Meeting Up With Skateboard Materials

Skateboarding is one action sport that’s continuously changing or evolving. This is mainly because new skateboarding tricks and styles are constantly being developed. Even the actual board used by skateboarders are examined every now and then too look for ways to improve its performance. Often, this will involve the use of various skateboard materials.

Skateboarding

Actually, the basic skateboard materials remained generally unchanged until the 1970s when specialized skateparks were built. This necessitated the manufacture of skateboards made from a different kind of material if only to allow them to adjust effectively to the skatepark terrain.

Prior to the introduction of these skateparks, the typical skateboard was usually produced from wood taken from maple trees. Eventually, however, skateboard producers had to consider the use of materials like aluminum and fiberglass to meet growing demands.

Different Shapes of Skateboard BoardsThe shape of the boards likewise had to undergo modifications especially when more complex skateboarding tricks began to be developed. Towards this end, a more freestyle approach was adopted which started sometime in the late 80s. About a decade later, as street skateboarding became the dominant skateboarding type, the need to create a modified board became imperative.

Essentially, this involved the creation of a highly-symmetrical shape for the board alongside a narrower width. In terms of actual measurement, this was approximately 30-32 inches in length and around 7 ¼ to 8 inches in width.

The wheels, meanwhile, are skateboard materials that have to be produced with precision because on these rest the overall efficiency of the skateboard. As such, a tough polyurethane material was used with the durometer or hardness set at 99A.

Wheels of SkateboardNormally, these wheels are smaller in size compared to the board; on the other hand, the board needs to be lighter to allow it to quickly overcome the inertia of the wheels. Ultimately, this enabled the skateboarder more freedom to manage and execute a number of skateboard maneuvers as well as come up with several unique tricks.

In the years that followed, several skateboard materials as well as accessories were introduced in the market. As skateboarding as a sport has reached such immense popularity, various manufacturers capitalize on the demand.

One of the more successful skateboard accessories was the skate shoes. This was considered a most significant development in the history of the sport especially when considering the fact that the pioneer skateboarders were engaged in the sport barefooted. This exposed them to a variety of injuries especially those involving the foot and the leg.

Skateboard ShoesWith skate shoes, the ordinary skateboarder is protected from the dangers of injuries. More importantly, these shoes provided the needed traction which was sorely lacking during the early years of skateboarding.

Additionally, as the design of skate shoes became more varied, some brands became closely associated with several skateboarders. This provided the needed market exposure for both the manufacturer and the skateboarder wearing his product.

As more skateboard materials are presently being looked into to serve as accessories, it has become clear that skateboarding is no longer a mere fad. Its long history of evolution is sufficient proof of this even as a few critics tend to downplay the actual significance of skateboarding.

Skating Through The History Of Skateboarding

Skateboarding has been classified as a type of action sport, although to different people, the typical skateboard has many other uses. Some use this as their primary means of transportation while others find riding the board a fun and exciting activity. Regardless of how they are used, it’s best to look into the history of skateboarding if only to better appreciate the sport.

segway hoverboard

With the evolution of the skateboard comes the invention of completely new sports and transportation. Trick scooters, shred stix, motorised longboards, and most recently self balancing scooters which are like a segway and a skateboard had a baby, have all made an appearance on the scene and can all be credited to the popularity of skateboarding.

The history of skateboarding can be traced to crate scooters which are regarded as the predecessors of the board. These are wooden boxes placed or nailed on top of wooden boards and serve as crude handlebars. Attached beneath the board is a set of roller skates which act as the wheels of the crate scooters.

Eventually, planks replaced the wooden boards which soon became the model for many of the skateboards seen these days. The availability of these planks were first reported in 1944 in Montmarte, France when French children were seen riding them.

The actual sport of skateboarding evolved sometime between the 40s and the 50s in California. At the time, local surfers found the waves quite flat and decided to look for an alternative form of recreational activity. From this emerging need came the idea for a board to be ridden on land even as it remains unclear as to who actually proposed the idea.

In any case, as the history of skateboarding would have it, skateboards were eventually manufactured in large numbers to accommodate the growing need of so-called land-based surfers. In this regard, it should be interesting to note that skateboarding was initially known as sidewalk surfing.

