Since its conception, skateboarding’s popularity has gone through ups and downs. In fact, skateboarding and the skate industry have nearly collapsed twice in the late 1960s and early 1980s, begging the question – what is the future of skateboarding popularity?
In this article, we’re asking the tough questions AND getting the answers.
- Has skateboarding’s popularity increased or decreased since the skateboard was invented?
- What factors cause skateboarding’s decline and increase in popularity?
- Is skateboarding’s popularity dying?
- Why we love skateboarding!
GOSKATE will answer all these questions and go over the factors that are affecting the past, present, and future popularity of our favorite action sport.
Popularity since the skateboard was invented
The popularity of skateboarding has meant more than just if people are riding a skateboard more this year than last. For the industry and the entire extreme sport, it’s popularity has meant life or death.
In fact, skateboarding has been on the brink of dying several times. That being said, today we see several encouraging statistics suggesting skateboarding is in a healthy place.
While cities like New York, Los Angeles, and even Tokyo might know Tony Hawk or played his video games or seen the X-Games on ESPN, skateboarding still had to grow as a sport before the average person knew what a half pipe was.
This is the major difference between skateboards and BMX or scooters and other action sports. But even so, most people can name a pro skater in Tony Hawk. So it must be pretty popular right? Well, let’s take a look.
The 1960s in many ways was more like today. Women like Patti McGee were landing the cover of Time Magazine as a female pro skater and skate contests were sprouting in small towns in every nook and cranny of the USA.
However, skateboarding was still finding its bearings in competition. Downhill and freestyle – two contest formats that are all but extinct today – were the most common, while most competition skaters were barely teenagers. As the DogTown era was beginning to form, street skateboarding wasn’t yet a staple of skateboarding in terms of affecting popularity.
Today, skateboarding is getting older. In 2006, 71% of skaters were 12-17, whereas today, only 45% make up that age range.
Skating has also undergone a lot of changes since the 1960s and 1970s freestyle competitions, where skaters like Rodney Mullen mimicked surfers on flat ground with the first skateboards.
By the 70s, Frank Nasworthy had invented the ollie, the DogTown era had exploded and the first public skateparks were sprouting in states like Florida and California. While today, it is estimated that over 500 skateparks are currently built in the USA, it would be decades before brands like Nike or surf shops swapped their longboard surfboards for skateboards.
Even after new tricks were being invented by Rodney Mullen and Frank Nasworthy left and right, skateboarding nearly was dying in the late 1960s and again in the early 1980s. The 1970s did however see skating become a part of 70s culture in southern california. But almost more of a fashion statement than a sport.
Skateboarders took matters into their own hands, as the 1980s brought counter-culture back from the dead to resurrect skating with it.
The invention of the fish tail board allowed skaters to ollie higher, catch more air on ramps, and maneuver better grinds and flip tricks. Street skateboarding exploded alongside the new board shapes, as “what was possible” was redefined by the new skateboard shapes.
Skaters like Mark Gonzales and Natas Kuapas spearheaded street skating to new heights, grinding the first hand rails and forgoing vert skating altogether. Skaters like Tommy Guerrero became the first ‘street only’ skaters in San Francisco and what it means to be a skater was no longer attached to 70s SoCal culture.
Mike Vallely’s barnyard board shape in 1989, the first popsicle stick shape ever created, further catapulted the possibilities on a skateboard. More and more skateboarders were street skating and more kids saw their friends unwrapping boards for Christmas. Skate magazines like Thrasher Magazine provided the media needed to educate the new generation of skaters and skateboarding’s culture grew deeper and deeper roots.
The 1990s are considered skateboarding’s golden age, but that’s not because skateboarding was more popular. In fact, it’s generally understood the popularity decline of the 1980s turned the mainstream eye away from skateboarding and thus, skateboarders were left to their own devices to develop the sport without outside influence.
This is precisely what turned skateboarding from a driveway or ramp sport into a full-fledged culture; with its own art form and way of life. Photographers, videographers, and company owners, were all full-fledged skaters, producing some of the most celebrated skate videos and magazines to this day.
All these factors are what lead to the Golden Age of skateboarding, the 1990s and early 2000s. The era is known as the best era for skateboarding ever, with many of today’s Olympic Skateboarders highlighting this era as what inspired them to pursue going Pro.
Factors affecting skateboarding's popularity
A lot has changed in the sport of skateboarding since Tony Hawk landed the first 900 at the X-Games in 1999. But even more has changed since skateboarding was conceived in the 1950s.
And with that change certain factors have always affected skateboarding’s mainstream popularity. While these factors might not be as prevalent in terms of skateboarding’s future – let’s take a look at what has affected skateboarding’s popularity up until now.
Skateboarding Isn’t Very Profitable
When more people start skating, naturally more brands start investing in skateboarding. This is exactly what fixed the mainstream eye on competition skating in the late 1960s, as CEOs of corporations started asking the question: How can we make money off the latest skateboarding craze?
