It probably won't surprise you to learn that skateboarding started in the US in the 1950s. Surfers who were bored by a lack of good waves devised a radical plan to deliver surfing kicks regardless of the weather. Quite simply, they nailed a 2ft by 4ft plank of wood on to two roller-skates and tried to simulate surfing.
And so the phrase "sidewalk surfer" was born, though it wasn't until the late 1970s that skateboarding "blew up". It took a little while to catch on in the UK, where eventually it garnered a considerable following, but was soon replaced by the next youth fad.
However, like Freddy Krueger, skateboarding has never really died. It was forced underground for a decade, but has now bounced back stronger than ever. Its enduring appeal lies in the fact that skateboarding is more of a lifestyle choice than a sport.
"You can just go out and do it," says Alvin Singfield of Panic Skateboards. "There are so many different levels to it. You can use it for basic transport or to skate streets and ramps. If you've had a bad day you can just get away - it makes you feel free."
Singfield, 27, has been skating for about 14 years and started Panic (and sister company Blueprint) about three years ago. Panic makes a range of boards for the general public and its stable of sponsored pro-riders. Top riders can earn a living from boarding, especially in the US.
While all sports thrive on the money offered by competitions, many surfers and skateboarder are reluctant to participate on principle. Rather, they believe that creativity and expression are far more important. Those that do choose to enter public competition can earn
substantial financial rewards while offering audiences the opportunity to witness awesome tricks.
Skateboarding's re-emergence has in turn spawned snowboarding (snow), skyboarding (air), and wakeboarding (water). Surfing may be the father of all board sports but skateboarding is definitely the "mother" of "street cool" and the weapon of choice for the modern urban warrior.
"Skate culture, clothes and music are very popular, but it's more than that," says Singfield. "There's a massive lifestyle that goes on behind the scenes. You get to meet a lot of people and it's a very social thing - almost like skaters against the world."
Modern urban skating embraces a healthy dose of banditry. Not in the sense that any crimes are committed, but in the cat-and-mouse relationship they have with pedestrians, security guards and the police.
There are concrete skate parks in London where you can skate, blade or ride, but the nature of skateboarding rebuffs both convention and geographical confines. Surfers surf the water; for boarders, the entire metropolis is their domain.
"Nobody likes you because you're on the pavement, nobody likes you if you're in the road," Singfield says. "The police move you on because someone's complaining about the noise and security guards don't like you because you try and skate the buildings they are there to protect.
"We don't damage property but everything in a city is an urban skate park. Anything is skateable; the marble blocks in the city, the curb outside your house or the metal railings on a flight of stairs."
Despite the differences in age and skill, boarders lead a tribal-like existence with a strong sense of community and fun. There are more converts arriving every year.
So remember - skateboarding is for life, not just for Christmas.
THE LOW DOWN - SKATEBOARDING
TYPES OF BOARD
- Standard: used to get a pint of milk from the corner-shop or for pulling a "ninja grab" or a "fakie" off a "half-pipe"
Cost: from pounds 80 (blank deck and trucks) to pounds 140 (signatured deck, wheels and trucks)
- Old skool: this longer board is not a trick board and is specially designed for cruising.
Cost: pounds 100-pounds 160.
WHERE TO GO
- There are plenty of purpose-built skate parks from Portobello to Brixton. Call your local council for locations
- You can skate almost anything; hook up with a crew and hit the streets
- Buy your gear from the UK's largest skate shop, Club Blue Room and skate the ramp in the basement for free: 141 Park Lane, Marble Arch, London W1Y (0171-495 5444)
- Go to skate shops for expert advice
- Wear a helmet and pads on half-pipes
- Buy skateboarding mags to learn jargon news
- Spend all your loot on skate fashions before you know one end of the board from the otherReuse content