The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series was one of the most popular set of video games during the early 2000’s. A classic arcade game, people bought into them because of the skateboarding fad at the time. Tony Hawk drove hundreds of thousands of people in the country to try out the sport of skateboarding. At stores around the country, kids, teenagers, and adults stood in endless lines of customers waiting to buy the new Tony Hawk game that had just been released.
Skate shops filled with customers of zero to one hundred percent interest in skating, just to have a skateboard because of Tony Hawk. In 2006, more than 10 million people in the United States said they were skateboarders, according to an article by PublicSkateParkGuide.
This globalization of skateboarding has drawn it to what it has become today. The expansion of skateboarding contributes to famous competitions like the X-Games, where skaters like Tony Hawk and Shaun White drew attention to fans who even knew nothing about skating.
However, what exactly does skating consist of? How deep can a person get into skating and what other versions of it are available? Skating is quite popular yet some people, even those involved in skating, don’t know what all is included under the umbrella of skateboarding.
Skateboarding is defined as the sport or pastime of riding a skateboard, literally. Though popular among the youth, skateboarding is a profession that people follow well through their forties. It can then be considered an extreme sport, taking form in many competitions of different styles in famous events such as the previously mentioned X-games and making its official debut in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
When did it originate? Why do people skate?
The first commercial skateboards appeared in 1959, but homemade boards were built long before then. The first skateboards were built in shapes that resembled small surfboards and had roller skate wheels attached to their bottoms. In the early 1960’s, companies like Makaha, Hobie, Jack’s, Bing’s, and Kips’ based their sales on the rising popularity of surfing by promoting skateboarding, which was then known as “sidewalk surfing.”
Skateboards quickly became popular to professional surfers, who wanted to surf even on days where the waves were flat, so they resorted to skateboarding. Early skaters emulated surfing styles, tricks, and maneuvers, even riding barefoot! The first coordinated skateboarding event took place in 1963 at Pier Avenue Junior High School in Hermosa Beach, California, sponsored by Makaha.
What’s the point? Why do people skateboard?
Nowadays, people skate simply for leisure, transportation, or competition. In most neighborhoods and many beach towns across the United States, there are kids who skate around for fun with their friends. Across college campuses, many students use their skateboards as a mode of transportation, skating from class to class to cut on time and walking distance.
The third reason for skating is what has made it so famous. People of different ages and genders compete in order to win cash prizes and trophies for their distinctive skating gifts. There are many different styles of skating that have to do with different skating competitions.
What are the different skate styles and skateboards?
Skating styles consist of park, cruising, and off road.
Park skateboarding is the most common competitive style of skating. It’s these competitions that are usually shown on TV and from which we find famous skateboarders like the one and only Tony Hawk. This style of skating takes place in a skate park which consists of different obstacles and features like pools, pipes, handrails, boxes, and even stairs. The common skateboard is used in this style of skating, using the ends to push off of in order to jump in the air and do tricks with the board.
Cruising is the easiest style of skateboarding and takes practically no skill besides balance. This style is usually that of skaters who use skateboards as a means of transportation. Longboards are more popular with this style of skating. Longboards tend to ride longer without having to be pushed, since their wheels tend to be larger and smoother. Cruising is for slow, relaxed rides with a soft breeze brushing against the rider.
Off road is when people ride their boards on uneven surfaces, which tend to be covered in dirt entirely. This method of off road skateboarding is also known as dirt-boarding because the surface is normally made of dirt on a natural plane as opposed to concrete like in a park. Off road is an entertaining style of skating due to its adventurous and dangerous nature. Dirt boards are best used for this style of riding because the board tends to have better grip on the shoes of the rider and the wheels have a thick tread that grip the ground better.
What types of competition are there? How do they work?
The different skating styles are downhill, freestyle, street, and vert.
Downhill skating is a unique practice of skateboarding that involves going very fast down a long hill or slope. This style of skating is very technical and dangerous, as riders fly down a slope, using gravity as their engine. The key to this style of skating is going fast, tucking (squatting down on the board) during most of the ride to reduce wind resistance. Aerodynamics is such an important part of this style of skating, since it is nothing but the rider, the board, and the environment.
Downhill skateboarding is one of the easiest to score. It’s simply a race to the bottom of the hill. There are rules that come along with it of course. First, all equipment (such as skateboard, helmet, gloves, etc.) must pass inspection from an International Downhill Federation(IDF) official. Insurance and liability documents must be filled out and submitted prior to competition as well. As far as the race goes, things like physical contact with another racer, blocking another racer from passing, or using objects to push off of are all prohibited.
Freestyle skating is one of the oldest styles of skating. It involves different random tricks typically performed on flat ground and that are normally a result of fluid movement and raw technical skill. It is usually accompanied with music and various choreographic techniques. Most public skateboarding demonstrations are freestyle.
Freestyle skating depends on which competition is taking place and rules vary slightly from competition to competition, but they generally have the same rules. According to the World Round-Up Freestyle Skateboarding Championships, there are a panel of five judges who score each skater’s routine on a 100-point scale, with the highest and lowest scores being dropped, combining the three other scores for the run. Skater’s routines are judged based on degree of difficulty, style, originality, and consistency.
In these runs, skaters compete one at a time, with each skater performing their timed routine to music of their choice. The first round lasts two minutes, semi-finals consist of two one and a half minute runs, and same for finals. The skaters are free to ride about the area of skating as they wish, performing tricks where they feel comfortable. There are also internal contests like best trick, best handstand trick, and longest wheelie.
Street style skateboarding literally means riding through the streets, performing tricks on commonly found uneven surfaces, rails, stairs, slopes, benches, bins, handrails, etc. These tricks tend to be fast and involve a lot of flip and spin on the board while jumping over common obstacles.