When outsiders of skate culture start to infiltrate skateboarding, creating brands, contests, and even media outlets, it generally works against the anti-establishment culture of skating, and thus sends its popularity in a downward spiral.
It’s also a misconception that skateboarding is a profitable industry to begin with. It is a well known fact that a skate shop owner in today’s age can sell $475,000 worth of goods and net only $30,000 in profit. Essentially, a skate shop owner or company founder can only expect to make about 5% profit each sale.
However, this has also been the reason why the price of a skateboard has generally remained the same over a 50 year span. From 2009-2019 for example, the cost of a skateboard deck with a graphic has remained from $50-$60, with full complete skateboards ranging from $100-$250.
While skateboard prices have largely remained the same, making it hard for core skate brands to be profitable, 77% of skateboarders prefer to shop local with specialty brands and shops, rather than the bigger outlets or non core skate brands.
In fact, since as recent as 2018, less than 4% of skateboard sales are made in Sporting Good stores annually.
Take the 1960s: competition skateboarding was a boring mix of flat ground and freestyle contests that were more akin to watching a hula-hooper for hours on end. After street skateboarders like Rodney Mullen started to invent tricks like the kickflip and grinds and grabs, there was a resurgence in skateboarding.
However, then came the outsider brands once again, promoting wacky contests on T.V., prompting the mainstream media to profit skating to the masses in an unauthentic way. Rodney Mullen went on a huge US tour, crowning skateboarding as king over the sightly attractions of BMX or other action sports.
But even so, something is always missing chrome outside branded skate contests. The over-branded skate tours and whacky contests make skateboarding unappealing to real skaters. This might account for why the stats of ‘core skaters’ has dipped (someone who skates on average once a week) while the stats of ‘causal skaters’ has spiked.
However, the real question becomes whether skateboarding now being an Olympic Sport and more people watching the X-Games, will this lead to further decline in core skaters and a larger spike in casual skaters? Thus, impacting it’s popularity once again?
What we have seen since skateboarding’s Olympic debut, skating has touched more lives and inspired more young people than ever before. Skating has also enjoyed mainstream coverage from the world’s largest outlets, elevating skateboarding from a subculture to a legitimate sport.
Fluctuating Skate Market
With an undying love for skateboarding, skate companies, whether they’re a skate shop, skate shoe, or producing a skate video for their own company like Stacy Peralta, have been around as long as skateboarders have loved skateboarding.
But the skateboarding market has changed over the decades.
Skateboarding started making appearances on television with the X-Games giving skateboarders celebrity status. Television shows like Viva La Bam with Bam Margera, Life of Ryan with Ryan Sheckler, and of course, Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, put more pro skaters into the public eye.
While there will always be ups and downs in the skateboarding industry, the past 5 years have been a solid up with no end really in sight. Fueled by the pandemic and skateboarding’s Olympic debut, researchers have suggested the skateboard market will be worth $2.4 billion by 2025 (according to Statista).
Essentially it all breaks down like this:
The global skateboard market size in 2019, was estimated at $1.96 Billion and was expected to reach the $2.00 Billion mark in 2020. Due to the pandemic, skateboarding actually exceeded that number but with things evening out (or maybe not thanks to the Olympics) the compound annual growth rate of 3.1% from 2019 to 2025 would reach $2.38 Billion by 2025.
Is skateboarding's popularity declining?
In order to understand if skateboarding’s popularity is declining, we need to outline the factors we need to consider:
- Is skateboarding more accessible?
- Is there a well-mentored next generation of skateboarders?
- What new things are good for the sport?
Is skateboarding more accessible?
A few years ago, people were saying skateboarding was dying… But not anymore! Skateboarding is in fact, experiencing a renaissance since its inclusion into The Olympics. More than any other action sport or extreme sport, there are more skateboarders, more skateparks, and more skaters enjoying street skating and competition skating for the first time.
This is especially true for women and members of the LGTBQ+ community. Skateboarding has been proven to be one of the most accessible sports since its conception, but today, skateboarding is more accessible than ever.
Street skaters can be found in empty swimming pools across the world, hoping to achieve their dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder. There are more skater girls than ever before and the pandemic opened up skateboarding to a lot of new people. The Olympic Debut of skateboarding will also undoubtedly open the door for more people to the wonderful world of skateboarding .
Is Skateboarding More Dangerous?
We get this question a lot from parents. Is skateboarding more dangerous? The truth of the matter is, skateboarding is dangerous. But with the right equipment and skate instructor, you can dramatically decrease the danger. Because while in skateboarding it’s not a question of if you will fall, it’s when; it’s also clear the benefits outweigh the cons.
Some quick stats on skateboarding injuries according to skateboardsaftey.org
Nearly 3 out of 4 injuries are to the extremities with 19% being broken wrists, 11% to the ankles and 16% to the face. 20% of injuries happen to the head and a higher proportion happen to skaters under the age of 10. So please, please, consider having a skate instructor to dramatically decrease these statistics. As the majority of these statistics happen not to the average learning how to skate, skater.
