The Evolution Of GriptapeTaking a look at skateboarding’s overlooked accessory.By Adam Sullivan
In the past three decades, griptape has undergone some important changes. Often skateboarding’s most overlooked accessory, griptape has seen three significant eras in its decades-old existence.
The Early Years
When skateboarding first surfaced in the 1960s, sidewalk surfers tried a few different approaches to staying on their boards. Jerry Madrid, owner of Madrid Flypaper, explains: “We skated barefoot back then. We used to drip wax on our skateboards, which didn’t really work that well-we’d try to wax everything.” Another short-lived idea was to use Slip Check, a spray-adhesive that surfers used back in the 60s.
Not suprisingly, skaters soon began creating their own traction. Many would pour resin onto their boards, then sprinkle sand to set up inside the resin, creating griptape in its earliest incarnation. Although better than waxes or spray-on adhesives, this sandy resin just didn’t offer enough grip.
A few years later, griptape evolved. Pizza Tape was, quite literally, griptape in its rawest form. The name came from its rough, rocky surface, which reminded skaters of pizza. Rough though it was, Pizza Tape paved the way for today’s griptape.
The size of the grit is a crucial factor. Pizza Tape was much too rough, and it destroyed skate shoes. But if the grit was too small, then it wouldn’t grip enough. Today’s skater needs a griptape that provides a good, solid grip, but also gives when necessary.
Another problem manufacturers have had to deal with in the past is getting the griptape to stick to the board consistently. In the early 90s, the state of California outlawed the use of solvent-based thinners and lacquers. Manufacturers scrambled to come up with a non-solvent-based, waterproof barrier.
The early sheets had a paper backing, and if water seeped through, the paper would rot. Something was needed to act as a barrier, to prevent the moisture from going through. The first barriers were made of foil, but with the introduction of plastics into the market, griptape manufacturers found a barrier that was waterproof, cheaper, and more flexible.
Throughout The Years
In addition to all of the technical changes, griptape has also seen its share of cosmetic innovations. One innovation is the use of color. In the 80s, boards were commonly adorned with bright sheets of neon pink, green, and orange. Although the fad died out for a few years, colored griptapes are surfacing again today.
Graphic griptape came about in the mid 90s. Although not an entirely new concept, Roofies came in a variety of patterns and pictures, offering the skateboarders a chance to spruce up the top of their boards with various graphics or company logos. Many skaters, though, either found the colors too distracting or preferred to paint their own, adding a personal touch.
After trials and tribulations, skaters and manufacturers alike seem to have found a griptape they are happy with. And thanks to better adhesives, better plastics, and a finer grit, the functional aspects of griptape has stayed virtually the same for the past ten years.