Skateboards have been around since the 1940s. While the basic design was just a square plank on roller skate wheels, it wasn’t until 1963 when Makaha was created in Venice Beach, Californiato manufacture high-quality skateboards.
Makaha’s founder was credited with creating the first skate team and holding the first contest in the same year. Since then, the design, sport and culture of skateboarding has been influenceda number of skateboarders and manufacturers.
Many of these have grown to become the top skateboard brands in the world. We’ve put together our definitive list of the Top 10 skateboard brands currently ruling the roost. (Technically, it’s 11 brands, because we think Chocolate is unique enough to deserve its own spot even though it’s owned/ distributed by Girl. But more on that later).
Here are the brands that rule the roost right now. Each has its own unique identity and army of hard core fans.
They are not only an essential part of skateboard culture, but also responsible for shaping it for the past few decades.
Here are the Best Ones to watch in 2016
10. Toy Machine
Toy Machine was founded in 1993 byEd Templeton and has invested a lot of energy and time in building loyal fan base. It has acquireda solid reputation over the past couple of decades as a high-quality manufacturer. Ed Templeton is responsible for all the creative product designs, and has developed a signature ‘alien cartoon’ look for the graphics. Toy Machine skateboard decks have become known for their quality as well, and are made of maple wood in a robust 7-ply construction.
The decks can be customized with Toy Machine wheels, available in a number of high-performance models. Most customers prefer to use in-house bearings, though the wheels will accept standard third-party hardware as well.
There’s a huge variety of deck graphics to choose from. The theme that recurs in most of the collections is their characteristic alien look, with variations of close-cropped cartoon faces.
Options for customization are available across the range. For customers that don’t want to go through the hassle of putting together a custom board can choose from the collection of skateboard completes. These are pre-assembled and come with a deck, truck and wheels ready to go out of the box.
Since the components are standardized, customers can upgrade to performance wheels and bearings later, or choose to swap out the trucks to get the exact level of performance they are looking for. Toy Machine also has a line of apparel that feature their alien graphics.
The skateboard shirts and hoodies are popular, though there is also a choice of socks, beanies/ hats and other accessories. This, along with their high-quality skate equipment puts them on our list of popular skateboard brands this year as well.
Tony Hawk needs no introduction – as a skateboarder he was been popular in traditional skate circles, and has also successfully transitioned into mainstream skate culture, with number of video games, training programs and other related media. He,along with Per Welinder,was also responsible for creating Birdhouse to diversify into merchandiseway back in 1992.
The name they picked was play on Tony Hawks last name (hawk = bird, see?). Birdhouse skateboard decks are instantly recognizable for their Grim Reaper and the ‘Hawk’ designs, as well as variety of fun, cartoon-styled images of people, animals and things.
Birdhouse chose to construct its decks with 7-ply maple, making them strong and durable, with plenty of pop. As with many skateboard brands, there are a huge number of options for customization, from decks, graphics, trucks and wheels. They have options for grip tape and wax as well.
For people looking for more ready-to-go experience, Birdhouse also offers assembled complete skateboard sets, witha deck, trucks, bearings, hardware, grip tape, and wheels. Their complete boards feature a number of the graphic designs offered on their individual decks.One of the reasons Birdhouse is so popular is because they appeal to a wide range of riders, at various levels of skill.
Whether they are interested in just smooth cruising,or heading out to the skate park and trying new tricks. Birdhouse also offers apparel and accessories that feature Tony Hawksunique designs, making it one of the more successful mainstream skateboard brands over the past couple of decades.
Habitat was founded in 1999 by Chris Carter, Mike Hill, and Neil Blender who were very popular as pro skaters at the time. The brand is owned under the Tum Yeto distribution company, and is there for a sister brand for labels Alien Workshop and Reflex Bearings.
Habitat decks are unique because they chose to eschew the standard 7-ply maple construction for their own unique design and construction method. Called Skylite Construction, Habitat skateboard decks are actually made with 5 ply maple and a laminated top and bottom. This makes the decks lighter overall, without jeopardizing strength at the same time.
The low friction on the bottom of the board is great when performing grind tricks.Habitat offers highly customizable options for wheels as well. Most of their high-performance sets have great grip and are very durable, and have a smooth roll-away. There is a also a great selection of skateboarding apparel, including t-shirts, sweats and shorts – great for skateboarding, or for chilling out with friends later in the day. Habitat offers a collection of stickers that has become very popular.
These don’t cost a lot, and for many kids is usually the entry into the world of skateboarding. The can be placed on decks, packs, computers or even walls – pretty much anywhere that expresses their individuality.
Because of its unique construction and interesting merchandise, Habitat still sits firmly in our list of great skateboard brands.
Almost a decade before Habitat, Alien Workshop was founded in 1990 by Chris Carter, Mike Hill, and Neil Blender. As one of the early companies that were part of the skateboard movement, Alien Workshop is different from the others on our list because they primarily offer pre-assembled skateboards and longboards.
