When I got my first skateboard on Christmas Day of 2000, I had little awareness of the skateboarding industry. I knew who Tony Hawk and a few other vert skaters were, I had seen the X Games on television, and I had played video games like Grind Session and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. However, I was totally oblivious to the fact that there was an entire industry, complete with magazines, specialty companies, and more, that made skateboarding truly what it was.
As time went on and my interest evolved into a hobby and then a passion, I found myself exposed to more and more about the sport. I learned about equipment manufacturers, the history, who the top pros were, and what all the different tricks were. It wasn’t without paying my dues, however. Little did I know that the second I started wearing skateboarding clothing or claiming the title of skateboarder, there was backlash doled out by the established skateboarders within my peer group. Name calling and teasing became pretty common and looking back on it, I’m not really even sure why. It didn’t make any sense to me that another skateboarder wouldn’t want me to ride a skateboard, but that’s how it went. To this day, I still don’t get it, but that’s how things were back then. Skateboarding was an exclusive club that you had to prove your mettle to be accepted into.
Needless to say, it was during that time that skateboarding was beginning to enter into a high-growth period. Little did I know that I would be a first-hand witness. I was in high school at the time and I remember seeing more and more people wearing skateboarding shoes, clothes and claiming the title of skateboarding. The teasing diminished somewhat, but still seemed prevalent. Skateboarders seemed to be locked into an us vs. them kind of battle. Likewise the skateboarding industry was fighting hard to keep larger corporate entities from capitalizing on the sport. I even remember a campaign where a skateboard company began producing a shoe with a banana emblem sewn onto the side mocking Nike’s efforts to bring skateboarding shoes to the market place.
It was a losing battle, however. Local skateparks began popping up all over the country, making skateboarding much more accessible to the average individual. Mass suppliers of skateboarding equipment like CCS, Active, and Zumiez, grew rapidly ensuring a steady supply of products for those interested in skateboarding. And of course, skateboarding continued to garnish more and more media attention. Interestingly, there continued to be this segment of the skateboarding community that absolutely hated it all. In fact, it still exists today, weakened and all but irrelevant.
And that bring me to today. I look around and I think it’s safe to say that skateboarding has gone completely inclusive. It’s no longer an activity that forces beginning participants to run the gauntlet to see if they can hang. Professional basketball players and golfers show up in skateboarding commercials. Hollywood stars appear in skateboarding videos. Skateboarding shows up in ads during the NBA Finals. Quite frankly, I think this is a good thing. Guys can make a good living from the sport, whether it’s in an industry office job or from being a professional. Those guys can support families, send their kids to college, and much much more. The sport is more accessible than ever, even to people living with things like Autism or Down Syndrome. Skateparks are just as common as golf courses.
Overall, I’d say that skateboarding has come a long way and there’s a lot to be happy about. It’s hard to believe that there are still people within the skateboarding community that don’t like it. But, I suppose there will always be begrudgers. Nevertheless, skateboarding’s future is incredibly bright and it will be really interesting to see what lies ahead.