Skateboarding has evolved into a global cultural phenomenon, attracting millions of enthusiasts with its gravity-defying tricks and fearless style. Over the years, numerous skateboarders have left an indelible mark on the sport, redefining what is possible on four wheels. In this article, we’ll explore the elite group of skateboarders who have risen above the rest to become the best in history.
Who is the best skateboarder? After all, there have been so many legendary skaters to grace this planet throughout the years. These guys have style, swagger, skill, and an unwavering dedication to the sport. Some of these skaters might not have the greatest technique, but they gave so much of themselves to skateboarding and skate culture that they made the list.
So whether it be Dogtown’s Z-Boys who made skating a household discussion in the mid-70s or Alan “Ollie” Gelfand who invented the ollie – here are the best skateboarders of all time.
Best Skateboarders of All Time
When we think of the best skateboarders of all time we usually go straight to the GOATs like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, or Nyjah Huston. There are actually so many incredible skateboarders! To save you some time, we’ve listed some of the best skaters that we think should be mentioned.
If you want to learn more about them, keep reading!
- Tony Hawk
- Rodney Mullen
- Nyjah Huston
- Tony Alva
- Jay Adams
- Stacey Peralta
- Alan “Ollie” Gelfand
- Mark Gonzales
- Bob Burnquist
- Daewon Song
- Chris Cole
- Chris Haslam
- Bam Margera
- Andrew Reynolds
- Rob Dyrdek
- Lance Mountain
- Danny Way
Tony Hawk (The Top Dog)
- Birth name: Anthony Frank Hawk
- Nickname: Birdman
- Born: May 12, 1968, in San Diego, California, United States
Tony Hawk is the greatest skateboarder in so many people’s eyes. In December of 2011, Tony Hawk was identified by Transworld Skateboarding magazine as the second most influential skateboarder of all time, only after Mark “The Gonz” Gonzales.
Hawk has been in countless films, skateboard videos, documentaries, and TV episodes. He has the hit video game series titled Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, which originally debuted in 1999. Since the game’s conception, the series has spawned 18 titles to date, including ten main-series titles, four spin-offs, and four repackages.
On June 27, 1999, Tony Hawk became the first skateboarder to land a 900, a trick involving the completion of two-and-a-half mid-air revolutions on a skateboard. He was finally successful on his twelfth attempt.
Upon completing the 900, Hawk decided to retire from the professional competition that same year. But he continued to perform at the annual X Games until 2003 when he retired from competing in professional skateboard competitions for good.
As of April 2020, Hawk is sponsored by Birdhouse, Vans, Independent Trucks, Bones, and Nixon. His current Pro model shoe is Lakai’s Proto skate shoes.
Rodney Mullen (Greatest Flat Ground Skater)
- Birth name: John Rodney Mullen
- Born: August 17, 1966, in Gainesville, Florida, United States
Rodney Mullen is considered one of the most influential street skaters in the history of the sport. He has been credited for inventing many tricks, including the flat ground ollie, kickflip, heelflip, impossible, and 360-flip. As a result, Mullen has been referred to as the “Godfather of Street Skateboarding.”
Mullen won his first world skateboard championship when he was only 14 years old. And over the following decade, he won 34 out of 35 freestyle contests, establishing the most successful competitive run in skateboarding history.
Over the years, Rodney Mullen transitioned from freestyle to street skateboarding, adapting his freestyle skills to the street, inventing and expanding upon numerable tricks in the process, such as primo slides, darkslides, and Casper slides.
Mullen has appeared in over 20 skate videos and co-authored his autobiography with writer Sean Mortimer, titled The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself.