The philosophy is to get the riders on their boards as quickly as possible, and they are able to achieve that with two skateboard product lines. The Vertiply, as the name suggests have vertically layered deck construction, with laminated tops and bottoms, and graphics scorched into the wood.
The result is unique and unmistakable Alien Workshop. The Pong Pusher Cruiser line has flexible trucks for control and stability.
The graphics are custom dye, and the grip tape has a texture to that is visually identical the surface of ping-pong paddles – hence the name. The longboard line follows the same design aesthetic as the Pong Pusher products, just with longer deck lengths.
Like most other skateboard brands, Alien Workshop has also extended their product line-up to include clothing and accessories.
Available in a traditional cargo style and range of designs, the shorts in particular are popular with skateboarders because of their flexibility and durability.
Founded in 2003 by professional skateboarders and business partners, Daewon Song and Rodney Mullen, the Almost brand has garnered its fair share of followers. The company makes high-quality skateboard decks using traditional 7-ply or 8-ply maple wood. It also has a high tech line of with carbon fiber construction bound with resin epoxy glue.
Almost has built a reputation in the industry for manufacturing high quality equipment, and pushing into new and innovative areas of construction technology. The complete skateboards kits are ready to hit the street out of the box, no assembly required.
For the riders that want to build custom boards, can choose from a fantastic range of durable and light-weight decks, and partner it with a hardware kit that contains everything they need – trucks, wheels, bearings and even the tools needed to assemble the board.
Most of the graphics are fun and colorful, with comic heroes and villains appearing regularly in their collection, as well as the Almost logo itself. They also have a line of skate accessories that include supplies, apparel and their much-loved sticker packs.
Riders can express their style by choosing from an up-to-date range of tees, shorts, sweats and headgear.
Almost fans love the forward-thinking mentality of the company, and looks forward eagerly to new product launches.
Andrew Reynolds, son of the founder of BakerBoys founded his own skate company Baker in 2001. Reynolds, a professional skater, runs the Baker brand under Blitz Distribution.
Like many skateboarders of the time, Reynolds yearned for products that were not complicated. He wanted to keep things simple and pure, with the focus squarely on skateboarding.
It seems like many skaters echo that sentiment, since Baker has now grown into a successful skateboard brand with a unique image.
Baker decks are constructed from 7-ply maple, and are known to be durable and long lasting. Many riders say that not many boards can take a beating like Bakers. Riders can customize their boards with eye-catching neon wheels that look good and perform great.
The graphics are instantly recognizable as Baker products, and often feature design elements like skulls, skeletons, dogs and the Baler logo itself. From equipment to apparel, Baker has an entire range of skateboard products to meet their riders every need.
Tees, headgear, backpacks and accessories are available in a wide range of colors and styles. With its industry pedigreeand simple product design philosophy, it’s hard to go wrong with a Baker brand product.
Zero stands out from the pack of brands because unlike the other companies, it actually started life in 1996 as a clothing brand. Founded by professional skateboarder and entrepreneur Jamie Thomas, Zero has since then evolved into a well-known skateboard and skate equipment. They have a great selection of skateboard decks and most riders will find something to suit their style.
While they can build custom boards to their exact specifications, many people choose to buy pre-assembled skateboard completes.
These include the deck, trucks, wheels and other hardware ready to go - even the grip tape is pre-applied. All the rider has to do is take it of the box and they are ready to roll! The deck bottoms are a slick laminate for smooth slides and transitions, and the graphics are expressive and colorful, with the Zero logo being a recurring motif. Zero also sells high-quality trucks and wheels in different grades of hardness, allowing the rider to dial in the exact configuration they want on their board. Riders can also choose from different product lines of waxes, grip tape, tools and hardware.
A clothing and accessories range is also available, emphasizing Zero’s apparel roots. On offer are tee’s sweatshirts, jeans, headgear and travel gear, all in unmistakable Zero styles and colors.
Zero has come a long way in the skateboarding industry, from clothing to skateboards, and that incredible journey earns it a spot on our list of the best skateboard brands in the world
Based in Torrance, California, Girl was the inaugural brand of the Crailtap distribution company that was set up by Mike Carroll and Rick Howard, who were previously team riders with World Industries. They said that part of the reason they created the company was to ensure pro skateboarders would continue to have a future.
They have been making nigh-quality skateboard equipment and apparel for two decades. Girl skateboard decks are constructed of strong, 7 ply maple, and are known for their durability and reliability.
Each deck is named after a team member and offers a vast collection of graphics. While the iconic Girl logo is one of their most popular designs, they also have incredible artwork on some decks. Girl also offers a range of skateboard hardware and tools. Riders can choose from different types of trucks, wheels and risers to customize the feel of their board.