According to Street League, one skater rides the course at a time. The contest is divided into three categories: a 45-second run, a best trick competition, and a Big Section (which is where skaters try to land a difficult trick on the course’s largest obstacle).
Street courses consist of a flat, concrete park with handrails, staircases, ledges, and other things. “The courses are insane. It feels just like you’re skating on the street, only way cleaner,” said Huston, who won four events on the 2013 Street League World Tour.
Their style of judging consists of a panel of five judges. There are two sections, one which is run-style, and the other which is best trick style. For run-style, each judge gives an overall score of the 45-second run from 0-10.
As for best trick, each judge gives a score of 0-10 for each trick that is done immediately after the skater completes a trick. The highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the middle three scores are averaged. The top four scores across both the run and best trick sections count towards a skaters overall contest score.
Vert skateboarding is not an ordinary style of skating that can take place at any location. This style requires some sort of ramp or pipe in order to get a lot of air on their jumps. A drained pool is a typical source of this style of skating. Modern built ramps consist of polished wood floors which is built in the shape of a U.
Riders start from one end, gain speed on the way down, and propel themselves upwards into the air on the other end to perform flips, grabbing the board, or doing tricks, to land again on the way down and perform again on the other side. The X-Games is famous for vert style skating.
Each competitor takes three 45-second runs with the best score of the three serving as the final score for the standings. Competitors are judged based on aggressive execution of maneuvers, degree of difficulty, variety, continuity of run, originality and style, amplitude and use of the ramp. This method of scoring is aligned with that of the X-Games.
Now that you have a general knowledge of skateboarding, here are some famous skateboarders from the origins of skateboarding to present.
Patti McGee – One of the earliest sponsored skateboarders, sponsored by Hobie, traveled around the country doing skateboarding exhibitions and demonstrating skateboard safety while promoting the new sport.
Stacey Peralta and George Powell – created the first skateboarding video; the Bones Brigade Video Show. Skateboard videos become a new way for skaters to feel like they are part of something larger and shows newer skaters what’s possible.
Zephyr Competition Team (or Z-Boys) – a group of skateboarders from Santa Monica and Venice, California. The aerial and sliding skate moves that the Z-Boys invented were the basis for aerial skateboarding today.
Tony Hawk – No longer skating competitively, the married father of four still maintains icon status among skateboarders, but still making millions from his Tony Hawk brand.
Shaun White – The red-haired wonder, who is also a gold-medal winning Olympic snowboarder. His business empire includes a Target clothing line, a sponsorship deal with Burton Snowboards and Red Bull, and his own video game.
Ryan Sheckler – The 28-year-old skateboarding phenom and MTV reality show star turned pro at 13 years old and was earning $5 million a year by the time he turned 18. Sponsors include Plan B Skateboards and Oakley Eyewear.
Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez Jr. – The son of comedic actor Paul Rodriguez has won several X-game titles, among other wins. He has his own Nike namesake sneaker and a sponsorship deal with Mountain Dew, among others.
What are careers in skateboarding like?
According to professional skateboarder Fabio Sleiman*, a skateboarding career consists of breaking records, breaking bones, competitions, and eventually settling down to start a family and work on his brand. He first started skateboarding when he was only 10 years old. He started to learn a few tricks and began competing in local skate competitions. It was then that his career took off.
He began skating in wider-scale competitions and then got invited to professional skate competitions. Similarly, most professional skateboarders start by standing out in local competitions, winning numerous ones and moving on to larger competitions with better, more known skaters. It’s important that these skateboarders connect with the community, create an image, and build a following. The fans are what drive sponsors to become invested.
Sponsorships are what drive the skateboarding industry. More sponsorships mean the more people who are watching these skaters, the more money they make, and the more money the skater makes. According to World Cup Skateboarding, a professional skater can make from $1,000 to $10,000 a month. These earnings depend on the number of competitions that the skater won, sponsorships, etc.
For example, Fabio Sleiman made most of his life’s earnings not through skating itself, but through his sponsorships and other things he has worked on. Though he won first place in the 2006 LG Action Games, 2006 Mystic Cup, 2005 LG Action Games, and 2003 King of Wood competitions, each first-place prize was around $50,000.
Therefore, in order to have some sort of income, he based his earnings on his sponsorships with Qix International, subVert Skateboards, Connexion Wheels, Central Surf, and Compania Athletica. He also has stared in a movie called Durval Discos, a music video (to the song Meu Amigo Charlie Brown by O Cerco), a Volkswagen commercial, and more than 20 other public advertising campaigns.
Sleiman is one of the world’s most radical street skaters. Always looking for challenges nobody faced before. His craziness has landed him multiple appearances on magazine covers. One of his famous accomplishments is becoming the first person to ride “El Toro Rail” in California.
Imagine: a Brazilian comes to Los Angeles, asks the local pro riders which handrail nobody made before, and just does it! Not to mention doing it switch boardslide. This means that the board is perpendicular to the rail, which makes the trick even harder to do. “It was one of the things that set me off as a skater. Everywhere I went, people knew who I was and that I had conquered the Toro,” Fabio said.
After these crazy years of dangerous riding and walking a fine line of serious injury, most skaters start to sell their brand and establish skate camps, giving back to the community. Fabio Sleiman recently co-founded his own skate brand called “Till the End Skateboards” with Sandro Dias, a professional vert-style skateboarder who won 5 world titles and a gold medal at the X Games in 2006.
He also has his own line of shoes called the “Sleiman” by Qix. They now currently own a shop in the city capital of São Paulo, Brazil, and teach lessons to kids who skateboard and sell merchandise.
*the author is related to Fabio Sleiman