Rodney Mullen has invented the following skateboard tricks:
- Godzilla rail flip (1979)
- 540 shove-it (1979)
- 50/50 Saran wrap (1979)
- 50/50 Casper (1980)
- Helipop (1980)
- Gazelle flip (1981)
- No-handed 50/50 (1981)
- No-handed 50/50 kickflip
- Kickflip (1982)
- Heelflip (1982)
- Double heelflip
- Impossible (1982)
- Sidewinder (1983)
- 360 flip (1983)
- Switch 360 flip
- 360 pressure flip (1983)
- Casper 360 flip (1983)
- Half-cab kickflip (1983)
- 50/50 sidewinder (1983)
- One-footed ollie (1984)
- Backside flip (Backside 180 Kickflip) (1984)
- Ollie Nosebone (1986)
- Ollie finger flip (1986)
- Ollie Airwalk (1986)
- Frontside heelflip shove-it (1988)
- Switchstance 360 flip (1990)
- Helipop heelflip (1990)
- Kickflip underflip (1992)
- Half-cab kickflip underflip (1992)
- Casper slide (1992)
- Half flip darkslide
- Handstand flips
Nyjah Huston (Olympic Great)
- Birth name: Nyjah Imani Huston
- Born: November 30, 1994, in Davis, California, United States
Currently the top-ranked skateboarder globally, Nyjah Huston is gearing for the biggest skate of his life, skating for Team USA in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. That’s right, 2021 marks a new era of skateboarding, as it will make its Olympic debut as an official sport.
Huston first started grabbing attention after signing a sponsorship deal with Element Skateboards and joining their skateboard team. During his first years with the company, Huston appeared in numerous Element skateboarding films, such as both volumes of the Elementality series, and competed in high-profile contests, such as the Dew Tour and the Vans Downtown Showdown.
At Transworld SKATEboarding magazine’s 2012 awards event, Huston won three awards: Best Video Part (for Huston’s Rise & Shine video release), New Era Readers’ Choice (the only award is chosen solely by the readers of the magazine and Transworld website), and Best Street.
Huston has been nominated multiple times for Thrasher Magazine’s prestigious Skater Of The Year award but, as of 2020, has yet to win the award.
As of January 2021, Huston is no longer sponsored by Element but holds sponsorships with Nike SB, Diamond Supply Co., Ricta Wheels, Monster Energy, Social CBD, Doritos, Mob Grip, Mountain Dew, flatbread Neapolitan pizzeria, and Adapt Technology. He has also been reported to be the highest-paid skater with sponsorship deals with NikeSB and Monster.
- Born: September 2, 1957, in Santa Monica, California, United States
Tony Alva was one of the Zephyr Competition Skateboarding Team members, also known as the Z-Boys. He is known as the pioneer of vertical skateboarding and is credited as one of the first skateboarders to successfully pull a Frontside Air. Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacey Peralta (all Z-Boys) were some of the first to skate the empty swimming pools in the backyards of Los Angeles.
At the age of 19, in 1977, Alva shunned all of the major skate companies and formed his own company, Alva Skates. It became the first company run and owned by a skateboarder and was first to use layered Canadian maple plywood in their decks.
Alva has been featured in the film Dogtown and Z-Boys, he played Tony Bluetile in the film Skateboard: The Movie, and he was featured in Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland.
- Birth name: Jay J. Adams
- Born: February 3, 1961, in Venice, California, United States
- Died: August 15, 2014, at 53 years old in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
Jay Adams was a skateboarder that in 1974, at the age of 13, became the youngest member of the Z-Boys.
During Adams’s skateboarding career, he was sponsored by Hurley, Nixon, Osiris Shoes, Tracker Trucks, Abec 11 Wheels, Black Flys, Carver Racks, Vercelli Surfboards, and Z-Flex.
In 2012, Jay J. Adams was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.
According to Stacy Peralta, Jay 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.”
Two murals in Venice commemorate Adams. One of the murals is on the original Zephyr Skate Shop in Santa Monica, and the other is on the Venice Skatepark’s bowl. It features Adams alongside fellow Dogtown skater Shogo Kubo.
