The story of Transworld Skateboarding magazine

August 4, 2022 | Skateboarding
Transworld Skateboarding: a skateboard magazine founded by Larry Balma and Peggy Cozens in May 1983 in Carlsbad, California | Photo: TWS

Transworld Skateboarding (TWS) was a global skateboarding magazine founded by Larry Balma and Peggy Cozens in May 1983 in Carlsbad, California.

TWS provided the skate world with visually stunning material and a different perspective than Thrasher magazine.

This perspective comes from Transworld's founder, Larry Balma.

Thrasher's main competitor came up with an alternative motto: "Skate and Create," as opposed to the iconic punk saying "Skate and Destroy."

The goal was to deliver a mainstream skateboard magazine with quality photography and parent-friendly content that all youth could read.

The publication was a success and attracted brands, athletes, the mass market sports manufacturers and, therefore, the X Games.

Transworld Skateboarding quickly grew its fanbase and the positive thinking formula paid off - the magazine had the largest subscription audience among skate publications.

Larry Balma and Peggy Cozens, 1983: the founders of Transworld Skateboarding watching the action at Del Mar Skate Ranch | Photo: Balma Archive

A Quick Start

In the early 1980s, Larry Balma already knew how to run a skate business.

In 1975, he founded Tracker Trucks, a company that helped transform skateboards from toys into sports equipment.

"In early 1983, I got a call from Larry asking if he could borrow an editorial out of my zine 'Skate Fate,' to use in a new Tracker newsletter," Cozens once revealed.

"I said 'yes, of course.' A month or two later, the first issue of Transworld Skateboarding showed up in the mail. I was blown away."

Peggy Cozens was a Tracker Trucks employee. Suddenly, he was writing skateboarding history - literally.

In the beginning, Larry was joined by a number of dedicated individuals, including Cozens, Neil Blender, John Webster, Bryan Ridgeway, Garry Scott Davies, Per Holknekt, Dave Swift, and Grant Brittain.

Del Mar Skate Ranch also played a critical role in expanding and creating the magazine's DNA.

Collectively, their organization was called the United Skate Front, and it published Transworld Skateboarding.

Initially, Balma and Cozens called their network, saying they were doing a newsletter, and asked if they would send them their ads.

Then, the duo called distributors and asked them if they could distribute the copies with their orders to the shops.

After the first three or four free issues, Transworld Skateboarding started inviting shops to pay for ads or each installment.

The marketing stunt worked out, and the skate mag's audience exploded.

Larry Balma, 1984: working on his newly founded Transworld Skateboarding magazine | Photo: Balma Archive

The Beginnings

But what was the secret of Transworld Skateboarding's instant success? Maybe the content's tone.

"When Action Now stopped publication, many skateboard manufacturers were frustrated," recalled Balma.

"There was a small group of manufacturers, but there weren't enough to start a magazine. Thrasher magazine was pretty hardcore at the time."

"There was sex and drugs and rock n' roll. In the early 1980s, the skateboarding boom started again. We had parents going into the stores."

"At the time, there were only a few manufacturers, and none of us had the money to print up catalogs for the shops, so the ads in the magazine were our catalog."

"The shop owner would open up Thrasher magazine to show off the product to little Johnny and his mom or dad in Arizona or North Carolina or wherever they are."

"The parents look at Thrasher and see some pretty gnarly stuff in there - a lot of punk stuff, etc., and parents say, 'Wait a minute, let's go look at the soccer balls.'"

"We were losing our customers."

"As much as I and the rest of the industry talked to Thrasher about making it work for the mainstream a little bit more, they were sold on their part of it."

"And their part of it has a place. So we ended up doing a magazine."

The publication's title was inspired by Larry Balma's fishing boat business, Transworld Marine.

The mag's founders wanted a name that sounded global and international, but it was the duo's attorney who actually came up with the famous designation, Transworld Skateboarding.

Transworld Skateboarding, May/June 1983: Volume 1, Issue 1

The Editorial of the First Edition

The first issue of Transworld Skateboarding (May/June 1983) featured Steve Caballero on the front cover.

The shot was taken by Tony Hawk's father, Frank Hawk.

The inaugural publication also included an inspiring editorial:

"The United Skate Front was formed by a concerned group of skaters consisting of skate greats, uninhibited artists, radical skaters, old-timers, newcomers, and even moms and dads."

