The best skateboard books of all time

July 6, 2020 | Skateboarding
Skateboarding: there are plenty of books documenting the history and evolution of the sport | Photo: Shutterstock

Skateboard literature is key to understanding the role of the streets in the development of a unique, transgenerational urban subculture.

Unlike surfing, its older brother, the act of skateboarding has already been considered a crime.

Any skater will become a better performer if he or she learns more about the sport's roots.

SurferToday curated a shortlist of books that enable readers to have a 360-degree vision of skateboarding as an outdoor activity with a strong and vibrant culture and set of values.

These are the publications any skater should own.

They not only detail the evolution of skateboarding through time, but they also reveal how design and visually appealing graphics are an integral part of the sport's DNA.

Skateboarding and the City: A Complete History

Skateboarding and the City

Suppose you have to pick a book that provides you with both the details and the general overview of how skateboarding evolved through time.

In that case, Ian Borden's "Skateboarding and the City: A Complete History" is the right and wisest choice.

The book's index is a good indicator of the complexity surrounding this relatively new phenomenon. You'll find hundreds of insightful entries, some of them quite surprising.

Borden, a lifelong skater, is also a professor of architecture and urban culture at the University College London.

And that probably helped him develop a 360-degree analysis of the obvious and less palpable variables that make skateboarding such a multidisciplinary sport.

"Skateboarding and the City" kicks off its journey with the scooter and roller skating mania, the influence of 1960s California surfing, and the early skateboard designs.

Then, Borden's masterpiece reveals how sidewalk surfers, brands, and media helped shape a new industry and boost a skatepark and skate spot identity.

The book dissects all the main cultural and sociological aspects of skateboarding supported by facts and testimonies.

The 384-page adventure wraps up with a glorious fundamental analysis of the sport's visual, graphic, and artistic facet, and a look at skateboarding's virtues and positive contributions to society.

With hundreds of colorful images, readers are also invited to scan dozens of QR codes near each picture to know more about the topic in question on YouTube videos.

This interactive innovation not only works pretty well but also adds another dimension to the reading experience.

 

A Secret History of the Ollie

A Secret History of the Ollie

Written by skateboard historian Craig B. Snyder, "A Secret History of the Ollie - Vol 1: The 1970s" is the most important book in the history of the four-wheel sport.

The 912-page book focuses on the decade that changed skateboarding forever - the 1970s - and dissects the rise of an outdoor activity, not only as an urban sports phenomenon, but also as lifestyle, culture, and "great equalizer between the sexes."

With over 1,200 historical photos, illustrations, and ads, the publication guides the reader through all the vectors and variables that led to the invention of the ollie, skateboarding's ultimate trick.

"A Secret History of the Ollie" and its 75 chapters is more than a book about skateboarders. It's a sociological study about street culture, technology, and human behavior.

 

The Answer Is Never

The Answer Is Never

"The Answer is Never" is a fascinating, personal view on the evolution of the skateboard intertwined with the larger narrative of the sport's objective history.

Born in Helsinki, Finland, Jocko Weyland is an American artist, skater, and writer interested in adding a "biased, prejudicial, and discriminating" analysis of the sport he fell in love with somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

The author believes skating is about getting towed behind cars, riding off of picnic tables, and ollieing onto them.

The book mirrors that insubordinate, nonconformist, and resistant DNA that makes skateboarding such a fine example of what an urban sport should look like these days.

 

DogTown - The Legend of the Z-Boys

DogTown - The Legend of the Z-Boys

Glen E. Friedman is one of the most relevant photographers of his generation.

By the time skateboarding had its first boom, the North Carolina born artist was still learning to walk.

But Friedman ended up getting in contact with the "most influential youth movement of the late 20th century" - the DogTown skateboarders.

Inspired by the articles written by C. R. Stecyk III, the young Friedman started shooting his first pictures and sending them to skate magazines.

"DogTown - The Legend of the Z-Boys" is a stunning book that blends historic words and reports with a photo archive that has a golden shelf in the annals of skateboarding.

 

The Handmade Skateboard

The Handmade Skateboard

"The Handmade Skateboard" is a must-have work of art in which every word and photo is elegantly poured into 160 pages.

The book not only features an in-depth illustrated guide to skateboard shaping and design but also includes a short history of the skatemaker.

Conceptualized and written by expert woodworking craftsman Matt Berger, the book provides complete, easy-to-follow tutorials for building several boards.

