Most reliable authorities agree that Bill Richards invented the skateboard in 1958, in Southern California. He began selling them as Roller Derby Skateboards the following year. In the early 60s, skateboards were commonplace in every part of America that had concrete or asphalt. When Jan and Dean released Sidewalk Surfin’ in 1964, riding a board with wheels nailed to it was officially a fad.
From the start, skateboarding was a counterculture sport. Early supporters followed local road crews around town hoping that a favorite hill was on the paving agenda. As well as being occasional traffic hazards, most early skateboarders were unknown to local authorities.
But as soon as these same guys started targeting empty swimming pools, outdoor stairways with handrails, and other ready-made public places to try new tricks, skateboarders became part of the unwelcome element that was ruining America, mostly because they had nowhere else to ride. This attitude and safety issues led to a drop in board sales.
After Larry Stevenson invented the Kicktail and Frank Nasworthy perfected the skateboard wheel in 1972, interest in the sport rebounded. Six years later, Alan Gelfand invented the Ollie maneuver, which brought jumping into the mix. The sport restarted, but city governments, fearful of spending money on young, long-haired hooligans who didn’t seem to have real jobs, weren’t interested in building skateboarding spaces.
In 1990, skateboarders in Portland, Oregon began illegally building their own park under the Burnside Bridge, providing skateboarders with a facility and changing the complexion of the area. Local communities soon realized that skateboarders were more of a positive influence than prostitutes and drug dealers, even though the park they were building wasn’t completely over the top. The original Burnside build remains active today, even surviving a COVID shutdown.
In 1995, the X Games were broadcast on television for the first time, featuring skateboarding competition. Tony Hawk was becoming a mega star and a positive role model. Skateboard enthusiast and rock star Jeff Ament was building advanced level skateparks on Native American reservations in Montana to help combat drug and alcohol abuse and general boredom. The reputation of the skaters was steadily improving.
In 2002, my grandson’s Christmas gift request for a Lowe’s gift card exposed me to DIY skate parks. Young Zack and his dad were building a ramp. Twenty years later, Zack helps build and maintain the Chicken Ramp in Savannah. Not technically an outlaw installation, but definitely DIY.
Columbia’s Lowblock facility is located in the northeast portion of Richland County on currently unused land that could potentially be developed. This wasn’t the Columbia area’s first DIY and it probably won’t be the last. Although the basic ground is uneven, there are several different obstacles and room for many skaters. The only rule is no graffiti. They even have a caretaker and a social media presence.
Asheville has a park called Foundation, and Charleston offers skateboarders the Bridge Spot. These and countless other DIY facilities are within driving distance of the Midlands. Check Google or a local skateboard store for details.
And trust me on this, getting some air, squeaking a rail, or perfecting your first ollie is more fun and less dangerous than hanging on to a steep incline, hoping the traffic around the next curve is non-existent .