Self expression is at the core of being a skateboarder. It’s what makes every skater able to choose their own path and have as much fun as possible.
Today, thanks to all the amazing skateboarders who came before us, there exists a rich combination of skateboarding styles for skaters to enjoy.
That being said, every skater hones their skills from the foundational styles of skateboarding and different styles impact everything a skater does. From skating certain obstacles to literally what they wear.
However, by identifying the different styles of skateцвboarding, we uncover a rich history within skating’s evolution. So while we’ll define the different styles of skateboarding, GOSKATE invites you to learn even more about skateboarding than you might have anticipated.
What we’ll go over in this article:
- What determines a skater’s style?
- The Foundational Styles of Skateboarding
- Other Main Styles of Skateboarding
- Styles of Skateboarding’s Past
What Determines a Skater's Style?
There exists a number of factors that make up a skater’s style. Some of which are more important than others. But all are chosen by the skater as the ultimate act of freedom.
Obstacles Skaters Skate
Every skate park has different obstacles from handrails to half pipes for skaters to enjoy. That being said, skaters will naturally gravitate to particular types of obstacles based on their fun and success.
For instance, some skaters will gravitate to obstacles more akin to what you would find in the streets – such as handrails, stairs, ledges (benches) and curbs. Whereas other skaters will have more fun skating park centric obstacles – such as quarter pipes, empty swimming pools and vert half pipes.
While there are certain foundational styles in skateboarding influenced by these obstacles, you’ll find there are really no limits to what a skater can skate.
Even so, most skaters will skate them all even if they are not as proficient in some than others. Remember, it’s all about self-expression and having fun!
What Skateboard a Skater Skates
There may be no better way in identifying someone’s preferred skate style than by looking at their actual skateboard. The reason being, skateboards are tailored specifically to the skater’s style and nearly always reflect their preferred obstacles.
For instance, skateboarders who enjoy skating half pipes or swimming pools will usually skate a larger board – as in their skateboard’s width will exceed 8.5 inches.
Skaters who enjoy street skateboarding will generally have popsicle shaped boards, whereas skaters who enjoy the older styles of skating will skate a “fish” or “shaped board” in the forms of larger tails and smaller noses.
The contemporary popsicle skateboard shapes we see today generally can be used for all styles of skating, but many skaters who focus on one style will go with a shaped board or even add custom rails on the bottom or risers.
Wheel size and truck size also play a factor in identifying a skater’s style.
Usually bigger wheels and wider trucks are reserved for the faster speed needed for the bigger airs of ramp centric skating, whereas smaller wheels and trucks help with the technical maneuvers needed for street skating.
Need help choosing your first skateboard? We’ve got you covered, right here!
Competition skating does all the work for us when it comes to identifying the different styles of skateboarding.
How ever it is important to note, not every style of skateboarding is represented through competition and as you will see later in this article – even the main styles branch out in different directions to create some of the most unique styles in skating.
Either way, competition skating is a great introduction to skate styles.
Take The Olympics for example: It was broken into 4 events – Men and Women’s Park and Men and Women’s Street.
While we will explain in depth the difference between park and street skating below, it’s important to note how skateboarding styles are generally divided during competition; proving each style’s own standout uniqueness.
Here is a quick list of the main styles of skateboarding represented in the competition. And don’t worry, we’ll go over each one in-depth below:
For a complete list of the different types of skateboarding competitions you can read our article here.
In skateboarding, style is everything. And fashion is absolutely a part of that statement. While skater fashion has always been a part of skateboarding culture, skate fashion can help identify what style of skateboarding a skater skates.
While we could write an entire article on how skateboarding and fashion intersect culturally and artistically, for the sake of this article we’ll keep it simple.
Generally, the skaters wearing leather jackets are not vert skaters, just as the skaters wearing shorts are generally not street skaters. Why? Well, street fashion goes hand and hand with street skateboarding, hence the cargo pants, leather jackets and even flashy hairstyles.
Whereas with vert skating, since it requires you to wear pads and helmets, wearing something like shorts just makes the process of taking on and off knee pads easier.