Additionally, the first surfers who engaged in the sport were known to apply several accepted surfing styles. In conjunction with the sport of surfing, the early skateboarders were said to perform surfing maneuvers on their boards completely barefoot.

classic board rideBy the time the 60s came around, skateboarding exhibitions have become common outdoor events. Many of the sponsors for these events started out as manufacturers of surfing accessories before branching out to skateboarding.

In 1965, skateboarding officially became a sport with the first National Skateboarding Championship taking place in Anaheim, California. The sport was still considered raw at the time though; thus, only two disciplines were introduced, namely, slalom downhill racing and flatland freestyle.

A decade later, the history of skateboarding entered new grounds with the introduction in the market of the polyurethane skateboard wheels. These proved to be effective replacements for the original metal-based wheels as there was a marked improvement both in traction and in the overall performance of the skateboarder.

Developed by Frank Nasworthy, the polyurethane skateboard wheels helped skateboarding achieve national and global popularity. This became the inspiration for many skateboard manufacturers to look at the possibilities of further developing their flagship product.

In the years that followed, several other innovations were introduced to the sport. These include the development of skateparks as well as axles or trucks specially constructed for skateboarding aficionados. These innovations allowed skateboarders more freedom in their movements and inspired them to come up with maneuvers that are more freestyle in nature.dogtown poly wheels

As the century drew to a close and a new one came in, the history of skateboarding proved to be a continuously evolving process. The boards underwent several changes both in shape and in actual construction.

Meanwhile, skateboarding events became more open with a special category even created for participants below 18 years of age. This can be attributed to the sports move from subculture to consumer culture which we have covered in depth in our previous post: The transition from subculture to consumer culture. So skateboarding has come a long way and it appears still has a long way to go, where it will end up? who knows? rocket boards perhaps?

Skateboarding: The Transition From Subculture to Consumer Culture

Consumerism and consumption are at the core of many, if not most societies. The impacts of consumerism, both positive and negative, play a significant role in all aspects of our lives. Through participation in society, people are naturally segregated into groups of those who resist the dominant ideas, values and social structures and those who accept the dominant cultural norms of society. Subcultures are often seen as points of resistance within a society, paying homage only their niche. Mcguigan (1985, 93) describes subcultures as “attempts to resolve collectively experienced problems resulting from contradictions in the social structure, they generate a form of collective identity from which an individual identity can be achieved outside that ascribed by class, education and occupation.” This rejection of mainstream values by subcultures is present in all modern societies. So much so that deviation from the norm has become an expected part of the social landscape. Clarke (2003) suggests that the image of rebellion has become one of the most dominant narratives of the corporate capitalist landscape, turning subcultures into expedient vehicles of mass consumption. This dichotomy in subculture theory maintains the notion that subcultures continuously resist a dominant culture will be used as the base to compare and contrast key arguments surrounding consumption practices as points of resistance to dominant ideas and values within society.No Skateboarding sign

In order to gain a greater understanding of the transition from subculture to consumer culture, it is helpful to divide the transition into three key areas; resistance, incorporation and cultural fragmentation. By using skateboarding culture as the topic of discussion, these points will be critically analysed to help address the issues surrounding the differentiation between sub and dominant cultures. The evolution of the skateboarding subculture clearly demonstrates the key concepts outlined above. Skateboarding has been described as the offspring of surfing. It first appeared in the 1950’s when surfers in California began “street surfing” as it was initially known (Cave. nd). As a subculture, it has been described as a fusion of surfing, punk, street, hip hop, and hard rock (Cave, nd; Ingram, nd). This is evident in the use of surfing slang combined with the adoption of a rebellious, punk image and clothing style drawn from its’ other influences. Popularity of the sport and subculture waned until the introduction of urethane wheels and the discovery of the infamous Zephyr team. More popularly known as the Lords of Dogtown, the Zephyr team brought a strong anti-establishment sentiment to the subculture. Their resistance of organised competition rules combined with a marked disdain for authority still lingers in the foundation of today’s mainstream skateboard culture.dogtown boys

