time too. Johnee Kop was the first to have a published handrail photo. Also, Julian Stranger was the first to do a frontside boardslide and have a published photo. Handrail skating continued to come into its own for the rest of the '80s, from more veteran pros like Chris Miller and Steve Caballero to then upstarts Andy Howell, Ed Templeton, and Frankie Hill. By 1990, the first kickflip boardslide on a handrail was performed. Handrail skating became much more common throughout the 1990s, and by 1995 kickflip and shove-it variations were being 'thrown down' on a regular basis by advanced pros like Heath Kirchart. Handrail skating became so common in the mid-1990s that 1995 was actually declared the year of the 50-50 grind by Transworld Skateboarding Magazine due to the number of grinds that were being performed on rails at this time.

Handrail domination

In the late 1990s and early 21st century, grinding became a major professional standard in street skating. Not only were rails a staple in pro street skating, but also in competitions and demonstrations. Indeed, for some time it seemed the larger the rail, and the bigger the stair set, the better. In the last few years, grinding has remained an important part of professional street skating, but is not as essential to a video part as it once was.

treet skateboarding today: 2001-Present

The skateboarding industry has now grown and flourished for nearly ten years without experiencing a major recession like those seen by previous skate generations (although minor financial losses were reported by several companies in the year 2003)Fact|date=July 2008. During the last 5 years, skateboarding has taken many interesting turns. Pool skateboarding was revived on a grand scale in the years between 2000 and 2003, and continues to be featured in a number of newly released skate videos, such as DVS Shoes' Skate More. Skateparks, which were a scarce commodity in the mid 1990s, are now present in both small and large communities throughout North America and Europe. Moreover, a significant number of female participants can be reported in a sport that has been largely male dominated throughout the course of its history. Not unlike the sport itself, street skateboarding is taking a new shape, and a new direction. While handrails and stairs are still major features in skate videos, it is now obvious that other approaches are being taken by pros and amateur's alike. Ali Boulala's short part in Flip's 2002 video Sorry! was interpreted by some as an 'anti handrail manifesto' Fact|date=February 2007, because the majority of his tricks were performed on banks, down stairs, and on ledges. Recently, a number of professional street skaters have been seen performing old-school tricks (such as wallrides, bonelesses, no-complys and airwalks) in line with 1990s style flip tricks Fact|date=February 2007, i.e. Jason Adams' part in Black Label's 2003 video Black Out.

Recently, professional skateboarders have taken to skating different obstacles than in the late 90's/early 2000sFact|date=July 2008. Whereas in the 1990s most street skating was done on traditional ledges, rails, stairs, and gaps, now skateboarders have been skating more unusual terrain. Random banks and oddly shaped structures have become the canvas for street skaters to perform their art. Daewon Song's skating in Skate More has been described as his masterpieceFact|date=July 2008, and is not inclusive of handrails of any kind, as he has never been a handrail skater, and is a sharp turn from doing very technical skating (as is seen in his part in the video ""), to skating a more creative type of terrain. In his part, Daewon skates everything from basic benches to rock formations, waterfalls, and pools.


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