The 1980s Skateboard Era
The 1980s was a pivotal time in skateboarding history. New brands and styles emerged, while a whole new generation of skaters came to prominence.
Back then, skaters took an unconventional DIY approach to skating: building plywood ramps themselves in their backyards or pools for ramping. This resulted in an innovative form of skating with an often rebellious spirit.
Early Life and Education
Skateboarding experienced an unparalleled renaissance during the 1980s. Amid a wave of youth rebellion and exploration, skateboarding found itself back into fashion as the sport progressed with street skating becoming more advanced, as well as popsicle deck shapes allowing more versatile tricks.
At first, kids made their own boards and skaters took to empty pools and city streets for skating. Skaters would customize their boards to reflect their personal styles, while this period also saw the introduction of urethane wheels which made riding smoother and safer.
Photographer Grant Brittain captured the spirit of that time period through his images which capture a captivating sense of tension as skaters appear to defy gravity with their skating tricks.
In the 1980s, skateboarding popularity reached its zenith. Professional skaters made a living from sponsorships and prize money while featuring prominently in popular culture like movies such as Z-Boys and Dogtown.
Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and Mike McGill were some of the most notable skaters during this era. Hawk was known for his powerful style and array of tricks; he even became known as one of the first people to successfully land a 900-degree spin – something which cemented his place as a leading figure both street and vert skating.
Christian Hosoi was another well-known face in the skateboarding world during this era, known for his outlandish personality and high-flying moves which earned him fame within the skating community. Hosoi is widely credited with helping to pioneer “vert” skateboarding as a hybrid style that combined street skating techniques with park skating techniques.
Achievement and Honors
In the ’80s, innovation and creativity flourished across industries. Skateboarding industry saw this play out with innovative molded boards designed specifically for specific practices by companies like Powell-Peralta, Vision, and Santa Cruz establishing themselves as industry giants.
At this point, the Zephyr Competition Team was established. This group helped popularize pool skateboarding while pioneering an aerial style which later become essential to ramp, bowl and street skating.
Skateboarders were increasingly judged based on the amount of video footage and photos they could create for sponsors rather than by how many medals they could win at competitions. Chris Senn was an accomplished vert skater of his time, famously creating the Samoan Squat — an advanced version of an ordinary nose wheelie — as part of an experiment called Samoan Skating.
The 1980s marked an essential period in skateboarding’s development into its current form. Powell Peralta’s film Future Primitive launched the careers of legendary skateboarders Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen; on vert, Mike McGill created his 540-degree McTwist spin; Christian Hosoi and Lance Mountain were flying high with their boards!
Skateboarders of this era also took to making ramps themselves, using plywood in their backyards or empty lots as temporary ramps to explore previously unrideable terrain such as walls and rails. This enabled them to develop their skills at DIY construction while discovering uncharted territory like walls and rails that had once been unrideable.
Natas Kaupas and Mark Gonzales raised the standard with innovative ollie variations, while Tommy Guerrero proved street skating can be artful and powerful. Additionally, this period saw the birth of skateboard videos which capture both energy and ethos within subcultures.
Although most skateboarders aren’t multimillionaires, they still enjoy an comfortable lifestyle and enough money to do what they like. Their funds come from skating earnings as well as investments into other businesses.
Lance Mountain was an acclaimed skater during the 1980s who rose to prominence during Bones Brigade era. An excellent competitor who won numerous competitions and built up an immense following, Lance was widely revered as an athlete.
His best-known board was an inscribed and signed Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind” deck which sold for an impressive $38,425 at a Tony Hawk auction held in 2012 to raise funds for new skateparks. This rare and collectable skateboard remains highly valuable today.