Skateboarding. What used to be one of the most underground activities (don't call it a sport, that makes it lose its edge), is no longer the secret it once was. This is obvious. Walk down the street, turn on the television, go to a middle school, you will see some evidence. A waxed curb here, a kid with a "skate company" t-shirt, or a music video. It's all over the place. And largely because most kids think it's "small" and "the cool thing."

If everybody did it, it wouldn't be cool, right? But a lot of people do do it. So, how does the skateboarding industry keep its underground image flowing? Simple. Subdivision. Here's the rundown.

There are about 50 or more major brands of skateboards out there. Probably 15 or 20 major wheel companies. I won't even count clothes, shoes, trucks, or bearings. Not to mention all the other skate apparel, like backpacks, folders (yes, folders), wallets, etc.

While this may seem like a vast and diverse selection to choose from, in actuality all these "brands" are owned by around 10 large skateboard distribution companies. 10. But keeping it underground isn't the only reason companies do this. Marketing is also a factor.

Most of the brands of skateboards, wheels, etc. tend to have a certain theme to each of them. The themes are based on everything from having cool cartoons (like flameboy) to being oldskool. So, in order to achieve a vast sales base, companies diversify.

Granted, this practice is old as the hills. Look at the auto industry. However, most of these companies claim to be "true," because they are so small. Pure BS.

And if this weren't bad enough, the actual manufacturers of the products are usually the same. The Distribution companies just slap on logos and designs. There are only about 5 or 6 actual manufacturers of skateboards in the US. Nearly all urethane skateboard wheels are manufactured by Goodyear.

So, take a look at skateboarding. The next time you think of it as "renegade," and "x-treme," remember it's a product being pushed, just like everything else. Image is everything.

See the skateboard distribution companies node for an incomplete list.

Aeroplane has made a common mistake in defining skateboarding as a formerly "underground activity." Skateboarding's popularity has gone in cycles. It started out, of course, as a subculture of the surf scene- underground by definition. The skateboarding of that time, however, was about as related to the skateboarding of today as those bicycles with gigantic front wheels are to BMX (or even to your first little Huffy with training wheels.)

In the golden age of the early 70's, skateboarding was pretty mainstream and organized. In his autobiography Hawk, Tony Hawk comments that skaters used to have runs choreographed (sometimes to music, in the case of freestylers) by skate coaches. When skateboarding died in the late 70's, skateboarding's "rebel" image was cemented as only a few gnarly and dedicated skaters like the Dogtown Z-Boys kept skating. During this time, skating could definitely be considered underground.

Skating exploded again in the mid 80's, as new parks opened and companies like Powell got huge. Skating's underground status began to erode again as Powell made big-budget skate films and tried to replace skating's motto of "skate and destroy" with "skate and create."

Another death in the late 80's pushed skateboarding from the mainstream again until about 1992. During this time, street skating really took off, and skaters' reputation for destroying handrails and ledges by grinding rescucitated its "outlaw" image.

The late 90's have been an incredible boom time for skating, leading to the creation of almost all of the companies mentioned in Aeroplane's skateboard distribution companies node. Skateboarding is indeed mainstream now, and many skaters mourn the gradual loss of its illegitimacy. The people who will most oppose skating's entrance into the Olympics will be skaters themselves. Fears of selling out are a part of every "subculture." Like the punk scene, the real spirit of skating will endure as long as people are still riding for the love of it. That's the real point. Loving skateboarding. When skating eventually dies again the true skaters will keep the spirit alive, regardless of skateboarding's popularity.

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