The reader will learn to shape a beginner's hackboard, a vintage pinstriped cruiser, the "Bergerboard," Matt's own twist on the classic longboard, and a custom board that can be built to a skatemaker's own specs.

"The Handmade Skateboard: Design & Build a Custom Longboard, Cruiser, or Street Deck from Scratch" is a skate maker manual with a healthy flavor of history.

The publication details the origins and trajectory of the skateboard movement while providing everything a maker needs to know about skateboard design, construction, and embellishment.

Insightful profiles also tap into the minds and missions of some of today's finest skateboard makers.

The part DIY manual, part history lesson book, will provide you all the illustrations, instructions, and photos you'll need to build your first homemade skateboard.

 

Stickerbomb Skateboard: 150 Classic Skateboard Stickers

Stickerbomb Skateboard: 150 Classic Skateboard Stickers

Brands and logos are part of skateboarders' history since day. As a highly visual sport, graphics and colors cannot be detached from the sport's essence.

"150 Classic Skateboard Stickers" features a selection of classic sticker designs from five key skateboard brands: Santa Cruz, Girl, Real, Alien Workshop, and Toy Machine.

These iconic brands created an archive of highly recognizable logos and designs that are now part of the urban art scene.

Enjoy a collection of 150 colorful, crazy, and fun stickers featuring legendary artwork and exciting illustrations.

 

The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding

The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding

Michael Brooke rode his first skateboard in the summer of 1975. Twenty-five years later, he wrote one of the first books on the history of skateboarding.

"The Concrete Wave" is a must-have book on the impact of sidewalk surfing in music, fashion, the internet, and the architecture of our urban communities.

Brooke divides his work into five main chronological chapters - Prehistory, the first wave (1959-1965), the second wave (1973-1980), the third wave (1983-1991), and the fourth wave (1993-2000s).

All 197 pages balance words, facts, stars, and iconic photos perfectly. And it will certainly give the reader an insightful panoramic view of the evolution of skating in its first and decisive five decades.

 

Locals Only: California Skateboarding 1975-1978

Locals Only: California Skateboarding 1975-1978

Hugh Holland only tried skateboarding once. He fell off and didn't try again because he was afraid to break his leg.

Nevertheless, he chose photography as his grand passion and started shooting young skateboarders on the streets of Hollywood in the mid-1970s.

His first equipment included a Praktica 35mm SLR camera and fish-eye lenses.

The initial results impressed the riders' and Holland ended up meeting and shooting the most accomplished skateboarders of the 20th century.

"Locals Only" is the perfect portrait of what it was like to be a sidewalk surfer in California during the sport's first golden era.

 

The Skateboard Art of Jim Phillips

The Skateboard Art of Jim Phillips

"The Skateboard Art of Jim Phillips" is a highly visual journey through the evolution of boards and skate design.

Phillips is a well-known graphic artist responsible for several famous and award-winning rock, surf and skateboard posters.

In the mid-1970s, he was art director for Santa Cruz Skateboards, where he developed hundreds of skate decks, shirts, stickers, and ads.

This retrospective book features hundreds of his most iconic templates, logos, and marketing campaigns, cartoons, and comics.

 

California Concrete: A Landscape of Skateparks

California Concrete: A Landscape of Skateparks

"California Concrete" is a breathtaking look into the creative the brutalist architecture of skateparks, its more of less common shapes, forms, and curves.

The exquisite analysis of skateboarders' ultimate playground helps us understand how concrete landscapes and design can contribute to creating a unique sports environment that helped shape American cities.

It's an ode to the extremely urban, concave, and convex world of skaters in their quest to perfecting their skills and style.

Amir Zaki uses photography and essays from Tony Haw and Peter Zellner to give us an alternative perspective of how skateparks became part of the Southern California geosocial paradigm.

 

The Impossible

The Impossible

Written by Cole Louison, "The Impossible" is a concise history of skateboarding spanning around five decades (1960-2010).

The 304-page book leads the reader on a journey through innovation, rebellion, and technicality, as the sport evolved from a Southern California pastime to a multimillion-dollar global industry.

The author tells us everything we should know about sidewalk surfing and its actor through the lives and careers of "skateboarding's Yoda" - Rodney Mullen - and one of the sport's first pro athlete - Ryan Sheckler.

"The Impossible" is not a 100 percent narrative of facts. There are personal opinions and informal observations, but that doesn't necessarily take the merit out of this work.

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