Who invented skateboards?
The fact that skateboards exist does not necessarily mean that they were invented by someone. They are one of those phenomena that just seem to have evolved. The idea is believed to have caught on in the 1950s. Originally called sidewalk surfers, they were a hit with the surfing community on the West Coast. Although it is not known who invented skateboards, there are some interesting facts about them that we can point people to.
We know that skateboards were first sold commercially in 1958 by Bill and Mark Richards. They were pretty basic boards made by attaching skate wheels to pieces of wood. There is little that can be changed in this basic build! This was, unsurprisingly, in California, the home of surfers. Although this is not who invented skateboards, they were probably the first retailers. The fact that skateboards became popular with the surfing community, possible to use when there were no waves and nothing to do, is reflected in the way the boards are built. They are always shaped like a surfboard, particularly some of the smaller plastic ones that were so popular in the ’60s and ’70s.
Another fact we know is who invented skateboard kicktails. This was Richard Stevenson and he patented the design in 1969. This was as an improvement on the basic board design to help perform tricks by lifting the front end. This has become an essential part of the modern skateboard.
Another design element that was patented was much more recent. A patent for the steerable deck skateboard was issued in 1993. This was for a certain Thomas Welsh. Again, this is not who invented skateboards, but definitely someone who was instrumental in their evolution.
The basic skateboard design doesn’t seem to have a particular definitive inventor. Originally they were just a 4 x 2 board on a roller skate. This was probably a roller skate that belonged to your sister, and since you can make two skateboards out of her skate, a friend no doubt bought it for you as well. Skateboarders of that day were most likely always seen in pairs! As we know, necessity is the mother of invention and maybe it was someone who couldn’t find his skates so much that he invented skateboards. I don’t think we’ll ever find an answer.
There are probably plenty of people out there who would claim to know who invented skateboards, and maybe even some who would claim the crown themselves. In fact, I remember my father telling me a long time ago that he used to strap his school books to a roller skate with his belt, sit on it and run down the hill to school. This would have been in the 1940s in England! Maybe he deserves the crown!