It’s easy to take the simplest things for granted. Skateboard tricks like the ollie and the aerial seem simple by today’s standards, but there was a time, however, before skaters could pop their boards off the ground, or fly out of pools and vert ramps.
Here are five skateboard tricks that have paved the way for generations of skaters. Not to be forgotten are their inventors, the innovators who gave the sport, and the world, a new trick, only to watch it catch fire and change skateboard history forever.
The Skateboard Ollie
In the late 70s, a kid from small-town Florida by the name of Alan Gelfand – nicknamed “Ollie” – developed a maneuver that forever changed his sport. At the time, the skate scene was dominated by concrete pools and vert ramps.
Skaters mostly did tricks on the coping, and only flying beyond it with the help of a grab to prevent the board from sailing away. The skatepark in Gelfand’s hometown of Hollywood, called Skateboard USA, was typical for its time, except that it had some sections that were over-vertical.
These steep spots helped Gelfand develop his trick: a no-hands aerial skateboard Ollie above the coping. Gelfand’s ollie was a runaway success and made him Stacy Peralta’s very first pick for the original Bones Brigade.
Gelfand’s teammates, among them Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk, would take Gelfand’s maneuver to ever higher and more complex heights, but Gelfand, a race car driver who no longer skates, can lay claim to inventing the most famous and influential skate trick of all time.
After the ollie was developed in pools and verts, legend Rodney Mullen made skateboard history by developing the revolutionary flatground Ollie. No trick is as central to modern skating as the flatground Ollie, a simple adaptation of Alan Gelfand’s no-hands aerials.
Popping the board off the ground without the use of hands is the key to nearly every street skating trick. But unlike the pool riding Z-boys or park rats like Tony Hawk from Southern, California, whose lives seemed destined to be intertwined with skating history, the flatground Ollie was invented by an introverted kid from rural Florida.
Rodney Mullen, after countless hours of practicing freestyle moves in his garage—the only bit of cement near his home in Florida – first busted out his world-changing move in a 1982 contest in Whittier, California.
No one, not even Mullen, thought the trick was particularly compelling, nor could predict the immense influence it would come to have.
But in short order, Mullen, along with virtually every other skateboarder, adopted the Ollie as a fundamental trick. They began flipping the board in the air, jumping down stairs and riding rails and ledges, in the process creating modern skating as we know it.
In the 70s, a band of skaters from the west Los Angeles neighborhoods of Venice of Santa Monica famously started to take advantage of a bad drought. Restrictions on water forced many owners of backyard pools to drain them – and in went the Z-boys.
They scouted neighborhoods for empty pools, hopped over the walls and gave birth to vertical skateboarding. It was one of them, Tony Alva, with his signature punk rock influences and hard-charging style who would fly above the rest and into history.
Legend has it that Alva, skating harder than any of this peers, would push around the pools’ curves with such force that his wheels would hit the fat concrete coping and launch his board above it.
By grabbing the board, Alva could control his flight path, turn 180 degrees and ride back down into the pool. Thus was born the aerial, a maneuver that not only influenced every single skater to come along since, but certainly every board sport, and many other extreme sports, whose athletes fly through the air.
Loop Of Death
Riding the Loop of Death – a full circle – on a skateboard is one of the ultimate expressions of defying gravity, and one of the most difficult.
This enduring challenge was first landed by Duane Peters, a 70s skate legend who, though less known than the Dogtown and Z-boys, helped launch the vert skating movement by pioneering backyard pool skating.
Peters nailed the loop in 1977, at a time when vert skateparks were being built with gobs of money and park builders could dream up fantastical structures like the loop. While the loop may seem a bit gimmicky, it’s still a testpiece for the best vert skaters.
The Skateboard 1080
The other tricks here have an eye to the past, to the titans of skateboarding who influenced generations of skaters. But this one here looks to the future, reminding us that no matter how much we owe to skateboarding’s creators, there will always be new innovators.
In this case, it is 12-year-old Tom Schaar, a grommet shredder from Malibu, California who recently pulled off the world’s first skateboard 1080.
That would be three full rotations, executed out of a mega half-pipe at Woodward skate camp. Schaar’s skateboard trick – long attempted by the biggest names in skating – proves that the sport will never stop evolving.