Famous skateboarders appear to be everywhere these days. Once a sport for outcasts, like the infamous Z-Boys in California - people who definitely wouldn’t even class skateboarding as a sport - it’s now a huge, billion dollar global industry that can make megastars out of those who rise to the top.
So, who are the most famous skateboarders then? Well, let’s be honest, there are plenty of metrics by which this could be judged. Is it a case of asking who is the richest skateboarder? Who’s the most successful skateboarder of all time? Which skateboarder can do the hardest tricks? If so, what is the hardest skateboard trick? Which skateboarder has the most followers on instagram? Which skateboarder has released the most film parts?
"He's one of only a few skateboarders not from America or Brazil who's in with a realistic shot of an Olympic medal in Tokyo 2020"
You see, it’s quite the minefield. Even if you do pick just one measurement, some of them are subjective. Nightmare, right? Wrong! Happily, there’s now website called Google (search for it online if you’ve not heard of it) and by hacking into its matrix we can discover who the internet users of the world search for the most.
So, without further ado, let’s find out who the most famous skateboarders in the world are, according to you, the internet users of the world. Oh, and brace yourself. Number one spot probably doesn’t belong to who you think it does.
12. Shane O’Neill
Adam Sello / Red Bull Content Pool
Shane O’Neill Facts
Full Name: Shane O’Neill
DOB: 3rd January 1990
From: Melbourne Australia
Most Famous For: Being that good at skateboarding despite not being from California
Shane O’Neill is currently one of the very best riders in the world despite, unlike most of the people on this list of famous skateboarders, not being from California. Australian born O’Neill is a regular at the world’s biggest skateboard competitions, including X Games, Dew Tour, and Street League, and is rarely off the podium.
Known as Nugget by his friends, O’Neill's competition success is born out of his incredible board control and style. This flawless combination often makes it look like he’s in a video game, rather than skating in real life. Although he’s best known for his competition riding, Shane O’Neill’s Levels video from 2017 was released to high acclaim from all in the skateboarding industry.
With skateboarding now an Olympic sport, debuting in the Tokyo Games in 2020, assuming he goes, Shane O’Neill is possibly the only male skateboarder who’s not from the USA or Brazil that’s in with a high chance of a medal.
11. Tony Alva
Chris Johnson / Mpora
Tony Alva Facts
Full Name: Tony Alva
DOB: 2nd September 1957
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: Being the guy who pretty much started it all
Tony Alva didn’t invent skateboarding, but he was one of the pioneers who made it what it is today. Born and raised in the rough Dogtown area of California, Tony Alva first started skateboarding as a way to practice surfing when the waves were flat. Along with his friends, Alva was part of the famous Z-Boys skate crew, immortalised by the films Dogtown And The Z-Boys, and Lords of Dogtown.
Tony Alva’s trademark smash-mouth attitude, raw talent, and aggression on a board transformed skateboarding from the milk-and-cookies past time of pre-teens to the tough uncompromising lifestyle that we know it as today.
In the 1970s Tony Alva quickly became recognised as the best skateboarder in the world, right as the sport was reaching its first peak of global recognition, which catapulted him to superstar status. With success came problems, but today, having celebrated his 60th Birthday in 2017, Tony Alva is still skating bowls whenever he gets chance, and remains one of the most respected figures in skateboarding.
10. Jay Adams
Jay Adams Facts
Full Name: Jay J. Adams
DOB: 3rd February 1967
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: Being the original bad boy of skateboarding
Jay Adams was a natural on a skateboard, having virtually grown up in the the surf and skate shop that his stepfather worked in. Also from Dogtown, California, Adams became the youngest member of the Z-boys in 1974, aged just 13. Tony Alva would later go on to say of Adams “Some kids are born and raised on graham crackers and milk; he was born and raised on surfing and skateboarding" such was his prodigious talent.
Even in this talented crew of skateboarders, Jay Adams stood out for his flowing style, directly influenced by surfing. As the popularity of skateboarding exploded, so did Adam’s fame, but with it came trouble. Spells in prison followed, as did drug addiction, and a conviction following a fatal assault on a gay couple.
On 15th August 2015, Jay Adams died, suffering a fatal heart attack in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, where he’d been surfing with friends. Despite his troubled, and sometimes unsavoury life, the skateboarding world came out in force to honour the life of one of the most influential skateboarders of all time.
Rodney Mullen Facts
Full Name: John Rodney Mullen
DOB: 17th August 1966
From: Florida, USA
Most Famous For: Inventing the Kickflip
Rodney Mullen is one of the most influential skateboarders of all time, as well as being one of the most important. Growing up surrounded by farmland, long stretches of smooth concrete, and dry bowls to skate were few and far between, so the young Mullen practiced doing tricks on the spot, owing to the limited space he had.
The isolation of skateboarding in such a remote place also meant the young Mullen wasn’t influenced by what other skateboarders were doing, so he started creating his own style and his own tricks. His dedication lead to flawless ability and consistency. Local competition success in the late 1970s led to Mullen being picked up by the Bones Brigade, the most famous skateboard crew of it’s time, which also featured one Tony Hawk.