You’ll also notice skaters who skate vert might have more classic shoes like Vans or Airwalks, whereas a street skater might wear something more eccentric like Nike Dunks or a Converse hightop.
Fashion also comes from brands that create products centered around certain styles of skateboarding.
To boil it down to a humorous sentence, there’s Supreme fashion and then there’s Sector 9 fashion.
All are skaters but the more you learn about skating, the easier it will be to spot who is who.
The Foundational Styles of Skateboarding
Street skateboarding is by far the most participating style of skateboarding in today’s skate age. However, street skateboarding would not be possible if it wasn’t for the styles that came before it.
Even so, there is some debate about how street skateboarding came to be. But most skaters agree, so long as skateboarding has been around, so has street skateboarding.
In its simplest form, street skateboarding is skating outside the confines of a skate park, skating obstacles that were not constructed to be skated on in public places.
This can come in the form of skating a school yard, an empty park with benches or really any architecture a skater can find in the wild. These obstacles come in the form of handrails, ledges, stairs, banks, and anything else fathomable by skaters.
Confused or overwhelmed by some of this lingo? We have a beginners guide to skate lingo right here.
A good way to understand street skateboarding is the Rock Climber analogy. You know how there’s gyms where people can rock climb in a controlled setting? Well, that’s like a skatepark. You know how there’s actual mountains in the wild that rock climbers love to climb but don’t always have access to? That’s like skateboarding in the streets.
If it helps, you can also picture the classic caricature of DogTown skaters in the 60s and 70s hopping backyard walls to pirate empty swimming pools. But today, those pools are swapped for street obstacles and running from security guards instead of homeowners.
While the debate of whether or not skateboarding is a crime may persist till the end of time, street skateboarding is the nucleus to the counterculture skateboarding fosters in our community; as it essentially forces skaters to operate outside the confines of societal norms.
Street skateboarding also fosters skate media, including videos, photography and magazines.
That being said, our skate instructors always teach in designated skate areas safely inside legal spaces designed for skating.
At first glance, vert skating is arguably the style most associated with skateboarding because of what the average non skater sees on TV. But most people would be surprised to know, vert style makes up the smallest participation of skateboarders today. But why would vert skating be the smallest participated style of skateboarding when it’s the style that brought us Tony Hawk and the X-Games?
Well, for starters, competition skateboarding makes up a very specific percentage of skating and vert ramps are privileged to those who can not only afford to construct them, but even learn the skills necessary to skate them.
Take the name for example: Vert Skating. It comes from the vertical walls of a halfpipe. Walls which for most skaters are barriers into one of the gnarliest styles of skating which require full pads and access to a humongous ramp.
With all these factors, Vert skating requires a tremendous amount of skill and dedication to be proficient at. The sheer physical demand of riding up a vertical wall and catching flight on both ends of the ramp in a single run is tremendous.
In the past, skaters grew up skating ramps, bowls and quarter pipes that are no longer present in the street style plazas that make up the majority of parks today. So it was the natural progression for skaters like Tony Hawk to want to build bigger and bigger ramps.
Today, skaters find street skating and other forms of skateboarding styles more accessible, with less and less skateparks featuring a costly half pipe.
That being said, many are enthusiastic about vert skateboarding making a comeback, as more and more young people are dropping in on vert ramps and catching bigger and bigger air.
Like most of the styles of skateboarding, the style is suggested by the name. Vert for vertical walls, street for obstacles found in the streets, and park for combined park obstacles. So what is transition?
Transition is named after the transition a wall makes from a ramp to a vert ramp, aka the sloped part of a ramp that makes up a quarter pipe or mini ramp. Since Vert skating is so intense and difficult to skate, most skateparks have transition sections of quarter pipes, mini ramps and snake runs.
Additionally, Transition skateboarders are those skaters who enjoy skating mini ramps, quarter pipes, bowls, or those obstacles that are not found in street skateboarding.
