Let’em ride! Or what skateboarding owes polyurethanes

For anyone who’s grown up in the past generation, Tony Hawk has been a familiar household name. So it’s hard to imagine that when Hawk was born, in 1968, skateboarders were still riding on “Fred Flinstone wheels” – clay wheels which had no traction and used to lock if you rode over a bump!

The revolution came in 1973 when Frank Nasworthy applied polyurethane technology to create skateboard wheels that were fast, durable and gave good traction. Polyurethane wheels give an extra spring to skateboards, they flatten out where they touch the ground, but quickly return to their round form. Their strength, grip and speed can also be easily modified for specialty boards.



The introduction of polyurethane wheels “gave birth to what has become modern skateboarding”. American teenagers who had already embraced polyurethane surfing boards found a new thrill in skating. Groups like the Z-boys, immortalised in Heath Ledger’s film ‘Lords of Dogtown’, demonstrated the lengths to which the new boards could be pushed, and inspired a new generation of skaters. Skateboarding quickly became an integral part of the American teenage experience.
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Watch out for the guest appearance of polyurethane wheels in the 2005 trailer of ‘Lords of Dogtown’!


Today, polyurethane technology continues at the forefront of new sports, including sky surfing – a daredevil combination of snowboarding, surfing and skydiving, where surfers jump out airplanes strapped to boards with thin polyurethane foam cores.

It’s not the last time we’ll surprise our readers with strange facts, we have a lot more in store. But if you didn’t have enough, just go back to our post 10 Polyurethane applications you would not have thought of.

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