Skateboarding is one of the newest American sports and one for which global diffusion has been rapid and immediate. Skateboarding originated in southern California, specifically in the Los Angeles area, in the mid-twentieth century, where it was likened to surfing on land. Like other sports, it diffused beyond its hearth region. Some American sports, such as baseball and basketball, have diffused so thoroughly that their original Northeast hearths have no special dominance or meaning. Others, such as lacrosse, have diffused only in a limited way, and are still largely the province of their geographic hearth. Unlike most other sports, skateboarding, though truly global, is still dominated by its southern California hearth. The bulk of skating locations, professionally sanctioned events, and place of residence of top skaters are all in the Los Angeles area.
Given this, I inquire how and why the culture of skateboarding began, evolved, and maintained continued dominance in Southern California. Since the majority of professional skateboarders, with the exception of a select few, currently reside in California, I speculate why this is so and question their original location before their migration to California. Are there any patterns related to socio-economic aspects of those regions and what benefits is there that attracts the culture of skateboarding so greatly? With the popularity of skateboarding growing at a rapid rate through mass media exposure and the distribution of consumer products, i.e. televised skateboarding events and magazines I question the spatial distribution of sanctioned skateboarding events and magazine publishers and their audience. Are there any patterns in relation to skateboarding's hearth in California? I also consider the landscapes of skateboarding and their influence and impact on the perception of California to skaters.
There is a limitation on books that have been written on the skateboarding subculture in America. Iain Borden's book, Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body is the first detailed study of skateboarding in its urban environment. It looks at the skateboarding history from its birth in the 1950s in the surf-influenced subculture of Venice Beach, California, through the purpose-built skateparks of the 1970s, to the present day street-skating scene of the urban environments that are used as virtual playgrounds.
There is one other book that was written, but it's more of a first person account of experiences and adventures in the world of skateboarding. In The Answer Is Never: A Skateboarder's History of the World. Jocko Weyland tells a story of a rebellious sport that began as a surfing substitute on the mean streets of Southern California cities more than forty years ago. Weyland merges the development of the sport with his own skating accounts in various places such as, Germany, Hawaii, and Cameroon. Along the way, Weyland meshes his personal adventures with the saga of the Dogtown Z-Boys and other pioneers of the sport including Tony Hawk.
Most other books are brief histories of the sport of skateboarding and various personal accounts of a professional skateboarder and of their experiences through life as a skater. A few books provided information on tricks and maneuvers performed on a skateboard of which is not entirely related to the current study. No books were found that gave direct analysis as to what made California the dominant hub of the subculture of skateboarding. This research will provide insight to this gap in data and expose the meaning of California's firm grasp on the sport.
For this project I identified 40 top skaters, based on information about professional standing available from several skateboarding websites. Biographical information about these skaters, including their birthplaces and current places of residence, were collected from other online sources (for details of sources, see maps). From the same sources I gathered data on the number of skateparks in each state. I identified the geographic locations of the publishing offices of major skateboarding magazines from online sources and the magazines themselves. In addition, I collected data on major professional skating competitions. These data were mapped and the maps are used to identify spatial patterns.
I am very familiar with the subculture of skateboarding given that I have been associated with it for the past eight years. I have a first person perspective of why California is the prime location for an outlet to the sport. Access to primary data is crucial and with my experience I know exactly where to obtain that data. The history, spatial data, and personal experiences within the sport of skateboarding, should provide clear evidence that California has been the leading role in the control and manipulation of the sport of skateboarding.
- Craig Stecyk 1975</li></ul>Findings<br />Skateboarding holds its roots in Dogtown. Dogtown is the area of West Los Angeles, California and is the poorer slum to the south of Santa Monica and encompasses Venice Beach and Ocean Park. Skip Engblom described it in one short sentence: "
[Dogtown] was dirty, it was filthy, it was paradise."