- Birth name: Stacy Douglas Peralta
- Born: October 15, 1957, in Venice, California, United States
By the time he was nineteen years old, Stacey Peralta had become the highest-ranked professional skateboarder. Shortly after, Peralta teamed up with George Powell to form Powell-Peralta, one of the most successful skate brands in the 80s.
With the financial backing and success of Powell-Peralta, Stacey Peralta formed the Bones Brigade, a team of some of the best skaters of the time. Then, in 1984, Peralta directed and produced the first skateboarding video ever – the Bones Brigade Video Show.
Peralta has gone on to write, direct, and produce twelve skate films and documentaries, including Dogtown and Z-Boys, Lords of Dogtown, and Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.
Alan “Ollie” Gelfand
- Birth name: Alan Gelfand
- Nickname: Ollie
- Born: 1963, in New York City, New York, United States
Alan Gelfand was given the nickname “Ollie” by his friend and fellow skater Scott Goodman. The name was used after Gelfand performed an accident aerial lipslide, which coined the term the Ollie Pop.
In 1977, Pro-Skater Stacy Peralta visited the Solid Surf Skate Park in Fort Lauderdale, where he met Gelfand and observed (with some disbelief) Ollie’s no-handed maneuver. Gelfand would scoop the back trucks up to obtain more air off the wall without popping the skateboard’s tail in the process.
After Stacey Peralta and George Powell formed Powell-Peralta, they recruited Gelfand as the new team’s first member. This team later became the Bones Brigade and included other skaters such as Mike McGill, inventor of the 540 aerial or “McTwist” in 1984, and Rodney Mullen invented the flat ground ollie.
By the mid-80s, Gelfand’s maneuver had transformed skateboarding into the three vert, freestyle, and street disciplines. Most street skateboard tricks are based on the ollie.
- Birth name: Mark Gonzales
- Nicknames: “Gonz” and “The Gonz”
- Born: June 1, 1968, in South Gate, California, United States
Mark “The Gonz” Gonzales is known as one of the pioneers of modern street skateboarding and in 2011 was named the “Most Influential Skateboarder of All Time” by Transworld Skateboarding magazine.
Transworld Skateboarding awarded Gonzales the Legend Award in 2006, and in 2011 the magazine selected him as the most influential skateboarder of all time (followed by Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen).
Aside from being a professional skateboarder, The Gonz is also an artist, poet, and writer. In 2011, Gonzales designed and painted the London Flagship Supreme store. And it is presumed that Gonzales has more pieces lined up for future Supreme drops.
Gonz designed sculptures and paintings for Supreme’s retail locations in Manhattan, San Francisco, London, Paris, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.
As of 2013, The Gonz was sponsored by Adidas, Krooked, Spitfire, Independent, and Supreme. And in 2016, Gonzales joined the Pro-Tec skate team.
- Birth name: Robert Dean Silva Burnquist
- Born: October 10, 1976, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Bob Burnquist’s biggest success was in the vert contest at the 2001 X Games. Before his final run, which would be the last run of the event, he was in second place behind two-time defending champion Bucky Lasek. Burnquist produced a perfect run, including multiple tricks that had never been seen before. He was rewarded with a score of 98 out of 100, the second-highest score ever given in any X Games skateboarding event, behind only Bucky Lasek’s score of 98.50 the year before.
Burnquist’s home in Vista, California, houses his own private, world-renowned skatepark known as Dreamland.
The Vert Bowl has been skated by dozens of famous skateboarders, including Tony Hawk and Bucky Lasek, and has been featured in hundreds of magazines and skate videos.
The biggest build within Burnquist’s Dreamland is his world-renowned Mega Ramp. Burnquist’s Mega Ramp is one of the world’s very few permanent Mega Ramps. Burnquist opens the ramp to pros to help them train for Mega Ramp competitions and help advance the progress of tricks on the Mega Ramp. Skateboarders such as Elliot Sloan, Danny Way, and Jake Brown have all regularly used the ramp.
In 2013, Oakley and Burnquist released a major skate video titled Bob Burnquist’s Dreamland. The entire video is filmed within the Dreamland compound.
