The longboard evolution: 5 big changes since the beginning

In Blog - 26/07/2017

These days, longboard enthusiasts can find a wide variety of specially crafted wheels, decks, and other accessories to help them craft the perfect board for cruising, carving, downhilling, and other activities. But it hasn’t always been that way. A look back shows that longboard evolution has come quite a way from some rather humble beginnings. The millions of riders who go out on their longboards today owe a lot to the pioneers who first began tinkering and customizing their boards those many decades ago.

Here’s a closer look at some of the unique events that have marked the longboard evolution.

1. Surfing Safari

Longboarding and skateboarding mostly trace their origins back to 1950s California (or Hawaii, depending on who you ask), where surfing enthusiasts were looking for a way to enjoy their favorite hobby when the waves weren’t good for surfing. Skateboarding was originally referred to as “sidewalk surfing,” and most riders would try to imitate the tricks and riding style they performed while out on the waves. In these early days, most boards were homemade, though by the 1960s, a few surfing companies had begun manufacturing skateboards that looked more or less like surfboards with wheels.

2. The Birth of the Longboard

While an increasing number of companies were beginning to manufacture skateboards as toys or surfing alternatives, many riders found that these boards were too small to provide a good riding experience. As a result, many teenagers started attaching their skateboard wheels to longer planks so they could achieve a more stable ride. This desire for a larger, steadier board eventually lead to the birth of the longboard — and since many of these boards were crafted in garages and backyards, this also led to the original customization mindset which has carried over into the modern longboarding community.

3. Wheels

A key development in the history of longboard evolution are the changes that have been made to wheels. In the earliest days of skateboarding and longboarding, teens would typically take metal wheels from their roller skates and attach them to the bottom of the board. However, these wheels were notoriously unstable, greatly increasing riders’ risk of a dangerous accident. Some riders began using clay wheels as a safer substitute, but it wasn’t until the introduction of urethane wheels in the 1970s that ride quality and safety were able to dramatically improve. The faster and stronger urethane wheels led to a major rise in the popularity of longboarding.

4. A Lasting Resurgence

Safety issues and other factors caused skateboarding and longboarding to largely fade from the public view until the 1990s, when a lasting resurgence in longboarding’s popularity took place. The first factor that contributed to this change was the rise of Tony Hawk and other popular skateboarders, which prompted many former riders to take up their sport again — only this time, with larger longboards instead of the small skateboards of their youth. As snowboarding rose in popularity, snowboarders also wanted to find a similar activity to fill their summer months — and longboarding served as the perfect solution.

5. A Professional Touch

The sudden increased interest in longboarding in the 1990s led to lasting changes to longboarding culture as a whole. In particular, this marked the time when more and more companies began to devote themselves to manufacturing decks, wheels, and more to provide improved performance for the increasing variety of riding styles. Today, longboarders no longer have to try to assemble their own board from scratch and hope that it works — rather, they can get high-quality manufactured components that are designed to give them the ultimate riding experience. The introduction of wheels and boards that are specifically manufactured for different riding styles has allowed longboarding to become more popular and accessible than ever before.