This Year’s Summer Olympics is Going to be a Little More ‘gnar’ Than Usual.


For much of skateboarding’s history, those who chose to pursue the passion have often been criticized, and poorly stereotyped by the general public. As a result, a vast majority of the sports first wave of followers were viewed as ‘rebellious’, troubled outsiders, which only further diminished the reputation of the sport. However, thanks to the help of modern media distribution platforms, such as Instagram, youtube and twitter, skateboarding has finally begun to receive the global attention it deserves. Incredibly enough, the sport will make its debut in the 2020 Summer Olympic games. This was clearly a wise move by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), as they have been constantly on the hunt for more unconventional events that will capture a greater youthful audience. While there have been many broadcasted competitive events for skateboarding in the past, the industry has never seen something quite this large on a global scale. Along with new Olympic events, comes new problems that could arise in the future, however only time will tell.

Illustration: George Yarton

The History of Skate Competitions

Today, most people are familiar with ESPN’s annually broadcasted extreme sports event, the X Games. While it had once held status for being the only competitive skateboarding event of the year, it no longer reins its superiority as other organizations have begun producing and broadcasting their own competitive leagues. The most notable of these being Street League Skateboarding (SLS), which was founded by professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek in 2010. His goal was to promote the growth, popularity, and global acceptance of street skateboarding. As the industry continues to prepare for the upcoming Olympic debut, it is clear that Dyrdek’s goal of spreading his passion for skating has been achieved.

SLS London Event 2017

The Call For Female Skaters

Unfortunately in the past, it has been quite the challenge for women who have tried to pursue a career in skateboarding, primarily because the sport has been widely viewed as a male dominated field. While battling their difficult entrance into the skateboarding industry, female skaters are also faced with the challenge of opening themselves up to potential criticism and a possibility for exploitation by the media.

Take British Professional Skateboarder Lucy Adams for example. Growing up as the only female skater in her town, she continued to face extreme backlash from her peers. Despite those against her, Adams pushed for what she loves and has been able to make a name for herself in the world of skateboarding.

Before the call for skateboarding to be in the olympics, the International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) was well aware of the demand for more female competitors: This is where Street League Skateboarding comes into play, as they soon began to develop a separate SLS league for women.

Pamela Rosa, Hayley Wilson and Rayssa Leal take the podium at the 2019 SLS Women’s Final in London

As Lucy Adams states in one of her most recent interviews with Sidewalk Magazine, “Street League needed women because that’s the ISF’s perspective of how a sport is going to join the Olympics… They needed us more than we needed them – no women, no Olympics.” From this quote, Adams was able to successfully exhibit her frustration and desire for the push of equal treatment within the skateboarding community. In Response to Adams quote, the International Olympics Committee has confirmed that each debuting event will have “equal numbers of teams for men and women”. Thanks to athletes like Lucy Adams, the upcoming generation of young women will continue be inspired to achieve their best self.

Qualification & Judging Process

One of the most difficult challenges in action sports in the Olympics, is the debate on who will qualifying for each event to represent their country. Similar to other skateboarding competitions such as the X Games, qualifiers are chosen based their previous performances at multiple events throughout the year, thus making it fair for even the newest of competitors to have a shot in competitive skateboarding.

Unlike most other sports, there is often no clear definitive winner or loser when it comes to skateboarding. Instead, the score of a skaters run are provided by judges who have been certified by World Skate, ‪”an IOC-recognized international federation responsible for the global development of skateboarding.” Many of the top judges from previous contests have already been selected to be apart of the Olympic skate judges.

Influence from Major Corporations

From the rapid growth of skateboarding alongside its astounding five billion dollar industry, it is clear that the future of the sport is well ensured. This success has been widely attributed to the involvement of many well known brands, such as Nike, Adidas, and New Balance. In order to enter the market of skateboarding, these companies were forced to design a new subcategory of their own shoe brand: Skate shoes. Upon first glance, skaters viewed these large corporate brands as a threat because they were known to put ‘core’ pre existing skate shoe brands like ‘Fallen’ or ‘DC’ out of business. Although, it did not take long for these new corporations to realize they were not welcomed with open arms. To convince the skate community of their devotion to the sport, ‘Nike SB’ began to work with big name professional skaters like Paul Rodriguez, Nyjah Houston, and Ishod Wair. Aside from their skate shoes, ‘Nike SB’ has also been appraised for their generosity towards the skate community. For example, in 2012, ‘Nike SB’ donated a whopping $500,000 to the city of Manhattan in order for a 20,800 square foot skatepark to be built underneath the Manhattan Bridge. Since than, the location has become a beloved spot for NY skaters as it often hosts contests and events. Large funding examples like this is exactly why skateboarding’s presence in the olympics would not have been a possibility without the proper financial support needed from major corporations.

LES Coleman Skatepark before redevelopment; consisted of poorly constructed metal/plastic ramps, ledges, and rails.
The newly renovated, concrete, LES Coleman Skatepark.

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