Following its overwhelmingly successful San Diego-area debut in 2017, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships return to Del Mar, one of the world’s most iconic racing venues - Where the...
Through all the ups and downs that skateboarding has experienced over the last 70 years, San Diego has been a lifeline that allowed the sport to continue progressing, becoming a global phenomenon and finding its place among traditional sports like football and baseball.
Although there are stories of roller skate wheels being added to wooden boards as early as the 1920s, skateboarding as we think of it today began in the late 1940s or early 1950s when surfers in California were looking for something to do when the waves were flat.
Skateboarding quickly became the rage throughout Southern California and spread across the nation. In 1964, San Diego’s surfboard pioneers Larry Gordon and Floyd Smith (co-founders of Gordon & Smith Surfboards) used their manufacturing experience to develop a revolutionary new skateboard process that combined Bo-Tuff (a fiberglass-reinforced epoxy) with a maple wood core. Known as the Fibreflex skateboard, it was the first laminated board created for the skate market.
After a significant decline in popularity in the late 1960s, the introduction of urethane wheels and other innovations in the early 1970s brought about a renewed interest in the sport and a search for more challenging places to ride. For a few years in the early 1970s, an empty Escondido Reservoir became the hot place to skate in Southern California, and its terrain influenced the design of future skate parks.
Skateboarding’s widespread comeback was hastened in 1975 when Del Mar hosted one of the largest skateboarding competitions since the 1960s. The Del Mar National Championships, a 2-day competition with up to 500 competitors, introduced the world to a new way to ride by the Zephyr team from LA, which included Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta. The team had developed their style in empty swimming pools during heavy drought years in California. Instead of riding in the smooth, gliding style of longboard surfers, they brought an aggressive, attacking nature to their skating, similar to the style revolution that happened when short boards were introduced to surfing. Known as the Z boys, they were featured in the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown.
That same year, a La Costa housing tract became the most popular local skate spot in history. With a years-long delay in construction, the already-completed streets and sidewalks became a mecca for skaters from all over Southern California.
In May 1976, the Carlsbad Skatepark opened to the public. It was one of the first two skate parks in the world, both of which opened that month.
As interest in skateboarding again ebbed and high insurance costs forced the closure of most skate parks by the early 1980s, the Del Mar Ranch Skate Park became a focal point of California skateboarding, attracting a contingent of hardcore skateboarders from around the world.
Today, there are more than 35 formal skate parks throughout San Diego County, and you will see skateboarders, young and old, wherever you go. What began as a way to kill time when the surf was down is alive and thriving, and has now become an iconic Southern California tradition.
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk was born in Carlsbad, raised in San Diego and is now an Encinitas resident. At the age of 16, Hawk was considered the best competitive skateboarder in the world. During the 1997 X Games, he landed four 540s in a row, a feat that is widely recognized as one of the greatest runs of all time. By 1998, Tony Hawk had won the National Skateboard Association world championship for twelve consecutive years and invented more than fifty tricks. In 1999, he cemented his legendary status by completing the first-ever frontside 900, two-and-a-half mid-air revolutions. Following in his father’s footsteps, in 2013 on his 21st birthday, Riley Hawk turned pro and won Skateborder’s Amateur of the Year award.
Although Shaun White is best known for his snowboarding prowess, he is also a skateboarder. Mentored by Tony Hawk, whom he met at a San Diego skate park when he was 9, White turned pro in skateboarding at the age of 17. His skateboarding achievements include first place at the Dew Action Sports Tour’s Right Guard Open, Action Sports Tour Champion and winner of five Winter X Games metals. He is the only skater to land the frontside heelflip 540 body varial.
In 1964, San Diegan Patti McGee set the female speed record at 47 mph. As the first Woman’s National Skateboard Champion in 1965, she was featured on the cover of Life and Skateboarder magazines, and became the first woman inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.
Hosting more than 45 of the world’s best Action Sports athletes, the annual Clash at Clairemont is Southern California’s premier action sports fundraising celebration, uniting the biggest names in skateboarding and BMX to crush cancer and support the YMCA.
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