"We are all hard-working skater enthusiasts uniting together to make for you, the true skateboarders of the world, a magazine that covers every aspect of the sport of skateboarding - nationally and internationally."

"You are the skateboarders, and we like you New Wave, old wave-hip, hippie-hillbilly, rockabilly-punk, funk-surf style, street style-ski style, freestyle-radical, mellow-mod, rasta-hard rock, cool jazz-country, city-integrated, ethnic-blues, soul-awesome, gnarly..."

"Anyone, anywhere, anytime, anywave. We like our sport, we like our world, we like you!"

"Join us in a United effort to show the world our awesome sport. They haven't seen anything yet!"

The United Skate Front

Transworld Skateboarding, circa 1986: staff meeting | Photo: Balma Archive

A Transworld Success

Transworld Skateboarding became a global hit and, because its content wasn't as shocking as Thrasher was, it was available everywhere and for everyone - from grocery stores to newsstands.

Surprisingly - or maybe not - the magazine lived its glory days in the 1990s. Did Larry Balma ever think that Transworld would become larger than it was in the 1980s?

"No, not really. I mean, we're just doing it because it's fun, and it's what we like to do," stated the TWS co-founder.

"My whole philosophy of life here is that we spend more waking hours at work than we do anything else."

"So you better do something that you have fun doing and surround yourself with people you like to be around. If you can do that, you're doing pretty good."

Since its inception, Transworld Skateboarding has consistently come up with an innovative and visually appealing look.

Photographers like Tod Swank, Grant Brittain, O, and Lance Mountain have provided readers with a stunning array of images.

Contributing writers over the years have varied from industry insiders like Stacy Peralta and Paul Schmitt to pros like Ed Templeton, Tony Hawk, and Rodney Mullen.

As its name implies, Transworld Skateboarding has always tried to embrace every facet of skateboarding from every area of the world.

Its success shows that this positive, open approach has struck a chord with a wide range of readers.

Transworld Skateboarding, December 1997: Volume 15, Issue 12

Acquisitions in the Digital Era

Around 1992, Balma started talks to sell Transworld Snowboarding to Times Mirror. The process took its time, with a lot of discussions and different management perspectives exchanged in between.

In 1997, it was finally time to sell Transworld Media (which included Transworld Skateboarding, Transworld Snowboarding, Transworld Surf, and Ride BMX).

By then, the skate magazine was more than just a skateboarder-driven publication.

TWS was selling thousands of skate videos. Each issue had around 400 pages and was making approximately $1 million in advertising.

Soon after, in 2000, Time Warner bought Times Mirror for $475 million.

Three years later, Atiba Jefferson, Dave Swift, Grant Brittain, and other employees left TWS to create The Skateboard Mag.

Transworld Skateboarding's ownership kept changing hands - Bonnier Corporation (1987), GrindMedia (2013), and American Media (2013) - before the print edition shut down in March 2019.

Transworld Skateboarding: Official Videos

From 1996 to 2018, TWS released several successful commercial VHS and DVD skate videos that helped boost the brand's awareness.

Some of these timeless skateboarding movies achieved cult status. Here's the complete official Transworld Skateboarding videography:

  • "Uno" (1996)
  • "4 Wheel Drive" (1996)
  • "Greatest Hits" (1997)
  • "Cinematographer" (1997)
  • "Interface" (1997)
  • "The Sixth Sense" (1998)
  • "Transmission 7" (1999)
  • "Feedback" (1999)
  • "The Reason" (1999)
  • "Modus Operandi" (2000)
  • "i.e." (2000)
  • "Sight Unseen" (2001)
  • "In Bloom" (2002)
  • "Free Your Mind" (2003)
  • "Are You Alright?" (2003)
  • "Subtleties" (2004)
  • "First Love" (2005)
  • "A Time To Shine" (2006)
  • "Let's Do This!" (2007)
  • "And Now" (2008)
  • "Right Foot Forward" (2009)
  • "Hallelujah" (2010)
  • "Not Another Transworld Video" (2011)
  • "The Cinematographer Project" (2012)
  • "Perpetual Motion" (2013)
  • "Outliers" (2014)
  • "Substance" (2016)
  • "Riddles in Mathematics" (2017)
  • "The Cinematographer Project: Worldview" (2017)
  • "Duets" (2018)


Words by Michael Brooke (Skateboarder and Author) and Luís MP (Founder of SurferToday.com)

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