Skateboarding continues in popularity

Hmmm, this is an extreme sport badly neglected on our site… the last time we wrote about skateboarding was way back in September 2009 when we did an article on The Mutt – Rodney Mullen. We might have stood still on this subject, but the sport of skateboarding certainly has not…

Could this following clip be one of the reasons why skateboarding re-entered the sports scene so many years ago instead of disappearing as it very nearly did?

Is it possible that it helped elevate the sport to international status rather than the simple sport it started off as in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s when the youth of that era were seeking an alternative to surfing – or am I giving Michael J Fox and Back to the Future too much credit?!

But you have to admit… it’s a brilliant scene!

Whatever it was, the simple though fun sport of ‘sidewalk surfing’  has certainly grown in leaps and bounds when you consider that no-one really knows who started it nor even who made the first board. But it does seem likely that many people had similar ideas at the same time.

Although there was an international championship held in 1965, by 1966 it seemed the sport had died a sudden death. However, it was destined for greater things and in the early 1970’s it was resurrected by Frank Nasworthy when he developed a skateboard wheel made of polyurethane and called it ‘The Cadillac’! That was the beginning of its huge rise in popularity.

Design and new materials have certainly played their part, but so too have certain personalities been instrumental in turning skateboarding into a science of perfection. The Mutt is one of those people as is Alan “Ollie” Gelfand after whom the ollie – the most fundamental skateboard manoeuvre – is named..

Many complicated tricks are based on the ollie which is a jumping technique that allows skaters to hop over obstacles and onto curbs, etc. It is performed by tapping the tail of the board on the ground. Without mastering this technique you will not progress as a skateboarder. The ollie looks spectacular because although you may be in mid-leap the skateboard seems to be stuck to your feet. To get the skateboard to jump up, the skater actually pushes down on the board. The ollie is the basis of most tricks.

A nollie, on the other hand, is performed by tapping the nose of the board on the ground instead of the tail.

Mid-air manoeuvres means that the law of  ‘conservation of angular momentum’ comes into play. Skateboarders turn in midair by twisting their arms and legs in opposite directions. Upon landing, a skater can use the friction between his or her feet and the skateboard to twist the upper body back into alignment. By doing this the skateboarder appears to hang in place for just a moment, then turns in midair and directs himself back down the ramp.  If you can’t do an ollie you won’t be able to do this.

If you want to master the half-pipe you’ve got to be able to skate at speed. The faster you go the higher you can rise out of the pipe.

photo by Ivan Zuber

Gathering speed in the half-pipe is known as pumping. It is a rather elegant way of picking up speed. A skater first drops into a crouch while traversing the flat bottom of the U-shaped pipe. Then, as he enters the sloped part of the ramp, called the transition, he straightens his legs and stands up. By raising the centre of mass just at the beginning of the ramp’s arc, the skater gains energy and thereby increases his speed.

On flat ground, the conventional, and not-so-elegant, method for gaining speed is to push off with one’s foot – a technique thoroughly mastered by this English Bulldog…

Quite impressive huh? And sooo obviously enjoying himself!

A railslide is a trick where the skater slides the underside of the deck along an object, such as a curb or handrail:

photo by Tunaboat

A McTwist is a 540-degree turn performed on a ramp, named after Mike McGill. Like Ollie, McGill is another of skateboarding’s modern legends. He has been part of the skateboarding scene for almost two decades growing up with other great names such as  Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain and Tony Hawk.

Steve Caballero has a trick named after him too – the Caballerial: a 360-degree turn performed on a ramp while riding fakie.

A fakie is skating backwards—the skater is standing in his or her normal stance, but the board is moving backward, not to be confused with switch stance which is where the skater rides the board with the opposite footing than usual, i.e. ‘goofyfoot’ instead of ‘regular foot’.

There’s more… but not for now. There’s enough here to chew on for one day.


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