His years of practice earlier in his life came to fruition by 1983 when Rodney Mullen invented the Kickflip (although, at the time, he named it the Magic Flip). To this day, the kickflip remains a staple of freestyle skateboarding, and a right of passage for anybody learning tricks on a skateboard. Rodney Mullen is also credited as inventing the heelflip, the 360 flip, and countless other variations that modern day skateboarding is based upon.
Today, Rodney Mullen is considered to be one of the most important figures in the development of skating, with many calling him the godfather of street skateboarding (although Mark Gonzales, who would have been number 18 on this list, may have something to say about that). Mullen has appeared in several Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games, and enjoys a comfortable life thanks to the profits made from good business decisions involving the skateboard companies he invested in or co-created.
8. Nyjah Huston
James Renhard / Mpora
Nyjah Huston Facts
Full Name: Nyjah Imani Huston
DOB: 30th November 1994
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: Winning. Winning Everything
Nyjah Huston is, by many measurable metrics, the most successful skateboarder of the modern era. Between 2011 and 2016, Huston had won 11 X Games medals, seven of which were gold. He was nominated for Skater Of The Year in 2013, and, to date, has won more prize money than any other skateboarder in history.
It’s fair to say that Nyjah Huston is a competition machine. Owing in part to raw, natural talent, combined with the fact he’s been practicing for virtually every hour of the day since Momma Huston first introduced him to the world. However good his opposition is, Nyjah Huston is better. If a competitor brings their A-game and matches his ability, Nyjah usually just lands more tricks than them and gives the judges no option but to give him the win. In terms of Street League points, Huston is so far ahead of 2nd place Shane O’Neill, the Aussie needs the Hubble Space telescope to see Nyjah.
Huston also pairs this competitive dominance up by releasing video parts. Granted, he’s not the most stylish rider in the world, but as 2014’s Fade To Black and 2018’s ‘Til Death prove, there aren’t many skateboarders around who can match Huston when it comes to doing insanely hard tricks on the biggest handrails on the planet.
7. Ryan Sheckler
Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool
Ryan Sheckler Facts
Full Name: Ryan Allen Sheckler
DOB: 30th December 1989
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: Jumping huge distances, and almost jumping into the mainstream
Ryan Sheckler first became a famous skateboarder what feels like decades ago. In truth, he’s just been in the public eye for a long time, having first become a professional skateboarder at the tender age of nine years old.
Since then, Sheckler’s star has risen, and he remains one of the best known skateboarders of the modern era, not least because of his ability and willingness to do gigantic airs on his skateboard. Sheckler cleared a 55 foot (around 17 metre) gap on fellow skater Bob Burnquist's Mega Ramp in 2008, and cleared the famous Costco Gap as his closing part in 2013 Plan B Film Superfuture.
Despite all of this, Ryan Sheckler is perhaps one of the most famous skateboarders because of his 2007 - 2009 MTV reality TV show called The Life of Ryan. Airing in the United States, the show documented the personal life of Sheckler, and presumably shared little in common with the Monty Python film The Life of Brian, from which it borrows its title.
6. P.Rod (Paul Rodriguez)
Mike Brindley / Mpora
Full Name: Paul Martin Rodriguez Jr
DOB: 31st December 1984
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: Golden decks and God
Just sitting outside the top five most famous skateboarders (according to how often their name is searched for on the website Google) is P.Rod. Paul Martin Rodriguez Jr, to give him his full name, is one of the most recognisable figures in modern day skateboarding.
Success at the X Games, Street League, The Berrics, The Dew Tour, and just about every other competition he’s entered through his career, show P.Rod is one of the best skateboarders of his generation. His smooth style and incredible board control mean he rarely falls which, let’s face it, isn’t a bad skill to have.
P.Rod was one of the very first people to be signed to Nike SB, with who he has now had ten signature shoes - an elite club usually reserved for mainstream sports royalty, like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. P.Rod also started his own skateboard company Primitive, having left Plan-B in seemingly acrimonious style in 2014. Their signature golden decks were immediately popular with many, and the company remains incredibly successful to this day.
5. Leticia Bufoni
Ryan Taylor / Red Bull Content Pool
Leticia Bufoni Facts
Full Name: Letícia Bufoni e Silva
DOB: 13th April 1993
From: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Most Famous For: Having gigantic metaphorical balls, and zero literal balls
Leticia Bufoni is, maybe surprisingly, the only Brazilian rider to make the list of famous skateboarders (Bob Burnquist would have come in at number 15). Like many Brazilians, Bufoni grew up playing football although, thanks to spending a lot of time in the United states, she now incorrectly calls it soccer. Maybe it’s this ability to control a ball with her feet that has led her to have the board control to make her one of the best skateboarders of her generation.
