Skateboarding was once a marginalized sport. However, it’s seeing an incredible resurgence today. Along with interest in street skating, vert skating, and other styles, the athletes who’ve helped to make skateboarding what it is today are also in the spotlight.
In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the best skateboarders of all time to give you an idea of their accomplishments.
Why Worry about Famous Skaters?
Before we dive into our list of the best skateboarders of all time, let’s ask a question: why should you be concerned about who’s in the skateboarding hall of fame? The answer to that question is pretty simple.
It’s about having people to look up to, to emulate, and to even use as a benchmark for your own success. Whether you’re interested in cruising, doing amazing tricks, or have set the goal of becoming one of the most daring skaters in your own right, you’ll need a yardstick by which to measure your progress.
It’s also important to have heroes to look up to. Athletes in every sport look up to the pros who’ve come before them. That’s true in football, soccer, baseball, hockey, and, yes, in skateboarding.
So, by giving you an overview of each skateboarding legend, we also help set the stage for your own success and perhaps a career as a professional skater in your own right. With that all out of the way, let’s get down to our list of the best skateboarders of all time. We’ve listed them below in no particular order.
- Tony Hawk
We’ll start our discussion of the best skateboarders of all time with someone who is, if not the best boarder out there, at least one that most people have heard of: Tony Hawk. Born in 1968, Tony would go on to become the face of modern skateboarding.
The star of an incredible number of documentaries, TV shows, and skateboarding videos, Tony is one of the most influential skateboarders in the industry, as well as an incredibly talented skater. He also has his own video game series – Tony Hawk Pro Skater – which has featured many of the world’s best skaters, as well.
While Hawk has a lifetime of achievements to his credit, one of his most impressive is being the first skater to land a 900, which requires completing two and a half revolutions on a skateboard in mid-air. It took him 12 tries, but eventually he succeeded.
- Rodney Mullen
Rodney Mullen is another household name in the world of skateboarding. The creator of an incredible number of tricks most skaters use today, Rodney Mullen is arguably as acclaimed and accomplished as Tony Hawk. In fact, Transworld Skateboarding magazine ranks Rodney Mullen higher than hawk on the list of the most influential skateboarders of all time.
Rodney Mullen has been skating for most of his life, winning his first world championship when he was just 14. In the following 10 years of his skateboarding career, he won 34 out of the 35 freestyle contests he entered. Originally, Mullen was a freestyle skater, but his style evolved to become more aligned with street skateboarding.
As mentioned, Rodney Mullen is responsible for creating many of the insane tricks used by street skaters and freestyle skaters today. These include the following:
- Double heelflip
- 50/50 Casper
- 540 shove-it
- Gazelle flip
- Ollie finger flip
- 360 pressure flip
- Tony Alva
One of the original pioneers of skateboarding, Tony Alva was a member of the Z-Boys, the team responsible for making skateboarding what it is today. He even founded his own skate company at the age of just 19. Those accomplishments certainly allow him to claim the title of one of the best skateboarders of all time.
Alva has been featured in many different movies and documentaries, most notably the Lords of Dogtown and Dogtown and Z-Boys. He also starred in the movie Skateboard: The Movie, where he played Tony Bluetile.
Finally, Alva is a pioneer of vert skating. Back in the day, he was one of the first skaters to pull a frontside air.
- Mark Gonzales
Affectionately known as The Gonz, Mark Gonzales is certainly one of the most famous and influential skateboarders of all time. In fact, he was named the most influential by Transworld magazine in 2011. Other accolades include being honored with the Legend Award in 2006, as well as further nominations for his influence in the sport.
Beyond his awards, The Gonz is credited as one of the people who most influenced street skateboarding. He pioneered doing big gaps and stair sets, as well as double flips and 360s. Nollies and flip tricks worked into grinds and slides can also be traced back to Gonzales.
