Skateboarding. What used to be one of the most underground activities (don't call it a sport, that makes it lose its edge), is no longer the secret it once was. This is obvious. Walk down the street, turn on the television, go to a middle school, you will see some evidence. A waxed curb here, a kid with a "skate company" t-shirt, or a music video. It's all over the place. And largely because most kids think it's "small" and "the cool thing."

If everybody did it, it wouldn't be cool, right? But a lot of people do do it. So, how does the skateboarding industry keep its underground image flowing? Simple. Subdivision. Here's the rundown.

There are about 50 or more major brands of skateboards out there. Probably 15 or 20 major wheel companies. I won't even count clothes, shoes, trucks, or bearings. Not to mention all the other skate apparel, like backpacks, folders (yes, folders), wallets, etc.

While this may seem like a vast and diverse selection to choose from, in actuality all these "brands" are owned by around 10 large skateboard distribution companies. 10. But keeping it underground isn't the only reason companies do this. Marketing is also a factor.

Most of the brands of skateboards, wheels, etc. tend to have a certain theme to each of them. The themes are based on everything from having cool cartoons (like flameboy) to being oldskool. So, in order to achieve a vast sales base, companies diversify.

Granted, this practice is old as the hills. Look at the auto industry. However, most of these companies claim to be "true," because they are so small. Pure BS.

And if this weren't bad enough, the actual manufacturers of the products are usually the same. The Distribution companies just slap on logos and designs. There are only about 5 or 6 actual manufacturers of skateboards in the US. Nearly all urethane skateboard wheels are manufactured by Goodyear.

So, take a look at skateboarding. The next time you think of it as "renegade," and "x-treme," remember it's a product being pushed, just like everything else. Image is everything.

See the skateboard distribution companies node for an incomplete list.