Latino Americans and Skateboarding Have a Rich History
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, mainstream pop culture associated skateboarding primarily with white suburban boys. The stereotypical “skater boy” had long blonde hair and a punk or hippie aesthetic. These days, it is much more common to find Native American, Black and Latino youth skateboarding and embracing skater culture, as well as punk and hippie culture.
However, it might surprise you to discover that Latino Americans and skateboarding have a longstanding relationship. Latino youth have rich historical ties to skateboarding and to punk rock culture in general.
Latinos have always had a strong presence in extreme sports, and particularly in skateboarding. Latinos have made many contributions that helped to shape skater culture, in L.A. and elsewhere. Let’s take a look at a few Latino individuals who have played important roles in the sport.
Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, and the Z-Boys
The Z-Boys met in the mid 1970’s through their shared passion for surfing, initially representing the Zephyr Surfboard Shop in competitions (hence the name “Z-Boys”). At first, skateboarding was just a way that the boys passed time when they weren’t surfing. Eventually, however, they began to skate competitively as well, forming a skate team that was separate from their surf team.
Alva and Peralta, who are both of Mexican-American heritage, were two of the original members of that team. The Z-Boys introduced a punk aesthetic to skateboarding, and started the practice of adding aerial jumps. They are portrayed in the movie “Lords of Dogtown,” for which Stacy Peralta wrote the script.
Peralta also held the first Professional Skateboarding World Champion title. Tony Alva became the first actual skater to own a skateboarding company, founding Alva Skates in 1977.
Paul Rodriguez, the X Games, and Nike
Known also by his nickname, “P-Rod,” Paul Rodriguez III is the son of Mexican-American comedian Paul Rodriguez. The younger Rodriguez is famous in his own right, as a skateboarding champion at the X Games. Since the age of 19, P-Rod has won three X Games gold medals, as well as two other medals.
He has also made history as the first skater and the first Mexican-American to be recognized by Nike with a signature shoe, the Zoom Air Paul Rodriguez. He also starred in a Nike ad campaign along with rapper Ice Cube and NBA star Kobe Bryant.
Other Latino Skaters and the Diversity of Skateboarding Culture
There are many other Latino skaters, including Vanessa Torres, who won the gold medal in the X Games’ first women’s skateboarding competition in 2003. Sandro Dias, a skater from Brazil, had a run from 2003-2007 holding the championship title for vert skateboarding (riding on a ramp or other incline and performing tricks).
Latinos have an important place in the history of skating and the formation of skate culture, as do Native & African Americans. Although there was time when skaters of these cultures were seen as outsiders, they did not let that quell their passion for the sport. Skateboarding has a history of bringing skaters together across racial lines. It is important to acknowledge that aspect of the culture, as well as to acknowledge the diverse backgrounds of those who developed the sport.