(Peralta 2001)<br />Without the free-flowing sport of surfing, skateboarding would cease to exist. Skateboarding saw its first daylight in the late 1950's on the beaches of Malibu. It is uncertain where the first skateboard was originated, but it is speculated that the idea was thought of by different people at the same time throughout the state of California with the intention of surfing the streets. It became primitively known as "
and the maneuvers performed on mini surfboards were strictly surfing in style and maneuvers were executed on a downhill slalom or flat ground. The term "
was coined to describe skateboarding's eloquent variations on the flat and downhill surfaces. It gradually became an alternative sport for the teenage subculture of the early 1960's and Californian skateboard manufacturers such as Makaha, Jack's, and Hobie began to form skateboarding teams. Consequently, competitions began to spring up on the coasts of California due to most likely the competiveness of the human society. (Cave 1996) Just as fast as skateboarding entered the world, the "
crashed in 1965 and the world compared its brief stent to the small fads of yo-yo's and hula-hoops. (Peralta 2001)<br />With the crash of skateboarding in the mid 60's, die-hard skaters had to scour and scrounge for their instruments of pleasure. It became impossible to purchase a commercial skateboard in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The dedicated skaters of the dead fad would rummage through thrift stores for old roller skates with clay wheels, cut them in half, and tack them to a salvaged piece of 1/2"
oak wood found off of an old dresser drawer. (Peralta 2001) Some skaters grouped together, pitched in all their pennies and bought a whole piece of 3/4' inch oak wood from a hardware store and then take a borrowed skillsaw or bandsaw and fashion the wood into a mini surfboard shape. Clay wheels, "
the pinnacle of stone age technology"
posed as a hazard and imposed limitations to skating maneuvers. Skaters had to be weary of rocks and pebbles, because the clay wheels would simply lock up if these tiny stones were met and skaters would fly through the air and slam to the ground. These mishaps left early skaters battered and bruised until 1972, when a spark ignited the flame of skateboarding. (Peralta 2001)<br />In 1972, an East Coast surfer, Frank Nasworthy, discovered a new material that would forever revolutionize and pave the way for skateboarding. (Peralta 2001) He created skateboard wheels from urethane which allowed for harder turns on pavement because of its natural softness and allowed almost complete control of the skateboard with extra grip. He founded the company Cadillac Wheels and began to mass produce these wheels and distribute them throughout the states. These urethane wheels proved to be safer, reliable, and smoother for a more exhilarating experience. (Cave 1996)<br />In the same year that the urethane skateboard wheels were invented, three innovators of surfing created Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions, a surf shop place in the heart of Dogtown dedicated to the dirty, nonconformist, anti-paradigm lifestyle of the current laid-back surfing lifestyle. (Peralta 2001) These pioneers are Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom, and Craig Stecyk. Thus, the Zephyr surf team was formed. "
Dogtown was full of young surfers who had nowhere to go, and who were hungry to prove themselves and gain an identity. The Zephyr team provided just that. A lot of what went on in the shop was sketchy at best, but these kids came from broken and messed up families, and the Zephyr team provided a home."
(Cave 1996) These surfers could only surf in the morning because the waves would blow out by ten o'clock in the morning. Thus, skateboarding ensued after that period of the day. (Peralta 2001)<br />The Z-boys, as the team became known as, used skateboarding as a way to express themselves. The very most important aspect of skateboarding to them was style. "
Style was everything."
(Peralta 2001) It didn't matter how big or fast you went. If you didn't look good doing it, you were nothing. Skip Engblom compared style to the blues. "
The blues are three chords. But every guy that plays the blues, plays the blues differently because that's their own style."
(Peralta 2001) The Z-boys pulled their inspiration for style from surfing and would bend their knees deep, dragging their hands along the pavement while carving the concrete like they were riding a wave emulating their legendary surfing idol, Larry Burtleman. This move pioneered by the Z-boys became known as a Burt to the Z-boys and the rest of the world. It is referred to dragging the fingers on the concrete, or planting your hand on the ground and pivoting around that hard, with style of course. The Zephyr team had five grade schools in the Dogtown area that they would use as their concrete wave. These five schools hosted a plethora of concrete banks that were initially used as a drainage ditches because the school was built in a valley or into a hillside. It was in these gutters that each of the Z-boys developed their own style, and were on the "
leading the path of skateboarding with their very own hands. (Peralta 2001)<br />"
Skaters by their very nature are urban guerillas: they make everyday use<br />of the useless artifacts of the technological burden, and employ the handiwork<br />of the government/corporation structure in a thousand ways that the original<br />architects could never dream of."
<br />-Craig Stecyk 1976 <br />Fuel was added to the flames of skateboarding from a record drought that California was experiencing in the 1970's. This drought caused laws to be enforced regulating water usage in the Dogtown area. Local homeowners were not allowed to fill up their in-ground pools, nor could they even water their lawns. Pools in the backyards of homes that were for sale had dried up and the Z-boys saw this as a golden opportunity to experience the ultimate concrete wave. (Peralta 2001)The pool's well rounded shape and smooth, curved, transitional surface walls perfectly matched a realistic model of an actual wave in the ocean. The Z-boys would sneak into these back yards and skate as long as possible. The session lasted just as long there was sunlight or upon the arrival of the police and the Z-boys would make a run for it. To the Z-boys, this was life. This was "
(Peralta 2001)They even went to the extent to bring their own gas-powered water pumps to pools to pump out left over water that had not evaporated out of pools, just to skate. There was another pool that was completely filled with dirt and the Z-boys were so dedicated that they dug out the whole pool just to have fresh concrete to shred. Pool skating evolved very quickly and popularity shot through the sky. They would feed off of each other, creating new maneuvers every time they stepped into a pool. The Z-boys were aggressive and explosive, scrapping their way through life without allowing anyone to stray them from their path. (Peralta 2001)<br />In 1975, the leading skateboard manufacturer, Bahne Skateboards, hosted a competition called the Del Mar Nationals. The Zephyr team entered with intentions to shut down any and all competition. Their platform of competition was a downhill slalom that they were ever so familiar because of Bicknell Hill which ran down from the Zephyr shop, and a flat wood platform for the "
area. (Peralta 2001) The other competitors that entered the competition were still using the maneuvers from the early 60's boom of skateboarding. The Z-boys brought a whole different ballgame to the competition. Their unconventional style and low, aggressive moves exposed here opened the eyes of many and changed the world. (Peralta 2001)<br />Also In 1975, Skateboarder magazine, an extension to Surfer magazine, re-launched. In the second issue, Craig Stecyk published a journalistic series of articles called the "
with the first article "
Aspects of the Downhill Slide."
