BY Laura Rectenwald

It started on the California coast as a way to emulate surfing when the waves were out of reach. Wheels were attached to the bottom of square wooden boards and skateboarding came to life. It has since become a worldwide phenomenon and it is one of the fastest growing action sports around the world. It is viewed both as a hobby and an art form but more importantly  … skateboarding is a lifestyle.

Skateboarding has risen in popularity since its launch more than 50 years ago. It’s become a multimillion-dollar industry that produces clothing shoes (Nike is now onboard) video games worldwide media coverage and team sponsorships. Books such as The Concrete Wave and movies such as Lords of Dogtown and the preceding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys have depicted skateboarding’s ups and downs and its evolution from a recreational sport to an extreme one.

In the 1950s people started to realize that this new sport could recreate the feeling of riding a wave which was ideal for those who lived inland and for those who lived on the coast where surfing conditions weren’t always ideal. The term for this concrete sport was coined — sidewalk surfing — and it remains a moniker still recognized in skateboarding culture. This connection between the two sports greatly influenced the future of skateboarding and its maneuvers style terrain clothing and attitude. Modifications were constantly being made to the trucks — the device that holds the wheels — to make the board easier to maneuver causing a mass production of surf-style skateboards in the 1960s.

With the first skateboarding contest at Hermosa Beach California in 1963 drawing more than 100 people it was obvious that skateboarding was not just another passing trend. Ten years later in 1973 the urethane wheel was invented eliminating the bumpy noisy ride and replacing it with a smoother quieter and much faster one.

During the drought in California in the mid 1970s many renegade skateboarders took advantage of the drained swimming pools to further hone their skills. Every day new tricks such as aerials inverts and the Ollie were being invented fueling a desire for these skaters to show off their skills and compete against their fellow boarders.

Concrete skate parks began popping up all over California and soon the rest of the country took notice building skate parks in cities to appeal to the growing number of skaters which had come to include children teens and adults. With skateboarding’s migration inland its connection to surfing diminished and it became much more of a competitive sport.

Skateboarding broke into the mainstream in 1995 with ESPN’s Extreme Games or as it’s also known the Olympics of skateboarding. With these games came worldwide recognition and the pros finally received the acknowledgment they deserved for shaping the sport into what it had become.

Wilmington has made its mark on the skateboarding map. The Port City is home to many pro skateboarders including Reggie Barnes one of the most recognized names in pro skateboarding. Barnes a resident of Wrightsville Beach and owner of Eastern Skateboard Supply the largest wholesale distributor of skateboards and accessories in the country has been living the skateboard lifestyle his entire life. He competed professionally from 1979 to 1991 in North Carolina Florida California and Europe. Born in Cary he took up skateboarding after reading an article in Sports Illustrated about Gregg Weaver one of skateboarding’s early superstars. “I read an article about this guy skating barefoot in drained swimming pools and I knew it was something I wanted to do ” Barnes says. “I surfed when I made it to the coast but while I was inland it was the closest thing I had to surfing.”

These days however surfing isn’t as influential in the skateboarding style as it used to be. Now there’s more of a street skating mentality. Not only are people skateboarding for fun but they are performing more than ever before. Recently Barnes hosted 20 of the top skaters in the country at his new private skatepark located inside his business’s warehouse in Wilmington.

The event was open to the public. Its purpose was to promote skateboarding; to bring families together to watch the pros who make it all seem so easy. “It was a great turnout ” Barnes says and with pros like Danny Way who jumped the Great Wall of China on a skateboard and Chet Childress and Kenny Hughes both natives of Wilmington it wasn’t surprising that more than 1 000 people came out to watch. “We wanted to make this event open to the public so that everyone would have an opportunity to see these guys in action ” Barnes says. “I wanted a place where pros can practice and film and this skate park is ideal for it.”

Wilmington also has several public parks. The skate park located at Greenfield Lake in downtown Wilmington offers beginner sessions on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. Skate parks are also located in Carolina Beach and Hampstead. Many local residents convinced that skate parks provide a safe fun environment for kids are wondering whether Wrightsville Beach shouldn’t jump onboard as well.

It’s not just kids parents and pros promoting a skate park at the beach. When good swells are few and far between many surfers skateboard to get that same surfing feeling.

Dawn Anderson-Capron Wrightsville Beach resident and mother of Ben 17 and Nick 16 two passionate skateboarders says “It’s a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages 5 years old to 55 years old.” Nigel Wilson sales representative for Burton Snowboards and a local skater agrees. “It isn’t just for kids ” he says. “There are so many contributing members of society that like to skate.”

Reggie Barnes is living proof of this fact. Along with many other skaters he believes that as more time passes the stereotype that all skateboarders are young and rebellious will fade.

“It’s a positive way to prevent kids from getting into trouble ” says Anderson-Capron. It’s also a great way for kids to explore other hobbies such as filmmaking which is what Dawn’s son Ben does during his free time. “I film and edit skate videos ” says Ben who also works at Wrightsville Beach Supply Company. “I mostly skate downtown but I film all over.” Not only is skateboarding a sport that has grown in popularity over the years. It is a way to express and enjoy yourself and to erase boundaries. “We are lucky to live in a surf-skate community ” says Anderson-Capron. “These two sports shatter boundaries and bring those with different ages and backgrounds together which is so important in our community.”