Editor’s Note: The author originally published this piece on his own blog. He has given us permission to reprint it on Latino Rebels.
Not that long ago I was a victim of clickbait. As I was scrolling down on my Facebook wall, I saw a sponsored article about Latino skateboarders. It read, “10 Latinos who are making a name for themselves in skateboarding,” or something along those lines. As a curious skater and a Latino, I clicked on the link. The article made it seemed like it was a rarity for a Latino to thrive in this sport. I was disappointed that it didn’t acknowledge that Latinos have shaped the sport since the early days of modern skateboarding.
We might think that skateboarding is white America’s action sport. Skateboarding, as we know it, began in the 70’s in Southern California. It was meant to imitate surfing on concrete. During this time, a group of kids from Venice and Santa Monica joined a skateboarding competition team called The Zephyr Boys. Among those kids were Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, two Mexican American kids. With innovative spirit and a different look at skateboarding, they helped shape what we know as skateboarding today.
According to Stories Of Sole Form Vans Original by Doug Palladini, in the days when skateboarding tricks only included downhill racing and flat ground handstands, Alva and Peralta would skate drained backyard pools to imitate surfing waves. Alva did the first aerial trick when he went off the pool walls. Vans’ “off the wall” slogan come from that historic moment. Eventually, Alva helped popularize the sport into a world phenomenon.
Peralta did the first skateboarding TV cameo in pop culture, appearing in an episode of Charlie’s Angels. He went on to co-create the Bones Brigade skate team, which helped introduce famous skaters like Lance Mountain and Tony Hawk.
Peralta also became a filmmaker. The documentary Crips and Bloods: Made in America is among one of the films he has created. The film depicts the origins of two rival African American gangs.
In the late 70’s, there was lack of quality skateboarding materials. Fausto Vitello, an Argentine native, co-founded Independent Trucks Company. Trucks are the pieces that connects the wheels to the skateboard. Vitello’s parents fled Argentina’s Revolución Libertadora (Liberating Revolution) in 1955 and settled in San Francisco.
In 1981, Vitello also co-founded the famous Thrasher Magazine, a skateboarding and music publication. Recently, Thrasher partnered with Vice’s TV channel Viceland to transmit King Of The Road, a skateboarding competition show. Vitello passed away in 2006.
Mark Gonzales, a native of South Gate, California, was the first person to skate a handrail, thus setting the blue prints for modern street skateboarding. In 1984, he was featured in the cover of Thrasher Magazine. In 2011, according to Thrasher, Gonzales was the “Most Influential Skateboarder of All Time”. Gonzales now resides in New York City with his family and has become a renowned artist.
These are just some of the Latinos that have shaped this sport. Latinos are part of the history of skateboarding. Skateboarding is not just a White American sport. Skateboarding is also ours. Today, there are many Latino skaters who continue to influence the evolution of skateboarding. We are innovative people and we always find ways to make everything exceptional.