- Birth name: Daewon David Song
- Born: February 19, 1975, in Seoul, South Korea
The most memorable moment in Daewon Song’s skateboarding career is when he jumped the Great Wall of China. But there are many other accomplishments that Song has had throughout his career.
In 2017, Daewon was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. He is co-owner of Thank You skateboards alongside Torey Pudwill and co-owner of Almost alongside Rodney Mullen.
After winning the Berrics’ 2UP and In Transition contests in 2014, Daewon Song was voted as the most impactful skateboarder of the year. He prevailed among a list of nominees that included Guy Mariano and Ben Raybourn.
Song was awarded the “Skater of the Year” by Thrasher magazine in 2006. His Skater of the Year feature article appeared in the April 2007 edition of the magazine, for which he also appeared on the front cover.
- Born name: James Cole
- Nickname: Cobra
- Born: March 10, 1982, in Statesville, North Carolina, United States
Chris “Cobra” Cole initially gained attention following the completion of a few really difficult tricks in his Transworld In Bloom and Fallen Ride the Sky Video Parts.
Cole was awarded Thrasher Magazine’s Skater of the Year award in both 2005 and 2009, and the “Reader’s Choice” award from Transworld Skateboarding magazine. It should be mentioned that only Chris Cole and Danny Way have won two Skater of the Year awards.
Cole’s skateboarding team, Zero, won Thrasher Magazine’s King of the Road contest three times consecutively, and he won the gold medal at the X Games twice consecutively. In many other skate competitions, Cole has been victorious, including Back to the Berg and the DC Copenhagen Pro. In June 2013, Cole won the gold medal at the Street League Skateboarding contest at the X Games’ Munich leg.
Cole was a co-owner of Reign Skate Shop in Fairless Hills, Philadelphia, and a former shareholder of the Zero skateboard company.
Besides skateboarding, Cole is also an avid BMX rider and co-owns Cult, a BMX company that sponsors a team of riders. Some of the team riders include Chase Dehart, Dakota Roche, and Chase Hawk.
- Birth name: Chris Haslam
- Born: December 19, 1980, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
In 1998, Chris Haslam rode for the Boarding House, a local skateboarding shop in Vancouver, British Columbia, run by strong skating locals, John Raimondo and Jeff Logan.
As soon as it opened in October 1998, Haslam spent a lot of his time honing his skills at the Richmond skatepark just outside Vancouver. Richmond became Haslam’s home skatepark, and he quickly gained friends, fans, and kudos as he immediately became the dominant skater at the park.
Haslam generously flowed products new and used, to the locals, particularly to the younger kids. It took him a few years to gain international respect and achieve his dreams with a legitimate career as a professional skateboarder.
In 2005, Haslam won the Reader’s Choice Award at the 7th Annual Transworld Skateboarding Awards. The following year, he was voted the winner of the Vs 411VM competition.
Haslam released an online video commercial in July 2012 for Leftover Hardware, a company that his close friend founded. Then in December of the same year, he revealed in a segment for AlliSports that he co-founded a grip tape brand with a close friend called Gypsy Grip.
In his nature of wanting to give back to the community, Haslam started a deck company named Brainchild in 2019. Brainchild donates part of their proceeds from the board and shirt sales to Project Semicolon and the Ben Raemers foundation to help with mental health and suicide prevention. Haslam had started this company partly due to Ben Raemers’ suicide in May of 2019.
- Birth name: Brandon Cole Margera
- Nickname: Bam
- Born: September 28, 1979, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, United States
Although Bam Margera started as a skater, his career really took off with his MTV shows and stunts that he would pull off with the crew from Jackass. With his skateboarding career helping launch his personal brand, Bam became a MASSIVE role in skate culture and within the skateboarding community.