Their grip tape product line includes a sticky tape that has turned out to be a favorite for riders. It has phenomenal grip, and offers simple peel-and-stick application. The Girl brand also has a wide range of apparel and accessories. Tees, hoodies and skate pants are very popular. Riders can also pick up socks, headwear and interesting novelty items for themselves, or as gifts for their friends and family. As a brand, Girl stands out for the design and quality of its products.
Also based out of Torrance, Chocolate was formed the year after Girlestablished. The founders wanted to build on the success of Girl, and felt that another brand would be a great idea. So while technically Chocolate and Girl are owned by the same people and distributed by the same company, Chocolate has carved out its own niche and that’s why we feel it should be considered a brand in its own right.
Chocolate is known for their signature color scheme and iconic logo – their decks cannot be mistaken for any other brand. Just like its sister brand, Chocolate decks are built-to-last and offer great reliability and pop.
They are constructed from 7-ply maple and can take anything that’s thrown at them. The graphics range from classic cars to cartoonified images of the team. Riders say that Chocolate boards typically offer a smooth, controlled ride and predictable board dynamics.
In keeping with the product lines at Girl, Chocolate also offers skateboard completes, and sends them out pre-assembled with a deck, trucks, wheels, bearings, hardware, and even grip tape. Needless to say, there is a line of clothing and a huge array of accessories to choose from as well.
From tees and sweatshirts to stretch denim jeans and skate socks, there’s a Chocolate product for all riders. There’s even headgear, backpacks, sunglasses and yes, sticker packs!
Element Skateboards is one of the few brands that wasn’t born in California. Founded by Johnny Schillereff in Atlanta, GA in 1992, the brand was originally called Underworld Element. Since then, they moved to Irvine, California and have become a well-regarded and extremely successful skateboard brand. Their decks are made from 7-ply maple and are thicker than other brands, but offer greater strength while remaining lightweight. Riders can also choose FeatherLite or Helium construction, where the middle ply sheets have holes drilled through to reduce weight, and then sandwiched with solid wood ply.
There are a variety of colors and graphics available that feature the iconic logo. Element skateboard completes are ideal for people who want nothing to come between them and their riding. These boards come pre-assembled and, with everything including deck, trucks, wheels and other hardware ready to go. For those who want to custom build their board, the options are endless. There is a variety of decks of different construction, available in different widths and a whole range of designs and colors.
Also on the store shelves are grip tape, hardware, tool kits, risers and skateboard wax.
Riders can then choose the trucks, wheels and bearings that will give them the exact configuration they want. Element bearings are also unique, because their latest versions are sealed in high-tech ceramic that doesn’t wear down as much, and offers less rolling resistance than traditional steel sets.
As with almost every skateboard company, Element also offers apparel and merchandise to appeal to audiences that are outside traditional skating culture. Loose-fit tees, socks, shoes, caps, beanies, belts, backpacks – the list goes on!
1. Plan B
In 1991 Plan B was founded in Costa Mesa, California byBrian Johnson and co-owned by Mike Ternasky and professional skateboarders Danny Way and Colin McKay. Ternasky assembled one of the most dominant teams in the history of the sport and followed up with what many consider the best skate videos of all time.
However, after Ternasky’s death in a car accident in 1994, the brand and the team went through a period of gradual dissolution, starting a hiatus in 1998. It wasn’t till 2005 when Danny Way and Colin McKay relaunched the brand with a new version of the ‘super’ team and the intent to continue the legacy of Plan B.
More than a decade later, it has become one of the top skateboarding brands in the world. And with good reason – they make incredible skateboard gear. Their complete skateboards are fully assembled with a deck, truck, wheels, and bearings. The deck is constructed of strong 7-ply maple wood, with minimal flex and great durability. Riders say that Plan B boards have great pop and reliability. There is a huge list of options when it comes to custom boards.
There are decks, wheels, bearings and trucks to choose from, not to mention grip tape and risers. The wheels are particularly interesting because they are designed and named after the members of the team like Ryan Sheckler, Torey Pudwill, PJ Ladd and Felipe Gustavo.
Fans that are not content with merely owning the equipment can also choose from a range of clothing and merchandise. Jackets, tees, sweats/ hoodies, shorts and jeans – everything to create their individual style. Stickers and grips are also immensely popularand are offered in new designs and colors every season.
Plan B, with it’s fantastic history and commitment to the sport, has become well known and highly respected in the skateboarding community. And number one on our list of the best skateboard brands in the world!
What Do You Think?
The skateboarding industry is remarkably volatile – there are new brands being launched on a regular basis.
Some make it big, others fade away. We’ve tried to compile this list based on the popularity of the brand and its overall success in the industry as a whole.
We understand that skateboarding is no longer a small, localized phenomenon – it’s a mainstream industry.
While skateboarders tend to be pretty loyal to their brands, the success of these companies also depends on customers outside the skateboarding culture.
What do you think about this list?
Is your favorite brand here? Or maybe there’s one out there that you feel we should have considered? Leave a comment and let us know