In the early days of skateboarding, imitating surfing was the only "style" of
skateboarding that existed. Most skateboarding was done by west coast beach
city kids under 14, known at the time as gremmies, short for gremlins. For the
first year or two, no respectable surfer would spend any real time on a skateboard.
However that quickly changed as the gremmies started showing style on the clumsy
2x4's and also bombing big hills for the rush.
I saw kids in the late fifties that were doing hot "all about surfing" routines on their
3 ft plus long 2x4 boards with steel wheels. I never saw anyone in the beach cities
riding one of those now famous little red boards, that were considered a toy and a joke
if you rode one.

In 1960, a friend of mine named Jeff, told me about a skateboarder (actually we were
not called skateboarders at the time but rather "a guy with a skateboard") that could
with his feet "make his board turn around by lifting one end up and setting it down then
lifting the other end up and keep going". Jeff could only describe the guy's skateboard
as "a shorter 2x4". For me historically, and I have not heard of an earlier such story,
this marked the beginning of freestyle skateboarding as being clearly and destinctly
different than surfing imitation or hill bombing skateboarding. I was very excited about
this news, and the idea of the skateboard taking on a creative form of its own and now
being exploratory in nature. I rushed right home and started designing my first freestyle
board, which I believe to be the first true freestyle board ever. My board was a 6" by 18"
by 1" cedar plank that was perfectly round on both ends and had perfectly straight sides.
I got a really fresh top quality roller skate sawed it in half and attached it to the bottom
and started out thinking up anything I could, if was really fun. However, I never rode it
in front of my skate buddies for fear of ridicule.

With the introduction of the clay composite wheel in 1962, freestyle technique
flourished and spread to other areas around the world where the surf culture was active.
Soon skateboarding teams were developed by major surfboard companies to do demos
and promote the skateboard products. Makaha was the first real skateboard company,
that is, a company that was serious about the engineering and quality of the skateboard
and it's functionality. Makaha Skateboard Company put on the first skateboard contest
ever in the school yard of Hermosa Beach Jr High in 1964. This was considered just
a skateboard contest, the definition of freestyle was not around yet, but that is what it
was, flatland freestyle. Back in that day you were either one of hose guys that did tricks
and 360's or you were still bombing hills. Many basic freestyle tricks were developed
by the team skaters of the early and mid 1960's, and what we would now call freestyle
remained the dominate contest form for the rest of the decade. The later years of the
60's saw the Viet Nam war draw a lot of young men from the beach culture and
skateboarding went into a slump. A few surfer skateboard riders remained active to
stimulate new paths of creativity in freestyle, downhill, pool riding, slalom and bank
riding. It was around this time that the term skateboarder emerged as an identity
separate from the surf culture. Freestylers like Russ Howell and Bruce Logan were
blazing trails through the remaining days of the clay wheel era introducing music
and routine and setting the stage for the revolution of the urethane wheel.

After the invention and marketing of the Cadillac urethane wheel in 1973, and the
power of self expression it gave to the emerging artists of the early 1970's, Freestyle
then entered the "Golden Age" and remained the dominate art form in skateboarding
until the end of the decade. This was the era of Ty Page, Steve Day, Ellen O'Neal,
Stacy Peralta, Russ Howell and many others who's signature moves gave them a
lasting identity in freestyle history. This decade of rapid improvement in product
design and manufacturing allowed talented freestylers to develop to higher artistic
and skill levels so that some of the fundamental tricks and techniques invented by
champions like Bobby "Casper" Boyden and Steve Day, are still a part of today's
street, vert and freestyle skateboarding. Around the end of the 1970's, mostly due
to the laws effecting skate parks, skateboarding in general was starting another
slump. Freestyle however, remained healthy as a competitive activity and then
produced some of its greatest innovators in the early 1980's such as Steve Rocco,
Rodney Mullen and Primo. This period also saw the rise of exciting new international
stars such as Per Welinder, Pierre André, Shane Rouse, Kevin Harris, Frank Messman,
YOYO Schulz, GoGo Spreiter and others.

The intense commercialization of street style and vert in the late 1980's, as a means
to shore up the again slumping skateboard industry, lead to the near disappearance
of freestyle by the year 1991. With the contest scene gone and sponsors almost
non-existent, only a handful of true die hard freestylers remained active in the 1990's.
Among these heroes who carried the torch through the dark decade, please stand up
when we call your name, were Kevin Harris, Primo and Diane Desiderio,
Dr. Bill Robertson, Russ Howell, Stefan "Lillis" Akesson, Richy Carrasco, and a few
others, some of a lesser God like myself, and an occasional lone individual from
some dark corner of the planet who never new the difference.

In 1996, Stefan "Lillis" Akesson went on-line with the International Network of
Flatland Freestyle Skateboarding. The INFFS became the place for the remaining
freestylers of the world to gather, and soon a small but steadily growing forum
developed. By 1999, a few of the top freestylers in several countries were again
doing demos and appearances. This was a flicker of new energy so Dr. Bill Robertson
decided to put together a World Freestyle Skateboard Championship and Reunion.
This historical event was held on the evening of November 11th 2000, in a dark
damp warehouse on the docks of San Francisco Bay. Twenty or so proud, but somewhat
rusty freestylers competed in several events that night. Only one light burned and a
funky radio was the sound system. What little light and warmth there was seemed to
come more from the skaters that the feeble equipment.

The energy and excitement generated by the 2000 San Francisco Reunion led to the
founding of the WFSA, World Freestyle Skateboard Association, in January of 2001,
by Bob Staton with Lillis and Dan Gesmer. The WFSA was the pro-active extension
of the INFFS and was intended to be a vehicle for the revival of the freestyle world.
As the INFFS, WFSA and the F-forum grew the revival picked up momentum. A new
generation of freestyle activity emerged as numbers of both young and long time
freestylers began to again produce modest contests around the world. Demos and
jams sprung up as new freestyle based companies such as 360King, YOYO Skates,
ReverseFreestyle and Casper Industries began to play a more significant role in the
expansion and re-popularization of flatland freestyle. By 2002 a number of freestyle
web sites had come on-line to further fuel the growing interest and meet the demands
for more knowledge, imagery and commradory. The production of new freestyle videos
by Lynn Cooper of ReverseFreestyle and Daryl Grogan of Casper Industries began the
process of developing the new image of flatland freestyle by blending stars from the
past such as Pierre André and Rodney Mullen with emerging stars like Tim Byrne and
Terry Synnott. New national freestyle organizations and groups are now forming like
the British Flatland Skateboard Network and the German Freestyle Skateboard
Association, to assist the development of local freestyle activities and bring
attention to top emerging international freestylers and activists such as
Boris Schwemin, Lele Barbato, Lewis Hand, Bernhard Kuempel, Paul Bakker, A.J. Kohn,
Uffe Hansson, and others. Because of the dedication of many new freestylers and
the introduction of the world wide web as a means of instantaneous communication,
and just because it's a great art form, and is so darn much fun, the dynamics,
creative possibilities, stylistic variables from classical 70's to contemporary
flatland, will insure that the art of flatland freestyle will become a much wider spread
and practiced activity than it ever was before.

Bob Staton, May 2003