Powell-Peralta: the story of the iconic skateboard company

March 9, 2022 | Skateboarding
Powell-Peralta: the legendary skateboard company was founded in 1978 by George Powell and Stacy Peralta

Powell-Peralta is a skateboard company founded in 1978 by George Powell and Stacy Peralta.

The legendary skate brand created the Bones Brigade, the most famous sidewalk surfing team in the history of the sport.

Stacy Peralta left the company he co-founded in 1991, but the iconic skater eventually returned for the brand's second life.

Here's everything that you need to know about Powell-Peralta, one of skateboarding's most influential brands, and the creator of the Flight Deck technology.

Powell Quicksilver: the skateboard designed by George Powell and used by Stacy Peralta

From Stanford to the Streets

In 1974, George Powell, an engineer from Stanford University, started making skateboard decks and wheels for his son in his garage.

The boards featured new materials like fiberglass and aluminum, and the wheels were made of urethane, a smooth and resistant substance.

At the time, Stacy Peralta was already a professional skateboarder and member of the Z-Boys team.

In 1976, Powell got laid off from his job in the aerospace industry and began experimenting with making skateboards for SIMS, with the Quicksilver ProSlalom deck as his glorious model.

Peralta was the number one ranked skateboarder in the world.

One year later, in 1977, George Powell started his own business - Powell Corporation - while Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva designed the emblematic Vans Era shoes.

Powell Corporation decks featured maple and aluminum and the groundbreaking Bones white urethane wheels.

In 1978, George Powell and Stacy Peralta team up and found Powell-Peralta alongside Craig Stecyk III.

Soon, Ray Rodriguez becomes the company's first pro skater, and Vernon Courtlandt Johnson, also known as VCJ, is invited to do the artwork.

VCJ created the renowned skull-and-sword graphic we now see on Powell-Peralta skateboards.

"Johnson created most of the well-known images in 1980s skateboarding," underlines Cole Louison.

"Images so famous they would be parodied in the sport's next strange wave, and images you might recognize even if you never skated."

"VCJ developed Hawk's skull over a Celtic cross, McGill's spooky skull wrapped in a snake, whose corneas are sideways, and the regal skeleton-with-sword Ray Bones boards that Rod liked so much."

George and Stacy were a dynamic duo and worked brilliantly as a team.

While Powell, the product designer, was always looking for new materials and ways to produce and improve products, Stacy Peralta, the team manager, was a fantastic marketing and management guru.

In the 2012 documentary "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography," it is clear how Peralta helped his team's young riders build a long-lasting, sustainable career.

In 1979, Stacy Peralta is named "Skater of the Year" by Skateboarder Magazine and announces his retirement from professional skating.

Immediately after, he formed the Bones Brigade crew, a pro skate team made up of Alan Gelfand, Mike McGill, Ray Rodriguez, and Steve Caballero.

In 1981, Powell-Peralta was fired up.

The company released pro models from Jay Smith, Alan Gelfand, Mike McGill, Steve Caballero, and Rodney Mullen.

In 1982, the brand launches the first Tony Hawk skateboard.

Although it didn't sell very well that year, it became a highly sought-after skateboarding collectible that could easily be worth over $10,000 today.

Vernon Courtlandt Johnson, aka VCJ: the artist created Powell-Peralta's most iconic skateboard graphics

1980s: The Glory Days

The Bones Brigade was also taking off and winning nearly every contest they participated in, boosting and increasing the company's sales by three.

"The company cared very much for the riders, and it was a great company to ride for," says Kevin Harris, one of the earliest members of the Bones Brigade.

"George and Stacy would later set my family up in the business side of skateboarding to distribute their product in Canada."

"This was another dream that came true and a natural step to go from professional skater to the business end of it."

"It was an additional gesture I have so much gratitude for. Skateboarding meant so much to me. It has been a huge part of my life."

In 1984, Powell-Peralta released their maiden media production called "The Bones Brigade Video Show," the world's first skateboard video.

The project had a budget of $15,000, and all 30,000 copies sold out.

In 1985, the skate company released their second video called "Future Primitive," followed by 1987's "The Search for Animal Chin," their most famous video.

