Skateboarding In 1965: Americans Fall For Sidewalk Surfing

By | June 1, 2018

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Left: Patti McGee, the first Woman's National Skateboard Champion, does a handstand on her skateboard, California, early 1965. Right: Opening sequence of 'Skaterdater.; Source: Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images; YouTube

In 1965, skateboarding went mainstream. Previously it had been a fringe sport, enjoyed by a subculture of the surfing crowd, with skateboarders congregating on sidewalks and parking lots to practice their tricks. But a series of breakthrough moments in 1965 raised skateboarding's profile, prompting a national fad that would soon become its own culture, one that has endured for decades. 

Today, many cities have dedicated skate parks and there are now governing bodies of the sport. In fact, skateboarding was scheduled to make its Olympic premiere at the Tokyo games in 2020. The rise of skateboard culture owes much of its progress to the year 1965 when several events occurred that helped propel it into the national spotlight.

Skateboarding, Also Known As 'Sidewalk Surfing'

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Prior to 1965, skateboarding was beginning to come into its own. The first manufactured skateboards hit the market, replacing the homemade wooden ones skaters used. Val’s Surf Shop in Southern California started selling skateboards and the Cali surf crowd loved them. Since it was akin to surfing, the surf bums quickly transferred their skills on the surfboards to the skateboards and zipped up and down the beach boardwalks showing off their tricks. The term “sidewalk surfing” was coined.

In 1964, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand welcomed the singing duo, Jan and Dean, who sang their newest song, “Sidewalk Surfing” to the cheers of rock ‘n roll-loving teens. Dean even showed off his own skateboard moves on stage. This whet the appetites of American adrenaline junkies and laid the foundation for the monumental skateboarding events of 1965.