You remember the pool skaters from back in the DogTown days? Transition skaters take influence from those types of skaters and some will even go on to become vert skaters as well. But generally they opt for the skating of park obstacles that are not street skateboarding.
For a more meta understanding of transition and park skateboarding, understand that ‘park’ is transitions skating’s contest title. As in, all skaters who participate in park competitions are transition skaters.
Which brings us to our next foundational style of skateboarding.
Park skateboarding style in some ways is the newest style in skateboarding and as we will explain in our next section, has virtually eclipsed vert skating as a more diverse and accessible style of skating.
For definitions sake, Park style gets its name from obstacles constructed within a skate park, but really becomes defined by its use in competition.
While a skate park is generally constructed of street obstacles, the best skate parks feature park skateboarding structures akin to transition skating and vert skating as well.
Essentially, Park style is an amalgamation of all three, street, transition, vert, but with an emphasis on transition. While that explanation might sound confusing at first, by the end of this article it will make perfect sense.
Imagine starting with a vert ramp, then connecting the ends of the vert ramp to a bowl and then a fun box ramp, and then a handrail or flatbar or some sort of vertical spine transfer. Since these obstacles would not be found in the streets and because it’s no longer just a vert ramp, it’s considered “park.”
Because park skating is made up of some of the most unique courses and skateparks, it makes for some of the most exciting skateboarding contests – as we saw in The Olympics in 2020.
Need help identifying these skatepark obstacles? We’ve got an article for understanding skateboarding obstacles, tricks and lingo here.
Other Main Styles of Skateboarding
There may exist no two words in skateboarding more synonymous with gnarliness than Mega Ramp. What is the Mega Ramp? The largest skateboarding ramp in the world capable of launching skaters into the sky.
What was once just a figure of the imagination became a reality when legendary skateboarders Danny Way and Bob Burnquist pioneered the Mega Ramp in 2002. The first Mega Ramp is still nestled on a 12-acre farm in San Diego, California, as a gigantic wooden structure which spans larger than a football field and taller than an eight-story building. For what looks more like a roller coaster than a skate obstacle, the Mega Ramp usually requires a helicopter to film its skaters.
The only way to really conceptually how gnarly the Mega Ramp is, is to approximate the numbers. The length of a typical mega ramp is 360 feet long, with the ramp reaching a 75 foot apex. The skater begins the Mega Ramp down a 180-foot long roll-in before launching off the 75 foot ramp across a 70-foot gap. Wow!
After the skater clears the gap (which is netted by trapeze netting for safety) the skater will land on a 27-foot sloped landing ramp before boosting up a 30 foot quarter pipe.
Often, a Mega Ramp will also include a smaller section of a 55 foot platform and a 50 foot gap as well. The gnarliest skaters will also place fun boxes, rails and other obstacles across the gap, making for some of the most intense and exciting skating ever witnessed.
That being said, skateboarders have to have specially constructed skateboards to skate the Mega Ramp, leaving a select few to have participated in the Mega Ramp X-Games since 2004.
Each Mega ramp costs over a quarter million dollars, so most average skaters have never skated one let alone been invited to witness a session. If you’re fortunate enough to go to the X-Games, make sure you check out the Mega Ramp contest. It will leave you breathless.
In order to really understand what makes a pool skate a pool skater, you’ll have to first understand what makes the pool such a special skate obstacle.
First and foremost, pool skating is what gave birth to the DogTown era and propelled skaters into an “anything is possible nature.” It also gave birth to the counterculture and punk ethos that allowed skateboarding to survive it’s decline in popularity and attract the world’s most unique individuals. So today, pool skaters exhibit these truths through not just how they skate, but their personality and what they wear.
But even so, it’s the very pool itself that shapes the way pool skaters skate. Pools are made from some of the hardest concrete imaginable, since they have to be able to take up the incredible weight of a water filled pool. This means the ground is also incredibly smooth and perfect for catching speed and carving high without sticking to the walls.
The coping of pools is also incredibly thick, creating an incredible sound when the trucks grind through it. Skaters quickly fall in love with the high demand of pool skating and the intense rewards of being able to carve over lights, ladders and grind the coping.
