What Happened To Longboarding? (Industry Report)

By: Michael Brooke | December 23, 2023 | Longboards

Like any other industry, longboarding goes through cycles. But the past few years have seen an unusual decline of interest.

While it will come roaring back, let’s briefly analyze the past and brainstorm some solutions to speed up that next wave.

First, look at the graph below from Google Trends for the search term: longboard.

In 2020, the pandemic catalyzed a significant upsurge in longboarding interest as individuals sought outdoor activities compatible with social distancing. It was further amplified by social media, for example, the Fleetwood Mac longboarding video, which captured widespread public attention. A convergence of factors created an ideal environment for a substantial spike in longboarding’s popularity.

longboard search interest
Based on Google search data, interest for ‘longboard’ declined 76% from 2020-2023.

However, this initial boom was followed by a noticeable decline, which could be attributed to several factors. Key among them is the challenge of sustaining community-centric events and gatherings, which are pivotal in maintaining ongoing enthusiasm for longboarding. Additionally, the market might have experienced a saturation point after the initial surge in interest.

Longboarding’s Early Growth

To better understand, let’s revisit longboarding’s past, particularly its early growth factors in the 1990s and early 2000s. This historical perspective can offer valuable insights into the current state of longboarding and potential future growth opportunities.

Initially, longboarding was dismissed by the street skateboarding community, which didn’t see longboards as legitimate skateboards. The industry faced challenges, such as skepticism from traditional skate shops and a lack of widespread acceptance.

This marginalization, however, led to the formation of a dedicated and rapidly growing longboarding community.

Breaking past skepticism

So, how did it break past skepticism and become widespread?

The trend started in California, specifically San Diego county and the emergence of Sector 9 and Gravity. 

From The San Diego Union – Tribune / 1995

Sector 9 grew into the biggest skateboard company in the world and shocked ‘real’ skate companies to their core. Their success was partly due to innovative marketing strategies. They educated retail staff, offered demo boards, and created eye-catching displays.

But possibly more important, they put out an inviting message… “hey, you’re welcome to be part of this thing we’ve built.” Surfers, snowboarders, and former skaters felt welcomed by their marketing.

Building Momentum

It kept building momentum as others started to come on board and compete. Surf shops in Florida and other coastal areas came on board. Over the next several years, downhill races started to happen. Their history goes back to the 1970s and they were mostly underground and were located in key spots like Glendora, California.

Organizations like the International Downhill Skateboard Association started to crop up. In 1995, Thrasher dedicated a cover to longboarding.

“Tall, sleek and mean, longboards set the pace with well-heeled grace.”

In 1997, Michael Brooke wrote about using a longboard as a crossover training device for Snowboard Canada Magazine. In 1999, Michael’s book, the Concrete Wave (the history of skateboarding), featured a 6-page story on longboarding and predicted a bright future.

Michael’s piece for Snowboard Canada Magazine

This was followed three years later by Concrete Wave Magazine, and in 2011, Skate Slate appeared. The rise of the internet and platforms like YouTube further propelled longboarding’s popularity, with channels like Original Skateboards significantly influencing public interest.

In fact, had it not been for the internet, it’s doubtful that longboarding would have exploded in popularity. It was a truly impactful way to spread a message that was 100% ignored by all the skateboard mags.

Websites like NCDSA and Silverfish Longboarding were instrumental in creating grassroots communities and forums for gear-based knowledge.

This history tells the story of a sport and a community that thrived against the odds, embracing innovation and inclusivity.

Future Growth Strategies

So, what did we learn from the past? What worked, and how can we carry that into the future?

We need to leverage the power of online media to show the world how incredible longboarding is for mental health and building meaningful relationships.

After all, one of the longest studies done by Harvard proved that embracing community helps us live longer and be happier. There is an epidemic of loneliness worldwide, and skateboarding provides a truly exceptional antidote. The simple act of riding with a few friends can transform one’s mind.

We need to transcend beyond the current market and pique the interest of the masses.

It is vital to nurture grassroots communities to keep interest sustainable. While many incredible skate meetups are happening worldwide, there aren’t enough. We need more that are built with a sustainable infrastructure. Oftentimes, meetups will appear, then slowly fade away.

We must embrace the diversity within skateboarding and promote various styles and disciplines to attract a broader audience. Longboarding’s growth is tied to its ability to include various styles and communities rather than adhering to a narrow definition of what skateboarding should be.

Articles, videos and podcasts etc. will explore and trumpet this idea. This will result in numerous people being drawn into the experience. They will find well-being by simply purchasing a skateboard, opening the door, and finding freedom by sheer riding.

From here, anything is possible.

Michael Brooke

Since 1975, my passion for skateboarding has remained unchanged. Our mission at Concrete Waves is to fuel the growth of all genres of skateboarding.

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