At the top of the three key transitional areas is resistance, which refers to the ways subcultural style and activity work to challenge dominant social order (Sternberg, 2013). Chiu’s article (2009) would suggest skateboarding is commonly characterised as an activity which challenges social norms. Skateboarders’ particularly overt resistance to amateur contests provides a framework for characterising their daily and more covert behaviours of resistance to middle class norms and values inherent in traditional team sports (Kusz, 2003). To mainstream society, skaters are thought of as rebels or social deviants. Kelly, Pomerantz, and Currie (2005) note that because of the nonconforming image of skateboarders, they are stereotyped by others as potheads (defying prevailing values against drug use), punks and hooligans, (defying prevailing values supporting respect for private property), slackers (defying the dominant work ethic), and underground (defying consumer culture). Skateboarders are consistently banned from public areas and signs are routinely posted prohibiting the activity (Nolan, 2003; Woolley & Johns, 2001). Although social resistance has the potential to change dominant social relations, it is often limited by contradictions and accommodations. Through a collective desire to be rebellious, a subculture like skateboarding can be related to Clark’s previously mentioned idea of subcultures becoming vehicles for mass consumption. Under the guise of the skateboarding subculture, the key marketable image adopted by teens and young adults is an edgy and rebellious style. It is through this collective desire to be different that the notion of subcultures being continuously resistant entities to societal norms seems to fail.

Incorporation is the process by which an element of subcultural style becomes a mainstream fashion or consumer item in order to remove its oppositional style.  As skateboarding grew in popularity, its mainstream incorporation became inevitable. It is an example of a “top-down” cultural process, driven by the media and cultural industries, it’s seen as way of exploiting consumers (Sternberg, 2013). In a significant move that acted as a precursor to skateboarding being incorporated into mainstream culture, the National Skateboarding Association was formed, aligning with the conservative Boy Scouts of America (Humphreys, 1997). This helped provide a positive image for skateboarding, free in part, of the negative connotations previously associated with the subculture. In doing so, skateboarding’s previously underground mentality was shunted into the limelight, spreading through the masses. The extreme age of skateboarding had begun.

The unfounded exposure that the skateboard subculture was now receiving caused itself to split into a collection of sub-groups, all attempting to differentiate themselves from the mainstream. This worked in the marketers favour, providing consumer capitalists with new sources of styles and images to exploit. As skateboarding became more accepted, the incorporation of the subculture into mainstream media industries was inevitable. MTV’s contemporary line-up adopted stylistic programming heavily associated with skateboarding and even featured pro riders. Shows like Jackass, Viva La Bam, Wildboyz, and Scarred blazed the trail for the wider consumption of the “skater lifestyle” and validated the existence of a sport and culture that had long been shunned as a waste of time. An event called the X-games was picking up steam and skaters were making legitimate money through competition winnings. Not only were they able to build a life from skateboarding, they were able to build a brand. This highlights the pinnacle of incorporation into the mainstream as skaters themselves turn into expedient vehicles of mass consumption, none more prevalent than Tony Hawk.

ps1 tony hawk pro skaterThe mass consumption of skateboard culture can largely be attributed to the rise of Tony Hawk’s skater empire and the hugely popular Tonk Hawk’s Pro Skater video game. The game encapsulated many of the key elements of the skateboarding subculture in the choice of musical tracks, the clothing of the characters, and the inclusion of desired skating zones illegal to skate in real life such as schools and shopping centres. For many, the game made the subculture extremely accessible as they no longer had to be able to skate in order to take part. Skate brands highlighted in the video game such as Vans became immensely popular, netting Tony Hawk alone $300 million per year by 2004 (Goldman, 2004). As the games provided a more overt way of including people in the culture, they became a symbol of skateboarding. Thus highlighting the contradiction in subculture theory that rather than being a point of resistance it becomes a means of acceptance; “I consume therefore I am”.

