Skateboarding 101: A Breakdown of Skating, Culture and Hall of Famers

I first learned how to skateboard when I was around 6 or 7 years old because my two older brothers were very into skateboarding. I’ve been playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 on N64 since it came out and I spent this past July completing it with every character 100% and all the gaps. So I know skateboarding tricks from the game (which sometimes are not realistic at all) but the actual skate part itself is something I’m no expert in.

In 5th grade, I wanted to be a professional skateboarder so during the course of two days I tried to learn how to ollie on my oldest brother’s skateboard. Looking back, I wasn’t doing anything right. I had NO knowledge of what even to do. So I stopped pretty quickly for obvious reasons because I wasn’t going anywhere and haven’t skated at all (exception a few long boards but never owned one) until March of this year. I felt passionate about it because it was still something that I really wanted to do so I bought a board at a local shop and learned to ollie. This past summer I’ve been focusing on being comfortable and an expert on cruising when its not 108 outside. But when it IS 108 (which it mostly is), I watch skateboarding or research online about it.



Skateboarding was born somewhere between the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was invented because surfers wanted something to do on land when they couldn’t surf because the waves weren’t good enough. So they would take the wheels from roller blades and put them on a piece of maple plywood and skate around. This coined the term “Sidewalk Surfing” because of the origin. During this time, the only real movement was just cruising around the sidewalks as if you were surfing (and they also skated barefoot).

Skateboarding became popular in the mid 1960s and even had competitions where people raced and went through obstacle courses through orange cones. Then a variety of sources were saying they were too dangerous which ultimately resulted in parents not buying them for their kids and stores stopped selling them, causing a major decline in participation.

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Patti McGee, one of the first sponsored skateboarders

In the 1970s, a new wheel was invented using polyurethane instead of the clay wheels. This transition was huge because skateboards became easier to ride over cracks in the sidewalks and became less dangerous. Skateboarding became popular again around 1975 where there was another competition, the first one since the 60s. Skateboarding also gained popularity with the Zephyr competition team in California [also known as the Z-boys (even though there is a girl in it but anyway) , who we will be talking about later]. The 1976 California drought was so bad that people would drain their pools, leading to Z-boys and other skaters going in people’s backyards and skating vertically up the walls of the pools. This lead to grinding on the edges of the pools and the first Frontside air by Alan Gelfand in Florida and a grabbed frontside air by Tony Alva, a member of the Zephyr competition team. This was the beginning of “vert” skating. Many people continued to work on flat ground and freestyle as well.

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Tony Alva skating in a backyard pool

The 1980s brought a major breakthrough in skating. With the drought being over, no one really had any access to vert skating. So popularity in street skating became incredibly huge. A new world was opened when Rodney Mullen invented SO!! many tricks including the “kickflip” and “Impossible”which are now the foundation of street skating. The 80s also brought VHS which meant the invention of skateboarding films. One of the first and most historically popular was the Bones Brigrade video which included famous skaters like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero and Lance Mountain.

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The end of the 80s caused a decline in skateboarding because of the lack of vert skating but rose again in the 90s. The new type of board shape (which is how our boards are now) and wheels made tricks more manageable than before. In 1995, the first X-Games was hosted, bringing skateboarding into mainstream light.

The early 2000s meant skateboarding was left and right. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skaters game were out on PS1, skate films continued to sell and skate parks were being built every where. Longboards became more popular in the later 2000s and early 2010s along with penny boarding which is meant to be skated barefoot.

And now its 2016 and the Olympics announced that Skateboarding is going to be apart of Tokyo 2020 game. What a time to be alive!!! (America kinda has an advantage because we have more skate parks BUT Brazil might kill us lol).

Type of Skateboarding

Freestyle Skating: Oldest type of skating. This mostly included work from Rodney Mullen and simply doing tricks with the board as your only equipment.

Vert Skating: Vertical skating on the sides of pools originally but currently expanded to ramps.

Street Skating: Involvement of stairs, rails, and ledges where skaters either grind, manual or perform flip/grab tricks on or above.

Park Skating: A broader version of vert skating. Park Skating combine half pipes, quarter pipes and pools.

Cruising: Skateboarding to go as fast as possible requiring no tricks.

Big Air Skating: Where skaters roll in on the mega ramp, perform a grab trick over a large gap and then go up the vert quarter to perform a trick.


