In the early 1990s, an activity dominated by a few skilled professionals began to rapidly evolve. Skateboarding moved from ramp-based vertical (or ‘vert’) skating onto the city streets. Thanks to a trick, a jump called the ‘ollie’, the possibilities of what you could do on a skateboard multiplied. Now, potentially anyone could learn to leap onto, over or off obstacles, and do flip tricks, where the skateboard turns in the air. All you needed was the board, the city architecture and inexhaustible reserves of determination.
California, with its surf culture and nice weather, was a skateboarding hub. With street skating, the activity spread down the East Coast of the US to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Tampa. Across the Atlantic, Berlin, Munich, Barcelona and London also had scenes. They centred on skate shops, where riders gathered around iconic magazines such as Thrasher, TransWorld Skateboarding Magazine and later Slap. Photos and videos were essential in keeping the momentum going.
While street skateboarding made the activity more accessible, it was still so hard that those who practised it tended to be the least cool in school. They were the introverts, the kids prepared to commit themselves to a thankless activity for hours a day. They were ridiculed for their baggy clothes and battered shoes. They could (and often did) end up with nasty injuries. Very few got any good and even fewer got sponsored. The compensation was the scene, which was tight-knit and non-judgemental, as well as the status you achieved if you did manage to pull a clean trick off.