Here are some tips to stay extra safe when learning how to skateboard:
- Always wear the proper safety equipment, that includes knee and elbow pads, a helmet and wrist guards.
- Learn to skate in a driveway or empty parking lot – don’t go to a crowded skatepark day one or a busy street.
- Center your core balance lower to the ground. When in doubt, to decrease how ‘hard’ you fall – crouch while riding. Especially if you get speed wobbles.
- Take it at your own pace! While they are skate instructors helping to coach you on how to skate, there is no one more in control of your skateboarding journey than you.
- Make it about having fun, not competition. While skating is indeed a sport, competition is the enemy of happiness. Don’t worry about how fast your friend is getting good at skating. Your time will come as long as you’re having fun.
- Some days you need to rest. Some days you’ll step on a skateboard and feel like a rock star, landing every trick with style and grace. Other days, not so much. You have to realize you’re not going to have a good skate day every single day.
More Skater Girls
In the last 5 years or so, more women have been skateboarding than ever before. As of 2018, it is projected that 23.9 percent of skaters were girl skaters, with 16.6% of all core skaters being female. While this might not seem like a large percentage, ten years ago the percentage would be closer to 10% and 13%.
This is largely due to the increased representation in women’s skateboarding, including the women who’ve pushed the sport to new heights.
Some of the gnarliest female skaters out there are: Leticia Bufoni, Sky Brown, Vanessa Torres, Maria Del Santos, Alexis Sablone, and the biggest phenom of them all – Rayssa Leal.
The pandemic brought a host of negative aspects to our lives, for most of us, our driveway became our world. Naturally, a lot of people picked up skateboarding for the first time. Skate Shops sold out of product and couldn’t restock the shelves with overseas shipments coming to a halt.
Skateboarding around the world became a mainstream activity for nursing one’s mental health while promoting a physical activity. Everyone from everyday people to some of the biggest celebrities were picking up a skateboard for the first time.
This also led to more parent’s shifting their preconceived ideas about skateboarding being a ‘dangerous’ sport. As it was proven during the pandemic to be one of the safest sports out there.
While it took a long and sometimes polarizing road to get to The Olympic games, skateboarding is now an official Olympic Sport. This means more people than ever will turn on their televisions and see skateboarding at the highest level. This includes young kids, adults and their parents.
“The Olympic Games need skateboarding more than we need them,” says legend Tony Hawk.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to be able to skate in The Olympics,” says Nyjah Huston, a team USA frontrunner. “Whether people like it or not, skateboarding is bound to grow into bigger things like this sooner or later.”
“Skateboarding being in the Olympics was bound to happen,” says pro skater Miles Silvas. “More and more people are starting to skate and it’s non-stop growing as a sport.”
However, it’s not being accepted by everyone, even legend Tony Alva who said: “I’m not a big supporter of the idea. It’s probably best that I don’t comment on The Olympics.”
We invite you to read our full Skateboarding Olympics 2020 Full Review here.
Is there a well-mentored next generation of skateboarders?
The best way of answering this question used to be by taking a look at skateboard parks. Now, with so many more people skating and parks filled with roller skate riders, vert skating, inline skating and longboarding, there’s only one way to be sure.
Hiring a one on one skate instructor with GOSKATE ensures your child or loved one is mentored by the best of the very best. As the most knowledgeable, friendly, trained and vetted skateboard instructors in the world, GOSKATE has been doing our part to make sure the next generation of skateboards are well-mentored.
We pride ourselves on one day training an Olympic Skateboarder. We hope it’s your child or loved one.
Skateboarding is actually maturing: as of 2018, only 41.1% of skateboarders were teenagers. 10 years ago, they represented more than half at 55%. However, this is also due to more young people becoming skaters before their teens, hoping to become the next Nyjah Huston or Sky Brown.
Why We Love Skateboarding!
At GOSKATE, we wanted to end this article on a positive note. Because while we see the popularity of skateboarding increasing even with the factors that affect its popularity being in a state of flux, there is still the largest prevailing factor left to be discussed when it comes to the future of skateboarding – Love.
So long as skateboarders love skateboarding, no force outside of our passion will determine its future. We as a community and an industry are held together by our love for skateboarding and will continue to foster that passion regardless of if skateboarding is mainstream or not.
This is precisely what makes skateboarding so unique and why we created GOSKATE: to spread the love of skateboarding.
Whether skateboarding is a unique subculture or a mainstream Olympic sport, those people who love skateboarding will continue to GOSKATE no matter what people think.
Not only is skateboarding one of the healthiest activities for physical and mental health, it promotes community, friendships, self awareness and creativity on infinite levels. Even with the ups and the downs of the industry at large, skaters are forever going to be empowered and inspired to keep skating with their friends. That’s what makes us love skateboarding and skateboarders more than anything!
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