These articles told of the saga of Dogtown and Z-boys and were distributed throughout the world. This magazine was the super-highway of information for other skaters around the world and was ultimately the most influential piece of literature that blew up the skateboarding subculture. (Cave 1996) Skaters were coming from miles around to witness this great phenomenon and skate the pools they had seen in the magazine hoping to become part of the developing hardcore paradigm that is skateboarding. (Peralta 2001) Stecyk's photography and articles of the Zephyr team in their path of skating exclusive pools and unconventional style "
fanned the flames of the skateboarding revolution that had started at Del Mar."
(Cave 1996)<br />Only a few months after their exposure to the world, the Zephyr team was torn apart by the fame and popularity that they had won. Many skateboard companies were being formed and everyone wanted a piece of the Z-boys. (Cave 1996)They all were offered money and opportunities from these bigger companies and most of them saw this as a chance to be part of something bigger. The Zephyr team was disbanded and the Z-boys went their separate ways. Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom couldn't compete with these companies' offers to their Zephyr team and Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions closed soon afterward. "
Each member of the Zephyr team moved on, some to bigger and better skateboarding, some to other things. A small group of outcasts from the slums of Dogtown had changed their own lives, and the world, forever."
(Cave 1996)<br />Skateboarding's popularity rose and fell throughout the remaining decades. At the end of the 1970's skating died off only to rise in popularity again in 1980's with the creation of skateparks that hosted a variety of ramps that represented natural settings. (Borden 2001) Bowls were created that represented the primitive pools of the Dogtown days and the creation of the "
that was essentially a huge pipe cut in half. (See Image 1) This was influenced ultimately by the waves of the surfing background of skateboarding. Skateboarding then died off again at the end of the 80's because of insurance liability of the skateparks but die-hard skaters still skated. In the 90's skating was revamped with the redesigned skateboard. (Cave 1996) It featured a double kicked tail and nose that allowed the skater to jump higher on the board and vastly opened the field and range of tricks to be performed. This took skateboarding to a whole new level and changed the subculture forever. (Cave 1996)<br />Skaters took to the city landscape and streets, flipping down stair sets and grinding handrails with the metal trucks on the bottom of the skateboard. More skateboarding companies began forming and better skateboards were formed to adjust to the new street skating scene. (Cave 1996) New skateboards were invented and molded to suit street skating. Now, an entire city was used as an outlet to express the attitudes of skaters and urban skating took flight. Everything was used as an obstacle. Curbs, stairs, handrails, park benches, fire hydrants, and banks were used as extension to further evolve the sport. (Karsten and Pel 2000) Soon enough, city officials and land owners saw this as a invasion of their property and legal matters were enforced that rejected the progression of skating and temporal occupancy of certain street elements. (Beal 1993) Skateboarding in the city is seen as disruptive and destructive. In response, skaters and local skate companies created more skateparks that included obstacles that represent city elements such as stair sets and handrails, such as the DC Skate Plaza. (Borden 2001) The DC Skate Plaza in Kettering, Ohio was founded by its native Rob Dyrdek who is co-owner of the DC company.(See Image 2) The skate plaza resembles a public square in a town or city by incorporating landscaping and art to create a multi-use park that is aesthetically pleasing. Also, transitional ramps such as half-pipes and quarter-pipes (See Image 3) are still constructed because of those surfing ties of the Californian surf to skateboarding. These ramps are meant to emulate the elements of nature and human society of which their intended use was not for skateboarding. Skaters were innovative and creative to manipulate these objects and turn them into something completely different. (Weyland 2002) <br />Many professional skateboarders that are sponsored by and/or own today's skateboard companies have been influenced by the Californian scene. Out of the forty professional skateboarders researched, only twenty-four of them originated in California. Currently, thirty- five of the forty professional skateboarders reside in the state of California alone. (Berra and Koston n.d.) The state with the second most is Pennsylvania with three skaters and New York and Canada each have one. (Berra and Koston n.d.) This shows that there is some magnet that is attracting this amount of skaters to California. Also the number of professional skaters that were born in California show that it is easier to step into the realm of skateboarding through the influence of the surrounding culture. (see attached skate name list) <br />Skateboarding has always had a competitive background. One skater is out to prove the he or her is better than the other. This competition between skaters has prompted a series of the biggest professional competitions known as