Why are skateboarders today so much better at such a younger age with fewer years of practice than they were back in my skating youth (early 90's)?
It's not as if equipment quality has become so much better. Yes, shapes certainly changed, but the quality has always been excellent. I can rule out steroids as well. I don't think nutrition has ever been a factor and I don't believe any skaters engage in any gym work. Skaters still just skate and eat fast food while tearing around cities.
I believe that in that last 15 years skateboarding has lived within a series of defined walls. Tricks have not changed; they have only become smoother, faster, and bigger. Before 1995 you had to reevaluate your entire mindset every few years. Step hops and curb stalls gave way to ollies and rail slides. The emphasis changed. Those ollies expanded into nose slides and kickflips. Board shapes changed every few months without fail -- year old boards looked ancient and unrideable. Times changed again as people become obsessed with hyper technical flip tricks. Wheels become thinner and boards become exceedingly narrow as we fought for any advantage to get that board to flip a little easier. Around this same time everyone decided that every trick needed to be done with a switch stance. I am not complaining at all about this period. Skateboarding was amazingly creative, fresh, and in a seemingly endless sprint into the future. It was exciting.
However, it was schizophrenic for someone attempting to keep up with the latest tricks or trends. The walls and parameters kept moving. How much easier would switch tricks be if you started learning them within months of first getting on a board? What if you learned to switch ollie at the same time as learning to regular ollie? That seems to be the approach of people picking up the sport these days. They don't have to wipe clean a chalkboard of assumptions in their mind just to begin attempting the new stuff.
Decks are practically identical to the way they were shaped 10+ years ago. And most importantly, tricks in videos have not changed too much since then. Smoothness and style continually refines itself though, and that is the key. Watching Marc Johnson isn't about determining if he can pull the new switch trick du jour, it is about enjoying how he's taking the old bag of tricks and sliding them into his unique flow. It's about the rhythm, not checking boxes to make sure so and so can switch 360 flip. This is probably why I still prefer watching Kris Markovich over Mike Mo (yeah, I do love Mike Mo though).
I guess it is a natural progression. By 1995 the boundaries had been pushed and the lines had been painted. The future was in examining the fine grains inside that space. I don't believe this prohibits creativity or flies some flag asserting that the glory days will be forever gone. I liken it to a piano being designed and constructed. At some point we all agreed on the number of keys and then moved forward. The permutations and beauty that have come out of that are stunning and no one would doubt their creativity.
In 1989 I didn't know what a 360 flip was, but now everybody does and they can set in on the horizon and shoot for it. Maybe that is why kids get much better at a faster rate -- they know where to point there compass.
Regardless, session on in perpetuum.