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MADE FOR SKATE

After taking a big dive in popularity, skateboarding underwent a de- cisive period of technical improvements throughout the early 1970s. The introduction of the urethane wheel remains THE most important achievement of that era, marking „the beginning of modern skate- boarding“ according to an article by Don Redondo on the history of skateboarding in Thrasher magazine. As legend has it, professional surfer Frank Nasworthy came across urethane wheels in a backyard shop named “Creative Urethane“ in Virginia in 1970. Replacing the clay wheels on his skateboard with the new radials, Nasworthy stepped into a whole new level of riding experience. Applying his technical design knowledge from college, Nasworthy then proceeded to create his own blend of skate-specific urethane wheels, which he mass-produced under the “Cadillac Wheels” label in 1972. The new wheels were off to a rough start, mainly because of their high price at $8.00 a set (equivalent to $35 today). But once skat- ers would experience the difference – they’d never go back to clay or steel wheels. And consequently, sales took off while other manufac- turers followed suit. With the grip and control afforded by urethane wheels, skaters were ready to step to new terrain and finally move out of the shadow of surfing. The heyday of skate parks began in 1976 with the opening of the first facility in Port Orange, Florida, offering pools, snake runs and vertical ramps. The same year, hundreds of parks shot up all across North America. Given the demands of this more challenging terrain, skateboard decks also evolved into an entirely different beast, thanks to the kicktail, invented by Larry Stevenson in 1970, and commercially sold griptape that replaced make-shift sandpaper top layers for better grip in 1975. Over time, skateboards grew wider for more stability, as manufactur- ers changed board shapes from 6 inches to almost 9 inches, while aerial moves and inverts started their rapid progress. Not to mention knee slides, the new method of bailing to safety that took a heavy toll on the top section of skate shoes. A sure grip became the prime focus of skate equipment in these days, and skaters would even ham- mer small nails into the board’s surface to achieve a non-slip stand. This called for footwear that could take the abuse without falling apart under the constant friction in contact with griptape. With boards and wheels taking the next step, it was time for footwear to evolve. WHEELS, GRIPTAPE AND KICKTAILS 38

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