- Natas Kaupas
One of the originators of street skateboarding, Natas Kaupas rarely appears on best-of lists, but is almost always credited as one of the heroes of great skateboarders. Natas is famous for many things, although furor over his name (which is Satan spelled backward) is probably the most remembered. Of course, he comes from Lithuania, where the name Natas is rather common (and has nothing to do with the devil).
In terms of skating, Kaupas was best known for his wallride, which got him featured in Thrasher magazine back in 1984. He was also responsible for devising a fire hydrant trick which remains beyond the abilities of most skaters.
Eventually, Kaupas inspired his own board (which was eventually banned in some communities because of the assumption that his name somehow tied him to Satanism). It didn’t bother Kaupas much, who just kept doing what he loved – skating.
- Chris Haslam
Chris Haslam hais from Ontario, Canada, and has been skating most of his life. He got his start as a professional skateboarder with the Boarding House brand. Over time, he has earned a number of awards for his skills, including a Reader’s Choice Award in 2005. He also won the Vs 411VM competition in 2006.
Haslam has a long history of giving back to the community, as well. He delivered new and used boards and gear to skaters at his home park (Richmond skatepark), and also founded Brainchild, which donates a portion of its proceeds to Project Semicolon and the Ben Raemers Foundation.
- Ed Templeton
If you’re looking for the originator of some of today’s best-known street skateboarding tricks, you need to look no further than Ed Templeton. What sorts of tricks did Ed pioneer? Think the 50-50 down a handrail or ollie impossibles down stairs.
Ed is an innovator and is not afraid to take a trick and find ways to make it bigger, badder, and more impressive. He’s also a businessman and founded Toy Machine skateboards, one of the best-known skateboarding brand options in the industry. Toy Machine has also been responsible for fielding some of the most successful teams and individual skaters.
- Leticia Bufoni
While women are finally starting to get their due in the professional skateboarding world, Leticia Bufoni has been making waves for a while now. She’s won 11 medals at the X Games, and is a top-ranked street skater. She was the first woman ever signed to the Nike SB team, as well as the first woman to appear on Skateboard Mag’s cover.
Off the board, Bufoni has even entered the world of reality TV, with a show in her native Brazil. That coupled with her obvious achievements in street skating, has allowed her to become a spokesperson and role model for women the world over.
- Richie Jackson
Ever see a skateboarding video featuring a hippy-looking guy in a button down shirt and jeans? That was probably Richie Jackson. He’s pretty unmistakable.
Jackson is all about showmanship. His style has even been dubbed “circus-like”. However, that doesn’t mean he lacks technical skills. He loves to do things like no-comply hippie flips over obstacles, stalls onto moving carts, wallrides, and even sliding on his feet. Anyone looking for a role model with creative flair should certainly consider Jackson.
- Danny Way
If you’re looking for inspiration in the way of extreme stunts, then Danny Way is your man. He’s earned Skater of the Year twice from Thrasher magazine and been featured on the cover of Transworld magazine, too.
In terms of difficult tricks, it’s hard to top Danny Way. For instance, he jumped the Great Wall of China using a mega ramp. He also dropped from the guitar sculpture at Hard Rock Cafe & Casino in Las Vegas onto a ramp. Danny Way also set a world land speed record for a skateboard to name just a few accomplishments.
- Bob Burnquist
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Bob Burnquist has competed for Brazil his entire life. However, that has not prevented him from becoming an inspiration to would-be skaters the world over. He got his start at the age of seven and was a professional skateboarder by the time he turned 14.
Bob Burnquist is known for many things, including being the first in the world to land a fakie 900. That accomplishment also meant that he was just the fifth person in history to land a 900 successfully. Bob Burnquist is also known for his creation of unique vert tricks, as well as his switch stance skateboarding.
- Paul Rodriguez
Better known as P-Rod, Paul Rodgriguez is a well known professional street skateboarder. He’s known for many things, including scoring four gold medals at the X Games, as well as being ranked among the most influential skaters by Transworld Skateboarding magazine.
