The story of Chris Miller's Planet Earth skate company

October 6, 2022 | Skateboarding
Planet Earth: the iconic skateboard brand founded by Chris Miller

Chris Miller had spent several years as a top vertical pro skater. Here's the story of how he created Planet Earth, one of the world's first environmentally conscious skate companies.

His skate roots go back to the days of late 1970s skateboard parks like Pomona Pipe & Pool (1978-1983) and The Pipeline (1977-1989) in Upland, California.

During the 1980s, Chris had ridden for Santa Cruz Skateboards, Gordon & Smith, and Schmitt Stix.

The Californian had experienced a great deal of success at all these companies. However, towards the end of 1989, Chris's contract at Schmitt Stix was expiring.

Although he had a good relationship with Paul Schmitt, Chris was unsure where to go next.

"I had an offer to ride for Vision, but I felt this was unfair to Paul," Miller said.

At the time, Vision distributed Paul's brand of boards called Schmitt Stix. Chris talked to others in the skate industry.

"I wasn't happy with some of the images in skateboarding, and I wanted to do something different," remembers Chris.

He came upon the idea of starting a new line of products at a company called H-Street.

H-Street was run by Mike Ternasky and Tony Magnusson and had encountered a great deal of success as a new startup company.

Planet Earth: the one of the world's first environmentally conscious skate companies

The Birth of Planet Earth

But what to call the brand? He asked his young son Zach what he thought of Planet Earth, and Zach replied, "That's a good name for a skateboard company."

In 1990, he signed a distribution agreement with H-Street and began the hard work of building his own brand.

Six months into the relationship, Chris realized things "were not so rosy."

"H-Street was becoming a non-functional company. Mike would often threaten to leave H-Street, and Tony would try and keep the peace," the skater revealed.

Eventually, Mike did leave and, in 1993, started Plan B with Steve Rocco.

Although Chris was not involved in the breakup of H-Street, he was left with a difficult situation.

"I was left holding the bag and wondered if I should just start something new."

In 1992, Chris began the process of restarting Planet Earth.

Within a month, he had teamed up with his father-in-law, Jim Bahringer, and entered into a manufacturing agreement with Paul Schmitt.

From Hard to Soft Goods

From this beginning, Chris took a new approach to marketing the Planet Earth brand.

"I had seen what had happened in the surf industry - it had moved from surfboards to clothing."

Chris felt the same thing would happen with skateboarding and that consumers would move from hard goods like skateboards to soft goods like clothing.

Although he admits he didn't see how large the skateboard shoe industry would become, Chris's attention to quality apparel ensured that Planet Earth would gain a loyal following.

Chris attributes this eye for detail and quality to his past affiliation with surfboard apparel giant Billabong.

Interestingly enough, Planet Earth wasn't just gaining attention from consumers of skate products but other large manufacturers as well.

In October of 1997, Planet Earth was purchased by K2, one of the world's largest makers of ski equipment, but its founder kept running the business.

In 1998, the Planet Earth skater entrepreneur started Adio, a successful footwear company that K2 also later acquired.

Chris Miller was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame (SHoF) in 2015.


Words by Michael Brooke | Skateboarder and Author of "The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding"

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