Powell-Peralta actually built a spectacular vert ramp to shoot the video in the desert outside Oceanside, California.

The brand also released the unforgettable "Skateboarding Is Not a Crime" ad campaign, and the Bones Brigade later appeared in "Police Academy 4: Citizens."

Paradigm Shift

In 1988, Rodney Mullen and Mike Vallely quit Powell-Peralta to join forces with Steve Rocco and start World Industries with a $30,000 investment.

Ten years later, they would sell the brand for $20,000,000.

Also, in 1988, the Santa Barbara-based business released their fourth video, "Public Domain."

In 1989, the ever-growing company does a cameo on "Gleaming the Cube," launches "Ban This," and by the end of the year, it hit $30,000,000 in yearly revenue.

"Powell had the best image, riders, artists, and a lot of the top-selling t-shirts," recalls Cole Louison.

"They bought a 185,000-square-foot facility that housed product and a private skatepark and a tour rig with a full-size ramp that unfolded hydraulically. Life was still good."

But a new trend took over the streets - skaters were leaving big companies to ride for smaller brands.

The largest corporations - including Powell-Peralta, Santa Cruz, and Vision - are all losing riders and steam.

Tommy Guerrero leaves George and Stacy and joins Jim Thiebaud to start Real Skateboards.

After Powell-Peralta launches the "Propaganda" video, Blind Skateboards make a bold marketing move and release the famous "Dear George" ad attack.

It read:

"After seeing all the ads lately (especially yours) making fun of new or small companies, I realized how stupid I was being for having one."

"Dude, you were right, small companies are out."

"Anyway, I've talked to Jason and Rudy, and we all agree we should try to be big-time just like you guys."

"Here's a picture of our new graphics and logo."

"I hope they're OK. And if there's anything else that we're doing wrong, just make another ad, and we'll change it.

"Sincerely, Mark Gonzales."

"PS: Do you think I should kill myself?"

"Blind - not a small company anymore."

Dear George: the infamous Blind Skateboards ad attacking Powell-Peralta

Going Downhill

The ad marked the beginning of the end of an era for Powell-Peralta.

And Blind Skateboards continued the attack by taking their target's most famous graphics and making spoofs of them so that anyone left riding the boards looked like kooks.

In the early 1990s, when street skating was taking over, and vert skating was stagnant, Stacy and George had different visions for the future of their company.

Peralta wanted to create spin-offs and give their stars their brands; Powell disagreed and thought they should keep the mother ship together.

"Next came that strange - and now, for skating - predictable period where supply was backorderly huge, and demand dropped to nil," adds Louison.

"Powell cut everyone's salaries, then reduced their royalties. Things were so bad that they opened their warehouse park in a doomed effort to pay the bills."

In 1991, Stacy Peralta quit the company he had founded to pursue a career as a filmmaker.

He ended up producing several commercials, movies, and documentaries, including "Dogtown and Z-Boys" (2001) and "Lords of Dogtown" (2005).

Peralta also teamed up with Tony Hawk in the best-selling video game series "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater."

Z-Boys: Stacy Peralta shot a documentary on the legendary 1970s skateboarding team | Photo: Glen E. Friedman

Breakdown and Resurrection

Two new videos see the light of day: "Eight" and "Celebrity Tropical Fish," but the company is struggling to stay afloat.

"A worldwide recession hit, and the skate industry was deeply affected," states Michael Brooke, author of "The Concrete Wave."

By 1992, Steve Caballero was the only remaining original member of the Bones Brigade.

"As in the past, a number of manufacturers were faced with large financial losses. The industry turned extremely negative and began the process of reinventing itself."

Tony Hawk and Per Welinder started Birdhouse, Lance Mountain kicked off The Firm, and Mike McGill opened McGill's Skateshop.

In 1993, George Powell revamps Powell Skateboards and continues designing gear.

After spending over a decade apart and not talking to each other, Stacey and George resume their relationship at the request of Mountain.

With the launch of "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography" (2012), the magical duo mend fences, and new products hit the market.

VCJ is even invited to rejoin the founders and starts creating artwork for the brand again.

In 2016, Powell-Peralta was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.

And if there's one skate company that will forever resist the test of time, this is the one.