the X-Games. Skaters from around the world come to compete against each other. The X-Games first premiered as the Extreme Games in 1995 in Providence, R.I. The next year, the name was officially changed to the X-Games and was again held in Providence, R.I. (Cave 1996) The next two X-Games were then held in San Diego, CA in 1997 and 1998. San Francisco hosted the next two years of X-Games V and VI. Philadelphia, PA was then chosen to host the VII and VIII games in 2001 and 2002. (Cave 1996)Finally, Los Angeles, CA has taken the lead in hosting the X-Games from 2003 to present. Of the 15 X-Games competitions, the state of California has hosted 11 of them. (Cave 1996) This clearly shows that the California is continuing to dominate skateboarding and possibly other extreme action sports as well in terms of sanctioned events. <br />Skateboarding magazines can also give insight to California's continued dominance. Of the five major skateboard magazines in the United States, four of them are in California and include Skateboarder Magazine, Thrasher Magazine, The Skateboard Mag, and Transworld Magazine. The only magazine publisher not located in southern California is Thrasher Magazine which is based out of San Francisco, California. (Thrasher Magazine n.d.) The other three are located around the general vicinity of Los Angeles. Skateboarder Magazine is located in Orange County, CA, The Skateboard Mag is located in Solana Beach, CA, and Transworld Magazine located in Carlsbad, CA. (Skateboarder Magazine Online n.d.) (Transworld Skateboarding n.d.) (The Skateboard Mag n.d.) The only other major skateboard magazine in the U.S. is Focus Skateboard Magazine which is located in Philadelphia, PA. (Focus Skateboard Magazine n.d.) These locations correlate spatially with the locations the X-Games, along with most of the forty professional skaters in the U.S. <br />The results show that for each indicator (top skater birthplace, top skater place of residence, number of skateparks, skateboarding magazine publisher location, and major professional skating competitions) California ranks number one. California dominates in the number of top skater birthplaces, with 60% of top skaters born in that state. California also dominates in the current place of residence of top skaters, with almost 88% of top skaters residing there) with the remaining 12% residing in only two other states). California has more than two and a half times the number of skateparks as does the next leading state, Texas. Of the five leading skateboard magazines, four (80% of the total) are published in California. The most popular and competitive skateboarding event, the X-Games, has held 15, including the past 7, in California. <br />Discussion<br />My personal experiences and ideology of a skateboarder gives me the advantage of knowing why California is such a big part of this subculture. For one example, the weather on the west coast of California is almost always nice. So the opportunity to skate every day is greater than most parts of the United States. The skate locations and the street scene have vast amounts of obstacles to shred and most of them are ideal for skating. In a town such as Florence, Al, street skate spots are very limited, and the prime skate spots in the city are heavily biased against skateboarders, which results in the rejection of skating and possible fines. The ones that we can skate get very boring over the span of many years because they are mostly quaint and mellow. Maneuvers are limited. In California, so many spots equal skating something new every day. Different scenery and obstacles allows for further progression and innovation. California has prime stair sets to flip, perfect handrails to grind, smooth ledges to slide, not to mention the many skateparks in the Los Angeles area alone. California seems to be built for skateboarding. Skateboarding is fun and challenging. It's all about doing the hardest, most burly trick and the self satisfaction you gain from landing something knowing no one in your immediate area is capable of. There is also that competition factor that's imbedded into the sport. There is a certain vibe you get when someone goes big and hammers down a nice trick. You feed off of that energy and it in turn pushes you to do something harder and faster. With this feeling, I know what it was like for the Z-boys as they were pushing through the hard times and taking in the fun times. I would love to go to California to experience that nostalgic aura and be a part of that "
and history. <br />Conclusion<br />California, particularly the Los Angeles region, is essentially the central hub of skateboarding. Professional skateboarders, if not born there, flock to California to pursue their love and passion for the sport. We speculate that the traditional culture of skating, the large number of skateparks, and year-round pleasant weather account for California’s dominance. Competitions along with magazine distributors congregate in California as a result of the high interest in the sport there. The magazine exposure and televised events highlight skating in California, resulting in increased skater migration to the hearth area, as new skaters hope to leave their mark on sport. <br />Image 1<br />Transworld Magazine, 2009<br />Image 2<br />Transworld Magazine, 2009<br />Image 3<br />Skateboarder Magazine, 2009<br />Bibliography<br />Beal, Becky. "
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