The day Tony Hawk helped shape the skateboard emoji

July 13, 2020 | Skateboarding
Skateboard emoji: the first version only lasted 12 days

The skateboard emoji saw the light of day on February 7, 2018. But the original version was retouched and re-released 12 days later.

Emojis aren't new. They're extremely popular in Japan since they first appeared on mobile phones in the late 1990s.

Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese artist, designed the earliest examples of emojis in 1999 when she was involved in a pioneering mobile internet platform for Docomo, Japan's leading mobile phone operator.

His goal was to develop attractive icons/characters as a means to say something or share information visually. Kurita created a set of 12-by-12-pixel images that could be selected and sent electronically.

Today, the 176 emoji collection can be seen all year round at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

But emojis, as we know them today, only really gained traction in 2007 when Google lobbied for the official recognition of the graphic way of communication at the Unicode Consortium, the non-profit organization responsible for maintaining text standards and compatibility across computers.

Apple joined the emoji revolution and, in 2010, Unicode adopted the new visual communication scheme.

One year later, the Cupertino-based tech company introduced an official emoji keyboard to iOS; in 2013, Android followed Apple's footsteps.

Today, there are hundreds of icons, skin color options, and anyone can submit a proposal for a new emoji.

Skateboard emojis: there are different icons for different platforms

Skateboard Emoji: From V1 to V2

The story of the skateboard emoji dates back to 2017.

On July 17, 2017, Tony Hawk wrote an unusual tweet: "Hey @Apple: For new emojis, I suggest something like this. Zombies & dinosaurs are cool, but skaters are more in your demographic. Thanks. Tony."

Jeremy Burge, the founder of Emojipedia and member of the Unicode Technical Committee, replied a few months later, more specifically on December 20, 2017.

"Hello, Tony. A skateboard emoji is on the shortlist for 2018! If approved, it should be on iOS within a year," tweeted Burge.

Apparently, someone had already submitted a proposal - a man named Jaron Heard.

Heard, a data visualization analyst and skateboarder from Oregon, listened to a podcast about creating and bringing emojis into real life.

So, in November 2016, inspired by the surfer and snowboarder emojis, he sent his proposal to Unicode - the silhouette of a skater performing a flip trick.

Unicode liked the idea but decided to stick to the skateboard-only option.

Tony Hawk's skateboard: this picture helped design the world's first skateboard emoji | Photo: Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk Steps In

There was an initial version released on February 7, 2018. But skaters didn't approve V1, so Tony Hawk stepped in.

"Hoping to help bring the skateboard emoji closer to 2018 than 1985," the skater legend joked on the next day.

Tony thought the shape of the board and the die-cut grip tape made it look like those mid-1980s skateboards sold in Walmart.

So, immediately after seeing V1, Hawk sent Jeremy Burge a photo of his board (pictured above), and designers came up with V2.

Tony also felt like there should be a skater riding the board, just like the surfer and snowboarder emojis.

But, apparently, that was too much to ask. The final version of the skateboard-only icon was released on February 19, 2018.

Although not perfect and substantially different across all platforms, the skateboard emoji is finally available for everyone.

Codepoint: U+1F6F9.

"I'll take the blame if the wheels look big. No shame in my 60 mm game," tweeted Hawk.