The history goes all the way back to the island of Oahu, HI.(1) Back prior to the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when companies like Roller Derby made commercially produced skateboards like this one.(2)
When the waves were low the island boys needed something to keep their chops fresh. They took wheels off of roller skates and screwed them onto planks of wood. Originally it wasn’t called skateboarding. It was called sidewalk surfing and the term skateboarding was coined once the commercial market took shape. The first boards commercial or not were pretty dangerous. The metal wheels and poor bearings made for a rough and sketchy ride. After a bit of commercial production had taken place the clay wheel was developed and it rode much smoother and with more grip. Finally urethane wheels were invented by a division of the Bahne longboarding/skateboarding company called Cadillac. This is what wheels are made of today and pushed the grip and ride quality of skateboarding to where it could become an extreme sport. Pro downhill boarding owes its lineage to this development and history. Without this history there is no sport.
(1) Links page 1,2,7,14
(2) Links page 13