When did longboarding start?

A short history of longboarding

Longboarding began back in the fifties. It was born in Oahu, Hawaii, and quickly cruised over to California, U.S.A where longboarding was almost instantly crowned the new trend among the beach culture.

And did you know that the very first longboards were actually known as ‘sidewalk surfing’! Yep, what a name!

Vintage 1960’s to late 70’s ‘Sidewalk Surfing’ footage

When was the first time a longboard was shown in a movie!?

The first time a longboard was seen on the big screen was probably in Ben Stiller’s 2013 movie ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ (A great film to watch if you haven’t seen it already!)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Longboarding scene
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter (Ben Stiller) ends up in Greenland and then in Iceland – the fabulous longboarding scene starts as the local volcano is about to erupt. Walter jumps onto his longboard and for 2 minutes he has a spectacular ride through the remote and twisting roads that cut through the landscape of Iceland – He holds stones in his hands instead of gloves as he takes the turns – a real Asphalt Surfer indeed!

You can see the Walter Mitty longboarding scene below…

A little more depth…

The evolution of longboarding: It crawled out of the sea and onto land

Longboarding was born out of a need to recreate surfing magic on the asphalt roads.

1959 was the first ever year that longboards were officially unleashed via enticing marketing tactics onto the everyday person in the street.

Surfers crawled out of the waters in Hawaii and glided over to the United States. Longboarding gave surfers the possibility to cope with the cold turkey feeling of days out of the water. When the weather conditions churned up unsurfable waters, surfers could still go out and have the same feeling of riding the surf upon the pavements and asphalt.

The phenomenon of downhill

If you don’t know what ‘Downhill’ is – it is the art of riding on a longboard down hills as fast as possible! The talent lies in keeping the board under full control. Riders should wear special protection, as a fall in excess of 80mph can be very nasty indeed. The UK rider Pete Connolly holds the current Guinness World Record for downhill – In 2017, he reached an incredible  speed of 146.73 mph / 91.17 mph to become the fastest man in history on a longboard.

The actual birth of ‘Downhill’… Tom Sims made his impact on the longboarding (and snowboarding) scene in the 70’s. Tom Sims was a surfer from Santa Barbara. He was the pioneer of the phenomenon of downhill as we know it. He fearlessly sped down mountain roads, and all kinds of slopes – And soon afterwards everyone wanted to do it. Downhill became the new extreme sport. You may have already seen Tom Sims on the big screen – he was the primary snowboarding stunt double for Roger Moore in the James Bond movie ‘A View to a Kill’.

A rare clip of Tom Sims (1976) – Pioneer of skateboarding and snowboarding along with team members Steve Monohan and Edie Robertson

In those early days, longboards had robust components  – the wheels were made of metal, and the decks were made out of fibreglass – These first longboards were initially criticized as being unsafe. So, shortly after, the decks began to be made out of wood. The metal wheels were replaced by clay ones, and then the clay wheels were replaced by urethane ones!

The first longboards
The first longboards

These evolving changes made the longboards safer, and they became widely more acceptable among parents who were nagged by their children for one. And, before anyone knew what was happening ‘sidewalk surfing’ sprang into existence as a sport in its own right – gaining ground and an insane popularity that ultimately melted into the of skateboarding craze that exploded in the 60’s and went on into the 70’s.  Skateboarding/longboarding is very much alive today as you surely know – Just take a look around you. Watch the different shapes, blends, and many styles and disciplines whizz past and continue to evolve!

Longboarding is the result an unceasing renaissance, conceived by Mama Surfboard and Papa Skateboard

Asphalt Surfers

From surfboarding to longboarding

So, it’s clear that the longboard emerged from the art of surfing.  It’s the chubby, growing baby of Mama Surfboard and Papa Skateboard. Longboarding is a vast subculture full of urban myths, legends, unwritten rules and colourful communities. Rituals are built and new words are shaped in this dynamic subculture.

Surfboard longboards
Surfing the streets

Longboards and shortboards came out at the same time. The longboards had technical limitations and were left in the shadows until they were rediscovered in the 90’s.  This was due to advances in technology which allowed for stability, precision and speed to be fed into longboards. 

The evolution of the Skateboard/Longboard – Quick timeline overview:

Click on the image to go to the timeline!

Skateboard - Longboard history timeline

Street skate…

In Los Angeles, the evolution of half-pipes and the use of empty pools emerged as skating terrain. In New York the sidewalks/pavements were used.
The new millennium saw longboarding really take off. It happened in New York where the scene is now perfectly structured. 
Longboarding has certainly made it’s mark throughout the world – nearly every country and island has it own personal champion. From it’s humble beginnings in Hawaii, across America, and spreading to every continent, longboarding is here to stay!  

Make sure you leave your mark!

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