Why Skateboarders Suddenly Became Scary Good In The Mid-80’s

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Stacy Peralta I 2_17

Skateboard legend and award-wining filmmaker Stacy Peralta recently shared a compelling insight as part of UC Santa Barbara’s Distinguished Speaker Series. He noted that when he inadvertently created the world’s first action-sports video in 1984, no one anticipated how it would dramatically accelerate the maturity of the sport of skateboarding. The knowledge imparted by the videos allowed mediocre kids to become good and good skaters to become great.

Timing Is Everything 

Stacy’s creation of the action sports video coincided with the proliferation of home VCRs. The Bones Brigade Video Show was originally distributed to skate shops as a promotional tool for Powell•Peralta Skateboards. The intention was that the ultra-low budget video would run in a loop and shoppers could see the company’s products in action.

Surprisingly, shortly after the video was released, kids began asking if they could purchase them. Over the next seven years, Stacy produced eight additional Bones Brigade videos, generating approximately $10 million in revenue from video sales, while making Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen international stars and establishing Powell•Peralta as a thought-leader brand.

Seeing Is Learning

Another unintended consequence of the videos was the degree to which it elevated the skills of every skateboarder. Even kids who didn’t watch the videos were influenced, as their friends quickly mastered tricks that might have been impossible to decipher from still images in a magazine and showed them off at the local skatepark.

You can watch a three-minute excerpt from our conversation below.

According to Stacy, “We had incredible, great fortune… when we released it on the eve of the VCR revolution… George (Powell) and I figured we sell to 1,000 shops, I think we ended up selling 30,000 of these first videos because they sold to kids’ living rooms… and what they (the shops) told us was that every kid who buys them, fifty kids see them.

George pulls me into his office in 1985 and we’re coming out of the dark ages… I’ve been living for the last 5 years on $1,000 a month. George hands me… a check for $15,000. It’s the most money I’ve seen in a long, long, long, long time. He goes, ‘You have no idea what business these videos are generating for us. Our distributors, all over the world, are telling us we need to do this every single year. So you’ve got to get started on the next one right now.’

What we didn’t realize is these kids, this was before the YouTube generation. They were looking at them like YouTube. Over and over and over and over and it was speeding up the transmission of information in skateboarding because they could see what needed to be done now. They could see a complete run on a ramp or on the street. The could see how to ollie over a push. They could talk about it and it just flooded in their consciousness. We stumbled into it and then realized, ‘Wow, this is big.’ And then we really started to (put the) pedal to the metal.”

Hummingbird Effect

In the same way action sports videos rapidly accelerated the skill level of millions of participants, augmented and virtual reality will also propel the dissemination of practical, tactile skills across the globe.

A few years ago, if someone wanted to learn how to operate expensive machinery, they had to get behind the wheel of a multi-million piece of equipment (or equally expensive simulator) and figure it our experientially.

With a decent 3D printer, bright people with minimal formal education can build sophisticated machinery from modular components. Add in a reasonably priced VR headset and haptic gloves, and these same people can master the use of the complicated devices they have created.

Many people are rightfully apprehensive of a future in which robots and machine learning eliminate the need for humans to perform mundane and repetitive tasks. However, entrepreneurs who embrace and monetize non-classroom AR/VR enhanced video education will impact the world far beyond the rapid spread of the Fakie, Nollie and Shuvit.

You can follow John on Twitter: @johngreathouse

Image credit: UC Television



John Greathouse

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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