Margera began shooting videos of him and his friends skateboarding and doing stunts, which turned into what they called the CKY video series, taking the name from his brother’s band, CKY. Following CKY’s success, Jeff Tremaine, former editor for Big Brother, took notice of the videos and drafted Bam into the crew that would eventually become MTV’s Jackass.
After Jackass, Bam was given his own MTV series, Viva La Bam, which ran for five seasons. The show followed Bam and his crew as they performed various stunts and missions. In addition to the regular series, special episodes included “Viva La Spring Break” and a “lost” episode that was included on the Viva La Bands CD.
During 1997 and 1998 (at the beginning of his career), Bam was sponsored by Toy Machine Skateboards. Then from 2001 and onwards, he was a member of Team Element, the Element Skateboards demonstration team.
He has also been sponsored by Speed Metal Bearings, Adio Footwear, Electric Sunglasses, Volcom, Landspeed Wheels, Destroyer Trucks, Destructo Trucks, and Fairman’s Skateshop.
As of 2017, Bam is without sponsorships and has effectively retired from professional skateboarding. However, he did return to skating casually, which resulted in a renewed partnership with Element Skateboards, celebrating the brand’s 25th anniversary by re-releasing a series of ten of Bam’s most memorable deck designs.
- Birth Name: Andrew Reynolds
- Nickname: The Boss
- Born: June 6, 1978, in Lakeland, Florida, United States
Andrew Reynolds is a professional skateboarder known for co-founding Baker Skateboards in 2000 with Jay Strickland. Nowadays, Reynolds is Baker Skateboard’s sole owner. He also won Thrasher Magazine’s Skater of the Year award in 1998, and in his video part in the 2010 skateboard video Stay Gold, he received Transworld Skateboarding magazine’s award for Best Video Part.
Aside from Baker, Reynolds has also helped build up other skate-related brands. In 2007, he established Bakerboys Distribution with Erik Ellington and Jim Greco. Bakerboys Distribution is a company that provides distribution for smaller in-house skateboard companies like Deathwish Skateboards and Shake Junt. He is also the head of design at Altamont Apparel.
As of November 2018, Reynolds has released thirteen signature shoe models with the skate shoe company Emerica: The Reynolds 1, The Reynolds 2, The Reynolds 3, The Boss, The Reynolds Light, The AR Slim, Reynolds Cruisers, The Reynolds Classics, The Reynolds, The Reynolds low, the Reynolds Low Vulc, the Reynolds 3 G6 and the Reynolds G6. That being said, Reynolds and Emerica decided to part ways as of 2019.
As of September 2019, Reynolds is sponsored by Baker Skateboards, Vans, Spitfire Wheels, Brigada, Independent, Shake Junt, and Stance.
- Birth Name: Robert Stanley Dyrdek
- Born: June 28, 1974, in Kettering, Ohio, United States
By 12 years old, Rob Dyrdek acquired sponsorship and began his skateboarding career. A few years later, Dyrdek quit his board sponsor, alongside Neil Blender, and joined the newly created Alien Workshop. Alien Workshop had been the new brainchild of Neil Blender, Chris Carter, and Mike Hill.
Dyrdek decided to forgo his senior year of high school when he was 16 and moved to Southern California to continue pursuing his professional skate career.
Shortly after moving to California, Dyrdek started riding for Droors Clothing, a company that eventually became DC Shoes. Some of Dyrdek’s other sponsorships included Silver Trucks (a company that he helped establish in 2003), EA Skate, and Monster Energy.
Besides the regular sponsorships and awards, Dyrdek also became the founder of the Street League Skateboarding (SLS) skateboard competition. The series has grown from domestic competition to a full-blown international event. SLS has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of America to help build new skateboard parks across California.
Dyrdek starred in Rob & Big with Christopher “Big Black” Boykin, Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, and Ridiculousness. He was also featured in the games Skate and Skate 2 and has been in countless movies, TV episodes, and documentaries.
