A tip of the cap to the masterminds of longboarding
Whether today’s longboarders know it or not, they are the beneficiaries of some innovative skateboarding laid down by some of the true legends of urethane. The multi-discipline approach of modern longboarding was conceived of decades ago. As times changed, skating evolved into street, ramp and park disciplines, but something got lost in the process.
Lurking in the background, there has always been an element of skating that got to the heart of what it meant to ride. Longboarding is less trick-oriented than modern street or ramp skating. It is all flow, and flow gets at the soul of skateboarding. Longboarders take skating back to its roots, when carving was expression and skating was pure.
A History of Longboarding
In the 50s and 60s, skateboarding had a surfy, Beach Boys vibe that colored everything about it, including the styles of the people doing it. The kids that cobbled together the first skateboards were mimicking surfboards, so it only made sense that riding styles should follow suit. Skateboarding blew up in the 60s, becoming a craze that many likened to fads such as the hula hoop. Skating might have died when the craze did, were it not for the originators like that kept it going.
The Sidewalk Surfers
One of the originators of modern skateboarding, Bruce Logan helped define the business model of skating. As a founding member of Makaha Skateboards’ team of sponsored riders, Logan had a heavy influence on skateboarding in the early 1960s. His pro model on his own Logan Earth Ski brand was a huge seller, further influencing how the first skateboarders rode.
Style guru Danny Bearer had the prototypical surfer-skater look, whether on a board or off it. Bearer’s long blonde locks flowed as he carved, and his carves seemed to respond in kind. He brought his moves with him directly from the ocean, and he helped cement the surf-oriented approach to skateboarding that dominated the era.
He might only be remembered as yet another surf-skater from the 1960s skate craze were it not for a fateful intervention. Skip Frye is the face of the flexible skateboard, thanks to his appearance in the first ad G&S put out for its soon-to-be-famous fiberglass skateboard. The inherent flex in those decks made boards so maneuverable, that it is still a sought after feature in modern cruiser longboards. Frye’s fluid riding spoke for itself, though.
Another innovator whose contributions outlived his fame, Gregg Weaver rode longboards down hills with as much or more style as anyone ever has. Weaver’s footage in the early skate video “Downhill Motion” epitomize the time and the fact that his influence on future generations that may never know his name is undeniable.
After a feature film and a popular documentary on their exploits catapulted them back into the spotlight, the influence that the Zephyr team, known collectively as the Z-Boys, had on skateboarding is no longer a secret. The team shook skating to its core at a contest at Del Mar in 1975, unleashing moves never before seen outside of their small, tight-knit crew. Watch film of that contest, and you will never deny their influence on modern longboarding.
Undeniably one of the inventors of modern skateboarding, Tony Alva had such a major influence that it is impossible to conceive of what skating would have been without him. Alva skated with a wild abandonment and uncanny consistency, slashing concrete like he was attacking waves.
Alva was also the first skater to start his own equipment company, which he humbly named after himself. Suddenly, a rider was at the helm, and skateboarders began driving their own industry. He steered skating through several downturns in popularity, and each skateboarder and longboarder owes him a debt of gratitude. His single-minded purpose has never ceased to influence skating since that fateful contest at Del Mar.
Raw. Unrestrained. Unafraid. Passionate. Real. Jay Adams was everything skateboarders wanted to be in the 1970s. His aggro approach to skating was unique to him, but it influenced many other riders to find their inner demon. Adams left us in 2014, but he left a permanent mark on the world of skating.
As a co-founder of Powell Peralta skateboards, Stacy Peralta had an influence on skating and longboarding that is impossible to overstate. Peralta was also an original Z-Boy. His kicked-back, surf-oriented style was the perfect foil to the aggression his teammates displayed. Peralta’s influence on longboarding is on full display in “The Bones Brigade Video Show”. Follow that link and decide for yourself if there is anything new under the sun.
The first commercial longboards
In 1975, pioneering skateboarder Tom Sims began marketing the first commercially available longboards. Sims (the skater) had been making his own longboards since the 60s, when he wanted to better simulate surfing moves on a skateboard. Sims (the company) offered longboard models in various sizes from 30 inches to 48 inches, still common longboard lengths.
Those first longboards inspired a cult following, but they were not a huge commercial success. It would take another two decades before the world was ready for them. In the intervening years, skateboarding developed into a culture all its own, as the focus on pulling off ever more difficult tricks came to dominate how it was done. Style and flow were still important, but not like they once were. Sims’ longboards epitomized the art form of skateboarding.
The founding skaters placed less of an emphasis on technical skateboarding than later generations would wind up doing. These innovators looked at kids riding little wooden toys and envisioned something bigger. They saw the potential for skating to emulate surfing, and they transitioned the moves they learned on the waves to the streets.
The style that these pioneers brought to the concrete with them when the surf was flat has influenced skating in all its forms, all the way up to modern longboarding. Everything that has ever been done on a skateboard since those days is but another step in its progression. Icons never die.