Skateboarding, now entering full-boom stage, is offering some rather spectacular environments in which the skater, as an individual, can express his or her art within maximum extremes ranging from flat freestyle areas to full pipes. Pool riding has advanced so far that anything is possible and usually occurs months before people start thinking that it's possible. With the extreme rapidity of skating advancement happening over the past years, it's time to look back to the origins of all this angular and vertical terrain.
That's right, schools.
Most of the early bank riding occurred in junior high and grammar schoolyards, which were conveniently scattered within the skating epicenter of every community.
The origins of school riding began in the '60's. Clay wheels and a wide range of homemade wooden blanks were the "happening" equipment being used at the time. The desire of skaters at the time was to emulate surfing as much as possible. The schools were the first place to be taken advantage of.
Schools, at least those which were in and around hill laden environs, seemed to be nicely bordered by banks ranging from small one-footers to massive angles up to 35 feet in height and ranging in steepness from a gentle slope to near vertical.
Surfers who were into skateboarding quickly sought out local school spots craving for a wave-like experience on cement. The school banks suited them just fine, since they were seemingly made for skateboarding and somewhat resembled the shape of a wave. Surfing maneuvers such as walking the board, hanging ten, off the lips and cutbacks were heavily integrated into the early styles being formed in the bank riding happening at schools.
As school riding evolved into the second skateboard boom of the '70s, it went through some heavy changes. Along with the new urethane wheels came a new type of riding. Banks were now being skated with an aggressive style based on more flowing lines, a lower center of gravity and slides of all kinds.
The scene around the schools spots changed from a mellow, kicked back atmosphere to one of high energy intensity. Seeing 30-40 kids within the confines of the schoolyard, vigorously skating the banks, was a pretty average sight at the time.
The scene at these sessions went like this. The bank riders would be shredding the place apart and usually formed one basic unit, all sticking close to the area of action. Then there were the freestylers who would take over the huge flat areas of the "playground" which served quite well for their practice requirements. The rest of the spaces were usually filled with a wide variety of onlookers.
Eventually the freestylers moved onto the banks and started doing their trip on sloped terrain. This leads to the formation of two distinct bank riding styles. One was the original surf style and the other was a sort of trick riding on banks. The two styles were quite diverse but both could be visually appreciated by the onlooker.
The vibe level at these school sessions was at such a good point that it usually turned into a party atmosphere. With the level of bank riding at most schools being somewhere way below the vertical stage, It wasn't hard to party heavily and still be able to rip the place apart. Because of this, school skating was always thought of as fun. Always a place to have a good time.
Some conclude that school banks were the cause of all of today's modern skate facilities…that the bank riding that occurred within those school gates in the early days spawned the craving for angular and vertical terrain, creating a large demand for this type of riding offered on a regular basis and involving more radical situations. When you think about it, it seems as though school banks were more significant to the future skateboarding trends than anything else happening at the time.
A multitude of hybrid styles evolved from the two main types of skating, which dominated the early school scene. Who knows how many people have refined their styles on the smooth banks of a school playground. How many styles of skating have come out of this early bank riding terrain?
The whole origin of our present day approach to skating can be directly attributed to early drainage bowls and school banks. Since drainage bowls were sparsely located, and hard to find at that, one could come to the conclusion that it was really the school banks that were the origin of today's modern bowl riding techniques. In fact, this early bank action probably put skating in the direction that it's going today.
Up until this point, school riding has been referred to as being a phenomenon of the past. Something that doesn't exist any longer. Quite the contrary. Schools are being ridden now more than ever, it's just that skateparks, pools and pipes have captured the skater's energy and nobody considers schools as valid forms in which to engage in the current day's extreme skating techniques. Aided by the destruction of some major school spots, school riding has become sort of a forgotten entity in relation to media attention. But school banks still do exist. The mellow session can be revisited and functions as a break from the constant radical demands of today's pools and skateparks. School banks are a place where you can go to get loose and have fun.
School riding not only represents a distinct era of skateboarding, but also is the base of all of today's bank and bowl roots. It is a part of skating that can be remembered and enjoyed because, no matter where you live, there's always a school nearby. Chances are it has banks and is ready and waiting to be shredded.