Skateboarding was a natural progression from surfing and many of the early skaters were surfers from California. Like surfing, skateboarding had the thrill of speed, freedom and versatility. Ty Page sums it up in a nutshell: “I’m a surfer, and I guess I like skateboarding so much because it’s very close to surfing. Surfing is harder than skateboarding, though. Every wave is different, and you have to start out fresh on each wave. With skateboarding, a hard surface is a hard surface. Once you get your balance on solid ground, you can go from there.”
The 1970’s was the first time skateboarding had stars, some of the first really big names were Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta and the sport has these early pioneers, amongst others, to thank for the culture of skateboarding, it’s evolution and its survival as a sport. Below I have briefly profiled some of these early legends. They, and their contemporaries, played their part in introducing this popular and exciting sport to the world.
The key advances in the sport in the 1970’s included the aerial, the invert and the ollie, which may be the single most important trick in the evolution of skateboarding, as well as the kickturn.
Tony Alva – and George Orton developed the almost parallel development of the grabbed aerial which made it possible for skaters to perform airs on vertical ramps. Alva brought his surfing style into skating with an aggression hitherto unseen. He was one of the original Z-Boys, Zephyr Surfboard’s Skating company, and he and other team members liked surfing in empty pools and large concrete pipes found on construction sites or in drainage ditches. Today’s half-pipe ramps are based on these pipes. The ramps are also called vert ramps and skaters who perform on the ramps are known as vert skaters.
Stacy Peralta was a professional skater and a Z-Boy who, at the age of 19, became the highest ranked professional skateboarder. He invented the frontside flip to fakie. Peralta went on to form the Bones Brigade, a skate team composed of some the best skaters at the time, many of whom revolutionized modern skateboarding.
Jay Adams was also a Z-Boy and is considered one of the most influential skateboarders of all time although, according to Stacy Peralta, Adams “is probably not the greatest skater of all time, but I can say without fear of being wrong that he is clearly the archetype of modern-day skateboarding.”
Ray “Bones” Rodriguez – gave his nickname to the Bones Brigade which was originally called the Powell Peralta.
Rodney Mullen – aka ‘the Mutt’, is a freestyle skater who invented many of the basic tricks of modern street skating such as The Impossible and the Kickflip, originally the Magic Flip, where the board flips backwards in the air. He is widely considered the most influential figure in the history and development of the sport and for a list of the many other tricks he invented please go to a previous article of ours ‘The Mutt – skateboarding’s best’ – they are by far too numerous to write out again!
Ty Page – aka ‘Mr. Incredible’, was one of the most innovative skateboarders in the world. He was a leader in the skateboard world during “the golden era” of skateboarding in the early 1970s. He is credited with inventing over 50 new moves, including the Ty Slide, Ty Hop (also called a Pop-Shove It), Half-Hop, Pay Hop, Daffy (also called a Yeah Right Manual), Head Spinner (also called 360 Headstand), Foot Spin, Foot-Spin 360, Toe Spin, Toe-Spin 360, and almost every backwards footwork manoeuver. He was not only a freestyler, but also a capable skate-racer, bowl rider, pool rider, and as a giant and straight slalom skater. In 1998, he was inducted into the Thrasher Skateboard Hall of Fame.
Alan Gelfand – aka ‘Ollie’, created a new trick in a skatepark pool. He stepped hard on the board’s nose which made the nose pop up. Alan rose into the air and landed back on the board. He perfected the trick on a ramp getting the board to rise as much as 2 feet into the air. The trick became known as the ‘Ollie Pop’ which was swiftly shortened to ollie. By the mid 1980s the ollie had transformed trick skating in its three disciplines of vert, freestyle and street. Today, most skateboarding tricks begin with an ollie. In 1979 Alan joined the Bones Brigade and spent 2 years travelling the world with the team. He retired from professional skating in 1981.
Mike McGill – was the inventor of the 540 aerial or ‘McTwist’, an inverted 540 degree mute grabbed aerial which he first performed on a wooden half-pipe in Sweden in 1984. It was a groundbreaking trick that dominated skateboarding for many years afterwards. Only a handful of pros were able to learn it at the time. McGill was also a member of the Bones Brigade.
Tony Hawk – profiled before on this site was the first skateboarder to land a 900 in competition. Inspired by the McTwist went on to invent a 720 degree aerial, essentially a double Gay Twist, and as a homage to McGill, named it the McHawk.
Steve Caballero – was a man who has left his mark on three generations of skateboarders. He invented the Caballerial, as well as the frontside rock n’ roll slide (now more commonly referred to as a frontside board slide). He was sponsored as an amateur by Powell Peralta in 1978 at the age of 15 and turned pro in 1980. Another member of the Bones Brigade, he rose to the top of the vert heap in the eighties, and became an accomplished street skater in the nineties.
The monthly skateboarding magazine has a Hall of Fame which was created to recognize skateboarders who have been influential and innovative through their actions on a skateboard. Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Alan Gelfand, Ty Page and Stacy Peralta have all been elected for their contributions to the sport.
Towards the end of the 80’s the focus shifted to street skating and Vert riding became less popular, it was the era of the first street stars like Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas and Mike Vallely… more on that later.
The popularity of skateboarding has waxed and waned over the years, they call it the “10 year cycle” although strictly speaking it’s not every 10 years that it changes. At the moment it is waxing and it has been a question in many people’s minds how BMX racing reached the Summer Olympic Games before far more popular action-sport siblings such as skateboarding!