Where skateboarding ranks worldwide in participation is unclear. Many countries don't track it since they don't consider it a sport -- rather, a fun diversion like lawn darts or Hula-Hoop. Fortunately, the U.S. census takes detailed stats on participation in various sports. In the U.S., skateboarding is still very niche, and ranks near the bottom.
Eight Million Strong
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 Statistical Abstract, skateboarding had approximately 8,418,000 participants in 2009. Among the 40 sports and fitness activities that the census covered, skateboarding ranked 26th, ahead of such sports as hockey, cross-country skiing and mountain biking, and well behind the top activities of exercise walking, bicycling and swimming. It did rank first among the so-called action or extreme sports, with millions more participants than alpine skiing, snowboarding, water skiing and inline skating.
As a spectator sport, skateboarding still has a way to go. X Games is the premier skateboarding event on the calendar, and X Games 17 set new records with a Nielsen rating of 0.6, which translates to just over a million viewers. While that's more than the average 240,000 viewers that MLS and the WNBA get, it trails niche sports like horse racing, figure skating and Formula One racing on TV.
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