Paul founded Primitive, which is a skateboard manufacturer and retail company. He also owns a private skateboard training facility in California.
- Elissa Steamer
Elissa Steamer is one of the best-known female skateboarders in the world. Her career has spanned decades, and she’s skated for companies ranging from Toy Machine to Baker, Bootleg, and Zero. In 2003, she was voted Female Skater of the Year by Check It Out Girls magazine, as well.
Elissa Steamer has multiple other awards to her credit, including several gold medals for her performances in the X Games. You’ll find Steamer featured in many installments of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game thanks to her incredible skill and worldwide acclaim.
- Chris Joslin
Known for speed and huge jumps, Chris Joslin is a street skater and part of a new generation of skateboarders. You’ll find him regularly pulling off some of the most insane stunts, like massive drops and gaps. He’s also known for flipping in and out of ledges, as well as doing seriously long handrails.
One thing that sets Chris apart from others is his consistency. He’s technically great, but it’s his ability to deliver great performances time after time that make him stand out (and is one reason he made the US Olympic Team.
- Sean Malto
You won’t find Sean Malto doing massive gaps or huge stair sets the way you will other skaters on our list. However, he certainly ranks as one of the best of all time for many different reasons. One of those is his ability to make every single trick he does look completely effortless. Another is his consistency.
Like Chris Joslin, Malto brings his all to everything and manages to perform great every single time. That ability has led to winning the Street League Skateboarding Championships, as well as being named Rookie of the Year by Transworld. You’ll also find Malto as a playable character in the game Tony Hawk: Shred.
- Nyjah Huston
How can you sum up a talent like Nyjah Huston? He’s currently the highest-paid skateboarder in the world. He’s also managed to be the overall champion at competition series in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2017, and 2019. To top it off, Nyjah Huston managed to win more prize money than any skateboarder ever.
Beyond his pay, prizes, and acclaim, Huston also earned a spot on the 2020 US Olympic team. Not yet 30 years old, Nyjah Huston is set to become one of the most influential skateboarders of all time as his career continues.
- Eric Koston
While Eric Koston might not look like your typical skater, there’s no doubt that he ranks as one of the best in the world. Hailing from Thailand originally, Koston was raised in California, and started skating at the age of 11.
Koston’s skills on the board have led to him being compared to Delonte West by Brandon Biebel, and Paul Rodgriguez noted that Koston was the person he would most like to model his career after. He’s known for his smooth, technical, clean style that manages to make even the biggest tricks look simple.
There are plenty of other people who could add to this list. Just a few of those include:
- Tom Penny
- Andrew Reynolds
- Rob Drydek
- Aaron Homoki
- Daewon Song
- Stevie Williams
What Does It Take to Become a World-Class Skateboarder?
Do you have your eye on winning the World Skateboard Championship? Want to win big, build your fame, and eventually go on to found your own skateboarding brand? If so, you’ll need to figure out the secret to becoming a great skateboarder.
What is it? Actually, it’s a combination of many things. If you look at the famous skateboarders we’ve included in the list above, you’ll see that it’s about more than just flip tricks and ollies. There’s more to being an amazing skateboarder than pure technical capability.
However, it’s also about more than showmanship. If that were the case, Danny Way would be the uncontested champion of the world. He’s amazing, but he doesn’t outrank some of the others on our list.
So, what should you do? It’s about passion and gumption for one thing. You need to love boarding, whether it’s street skating, vert skating, or something else.
Technical capabilities also play a role. With practice, you’ll learn new tricks, and then you need to find ways to work those into entire routines. It’s about becoming proficient, which means not being afraid to fall again and again while practicing. Most of the famous skateboarders we’ve covered have fallen many more times than they’ve succeeded. They just manage to get up and try again.
The right gear and a commitment to safety also play roles here. After all, you’re not going to go very far if you manage to break your neck doing a trick.
Bring all those things together and you’ll have the combination you need to succeed in the world of skateboarding.