Sunday, June 23, 2024

Over the past 70 years, the skateboard has been on quite a ride. It first emerged in 1950s Los Angeles as a humble, homemade toy, but, before long, it became a bona fide cultural phenomenon — spawning skate parks, street style and video games before, finally, becoming an Olympic sport at the 2020 Games.

The global value of the skateboard market has also sped along, with the data gathering service Statista projecting total worldwide skateboard sales to hit $2.26 billion this year.

As the board has gained fans, the craftsmanship behind it has also evolved, one focus of “Skateboard,” an exhibition at the Design Museum in the Kensington district of London (through June 2). The show charts the evolution of the board’s design from 1953 to 2023, in the form of 96 skateboards and skate decks; skateboard components; and gear.

According to Jonathan Olivares, the industrial designer and skateboarder who curated the exhibition, which was sponsored by the brand Converse, the boards on display were chosen because they represent major advances in design and performance. The 1969 Makaha LX 10, for example, “enabled the first tricks that were native to the skateboard, not just lifted from surfing,” he said, and it was the first board to have a kick tail, an innovation pioneered by Makaha’s founder, Larry Stevenson. That upward curve at one end of the board, Mr. Olivares explained “allows you to pivot on the back wheels.”

There also is a deck that Unity Skateboards, a queer skateboard collective in California, created this year, featuring a figure sitting on the shoulders of another pink figure with words reading, clockwise: “LIKE IT OR NOT!!! UNITY TOGETHER AS ONE UNITY.”

Mr. Olivares wrote in a later email that Unity Skateboards is “the first skate brand that is founded by an LGBTQIA+ skate crew, and that creates a space for LGBTQIA+ skaters in the market.”

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