Weird Facts About Skateboarding You May Not Have Known
For a sport that’s only been around for 70 years or so, skateboarding has a rich history. From its birth of flat planks on metal wheels to its infamous reputation today, there’s been a lot of growth. But more importantly, there’s an entire culture that’s come out of skateboarding as a hobby — one that acts as a magnet for young kids looking for a community. Despite its widespread reputation as a camouflage hobby for miscreants, skateboarding has played the victim more often than it has the offender, and its full history is far more conflicted than we think.
Skateboarding was banned in Norway for 11 years. From 1978 to 1989, the purchase and sales of skateboards were considered illegal. This law was put into place after the U.S. released a report stating that 28 children had died the previous year while riding skateboards. Of course, the population comparison between these two countries is vastly different, which wasn't taken into account when enacting the law. Interestingly, Norwegian skaters today face far less negative stereotyping by their community than do American skaters, despite this recent 11-year prohibition.
Skateboards were almost used as military gear. When skateboarding had its revival during the 1990s, the U.S. Marine Corps hopped on the bandwagon by starting the Urban Warrior project in 1999. After the Battle of Mogadishu, special emphasis was placed on the possibility of urban warfare. As a result, many marines were armed with off-the-shelf skateboards to be used in city settings, but the project didn’t pan out.
Insurance played a major role in the 1980s dip. After the explosive rise in popularity during the 1970s, health insurance companies began increasing their prices for families whose children were skateboarding. On top of that, liability insurance rates skyrocketed for skateparks, leading many of them to close down. The skateboarding industry took a major decline after receiving so many hits from different directions.
Skateboarding is considered to be one of today’s top 10 sports. Just 30 years after the 1980s decline, interest in skateboarding continues to rise. Yet, its reputation remains tainted. Approximately 18 million people in the U.S. own a skateboard, but the stereotypical image of the rebel skater holds its ground, causing major issues for those who are dedicated to the hobby.
There are less than 500 skateparks in the U.S. Despite its growing popularity, skateboarding is still incredibly underrepresented. Many skateparks have to shut down because of the costs of insurance, while others simply lack the funding to build a park in the first place. Most skateparks today are privately-funded by major skateboarding companies, professional skateboarders or the local skaters themselves.
It's no doubt that the history of skateboarding has had its fair share of controversy. But each time, the skateboarding industry has returned even stronger, with a following that’s willing to push back against every hit. While the larger skateboarding community may not be the outcasts and criminals that they’ve been labeled as, they are far more passionate than they’ve been given credit for, a quality which has played a primary role in keeping this sport alive.
- Outdoors Staff