Everything about pool skating is gnarly, so while fewer and fewer backyards are still pirated by pool skaters, the style of pool skating will endure forever.
Imagine pool skaters being in control of constructing their own pools but with only skating in mind. Essentially this is what gave birth to bowl skaters who started crafting these insane pool style bowls all across the US. Tony Hawk was a bowl skater well before he was a Vert Skater because famous skateparks were crafting these crazy bowl formations for contests.
The cement is also much different from pools, with coping more ready for grinds and sloping walls better suited for airs. Ever since the first bowls were constructed, bowl skating has been one of the most fun styles of skateboarding – hence it enjoys a healthy population til this day.
That being said, like we explained above, bowls are now a fixture of every skatepark and contest. So bowls will be featured alongside other transition obstacles to make up the park contests and skatepark we see today.
Social Media Skaters
Okay, so you might be wondering, how can social media be a style of skater? Well, skate media is a huge part of being a skateboarder and how you present yourself on social media is another form of style.
Different skaters, depending on their style, will approach social media in different ways. Upon understanding this truth, now imagine certain skaters who not only express themselves in a particular way, but shape their entire experience as a skater around social media.
For example, social media allows for certain skaters to post bite size stackable content, which gets them likes, followers and even brand endorsements. So while other skaters might be skating contests, filming video parts in the streets, a social media skater might just go to the skatepark every day and film one clip to post on their platform.
Certain brands will find value in social media exposure more than others, and so the brands and the skaters deepen a niche found online. This again will lead to certain fashion statements but ultimately it is the type of media production, aka social media, that pigeon holes these skaters as social media skaters.
Some of these skaters might even have over 300k followers but will never appear in a Pro Contest or ever be invited to the Olympics. That is just the nature of social media.
But either way, they’re out there every day filming clips, even if it is just to post for 15-minutes of fame or to show off their latest endorsement.
A Youtube skater is similar to the social media skater, except youtube skaters are generally vloggers who produce longer content and rely on subscribers instead of followers.
Both take an extreme commitment to how the skater will produce content, and both are somewhat looked down upon by traditional skaters.
That being said, Youtube Skaters have quickly grown to be some of the most successful and paid skaters in the industry because of the rates paid to YouTubers.
There’s always going to be people pointing fingers calling one skater a sell out and the other a kook, but nonetheless YouTube skaters bravely put themselves out there for everyone to see.
You can spot a YouTube Skater at the skatepark holding their selfie stick or external mic asking fellow skaters random questions. When you think YouTube Skater, think content creator.
Styles of Skateboarding's Past
Freestyle skateboarding competitions were the first contests in skateboarding but have generally gone extinct as tricks evolved and progressed to new styles of skating.
However, freestyle skateboarding set the groundwork (literally and figuratively) as the first style where skaters could invent tricks.
Usually featuring a large wooden course of flat surfaces, a skater would skate around like a figure skater on ice, performing certain moves of twists, kickturns, handstands, and other freestyle tricks.
While Rodney Mullen would pioneer a second and even a third wave of freestyle throughout his career, adding finger flips and pogo stick like tricks, the first freestyle competitions were quickly eclipsed by more exciting forms of skating; like pool skating and ramp skating.
Skateboarding in its simplest form is transportation from point A to point B. Well, Downhill skateboarding essentially is the gnarliest way to get from point A to point B, sometimes dodging through cones or competing in big groups at 40 mph.
While downhill skateboarding contests were as recent as the early X-Games back in 2004, downhill skateboarding never really attached itself as a cogent member of skate styles. This most likely is because of the boards used themselves, an almost penny board like skateboard with large wheels and small trucks.
While today there is a healthy population of skaters who enjoy longboards, any skateboard that generally does not perform an ollie is outside the core skateboarding styles. Today, downhill skateboarding has morphed into what skaters call “bombing hills,” where skaters on their normal short boards will bomb death defying hills in places like San Francisco. While there are no official contests for such a style of skateboarding, hill bombing is well known throughout skate culture.
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