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Grinding to Tokyo: Skateboarding’s Rise to the Summer Olympics

This one’s for the thrashers. To those whose blood, sweat, and tears have ever been spilt through a late night sk8 sesh, this is for you. To all of the ams, groms, grommets, casuals, and professionals alike who’ve ever so much as sticked an ollie– to the sidewalk surfers who’ve ever wiped out attempting a sketchy or a burly—to those who’ve ever bailed on the fruit boots for a new challenge—to those who ‘eve ever dropped into a demo—to all of the skateboarders: congratulations. The world finally sees what you’ve known all along: skateboarding is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. The world is your playground. Welcome to the Olympics.

Since the 1980s, skateboarding has been an essential part of street culture. Its massive appeal as a creative outlet has inspired and encouraged perseverance, creativity and individualism while offering a unique approach to exercise as an urban sport. The sport and culture as a whole experienced a significant explosion in popularity in the mid to late ’90s with the success of the icon Tony Hawk and the release of his namesake video game franchise, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The sport has only grown in influence ever since, becoming one of the most imitated and revered segments of pop culture today. For the first time ever, skateboarding has been invited to participate in the world’s grandest stage of athletics as part of the 2020 (now 2021) Summer Olympics.

Grinding to Tokyo: this is how we got there.

The History

Skateboarding has been around since the 1950s. It first came about as an alternative to surfing when the water was flat but eventually broke off and formed its own unique subculture based around the act of performing tricks on a skateboard. In the late ‘90s skateboard video games became wildly popular (more on that later) and skate parks were built everywhere. For now, there are some key dates and milestones throughout skateboarding’s history that need to be addressed. Let’s take a look:

  • 1963- Makaha formed the first professional skateboard team, and that same year, the first skateboard competition was held in Hermosa, California. It included events in freestyle and downhill slalom skateboarding—quite different from the street styles we see today.
  • 1965- The first broadcast of a skateboarding competition was the 1965 National Skateboarding Championships, which were held in Anaheim, California and aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
  • 1965- Surf City, the world’s first skateboard park, opened in Tucson, Arizona.
  • 1972- A gentleman by the name of Frank Nasworthy invented urethane skateboard wheels, which are similar to what most skaters use today.
  • 1975- The first recorded skateboarding competition was held at the Ocean Festival in Del Mar, California.
  • 1981- “Thrasher Magazine” was founded and has since stood in for street skateboarding, the core scene, punk rock and the lifestyle slogan, “Skate And Destroy.”
The first issue. Image courtesy of Thrasher Magazine
  • 1995- ESPN held its first X Games in Rhode Island to huge success. This helped pull skateboarding closer to the mainstream and closer to being accepted by the general population. By this point, skateboarding had moved nearly entirely to a street sport.
  • 1999- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is released, bringing both gaming and skateboarding into the mainstream… On accident.
  • 2015- FaZe Clan ramps up (haha) their skateboarding initiative, partnering with skateboarding influencers, competing in the X games, and furthering the link between skating and gaming.
  • 2016- The International Olympic Committee announced that skateboarding would debut on the Olympic medal program in 2020. The Olympic Games in Tokyo were pushed back to August 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The competition will include both men’s and women’s events in street and park disciplines.

The Culture

Skateboarding has left its imprint on just about every aspect of pop culture: music, fashion, television, entertainment, and, of course, esports. Let’s take a closer look at some of these fields:

Music

Avril Lavigne personifies the free-spirited, edgy style that skate culture is built on.

Rapper and avid skater Lil Wayne is pictured below as an animation on the cover art of his “Dedication 4” mixtape.

Image source: Young Money

TV

Rocket Power was an American animated television series that followed four friends and their daily lives in extreme sports. It aired from 1999-2004.

Image source: Nickelodeon

Skateboarding’s even shown up in professional wrestling…

Courtesy of @tde_wrestling

Fingerboards are toy replicas of skateboards that were first created in the 1970’s and have since exploded in popularity.

Esports

The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series left such an impact on the world of gaming, this year, it was remastered. Brought better than ever into the modern age, the game is a must-buy.

Plus? Just like the original, it has a killer soundtrack.

The Present

Skateboarding has officially made it into the Tokyo Olympics, and by now, you should be able to see why. Spanning a storied history and culture, the long overdue public recognition of skateboarding is upon us, and it’s about time. Skating is more than a hobby; it’s a passion, an art, a way of life. It’s as skateboarding legend Stevie Williams once said: “Skateboarding is a poetry of motion.” If you need some convincing, check out these gifs:

Courtesy of Darr3n, Tumblr
Courtesy of Grizzly Griptape
Courtesy of King of the Road, Viceland
Courtesy of Maniatico Irracional Compulsivo, Tumblr

We at Stropse cannot wait to see our favorite boarders shredding it on the big screen in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games. From all of us: skate on, skaters. Skate on.

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