- Birth name: Robert Lance Mountain
- Born: June 13, 1964 in Pasadena, California
In almost every amateur competition in which he took part, Lance Mountain won first or second place. Mountain’s first skateboard deck sponsor was Variflex, which he joined in 1981; the following year, he joined the Powell-Peralta team. During that time, he formed a strong friendship with Stacey Peralta.
Although Lance felt that he wasn’t keeping up with some of his teammates on the Bones Brigade, he brought a lot to the table. Lance brought leadership, guts, and goofy performances that acted as the segue to many of the vert portions in the film, The Bones Brigade Video Show.
During an uncertain time in the history of skateboarding, many other professional skaters were able to live the lifestyle. However, Lance had a family at home that convinced him to keep his full time job. It wasn’t until the resurgence of skateboarding in the ’90s that Lance quit his job to become a full time skater.
Lance departed Powell-Peralta in 1991 to launch his own skateboard brand, The Firm, along with former Powell-Peralta teammate Ray Barbee, and gathered a group of renowned skaters that included Bob Burnquist and Rodrigo “Tx” Teixeira, who joined him.
Lance announced the end of The Firm on March 13, 2006. Shortly after, Flip recruited Lance Mountain, Bob Burnquist, and Rodrigo Teixeira.
The pioneer of fingerboarding, according to legend, was Mountain, who made the original prototype out of cardboard, erasers, and a disassembled Hot Wheels toy in the late 1970s. Mountain’s creation was highlighted in a Transworld Skateboarding magazine piece as well as Future Primitive from Powell Peralta.
The fingerboard originated as a simple do-it-yourself project in which kitchen sinks were used to simulate pool riding, and it has since expanded into a significant toy category that has sold millions of units (most notably under the Tech Deck brand).
- Birth name: Danny Way
- Born: April 15, 1974 in Portland, Oregon
Danny Way has achieved some insane feats as a skateboarder. He has been awarded Thrasher magazine’s “Skater of the Year” award twice and is the only skateboarder to ever jump over the Great Wall of China.
He’s a skateboard legend, known for performing daring tricks like leaping from a helicopter into a skateboard ramp on the cover of Transworld Skateboarding magazine.
In 1989, Danny Way became the youngest pro vert skateboarding champion, at the World Skateboard Association Pro Vert Contest in Lansing, Michigan sponsored by Modern Skat & Surf.
More Honorable Mentions For Best Skateboarders:
- Bucky Lasek
- Ed Templeton
- Steve Caballero
- Guy Mariano
- Eric Koston
- Chris Joslin
- Elissa Steamer
- Paul Rodriguez
- Stevie Williams
- Rob “Sluggo” Boyce
- Leticia Bufoni
- Ryan Sheckler
- Christian Hosoi
- Mike Carroll
- Natas Kaupas
- Richie Jackson
- Mike Vallely
Conclusion: Celebrating the Best Skateboarders of All Time
Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, and Nyjah Huston are often regarded as some of the greatest skateboarders of all time, but the list extends far beyond them.
Skateboarding icons like Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacey Peralta were instrumental in shaping the early skateboarding scene and introducing new styles and techniques. Alan “Ollie” Gelfand revolutionized the sport with his invention of the ollie, a fundamental trick that serves as the foundation for countless others. Mark Gonzales, Bob Burnquist, Daewon Song, Chris Cole, and many more have made significant contributions to skateboarding through their innovation, style, and competitive achievements.
Each skateboarder on this list has their unique story and has made a lasting impact on the skateboarding community. Their skills, creativity, and dedication have inspired generations of skateboarders worldwide. Skateboarding is not just a sport; it’s a form of self-expression and a way of life. The best skateboarders of all time embody the essence of skateboarding and have become legends in their own right.
As skateboarding continues to evolve and gain mainstream recognition, the influence of these legendary skateboarders will continue to shape the sport’s future. Their contributions have elevated skateboarding to a global phenomenon and have inspired countless individuals to pick up a skateboard and push their own boundaries. The best skateboarders of all time have left an enduring legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.