Best Old School Skaters of All Time
This is a list of the best old school skaters of all time. All of the skaters who made this list were professionals during the Vert/Pool/Street/Freestyle era--the skateboarding equivalent to the Live Ball era.
Sorry, no Z-boys here. That list is for another day.
Honorable Mention 1: Mike McGill
First to do the 540. Crazy inverts and airs. Perennial also-ran. Still milking the twist nearly 30 years later.
Honorable Mention 2: Gator Rogowski
We'll always remember him as "Gator" Rogowski, before his name change to "Mark Anthony" gave us a look into his bizarre ego issues.
This douchebag was very talented but had a few screws loose. When his Vert career tanked, he couldn't adapt, and he turned to hard drugs, religion, and later, murder. But we can't deny his rippingness, the hideous crime notwithstanding.
Honorable Mention 3: Bill Danforth
This old school Alva ripper was one of the originals in the new wave of hard-core skaters. He wasn’t a technician by any stretch of the imagination--one could describe him as a minimalist, but this guy could shred a pool or a launch ramp with a raw fearlessness that few possessed.
He just emanated anger--his face contorted in a permanent scowl. Those of us who have witnessed him rip in the flesh understand.
#10: Mike Vallely
Mike Vallely: One of the more creative and independent skaters to ever turn pro, his usage of everyday terrain—rails, benches, planters, etc. inspired a waves of kids from small towns to pick up a deck.
These kids were far away from any skatepark, but thanks to Mike, they realized that they no longer needed a 12x40’ ramp with a foot of vert to skate—a painted curb or a small kicker ramp would do just fine, thanks.
#9: Steve Alba
Salba was and is a pure badass. He skated and dominated some of the wildest, harshest terrain imaginable. He had tangible attitude. His intense, unrelenting style seemed to draw power from Satan himself.
Once you see him skate the Baldy fullpipe with nothing to protect him except some raggety shorts, your favorite pro's "tre flip" over the Euro Gap in his sister's pants will suddenly seem quite fruity in comparison.
He will forever be associated with the gnarliest of all fullpipes, Baldy
#8: The Gonz
The Gonz was a Street skating pioneer that was a pretty good vert skater too. Came out of nowhere with eccentric, technical tricks and even more eccentric behavior.
Probably the first insane “gap” skater. EMB/Gonz Gap, Wallenberg, you name 'em: cherries all popped by the master himself.
Mark is said to be the first to skate switchstance full time, though at the time this was overlooked by most and wasn't taken seriously until many years later.
#7: Jason Lee
Before he was a goof-ball actor, he was a legit pro. And his street tricks--impossibles, varial kickflips, kinked rails, and 360 flips over anything and everything--were simply astounding in their day.
In fact, my money says a Jason Lee in his prime could hang with most pros today.
#6: Matt Hensley
Skateboarding was all but dead when Matt Hensley turned pro for H-Street, but he kept the torch lit with his smooth and stylish street skating. With cheeks puffed ala Dizzy Gillespie, he brought no-complies and “melonchollies” into our collective consciousness.
Matt retired in his prime and went out with style with the Plan B tribute. His short stay in the pro ranks influenced millions of skaters whether they realize it or not.
Natas: Huge everything. Huge ollies. Huge boardlides. Huge bangs. Huge--fire hydrants? One of the first--and best--pure street skaters that turned pro.
Need convincing? Check out the early Santa Cruz videos on youtube. He was doing 50-50s down huge rails before most of today's skaters were born.
#4: Tony Hawk
Probably his most remarkable achievement was surviving Duane Peters' torments that continue even to this day. Let me give you a relatively recent quote from Mr. Peters: " I can’t stand Tony Hawk, I just can’t stand going to get a soft drink and there’s that fuckin’ geek on the fuckin’ cup. I don’t understand why. The Playstation shit is where he belongs."
I sense a little hatin' going on. It probably doesn't help that Duane has crashed and burned in the worst way while Tony, after some financial setbacks, continues to make bank.
To be fair, Duane wasn't the only one heaping on the abuse. Tony wasn't (and was never) known for a smooth style. Tony's squeeb haircut probably didn't help his standing amongst the hardcore crowd either.
Yet Tony was all Teflon when it came to the scorn of his contemporatiies and fans of his rivals. I'm sure it motivated him, though I doubt he would admit it.
Tony almost singlehandedly brought skating out of the age of big airs and big grinds into big, twisty airs and big, twisty, flippy grinds. But no one can deny that his innovations took serious skill and balls of steel.
He adapted to street skating when Vert went bust. He became a successful businessman, and later became the first guy to cleanly land a 900, on top of the zillion other tricks he invented.
And he emerged from all the hate and scorn a friggin' legend, and this is undisputable. Sorry Duane.
#3: Rodney Mullen
Today's generation of skaters reveres him; he holds a God-like status amongst the street-skating throngs. Yet most skaters in his day saw him as something entirely different. His day-glo "skateboard" (barely bigger than a popsicle stick) and his dainty Lamar Latrelle style surely didn't help.
But those of us who paid attention saw what was coming: Impossibles, 360 flips (we didn’t call them “tre flips“ back then), big spins, varial kickflips: all were adapted to curb cuts and gaps by the very early 90's by other street skaters.
When Mullen finally manned up and took to the streets in the Plan B Questionable movie, he single-handedly changed the way every kid across the world approached skateboarding. He laid down the law, and showed everyone how it was done. I don't think anyone thinks of him as a poofball anymore, that's for sure.
(Speaking of the Questionable movie, Pat Duffy’s part also had a revolutionary effect. However, I do not consider him an old-school skater in the strictest sense).
#2: Christian Hosoi
I don't need to go into much detail about The Legend. All of the superlatives in the world will never describe what it was like to actually see him skate.
Christ Airs. Rocket Airs. Huge Method Airs. Whatever it was, he was doing it bigger than anyone else.
Tony may have been the better skater from a technical standpoint, scoring high in comps and on paper. But who would you actually want to watch? Christ was the man. He was larger than life, and he sure as hell skated like it.
He was also one of the first true street skaters, not a vert skater that weakly adapted vert/pool tricks to street. When most skaters will still doing "bonless ones", Hosoi was busting thigh-high ollies on flat.
Inarguably one of the best skaters that has ever lived.
The called him Christ. That's all you really need to know.
#1: Danny Way
Completely revolutionized the sport from every angle. Outclassed pro vert riders before he hit puberty. Had the final part in H-Street's classic debut, Shackle Me Not, at age 14. Landed 720s with scary consistency. Spun out on a 900 in 1991, 8 years before the Birdman. Successfully made the transition to street master (and took street skating to a whole new level) when vert went bust in the early 1990s.
Danny shocked the world--not the skate world, but the WORLD--with his Mega Ramp antics. Backside 360 over the Great Wall? Rocket Air Backflip?
Danny combined big-wave surfer ethos, wicked techicial gnar, and a total lack of regard for injury or death into the sickest style ever, long before the X-Games and his Vegas Side Show acts propelled him into the mainstream. And no matter how "mainstream" his popularity will become, he will always be that little jerk from H-Street that could skate better than anyone.