Label Volunteer, Leah Langley, shares her research on the origins and increasing popularity of skating.

Skateboarding and Roller skating are phenomenon’s that have been around for centuries, and they seem to have picked up interest over the years. There is a history behind the both of them which isn’t often spoken about and they have also had further influences on everyday culture that may not be as apparent as expected.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Barcelona are some of the most famous cities in the world when it comes to the popularity of skateboarding. Originally known as “sidewalk surfing,” skateboarding began to emerge around the 1940’s/1950’s, but really started to take off later. In 1963, one of the earliest skateboard exhibitions was held, and the first skateboarding magazine was published in 1964. The first broadcast of an actual skateboarding competition was in 1965 when the National Skateboarding Championships, held in Anaheim, California, were played on ABC’s ‘Wide World of Sports.’ In 2001, it was found that there were more under-18 Americans riding skateboards (10.6 million), than were participating in baseball (8.2 million). ‘Go Skateboarding Day’ was established in 2003, in Southern California, by the International Association of Skateboard Companies, to promote skateboarding world-wide, and the day is celebrated annually on June 21st. A 2009 report found that the skateboarding market was estimated to be worth, somewhere in the region of, $4.8 billion in annual revenue with more than 11.08 million people in the world participating in the activity. The growing popularity of skateboarding saw a 2016 announcement that it would be represented at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, with both male and female denominations being on display.

Skateboarding was popularised in 1986 but the film Thrashin’ which saw the appearance of many famous skateboarders aiming to improve the reputation of skateboarding youth, before it became a popular feature in video games. The sport had influences on the fashion industry with the introduction of the skate shoe. The shows, specifically designed and marketed for skateboarders, have increasing popularity with the likes of Randy “720” and Vans Sneakers making a name for themselves. Upon receipt of a skateboarding sponsorship, many professional skateboarders design pro-model skate shoes donning their names. Another area that has been influences is the art industry. Skateboard-deck art continues to influence and increase the culture of skateboarding. Many people now collet skateboards because of their artistic value, and in January of 2019, Sotheby’s auctioned the full set of Supreme’s 248 skateboard deck designs for $800,000. SHUT Skateboards sold a gold-plated skateboard for $15,000 in 2014, which was then believed to be the most expensive skateboard in the world.

Roller skating has not had as much popularity as skateboarding but has still made its mark. It originated in the performing arts during the 18th century. Its popularity peaked from 1880 to 1910 and there was a mass production of roller skates worldwide. It began to make an appearance again during the ‘Golden Age of Roller Skating’ between 1930 and 1950. The 1970’s saw the emergence of roller disco before inline skating became established during the 1980’s/1990’s. There was a decline in popularity in the early 21st century, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw interest start to peak once more.

Roller skating has been featured in a lot of media with the 1950 film ‘The Fireball’ seeing the first introduction of roller derby into the homes of people all over the world. The opening of the London West End show, ‘Starlight Express’, in 1984 saw the cast performing on quad skate, and 1998 film ‘Brink!’ saw in-line skating portrayed as a competitive sport. Drew Barrymore directed 2009 film ‘Whip It’ which saw actor, Elliot Page, play a small-town girl who joined an all-girl roller derby team. Beyoncé can be seen roller skating in her 2014 music video ‘Blow,’ and roller skating in the United Skates was documented in the 2018 show ‘United Skates.’ Aside from all of its media depictions, roller skating also initiated an extremely popular fashion trend in Heelys. The street/skate shoes allowed for individuals to perform roller skate-like moves whilst also being able to walk normally. More than 4.5 million pairs of the shoes have been sold worldwide and gave individual’s the opportunity to take part in roller skating at their own leisure.

Whilst both of the sports have been around for several decades, they seem to be experiencing another peak in their popularity in today’s world with them both becoming more prevalent in society.

Header by Christos Alamaniotis, Head of Design

Edited By Uchenna Omo-Bamawo, Culture Editor


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