When most people think of all-American sports, they typically think of baseball, basketball and football. Few people immediately thing of skateboarding, although that fact may change in the coming decades. The truth is that skateboarding is one of the fastest growing sports not only in America but worldwide. Since the invention of the sport in the 1960s, participants in the sport have been growing exponentially, already surpassing the popularity of several more traditional sports.
Skateboarding vs. Traditional Sports
Based on a 2004 sports participation study performed by SGMA International, there are approximately 11.6 million skateboarders in America. This figure is enough to make skateboarding the third most popular sport for American teenagers. Football currently ranks first, and basketball ranks second. The figures reported by the SGMA indicate that skateboarding is more popular than baseball, hockey, tennis and virtually every other traditional sport in the United States. For a sport that initially began as a diversion for California surfers during the cold seasons of the 1960s, that’s a pretty impressive fact. In fact, up until quite recently, people were still debating whether or not skateboarding should officially be called a hobby or a sport. The introduction of annual skateboarding competitions such as the X-Games helped legitimize the sport as well as introduce it to a mass audience.
Skateboarding vs. Other Extreme Sports
In relation to other extreme sports, skateboarding ranks second in American participants (including children, teenagers and adults) only to inline skating (with a reported participation of 17.3 million individuals). Paintball ranks third with 9.6 million participants and artificial wall climbing ranks fourth with 7.6 million participants. Skateboarding’s arctic cousin, snowboarding, ranks fifth with 7.1 million participants.
Skateboarding’s Rise in Popularity
One of the reasons skateboarding has become so popular is that it has such a universal and open appeal. Armed with a skateboard, kids and adults can practice the sport virtually anywhere, including their driveways, empty parking lots or one of the 1,000-plus public skateparks in the United States. This is in contrast to traditional sports, which are restricted by the need for a playing field. Other typical restrictions, such as a season of play and need for additional team members, are also a nonissue for the sport of skateboarding.
The vast bag of tricks available to skateboarders is another reason it may have grown in popularity. Skateboard tricks range from very easy to incredibly complex. This allows skateboarders of all abilities to find continued success and challenges within the sport. A lack of strict rules and boundaries also allows individual skaters to express their unique creativity. This is opposed to team sports, where individuals often feel constrained by a team mentality and the pressures of winning.