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Drought as a trigger of the rapid rise of professional skateboarding in 1970s Southern California

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In 1977 California, authorities responded to an extreme drought with an unprecedented state order to drastically reduce domestic water usage and leave countless newly built swimming pools empty. These curved pools became “playgrounds” for inspired surfers to develop professional vertical skateboarding in the Los Angeles area. Industrial production of polyurethane, and the advent of digital photography, laser printing, and high gloss mass media further contributed to the explosive popularization of skateboarding, creating a global subculture and multibillion-dollar industry that still impacts music, fashion, and lifestyle worldwide. Our interdisciplinary investigation demonstrates that neither the timing nor the location of the origin of professional skateboarding was random. This modern case study highlights how environmental changes can affect human behavior, transform culture, and engender technical innovation in the Anthropocene.



drought extremes, climate change, environmental change, human behavior, cultural history, interdisciplinary research, historical climatology

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Oxford University Press
ERC (MONOSTAR (AdG 882727))