In the early 70’s I started selling the Australian skateboard Surfer Sam & also a few Midget Farrelly’s.
As skateboard sales increased people like Barry Bennett from Sydney surfboard fame, started to import Skateboards from the USA. I brought a shipment from him & having seen the product, I thought gee I can do this. So I started to make wooden skateboards out of solid timber as well as ply. To do this, I had to import Chicago Trucks & Roller sports wheels which were the toast of the skateboard industry in the USA. Roller sport wheels were the first urethane wheels to be made worldwide to my knowledge. The first were small about 1 1/4 ” wide, all these wheels were open bearings with cones & washers & locking nuts.
Photo: 1970-71. Len (age 33-34) riding a skateboard in a car park near his surf shop in North Fremantle. Len Dibben pic.
I then started to make fibreglass decks, at first were just straight, then I made one with a kicked tail. These were about 12” in length & 6 ” wide with the kicked tails. I had to make moulds, I remember that the moulds had indentations so show where the truck had to be mounted each end. I did this because demand was growing. I employed a heap of school kids like Dave Kennedy when he was at Scotch College. They would all be given jobs like in an assembly line, drilling out the holes, mounting the trucks, fitting the wheels & loose bearings,adjusting the wheels for smooth performance and sanding the decks. After I had finished glassing, as well as cutting out the fibre glass and before I impregnated the resin, the decks were dry glassed finished, so as to have a grippy finish and not be slippery with your bare feet or sand shoes (sneakers).
As time went on, wheels got wider & were called Stockers. These were about 2” in Diameter & 2 1/4” wide, still open bearings. We learn’t that by taking out 1 ball bearing & leaving 9 instead of 10, they went faster. We used Graphite Powder for lubrication as Oil would collect sand & ruin the bearing surface.
As the skateboards got more sophisticated I started to make Laminated Ply, which I purchased from Sydney Ply Co. These were much wider like 8” with wide trucks, something like today.
Other Skateboards I imported back in the early days were Bing, these had fibre glass decks & Rolls Royce wheels. And GT Plastic Skate deck Skateboards had 19”, 24” & 25” lengths in 5 different colours.
Photo: 1976 Len & Wendy Dibben outside Len’s surf shop & factory in North Fremantle. Len Dibben pic.
I also imported Roller sports skateboards. Roller sports were roller skate manufacturers with shoes, I think they were in Florida. I remember when we receive out first shipment from the USA, my wife Wendy had to go to the Airport to get the Shipment. I knew when it was arriving as I had a heap of customers ringing all the time. Well when Wendy arrived back from airport I must have had about 50 plus Customer waiting for me & the boys to open up the boxes. I got home that night about 9.30 pm (No late night trading back then).