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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 19, 2004
Byline: Outdoors Section

A Skateboarding Primer


The first skateboards were wood planks attached to roller-skate wheels. In the 1970s, Californians on surfboard-shaped boards called their sport "sidewalk surfing." Over time, the materials and design of the basic parts — a platform sloped up at each end, four wheels, and two trucks holding them together — evolved for greater maneuverability.


There are two main styles of skateboarding:

  • "Park" or "transition" riding takes its name from the transition — from vertical facing up to vertical facing down — that you make at the top of an empty swimming pool or a skate park double-sided ramp known as a half-pipe. Fast, high and acrobatic skating of the type demonstrated at the X Games often depends on special terrains for practice and competition.

  • Most skateboarders are "street" skaters. They prefer the challenge of the natural city environment, jumping stairs, sliding down railings, flipping off curbs in a poetic union with urban elements. Ordering a street skater to the local skate park would be like telling a serious rock climber who moved to Yosemite that El Capitan is closed and he must go to a climbing gym (once one is built).


Skateboarders spend hours learning a never-ending array of tricks. The basics:

  • "Ollies," named for their inventor, are popping the board up in the air and coming back down with the rider still aboard. They often are done up or down stairs or over other "gaps"; mixing in "flips," so the board twists in the air like a high diver; and "grabs," crouching to grasp the board.

  • "Slides" carry the board — outside the perimeter of the four wheels — along the top edge of a curb or ledge (or handrail, if you've ollied up first). "Grinds" move the same way, with the metal trucks between the wheels straddling the leading edge; metal "grinds" along concrete or granite.

  • Tricks are constantly improvised, combined and skated one after another in a "line." One of the most difficult — and most famous in skating lore — is doing the LOVE gap, any set of tricks from the sculpture all the way down to the empty fountain.


Skateboarding has its origins in surfing, and both exhibit a strong, anti-authoritarian culture that emphasizes creativity, freedom and community. As Brandon from Ontario posted to a petition last week on the comprehensive Free LOVE Park Web site (

"Skateboarding isn't just a sport; it's a way of life, so let them ride." homepage

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