By LUCIA VITI | Uptown News
Did you ever wonder what catapulted skateboarding’s popularity into the stratosphere? Does history of a “sport,” born and bred along the coast of Southern California, coincide with your love of surfing? Are you “stoked” to know that skateboarding will be featured in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, John O’Malley’s new book, “Urethane Revolution: The Birth of Skate-San Diego 1975,” is a must read. The always interesting, sometimes shocking, off-color page-turner dialogues the history of skateboarding from one of its founding fathers, John O’Malley.
Dubbed the “greatest story never told in extreme sports history,” O’Malley retraces his steps as a member of the original Skunkworks crew to creating his own skate parks. Photographs — sure to make everyone reminisce about the good ol’ days — accompany stories from the underground.
“One crazy year on the California coast in 1975, a hippie Skunkworks, bred in garages and shacks, launched the modern skater movement,” writes O’Malley. “Strap in for a wild ride replete with two car chases, two plane crashes, a massive truck bomb, Colombian narcos, the mafia, senior White House staff, a gypsy fortuneteller, three straight-up miracles, Jacques Cousteau, big piles of cocaine and naked hippie chicks.”
O’Malley details the book’s title, “Urethane Revolution,” beginning with the history behind the urethane.
“Around 1973, a guy named Frank Nasworthy discovered these urethane training wheels that were used on beginners’ roller skates,” he notes. “They were grippier than the unforgiving composite clay wheels of the day. Frank bolted them on his skateboard and bingo! Suction-cup traction like no one had ever imagined possible. It’s in that instant that the skateboard went from a toy with feet of clay to a wall-climbing UFO, screaming at warp speed to the 2020 Olympics.”
The Revolution follows suit.
“The Revolution began when a rift opened in the universe and that centrifugal buzz — heretofore available only through sports like surfing and skiing — came leaking out of the streets,” writes O’Malley. “Adrenaline rushing up your road, serotonin dripping down the drive. And the scales fell from our eyes: Any paved surface could be ridden. And the call went out: The rift has opened, God is great, spread the word.”
According to O’Malley, a perfect storm of “ill winds” that began with a historic drought fueled the Revolution.
“The drought uncovered insanely fun new skating forms like the reservoirs and drainage ditches while recession-vacant homes had their swimming pools drained and skated,” he pens. “Our eyes spoked an urban landscape lit up with a million new possibilities.”
“Urethane Revolution” also showcases La Jolla native Bobby Turner. The innovative craftsman built Turner SummerSki slalom skateboards. Still popular today, these boards are constructed along the design vein of surfboards and snow skis. According to O’Malley, Turner’s skateboards “revolutionized” slalom skating boards.
O’Malley touts, “The Revolution is over. Skaters won.”
And if you need a place to play, check out Robb Field — San Diego’s first skateboard park constructed and operated by the city at 2525 Bacon St. Designed with input from the legendary Tony Hawk, the 40,000-square-foot concrete park is suitable for all ages and skill levels. Sidling the San Diego River Bike Path at the onset of Ocean Beach, the “street course” features a combination bowl, handrails, ledges, blocks, a pump bump and an octagon volcano.
— Lucia Viti can be reached at email@example.com.