'Skurfing' the streets in '65
They burst on the scene in the 1990s — brash, risky new sports and older activities done with a high-octane twist. Snowboarding, skateboarding, BMX riding, wakeboarding and similar pursuits became infused with a counterculture credo of making up rules and pushing the limits. But soon big business came courting the outlaw athletes. CBC Archives looks back at the recreation revolution and how savvy marketers helped push the extreme into the mainstream.
Robertson gives skurfing a try but he looks pretty shaky atop the wooden board. He might not have to worry, though -- based on sales, it seems the four-wheeled fad might be dying out.
• One thing hasn't changed since 1965 -- Canadian skateboarders and the law still clash on occasion. Many cities have bylaws that forbid riding on streets and sidewalks that are enforced to varying degrees.
• Vancouver, however, took steps in 2003 to become a skateboard-friendly city. Bylaws banning riders from side streets and allowing police to confiscate skateboards were revoked. In 2004, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell declared the city's first "Skateboard Week."
• The forerunner to the modern skateboard first appeared about a century ago. Scooters were made by attaching roller skate wheels to a small wooden plank and topping it with handles.
• By the 1950s, the addition of "trucks," attaching the wheels to the board, allowed riders to steer by shifting their weight. Also, steel wheels were replaced with smoother-riding clay models.
• Young Californians took up the new hobby as a way to surf on land. By the 1960s, manufacturers such as Hobie helped make skateboarding a mainstream North American fad that saw 50 million boards sold. But the fad died in the autumn of 1965 -- a few months after this clip aired -- amid concerns over skateboarder injuries and even fatalities that led many cities to ban their use.
• The development of road-gripping polyurethane wheels kicked off another skateboard craze in the mid-1970s. The period also saw the development of tricks move from the horizontal, on roads and in parking lots, to the vertical, in empty swimming pools and ramps. But, once again, the fad died out.
• The sport went underground in the early 1980s and experienced an unlikely liaison with punk rock. While not known as sporty, punk's thrashy sound matched the aggressive vertical riding style and was adopted by a community happy to embrace something rejected as unfashionable by mainstream culture. Soon, however, the uncool was deemed cool again and skateboarding's third wave of popularity began.
• Gravity-defying skaters such as Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi became international celebrities. The sport's outlaw image, typified by fashions such as baggy shorts and boards featuring graffiti-like graphics heavy on skulls and devils, was soon being marketed in department stores. After a dip in popularity in the early 1990s, skateboarding surged back even stronger as a centrepiece of the first Extreme Games in 1995. Corporate involvement in the sport became huge.
• The next skateboard trend moved tricks out of bowls and ramps and onto city streets, where riders negotiated hand railings, stairs, curbs and other urban mainstays. Many skateboard parks added features to mimic the look of urban streets and parks.
• There is pressure to get skateboarding into the Olympics and, also, pressure from within the sport to keep it out. The International Skateboard Federation is expected to have talks with the International Olympic Committee.
Program: Across Canada
Broadcast Date: June 15, 1965
Guest(s): Gai Cochrane
Host: Sandi Fruman
Reporter: Lloyd Robertson
Last updated: June 14, 2013
Page consulted on February 7, 2014
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