The fact that skateboards exist does not necessarily mean that they were invented by someone. They are one of those phenomena that just seem to have evolved. It is thought that the idea became popular in the 1950’s. Originally called sidewalk surfers, they were a hit with the surf community on the west coast. Although it is not known who invented skateboards there are some interesting facts about them that we can pin down to individuals.
We know that skateboards were first sold commercially in 1958 by Bill and Mark Richards. These were pretty basic boards made by fixing roller skate wheels to pieces of wood – there is little that can be changed about this basic construction! This was, not surprisingly, in California, the home of the surfers. Although this is not who invented skateboards, they were probably the first retailers. The fact that skateboards were made popular by the surf community, possible for use when there were no waves and they had nothing to do, is reflected in the shape that the boards are constructed. They are always surfboard shaped, particularly some of the smaller plastic ones that were so popular in the 1960s and 70s.
One other fact that we know is who invented skateboard kicktails. This was Richard Stevenson and he patented the design in 1969. This was as an improvement to the basic design of the boards to help perform tricks by lifting up the front end. This has become an essential part of the modern skateboard.
Another design element that was patented was much more recent. In 1993 a patent was issued for the platform steerable skateboard. This was to a Thomas Welsh. Once again, this is not who invented skateboards, but definitely someone who was instrumental in their evolution.
The basic design of the skateboard does not seem to have one particular, definitive inventor. They were originally just a plank of 4 x 2 on a roller skate. This was probably a roller skate belonging to your sister and, as you can make two skateboards out of her roller skates, it no doubt bought you a friend as well. The chances are that skateboarders of that day were always seen in pairs! As we know, necessity is the mother of invention and perhaps it was someone who could not find both their roller skates who invented skateboards. I do not think that we will ever find an answer.
There are probably many people out there who would claim to know who invented skateboards, and maybe even some who would claim the crown themselves. I actually remember my father telling me a long time ago that he used to fasten his school books to a roller skate with his belt, sit on it and career down the hill to school. This would have been in the 1940s in England! Perhaps he deserves the crown!