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The origin of the skateboard, like the origin of the mountain bike, is buried deep in rumor and anecdote. Though the first "official" skateboard, the "Roller Derby Skateboard," was introduced in 1959, hundreds of children claim to have attached a piece of plywood to a pair of rollerskates prior to this date. These early boards bore little resemblance to their modern counterparts, and were often only a few inches wide, and very thick to prevent breaking.
As "sidewalk surfing" (as this first appearance of skateboarding came to be called) grew in popularity, the boards became more purpose designed, growing wider and thinner for better control. However, as advanced as these designs became, they still shared one inescapable flaw: the clay wheel. Clay wheels lacked durability, had extremely high (by modern standards) rolling resistance and did not grip the ground well. As accidents due to clay wheels piled up, more and more cities and towns began banning skateboards, and the fad faded in popularity.
The skateboard's earliest ancestors were homemade, wooden scooters ridden by kids in the early 1900s. To make a scooter, all you needed was a two-by-four, some nails, a produce crate and some roller skates -- a far cry from the sleek aluminum scooters kids ride these days. Kids built their scooters by nailing the steel roller-skate wheels onto the bottom of the two-by-four and the crate to the top. It served as the scooter's neck. After attaching another piece of wood to the top of the crate for handles, the scooter was complete.
Kids continued to ride these scooters into the 1950s. How they made the scooters changed over time, but the most drastic change came when children began removing any sort of handles all together, and rode the wheeled two-by-fours hands-free. With that, the first skateboards were born and their popularity soared among young people.
It didn't take long for manufacturers to take advantage of the growing phenomenon among America's youth. The first manufactured skateboard found its way to store shelves in 1959. And in 1963 professional-grade skateboards appeared on the market, along with teams of pro-riders to demonstrate them.
There is no definitive origin or inventor of the skateboard. One proposed origin is that skateboards arose in the 1930s and 1940s, when children would participate in soapbox races, using soap-boxes attached to wooden planks on rollerskate wheels. When the soap-box became detached from the plank, children would ride these primitive "skateboards". Another suggests that the skateboard was created directly from the adaptation of a single roller skate taken apart and nailed to a 2x4, without the soapbox at all and that it was often surfers looking to recreate the feel of surfing on the land when the surf was flat.
Retail skateboards were first marketed in 1958 by Bill and Mark Richard of Dana Point, California. They attached roller skate wheels from the Chicago Roller Skate Company to a plank of wood and sold them in their Val Surf Shops.