Skateboarding and the 1964 Chargers vs. Bills Thanksgiving Day Game

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Here is an interesting clip from the 1964 Thanksgiving Day game between the Chargers and Bills.  First of all, the clip is in color, which is always a treat when dealing with video from that era.  Second, however, are the skateboarders that are shown riding around an area in Balboa Stadium.  Two of these young men are actually sons of then-Charges owner, Barron Hilton.  I found a bit about this skating team on a website dedicated to the history of skateboarding (http://skateculturehistory.tripod.com/Scateculture.html)

It sounds strange, but one of the most influential skateboard companies in the sixties didn’t start out as a surf company. The Vita-Pakt Juices Company was looking to expand their financial horizons. They had recently purchased a roller skate manufacture, but Ed Morgan had other plans. Since they were located in Covina, California, they were influenced by the beach crowd. He noticed how popular skateboards were getting and saw a potential profit. The Vita-Pakt Co. was owned by Baron Hilton, owner of the Hilton Hotel Chain. His sons Dave and Steve were devoted skateboarders and supported the skateboard idea. In 1964, Hobie Alter joined with Vita-Pakt in a marketing manufacturing partnership. He was already a notable figure in the surf community and brought a great deal of respect. They spent a lot of money on a massive publicity campaign. A Hobie super surfer team was put together with top riders, including a young Dave Hilton. This was the true birth of the skateboard team as we now recognize it. They were some of the first to start doing the flat land tricks that defined the 60’s style. Nowadays is common place for kids to be getting paid millions of dollars to skate professionally. In the words of Skip Engblom it was “like Nike coming to you and telling you they would give you a million dollars to go around town and spray graffiti”.

They were thinking about different ways to promote skateboards when Hobie had an idea. He had recently seen the surf film Endless Summer and many surf shops would run clips of it in the shop. He talked to the man who created it, Bruce Brown, about organizing a skate tour. He rented a bus and set out across country. They traveled from California to New York. The trip cost about $5000 but it paid off in full. They would stop in towns all along there bus route, perform skate demos, and have free showings of the movie Endless Summer. Hobie recalls they had over 10,000 people at one showing. Hilton owned the San Diego Chargers football team and commissioned the Hobie Super Surfer team to perform at their Thanksgiving game. Promotion has always been a challenge for Skateboard companies. They want to stay true to there hardcore roots but they don’t want to scare off new skaters with images of the dirty surf grunge lifestyle. However they have always found creative ways of promoting their sport.

 

Todd Tobias (775 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.



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2 Responses to Skateboarding and the 1964 Chargers vs. Bills Thanksgiving Day Game

  1. TK says:

    I wish Balboa was the site of a new Chargers stadium….

  2. billd says:

    Thanks Todd. The narrator sounds like Lute Mason.
    Mario Mendez was one of the first of many Don Coryell players to play pro ball. I remember when the Chargers conducted a scrimmage at Helix High School in August of 1964. The crowd cheered and stood every time Mario touched the ball.

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