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James Bond and the origins of the skateboard

Sent in by an avid jotter just retired at 50 and spending his time in browsing his vast library (mostly acquired in the purlieus of Charing Cross) and sharing it with a waiting world. Just like a Victorian gentleman scholar or, say, Casaubon himself. Good to see the mountaineering writer Arnold Lunn name-checked. He was,with Alfred Noyes, a great favourite of supercollector Jimmy Kanga…

James Bond and the origins of the skateboard 

Some skateboard historians will tell you that the invention came about almost by accident in the early fifties when surfers wanted to practice their surf moves on land. Before long, a firm in LA was making them and the basic board was modified in the next two decades. No actual inventor is named…until now. I can now with confidence say that the photo ( from an archive of sport-related press photos) shows the inventor, Hannes Schneider (1890 – 1955), hitherto known for his pioneering work in popularising skiing, demonstrating a pair of skateboards to the amusement of some Japanese onlookers.

The problem is that Schneider isn’t road testing two skateboards, but a pair of ‘Roll-Skis ‘.All the evidence suggests that the photo was taken in the early fifties, when Schneider would have been in his early sixties. Also, the roll-skier is definitely Schneider himself. The man’s features resemble those on earlier photos and who else but the inventor would be demonstrating sports kit bearing his name?

Schneider had a long association with Japan going back to 1930, when he was invited by the Japanese government to teach schoolchildren to ski. The new craze caught on and the Japanese love for skiing is totally down to Schneider’s influence and teaching there. It makes sense that he chose Japan to road test his new invention, the Roll-Ski, which was supposed to give skiers the opportunity to practise their sport in summer, when many pistes had thawed.

By 1950 Schneider had established himself in the US, where doubtless the Roll Ski would have been first demonstrated. As one of the skis resembles the skateboard in just about every respect, it seems likely that one enterprising American manufacturer saw a gap in the market and adapted the Schneider Roll Ski sufficiently to evade copyright restrictions.

As for James Bond, in chapter 12 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service we discover that as a teenager before the War, 007 learnt to ski at the Hannes Schneider School in St Anton, Austria. While there he won the ‘Golden K’, the Arlberg-Kandahar challenge cup, established in 1928 by Schneider and Arnold Lunn.

So there you have it. The ultra-American youth craze that conquered the world   was invented by an Austrian----by accident. [Casaubon]

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