Story: Roller skating and skateboarding

Roller skating and skateboarding have been popular pastimes, especially among children. They are both also competitive sports in which New Zealanders have gained success at an international level.

Story by Kerryn Pollock
Main image: Mike Bancroft skates the bowl at the Porirua skateboard park in 2008

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Roller skating

People began roller skating in the mid-1860s. It became especially popular during the 1880s. Most towns and cities in New Zealand had at least one skating rink – the first was probably in Hokitika, which was open by 1866.

At first people skated for recreation, but it developed into a sport. The New Zealand Roller Skating Association, which held national speed and artistic competitions, was founded in 1937. New Zealanders have competed successfully at an international level since 1955. People also play roller hockey.

In the mid-20th century outdoor concrete rinks were built in many towns and cities. Skating became popular again in the early 1980s.

In the 2000s roller derby, a women’s contact sport on roller skates, grew in popularity. In 2012 there were 21 roller derby leagues around New Zealand.


Skateboarding started in the 1950s in the United States as a way of ‘street surfing’. At first people made their own boards, but then commercially made boards became available. Skateboarding became very popular in the 1970s, especially amongst young men. People skateboarded where ever they could – on roads, footpaths and car parks. In the later 1970s skateboard parks were built, though some closed after the 1970s craze ended. Skateboarding became popular again in the late 1980s.

Skateboarding competitions have been held in New Zealand since the 1970s and several New Zealand skateboarders have become well-known internationally.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Roller skating and skateboarding', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 June 2024)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 5 September 2013