When skateboards or 'shingles on wheels' were back

A close-up view of the world of skateboarding in 1986.

Skateboarding was very popular with the kids when the 1980s rolled around

The history of skateboarding

36 years ago
Duration 0:37
In 1986, The National provides a brief recap of the rise and fall of the skateboarding trend.

The National cast a semi-skeptical eye at skateboards when it assigned Dan Bjarnason to report on how the sport was rolling back to the forefront of recreational activities in the mid-1980s.

"From one end of the country to the other and in most of what's in-between, they're back," Bjarnason said, referring to skateboards, in a report that aired on Aug. 15, 1986.

"Like a reincarnation, these shingles on wheels keep on returning from beyond. After the '60s and again in the '70s, they're with us again in their third life."

Not only were they back, but they were being snapped up by would-be skaters in rapid succession.

Skateboards were very popular with the kids in 1986. (The National/CBC Archives)

"They're peddled in more than 500 stores," Bjarnason reported, noting there were more skateboard stores at that point than McDonald's restaurants in Canada.

A tough time for bicycles

The kids want skateboards

36 years ago
Duration 1:32
In 1986, skateboards were in high demand.

In Toronto, Rudy Atzmueller Sr. had been selling sports goods for 30 years, including many bicycles. 

And by 1986, on the suggestion of his son, he was selling a lot of skateboards and skateboard equipment — and not a lot of two-wheeled rides.

"It's just ridiculous," he told The National

"I've still got bicycles there," he said gesturing to another part of his shop. "I can't give them away."

'It takes up my whole life'

Perry Gladstone, a 17-year-old Torontonian, had set up his own skateboard shop in 1986. (The National/CBC Archives)

Less experienced retailers were jumping on the trend as well, like 17-year-old Perry Gladstone, who had sold $25,000 worth of skateboard merchandise by that point in the summer.

He'd set up a shop The National visited, which had skateboard decks hanging along a wall and a glass case displaying various skateboard-related merchandise. 

A young group of skaters was hunched over the display case, while Gladstone appeared to be patiently waiting to make a potential sale.

"It takes up my whole life, basically," Gladstone said of skateboarding. "I eat, sleep, drink and live it."

'I'd go to jail for skateboarding'

'I'd go to jail for skateboarding'

36 years ago
Duration 0:19
A young man tells The National how far he'd be willing to go to stand up for skateboarding.

The sport definitely had devoted participants in those days, like Dan Arnold, who was among skateboarders in Vancouver defying a local bylaw that prohibited skating on the streets.

"I'd serve my time in jail," he said. "If they said, you know: 'Either you pay these fines or we're putting you, like, three weekends in jail' ... I'd go to jail for skateboarding."

John Krieger was among the skateboarders The National interviewed in 1986 about the sport and its popularity at that time. (The National/CBC Archives)

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