Skateboarding into the 2020 Olympics

Skateboarding has taken the world by storm and come a long way since its known inception in the 1940’s. Imagine wooden boxes with roller skate wheels attached to them and no safety gear on. Fast forward to 2018 and it is amazing to see how the sport has evolved. From the engineering of the boards which now includes options such as lighter wheels and varying shapes of boards depending on what you want to do, to the safety of the sport with the addition of skateboard grip tape, skateboard specific helmets, and various body pads and guards—it has seen some great improvements. At Jessup, we are predicting the excitement over skateboarding is only going to grow with it now being represented in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. We want to share some facts about the sport so you can be better informed on whether you want to participant or simply sit on the sidelines as a spectator.


1940’s- Skateboarding is said to have started in the United States in California and Hawaii at the end of the 1940s. People say that the idea came to be from surfers who wanted to recreate the feeling of riding the waves in the streets, which is why it was commonly called “sidewalk surfing” for the first decade.

1960’s– Jump ahead about 15 years and the sport has taken off. The first skateboarding magazine is out, the National Skateboarding Championships have started, and one of the sports first sponsors, Patti McGee, is even traveling around to demonstrate skateboard safety tips. However, even with the introduction of skateboard deck grip tape and skateboard “stars” demonstrating safety techniques, it is still deemed dangerous and many shops stop selling boards. Parents are reluctant to buy them and the sport sees a drop in popularity through the early 1970’s.

1970’s– Jessup recognized in the early 1970’s that more traction on a skateboard resulted in more control and better skateboarding tricks. Jessup Griptape, The Original® skateboard grip tape, is introduced to skaters worldwide in 1975. With improved engineering of the boards, like wheels made of polyurethane to improve traction and performance, along with the creation of the banana board which is a skinny, flexible skateboard made with ribs on the underside for structural support, skateboarding was on the rise again. Skateboarders began having contests throughout California where the skaters could win cash and prizes. And while maple plywood was still the most common material used for making a skateboard, new composites and metals, like fiberglass and aluminum, were being introduced to improve speed and offer the capabilities to perform harder tricks. Skateboard parks also started opening up and due to the skateboard park owners increased liability, more improvements in skateboard safety were soon to follow. Things like improvements to knee pads and stronger skateboard deck grip tape were all seen in the 70’s.

1980’s– Vert skating has taken off in a big way by the early 80’s (this refers to the skating of the vertical walls of swimming pools that were left empty, largely due to the California droughts). Street skating was also keeping steady thanks to new tricks by pioneers like Rodney Mullen. Skateboard grip tape was extremely important to both types of boarders, as without a strong hold, the vertical climbs of vert skating and street tricks were next to impossible. Helmets and wrist guards were being more widely used and seen throughout the industry. Even with these improved safety measures, public opposition took place as many skaters were seen a menace- boarding in public places since few skate parks existed. By the end of the decade, the sport was lacking the mainstream appeal to attract new skaters.

Skateboarding into the 2020 Olympics

1990’s– Street skating dominated during this time and the shape of boards reflected this. Two of the main changes seen to boards during this decade were:

  • Skateboard size and shape: Most were 7 1⁄4 to 8 inches (180 to 200 mm) wide and 30 to 32 inches (760 to 810 mm) long, with a largely symmetrical shape and relatively narrow width.
  • Skateboard wheels: These were comprised of a hard polyurethane and were generally small to help make tricks more manageable compared to those built in the 1970’s.

2000’s– The International Association of Skateboard Companies founded Go Skateboarding Day in 2003 to celebrate the sport, raise awareness, and show the world what it is truly all about- creative independence! Skateboarding parks are back on the rise, as the sport is now seen as a great way to connect with youth and even complement academic lessons. The “Safe Spot Skate Spot” program was initiated by professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek specifically for street skaters and has led to the pop up of even more locations for skateboarders to practice their craft. As of 2016, over 6.44 million skateboarders are known in the United States!


Many different styles of skateboarding have popped up throughout history; however the Olympic Games of 2020 have chosen to focus on the street and park disciplines.

  • Street: Just like its name implies, this competition will be held on a course that mimics a street. It will have curbs, benches, handrails, stairs, and of course slopes. Expect to see plenty of “ollies” (a trick where the rider and board leap into the air without the use of the rider’s hands) and flipping the skateboard deck (when performed well and with a quality skateboard deck grip tape, the trick makes it appear that the rider’s feet are attached to the deck by a magnet). The difficulty of the tricks, height, speed, originality, execution and the composition of moves will all play a factor in the judging for this competition.
  • Park: Park competitions will take place on a hollowed-out course featuring a series of complicated curves – some resembling large dishes and dome-shaped bowls. This competition is largely about gaining massive height, speed, and how you maneuver the deck of your skateboard. Having skateboard grip tape is imperative to keep your feet in position on the board while performing these types of tricks. The judges will also review the routines flow, stability, timing, and mid-air suspension when ranking the competition.


Skateboarding has long been touted as a dangerous sport, coming in #8 on the list of most-injury prone sports. In fact, in 2015 125,145 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms after being injured skateboarding. More than half of those injured were ages 14 to 24, and about one-third were between the ages of 5 and 14, according to Injury Facts 2017, the annual statistical report on unintentional injuries produced by the National Safety Council. Although falling will always be part of the sport for both new and experienced boarders, with the proper skateboarding gear, training, and board you can prevent a lot of common injuries. Three skateboard safety tips for those looking to participate in the sport (or parents spectating during their child’s participation) are:

  • Get Your Safety Gear On– Professional skaters will be the first to tell you that safety gear is #1. Having a slip-resistant closed-toe shoe, skateboarding helmet, and properly fitted pads (knee and wrist at minimum) are key. Special skateboarding gloves are also available to reduce the impact of falls.
  • Check Your Board– Make sure the board you choose fits your age and types of riding you intend to do. Boards for freestyle are designed differently from those for speed skateboarding. You will also want to make sure all the nuts and bolts are tightened and your skateboard griptape is still fresh and working. Without a quality skateboard grip tape, you won’t stand a chance staying on the board during tricks.
  • Fall wisely– You will fall in this sport, but you can prevent injury by falling wisely. It may sound silly, but even professional skateboarders practice common fall methods like running out and bailing out. Also, make sure you know the common types of skateboard falls (falling, bailing, and slamming). Focus on practicing how to fall on your knees because ideally, you will have your knee pads on to soften the blow. Rolling out of your falls whenever possible is important because it will distribute the force of the fall to prevent additional injury.

Jessup’s skateboard grip tape has been underneath more ollies, wallrides, bull flips and nose slides than any other brand in the sport. Through the years the sport has evolved, but one thing remains true: nothing is ever the same from one run to another for a skateboarder, which is the beauty of the sport. Skateboarders are free to be creative by selecting their location, speed, and tricks. By understanding basic safety tips and with some practice, it can be a great way to exercise and fun sport to in which to participate. It is no surprise that it is ranked as a Top 10 Global Sport and will be making its debut to the Olympic Games in 2020. We can’t wait to see what is next to come for this sport.

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