Popular Mechanics Skateboard Acrobatics

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

The July, 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics features a five page spread on skateboarding. I had sort of assumed that in 1965, skateboarding was still an “all-American” sport, looked at by the general public as an amusing or cute attempt to imitate surfing. It was surprising to learn that a “prominent psychologist” said that “the skateboard is a symbol of defiance, young people showing their elders that they have scorn for all the things they have been taught about the preciousness of life and safety of limb.” Fortunately the tone of the piece is purely informational, almost instructional in some ways. Vita Pak gets a name check too. Popular Mechanics was (haven’t seen it lately) very DIY oriented, packed with projects and tips for hacking ordinary items for improved functionality. Make has nothing on this.

Here’s the cover.

Popular Mechanics: July, 1965

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

As a bonus, flipping through the pages I saw this little 1/12th page ad in the back for a “Tiger Skate-Board,” perhaps the first commercially advertised motorized skateboard. I’d have to (find and then) dig through some Volume one issues of Skateboarder Magazine to verify.

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

A couple single photo blow ups. This one spread across two pages.

Skateboarding in popular mechanics 1965

Can this kid possibly be real? He seem amore like a museum exhibit. Check out his setup though, rubber tire tread in the back, steel wheels on the front. Scary!

Popular Mechanics 1965 - motorized skateboard

The full text of the article:

Skateboard Acrobatics

Experts to handstands, barrel and people jumps; some hop up mounts with gas engines.

By John Boykin and Bob Grant.

A prominent psychologist says that “the skateboard is a symbol of defiance, young people showing their elders that they have scorn for all the things they have been taught about the preciousness of life and safety of limb.” If this is true, then all the youth of America is in full-scale rebellion, because nowadays the youngsters are going from the teething ring to the skateboard with hardly a hitch. And besides using them to whiz through an intersection and see how many motorists they can terrify, the skateboarders have added some new wrinkles: handstands, high jumps, kick turns and riding along with a board on each foot. For competition, they run a slalom course set up like a ski slalom.

The best of the stunt skateboarders are a group of youngsters gathered together by the Vita-Pak Co., a California manu- facturer of the boards. They are currently touring the country giving exhibitions.

Two of the hairiest stunts they perform are the high jump and the curb jump. In the high jump the skateboarder rolls up to a crossbar suspended on two sticks. As his board goes under the bar he jumps over it and then lands on the moving board. Curb jumping is like the ski jump —riding off the end of a ramp and keep- ing the board in control, both in the air and after it lands.

And if skateboarding wasn’t enough as it was, now they have added a motor and are racing an 18-pound board like a go- kart. These are steered by shifting body weight. Although they only go 16.6 mph, on a plank and a skate wheel a few inches off the ground this speed can feel like the back stretch at Daytona.

RECORD FOR HIGH JUMP is four feet. In this stunt the skateboarder rolls up to the bar, makes the jump and lands on the board in complete control

IF YOU CAN do o handstand on the ground, you can do it on a skateboard. The trick is to have the board moving at o good clip to maintain balance

JUMPS ARE DONE by shifting weight to rear wheel to keep front up, and then shifting weight forward in the air to bring the board down on four wheels

DOING THE COFFIN between the legs of a skate- boarder on two boards requires skill. It takes about four months to learn to control a pair of boards

ONLY EXPERTS can try this one. While one boy does the co?in sideways, another makes a iump over his legs and lands on his board in complete control

SPEED AND TIGHT TURNS are the main ingredients in the slalom race. The course is generally set up an a hill and tin cans are used to make the “gates”

MOTORIZED SKATEBOARDS are steered by shifting the weight of the body. ing the weight of the body. They have a top speed of only 16.6 mph, but when you’re riding a slender rhen you’re riding a slender board close to the ground, it feels as though you’re “hauling the mail” you’re “hauling the mail”

CUSTOMIZE!) skateboard has been equipped‘ with headlights, taillights and a horn to make it eligible for a legal highway registration in California

NOT EOUIPPED FOR RACING, this skateboard uses a motor to get it up the hills. Gears are disengaged at the top and it is ridden like a regular board

ROUGH TERRAIN doesn’t stop the motorized racing models and they will go iust about anywhere that the driver has the skill and nerve to take them. Since the drivers are close to the ground, there are few maior iniuries

REAR WHEELS on the 18-pound motorized model are ?ve inches in diameter, and the front wheels are Chicago roller skates. Most of them are powered by an .85-hp two-cycle gasoline engine that runs on outboard motor fuel.

Another bonus, this advertisement for a 1965 Harley Davidson M-50… motorcycle? Or, is it a moped? An interesting contrast to their current marketing.

harley davidson 1965


  1. Prickly Pete on January 22, 2014 - Reply

    Great post!

  2. they used to have all kinds of plans for diy boats, surfboards, etc. was kind of hoping they’d have instructions on how to build one of those. not like i couldn’t look elsewhere, but yeah. cool shit regardless.

  3. Turn that awesome page 85 silhouette shot into a t-shirt.

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