Aeroplane has made a common mistake in defining skateboarding as
a formerly "underground activity." Skateboarding's popularity has gone
in cycles. It started out, of course, as a subculture of the surf
scene- underground by definition. The skateboarding of that time, however,
was about as related to the skateboarding of today as those bicycles with
gigantic front wheels are to BMX (or even to your first little Huffy
with training wheels.)
In the golden age of the early 70's, skateboarding was pretty mainstream
and organized. In his autobiography Hawk, Tony Hawk comments that
skaters used to have runs choreographed (sometimes to music, in the case
of freestylers) by skate coaches. When skateboarding died in the late 70's,
skateboarding's "rebel" image was cemented as only a few gnarly and
dedicated skaters like the Dogtown Z-Boys
kept skating. During this time, skating could definitely be considered
Skating exploded again in the mid 80's, as new parks opened and companies
like Powell got huge. Skating's underground status began to erode again
as Powell made big-budget skate films and tried
to replace skating's motto of "skate and destroy" with "skate and create."
Another death in the late 80's pushed skateboarding from the mainstream
again until about 1992. During this time, street skating really took
off, and skaters' reputation for destroying handrails and ledges by
grinding rescucitated its "outlaw" image.
The late 90's have been an incredible boom time for skating, leading
to the creation of almost all of the companies mentioned in Aeroplane's
skateboard distribution companies node. Skateboarding is indeed mainstream
now, and many skaters mourn the gradual loss of its illegitimacy. The people
who will most oppose skating's entrance into the Olympics will be skaters
themselves. Fears of selling out are a part of every "subculture." Like
the punk scene, the real spirit of skating will endure as long as people
are still riding for the love of it. That's the real point. Loving skateboarding.
When skating eventually dies again the true skaters will keep the spirit
alive, regardless of skateboarding's popularity.