Because of the origins, skateboarding culture was incredibly close to surfing. Over time and around the 80s, the culture developed to portray skateboarders as ~reckless rebels. Skateboarding was a way to defy the means of organization sports and a way for people to express themselves in this new way. I even watched King of The Rock 2015 and Clint Walker called the word jock, “the j word.” (guess they really don’t like anything related to organized sports). Skateboarding used to be seen as very angsty~ and rebellious but that’s not really the case now. Currently, Thrasher magazine still makes their magazine into the rebellious stereotype but Transworld skatebording magazine paints them as more diverse and controlled.

Musically, the subgenre was invented called “skate punk.”in the 80s. “Johnny Loftus of AllMusic described early skate punk music as ‘a confluence of punk’s anger and simplicity, the furious speed of hardcore, and defiantly smart-assed machismo’.” is written on the wikipedia page to describe the genre. Skate punk artists include NOFX, blink-182, MxPx, Bad Religion etc. Recent bands like FIDLAR and Trash Talk have gotten a good amount of fame and bring back the roots of skate punk. More and more skateboarding videos have had hip hop, reggae or hard rock in the videos which caused an increase in popularity of skateboarding in those communities.

Fashion within the skate community is popular for those who don’t even skate, which shows the influence in fashion. Brands like Vans, Volcom, Quiksilver, Supreme etc. are also very popular in general but were originally made tailored to surf and skate communities. For pants, people usually wear chino pants (more comfortable than jeans)  or khakis. T-shirts are a classic and some also wear plaid shirts. Skate shoes like Nike SB shoes, Vans Slip On/Sk8 His or Old Skools, Converse, and addias are the most popular. Alot of people also wear Thrasher skateboarding magazine clothing. Can’t forgot your HUF socks too!!!

Speaking of HUF, a lot of weed is popular in the skate community.

Hall Of Fame

Older skaters than are IMPORTANT!!!

  • ZEPHYR TEAM: These kids KILLED IT back in the day. The most famous are Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Peggy Oki, and Stacy Peralta out of the 12 members, started a huge revolution in skateboarding. They started skating all the pools and when they showed up to the first competition in 1975, they were skating SO advanced that everyone was blown away. In the girls competition, the other skaters tried to convince the judges that Peggy go into the boys competition because “she skated like a boy.”
  • Rodney Mullen: What many call the “godfather” of skateboarding. I mean he INVENTED the kickflip!! Watching his videos is a new experience honestly. He does stuff that no one these days can do.
  • Tony Hawk: A killer vert skateboarder who did the first 900!!! You know who he is, why am I explaining it?
  • Elissa Steamers: An amazing female street skater in the 90s and 2000s who was the first female in the Tony Hawk series.
  • Mark Gonzales: basically a mad man in the 80s who many call “The Gonz.”
  • Bob Burnquist: a vert skater along with big air. Still in xgames at 40+ years old and killing it.
  • Others: Eric Koston, Andew Reynolds, Steve Caballero, Geoff Rowley, Rune Glifberg

Current Skateboarders:

  • Pedro Barros: A Brazilian who is sooo good that people already know he is going to get gold when he competes
  • Nyjah Huston: the highest paid skateboarder in the world. 21 years old and INCREDIBLE. Places in every contest basically.
  • Curren Caples: Pro Skater for Flip, popular one with ladies and has a very technical/surf inspired style
  • Lizzie Armanto: female Vans skaters, 23 and everything that I want to be.
  • Aaron Homoki: Also known as Jaws and does CRAZY tricks. Will almost do anything and does INSANE ollies off buildings
  • Leticia Bufoni: Brazilian skater for Nike SB, did a risque~ photo shoot with ESPN, does a lot of nude photo shoots. Cool gal though.
  • Tom Schaar: he’s like 16 and did a 1080!!! when he was 12!!!!!!!
  • Sean Malto, Louie Lopez, Axel Crusher, Luan Oliveria, Arto Saari, Alex Sorgente, Chris Russell, Ben Hatchell, Jack Fardell, Allyshe Bergardo, Poppy Starr, AND SO MANY MORE

There’s so much more to go into and many influential skaters and aspects that were not discussed. BUT I hope you learned SOMETHING about skateboarding today!



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