Let’s take a brief look at the history of long board, downhill and slalom skateboarding.
Recent media coverage of long board, downhill and slalom skateboard racing, and long board skateboard events in general, seem to indicate that the discipline is coming back into favor with more and more Americans. Let’s take a brief look at the history of long board, downhill and slalom skateboarding.
1950s and 1960s
The roots of slaloming downhill on a long skateboard at breakneck speed can be found as far back as the 1950s and 1960s when skateboarding was in its infancy. In the early years the skateboard’s design made it well suited for slaloming downhill. At the time a longboard’s deck closely resembled a surf board in that it often had a teardrop like shape and was constructed from rigid materials. The tapered ends of the boards allowed the truck and wheel assemblies to extend out beyond the skate deck, thus reducing wheel bite. Furthermore, the wheels were larger and softer which allowed for an even distribution of the skateboarder’s weight. These design features helped to make the longboard more stable and enabled skaters to have better control and reach higher speeds.
Some of the earliest downhill slalom races took place at the Laguna Night Rallies in the 1960s. Early pioneers of downhill, slalom skateboarding were Tony Alva, Henry Hester, Bobby Piercy and Charlie Ransom.
1970s and 1980s
In the 1970s downhill, slalom skateboard racing was rising in popularity and as such was frequently featured on television shows like ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Several video clips of early downhill, slalom skateboard races between Tony Alva and Henry Hester may still be found on YouTube. There were also a plethora of downhill, slalom, skateboarding competitions including the Signal Hill Downhill Championships and the California Free World Professional Skateboarding Championships.
Once the 1980s rolled around some of the downhill, slalom, skateboarders started wearing flamboyant costumes equipped with funky parachutes to skateboarding competitions similar to that of the decade’s hair bands. Among those that chose to wear costumes were Jesse Roach, Jack Morrissey and Bill Bryan. The downhill slalom competitions continued through the 1990s, only without as many flamboyant costumes.
1990s to the present
During the 1990s downhill slalom and street luge skateboarding become staple parts of the X Games and the Gravity Games. All that, however, changed in the early 2000s when both competitions did away with their respective events. At the time Americans were favoring other skateboarding disciplines like pool, park, street and vertical over downhill slalom. Despite the cancellations and waning interest in the United States, the downhill slalom discipline did retain its popularity overseas throughout the 1990s up to the present day.
An example of the increasing popularity of longboarding in America is the Annual Maryhill Festival of Speed that will be held June 29 through July 3rd, 2011, in Goldendale, Washington. It will be the festival’s fifth year and this year it will include the first International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA) Junior World Championships and is expected to draw thousands of skateboarding fans from around the globe. In a 2010 video story on the Annual Maryhill Festival of Speed that appeared on the The New York Times website, journalist Eric Olsen reported that longboarding was skateboarding’s fastest growing discipline.