by Susan Mann
It’s a sad reality to confront. There are signs the popularity of skateboarding is declining:
- Fewer people are looking for skateboards and skate parks online than ever before, as shown by the fact that skateboarding searches on Google are decreasing.
- Industry studies show skateboarding involvement is down for nearly every age group, including the youth.
- Participation in skateboarding has declined. In the past ten years, parks are less crowded than they have ever been.
- Skateboarding companies are closing.
Skateboarding is definitely in a slump. Although the following data is depressing, and we are greatly concerned about skateboarding, this is not the first time skateboarding has been hit with a decline. Skateboarding faced a crash in popularity in the 1970s, when skate park construction halted and parks closed. Rising insurance costs and declining attendance were blamed for causing the ”˜70’s crash. Similarly, the Great Recession of 2008 unquestionably hit the industry hard.
Is skateboarding dying? To get a clear picture of how grim the current stats are, let’s look at the data from Google.
The following graphs show the total number of searches:
Google Searches for “Skateboards” have Fallen Steadily.
The number of searches for “skateboards” online has dropped at a relatively slower rate. This slower rate of decline may be due to the rise of skateboard e-commerce.
Google Searches for “Skateboard Parks” are Dying.
Google searches for “skate parks” from 2004-2017 dropped over 85% and might indicate fewer people are skateboarding. The Skate Park of Tampa saw a 38% decrease in skate sessions between 2004 and 2012.
Fewer people are going to skateboard park site directories. Skatepark.com and SkateboardPark.com have seen declining traffic since 2013 according to Compete.com.
Google Searches for “Skateboarding” Dropped 90%.
Skateboarding searches fell 90% based on information from Google.
Participation in Skateboarding Has Declined Also
Participation numbers are suffering. Fewer skaters are going to the skatepark than in recent times. In the seven years between 2006 and 2014, the number of skateboarding participants aged between six and 17 years decreased from 8.75 million to less than four million. Youth participation dropped 50% in the last seven years.
Surveys, conducted by the skateboard and action sports market in the past few years, show a similar narrative. The number of youth participants in the United States decreased by almost 6 million participants between 2006 and 2014.
Industry Surveys Show Youth Participation has Dropped by Almost 6 Million.
|Year||Participants (in millions)||Annual Percentage Drop|
Total Drop (2006-2015)
(Source: Statista.com, 2017)
In the seven years between 2006 and 2014, the number of skateboarding participants aged between six and 17 years decreased from 8.75 million to less than four million.
A similar trend is happening with snowboarding, skateboarding’s step-child; Google searches have dropped 90%. Burton, a developer of snowboarding products, is struggling to break out of just appealing to snowboarders and become a popular lifestyle brand.
Contest participation levels have also dropped. On the other hand, scooter use is rising.
Some refute all evidence of the decline in skateboarding, although most agree on one thing — the increasing visibility of scooters at skate parks. Many skaters are taking out their frustrations on scooters in websites like Skateboard-City.com and SkatersCafe.com, where most complain about getting snaked by scooters or increasing crowds. Skaters, of the late 1990’s saw the death of rollerblading, and many thought the same demise would return to scootering. It has not yet happened.
Scooters are swarming local skate parks – more than ever before. The youth play on scooters while millennials and generation x’ers have stuck with skateboarding. It also seems fewer people are starting skateboarding than ever before.
Scooter use is hurting the skateboard industry. The youth are choosing scooters over skating.
Interestingly enough, scooters are more popular in Europe than America. Spain, Switzerland, and France are experiencing a larger scooter boom. The interest, measured by search frequency, shows Western Europeans search for “freestyle scooters” at nearly ten times the rate as Americans.
Scoot Fest is dubbed as one of the largest, annual scooter events and takes place yearly in United Kingdom. It lasts two days and draws visitors and sponsors from around the world. A media company, Scoot Mag, is one of the leading scooter publications online and in the newsstand and is headquartered in UK. Despite this, the X-Games woefully partnered with Razor Scooters in 2012 and introduced “freestyle scootering” into X-Games events.
Skateboarding’s Trouble on Wall Street
Sadly, the drop in interest in skateboarding has had a ripple effect on the skate industry.
If any company could by in financial trouble, the last corporation to come to mind, might be DC Shoes. DC, purchased by Quicksilver, has taken a tumultuous turn–Quicksilver ousted CEO, Andy Mooney, and declared chapter 11 bankruptcy. Since then, Quicksilver (ZQK), hasn’t maintained enough value to remain on the New York Stock Exchange, and it was delisted at the end of 2015.
Quicksilver isn’t alone. PACSUN (PSUN), known for its iconic skate and surf apparel, filed bankruptcy, and was delisted from NASDAQ in 2016. Zumiez (ZUMZ) finished 2016 with profits which fell 50% from the prior year. Skate and snowboard apparel companies are now looking overseas for growth.
Converse, Nike, and Adidas now entered the skateboard market, yet for most industry players, they wouldn’t necessarily call Converse an action sports brand. Same goes for Nike which continues to move into action sports with skateboarding (and owning Converse), and surfing (and owning Hurley). Nike abandoned snowboarding and skiing in 2014 due to declining sales. Nike’s skateboarding team retains big names, Eric Koston and Paul Rodriguez, so it is unlikely we will see Nike SB’s demise soon.