Read (2013, 53) argues that conformity to a cultural pattern ensures a large measure of predictability in behaviour. Subcultures provide a means of group identification amongst mainstream society. However, incorporation makes this type of identification less obvious. Stereotyping of individuals based loosely on popular culture artefacts becomes more common as the lines of distinction between subculture and mainstream become increasingly blurred. Affected subcultures may decide to fight back, leading to polarisation and social fragmentation of the existing subculture (Siapera, DATE, 115). As subcultures attempt to find a niche among mainstream values, they constantly adapt and change, adopting new styles, trends and attitudes in a fight to differentiate themselves from the masses. As the concepts of resistance and incorporation clash forming a paradox of the two behaviours, the need for one to exist to facilitate the other is inescapable.

The market driven popularity of skateboarding highlights the evidence of the natural progression from subculture to consumer culture. Chaney (2004, 47) suggests the once-accepted distinction between ‘sub’ and ‘dominant’ culture can no longer be said to hold true in a world where the so-called dominant culture has fragmented into a plurality of life-style sensibilities and preferences. The speed at which this occurs in today’s society highlights a change in the way we consume media. As a small number of conglomerates exercise their power over production, distribution and exhibition of media, they accelerate the homogenisation of the subculture in the interest of commercialism (Turrow, 2009). In doing so, globalization dramatically reduces the half-life of subcultures, as defining elements are incorporated into the mainstream much faster than previously possible. The perpetuation of a particular marketing view through consumer culture highlights the inconsistencies associated with consumerism being a site for resistance against dominant societal values. Instead, the opposite is true, as the subculture becomes a dominant narrative of the corporate capitalist landscape.

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Consumption is an inescapable part of today’s society. Our materialistic culture plays a significant role in all aspects of our lives. People, blinded by greed, jealousy and ego, and being constantly bombarded with advertising, always feel the need for more, believing it will bring them happiness. Today’s mass produced culture facilitates the constant competitive fight to be different, segregating society as people refute societal norms in an effort to achieve an individualistic identity. However due to the nature of consumption, it is impossible to be completely resistant to the dominant ideas and values within society. The rejection of some mainstream values merely highlights the acceptance of others in an attempt to align one’s self with a collective identity. As incorporation runs its’ course, these choices are not always immediately evident. It is impossible to say that consumption is either resistant or incorporative as highlighted throughout this essay. This contradiction in subculture theory was demonstrated by examining the evolution of skateboarding subculture from its’ anti-social, underground beginnings to the multi-million dollar industry that it is today.

References:

Cave, S. (nd). A brief history of skateboarding.

http://skateboard.about.com/cs/boardscience/a/brief_history.htm

Chaney, D. 2004. Chapter 2: “Fragmented Culture and Subcultures.” Macmillian:

Basingstoke

Chiu, C. 2009. Contestation and conformity: Street and park skateboarding in New York

Citypublic space. Space and Culture, 12, 25-42

Clark, Dylan. 2003. “The Death and Life of Punk, The Last Subculture,” pp. 223-36,

In David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (eds.), The Post-Subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg

Goldman, L. 2004. “From Ramps to Riches,” Forbes, July 5, 2004, 174(1), p. 98. Accessed August 22,2013. http://proquest.umi.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/pqdweb?did=657165491&sid=1&Fmt

Ingram, D. (nd). “Skatboarding culture”. http://ezinearticles.com/?Skateboarding-Culture&id=2651600

Kelly, D., Pomerantz, S., & Currie, D. 2005. Skater girlhood and emphasized femininity: ‘You can’t land an ollie properly in heels.’ Gender and Education, 17, 229-248.

Kusz, K. 2003. “BMX, extreme sports, and the White male backlash.” Sociology of Sport Journal, 22. Retrieved August 22, 2013.

Nolan, N. 2003. “The ins and outs of skateboarding and transgression in public space in Newcastle, Australia.” Australian Geographer,34(3).

­McGuigan, J. 1992. Chapter 3: Youth Culture and Consumption. In Cultural Populism. 90

Read, M. 2001. “Culture, Health and Disease: Social and Cultural Influences.” Abingdon: Routledge.

Siapera. E. 2010. “Cultural Diversity and Global Media: The Mediation of Difference.” Blackwell publishing. Sussex

Turrow, J. 2009. Chapter 5: “A world blurred by media boundaries.” New York: Routledge.

Woolley, H. & Johns, R. 2001. “Skateboarding: The city as a playground.” Journal of Urban Design, 6(2)