Private indoor skate parks have seen many casualties. Vans Skate Parks had closed locations in Ontario CA, Morristown NJ, Denver CO, Milpitas CA, Potomac VA, Houston TX, Novi MI, and Orlando FL. Vans had a claim to the largest indoor parks in the country. Skaters drove hours to skate the awe-inspiring terrain. Public skate park construction simultaneously boomed and likely hurt Van’s admissions.
Chris Overholser, a Vans spokesperson said, “If kids have a choice of skating in a free municipal park or paying $7 or so a session to skate in ours, they’re going to go to the free park,”
Skateboarding Companies Are Closing
CCS, Zumiez, and local skate shops may have been impacted by the downturn.
The list of casualties is long: CCS, 411VM, Digital, Fuel TV, Aesthetics, City Skateboards, Skateboarder Magazine, Arcade, and Vehicle Skateboards are all gone. Hundreds of local skate shops have closed their doors. ZERO and Fallen are suffering from the downturn, and Dwindle recently swooped in to save them. Jamie Thomas said about the skateboard depression, “Skateboard sales have been sucking this year.”
Chris Nieratko, owner of NJ Skateshop, remarked about the industry on ESPN, “I own three NJ Skateshop stores in New Jersey and this past Holiday season was our worst in seven years. I have friends across the country that have owned skate shops three times as long and they’re saying the same thing.”
Pro Skateboarders like Tony Hawk, Greg Lutzka, and Dan Murphy, have recently seen sponsors either reduce their salaries or say their farewell due to the bad economy
At the beginning of the decade of 2000, skateboarding was extremely popular. In fact, were more Americans skateboarding in 2000 than playing baseball. In 2001, teenagers were watching more action sports than college football and basketball.
This led to the creation of a promising skate, surf, and snow channel, Fuel TV, that helped people stay connected to action sports, including skateboarding, nearly 24/7 on their cable box. Its birth by FOX in 2003 was unprecedented exposure for skateboarding, although it lasted less than ten years before capitulating to the ever-growing interest in UFC fighting. Fuel canceled all skate shows to make room for more UFC shows.
Action sports are now becoming less valued by teenagers.
Volcom, skate, swimwear, snowboarding outfitter, who bills itself as “a creative modern lifestyle brand” and Quicksilver have fallen dramatically as a “most preferred” brand among 13-25-year-olds as indicated by the North American Youth Culture Studies for both Spring and Fall.
What are the Ramifications?
Let’s be clear; this is not easy news to swallow. We are not here to dig the grave for skateboarding, but to shed light on its status in order to turn it around.
Limited to America, the downward trend happening for almost a decade now is not present in parts of Europe, Japan, and China. Asia remains a flourishing market. The world’s largest skate park opened in China and skate shops are quickly multiplying.
However, in the U.S., a lack of popularity means fewer dollars in skateboarding, lower salaries for pros, and hurting skate shops. A reduction in demand will likely have a domino effect on much of the action sports industry.
The silver-lining is not everyone is suffering.
Vans hit a record-breaking milestone, $2 billion in revenue in 2015, which is a huge leap from the $320 million it grossed 10 years ago. Vans has been diversifying their portfolio, expanding globally, and penetrating the surf market.
Street League Skateboarding continues to grow as it expands internationally through a partnership with FOX Sports 1. The league is the first time skateboarding has had year-round contest exposure on television. Street League has added a women’s league to appeal to a larger market.
So long as skateboarding remains viable as an industry within the United States, it will remain viable as an industry in other countries as well. The United States is not just the birthplace of skateboarding; it is also its driving force in the world. The American skateboarding industry is built on genuine interest and, while this might have declined, it remains significant.
Positive Trends in Skateboarding in the Last Twenty Years
Any discussion of the future of skateboarding, should begin with a look of the positive trends of the past. In the last twenty years, we have seen skateboarding:
- The rise of decent skate parks
- Creation of clothes, shoes, and accessories specifically for skaters
- Skateboarding moving everywhere, not just California, but all over the U.S. and in Europe
- The presence of skate videos readily available on the Internet
- Skating became cool to the public
- Skateboarding has become more positive and democratic, and kinder – the environment
The Resiliency of Skateboarding
Skateboarding bounced back from a dive in the late 1980’s, so it’s resiliency proves it can thrive again. There are significant signs that skateboarding will not only survive, but increase in popularity.
Emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and South America are likely to prove fertile grounds for future skate booms. In major nations, such as Russia, India and Brazil, interest in skateboarding is far more stable and not yet showing signs of meaningful decline.
Additionally, there are ways to that those who love skateboarding can encourage and improve interest in the sport.
Show the benefits of skateboarding, among them:
- Skateboarding provides participants with fun, adventure, and confidence.
- Skateboarding rules are minimal and, thus, skateboarding allows self-expression.
- Skateboarding builds individual self-confidence.
Interest in skateboarding can bounce back by encouraging young women to participate in the sport, offering more classes at skateboard parks, and continuing to increase the appeal of skateboarding clothing and accessories to those who are not participants in the sport.
There is a culture associated with skateboarding, one that has not always had a positive image. It is important that going forward, all of us involved with the skateboarding industry create a universally positive image of the sport.
In August of 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously to include skateboarding in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. The emerging ”˜90s punk scene and the 1995 X-Games saved skateboarding in the ”˜90s – Will the Olympics be skateboarding’s “saving grace?”