Bufoni is a regular on the competition circuit, with six X Games medals, and numerous Dew Tour results to her name, and having finished 1st in the 2015 Street League. Arguably not the most stylish of skaters, Bufoni is known for her grit and determination, and willingness to try tricks that the people she’s competing against wouldn’t necessarily go near, including this gigantic front boardslide in 2016 which almost took her head off.
In 2015 Leticia Bufoni posed naked for the ESPN body issue (as did surfer Laird Hamilton), which attracted a lot of negative attention. If we’re all being grown up and honest with each other as well here, it’s maybe one of the reasons why she’s made it so high on the list of the most famous skateboarders. When Mpora spoke to Bufoni, she told us “The whole idea was to show the athlete's body. It was nothing sexual. It’s all about fitness in skateboarding. A lot of people were talking shit."
It would appear that to this day, many people are still regularly searching for Leticia's fitness tips.
4. Jason Lee
Jason Lee Facts
Full Name: Jason Michael Lee
DOB: 25th April 1970
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: My Names Is Earl
Wait. What? The dude from screamingly average sitcom My Name Is Earl is on a list of the world’s most famous skateboarders? That’s right. These days, Jason Lee is best known as the actor who starred in the titular role of the aforementioned show, as well as being a regular in a series of Kevin Smith films that decrease in quality chronologically, from the imperious Mallrats to the frankly abject Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back.
However, before his Hollywood career took off, leading him to a life of fame, fortune and, eventually, Scientology, Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder from the late 1980s into the 90s. At the height of his powers, Lee appeared in Blind Skateboard's Video Days. Directed by a young Spike Jonez, it remains one of most respected skateboard video of all time, in which Lee features alongside Mark Gonzales, among other skaters of the day.
Although his professional skateboarding days are behind him, Jason Lee still likes to go for a roll when he finds time. His connection with skateboarding briefly found the spotlight again when he featured in the Tony Hawk’s Project 8 video game, and the significantly better Skate 3 game, introducing him to a whole new generation of skaters.
3. Rob Dyrdek
Rob Dyrdek Facts
Full Name: Robert Stanley Dyrdek
DOB: 28th June 1974
From: Ohio, USA
Most Famous For: Fantasy Factory
Rob Dyrdek is one of the most famous skateboarders on the planet, thanks to a reality TV show which is about, well, it’s kind of hard to pin down. However, his pro skateboarding career started at the age of just 12 when he got sponsored. In 1990 Alien Workshop was founded, and Dyrdek was one of the first pro’s signed. Later in life, Dyrdek would end up owning Alien Workshop, which is just one of many business ventures he’s successfully undertaken, proving he’s as good in a boardroom as he is on a board.
Never far from skateboarding, Dyrdek is the founder of the massively popular Street League Skateboarding competition. It’s now so successful that it offers the highest purse in skateboarding, with $1.6million up for grabs at its championship event.
Of course, Dyrdek is most famous for his reality TV show Fantasy Factory, in which cameras follow him and his friends around his massive warehouse filled with a skatepark and all manner of toys and vehicles. The shows Ridiculousness and Rob & Big followed, which enjoyed mainstream success, ensuring Dyrdek remains one of the most famous skateboarders on the planet.
2. Tony Hawk
James Renhard / Mpora
Tony Hawk Facts
Full Name: Anthony Frank Hawk
DOB: 12th May 1968
From: California, USA
Most Famous For: Landing the first ever 900, and the THPS video game series
Yes, we rather expected Tony Hawk would top the list of the most famous skateboarders as well. But no, The Birdman will have to suffice with number two spot. Despite what Google say, Tony Hawk is the skateboarder. If you walk onto the street now and ask ten people to name a skateboarder, chances are the vast majority will say Tony Hawk. Furthermore, Hawk's name is probably the only one they can conjure.
Hawk first shot to fame when he became part of the Bones Brigade, one of the most famous skateboard crews in history that caught the tail end of the first explosion of skateboarding, something that still endears him to much of skateboardings hard core. Then, as skateboarding started to grow in popularity following a slump, Hawk made headlines again in 1999 by being the first person to land the 900, a trick where he spins two and a half times on a board. To this day, the trick can only be bettered on gigantic Mega Ramps.
The 900 catapulted Tony Hawk into the public eye, right as a video game bearing his name was being developed. The timing was perfect for the release of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The video game was a massive success, with fans still playing it today, almost 20 after its release. Between the first game in 1999, and 2015s THPS5, there have been 15 games of wavering quality released in the series. Along with his regular TV work, occasional movie roles, and seemingly being a genuinely nice bloke, this has kept Tony Hawk in the public eye, and ensured he remains one of the most famous skateboarders on the planet.
1. Bam Margera
Bam Margera Facts
Full Name: Brandon Cole Margera
DOB: 28th September 1979
From: Pennsylvania, USA
Most Famous For: Jackass
And there we have it, the most famous skateboarder, based upon the most fair, farthest reaching, and most impartial metric we could think of when the boss asked for a list of famous skateboarders, is Bam Margera.
Maybe it’s not a surprise that Margera is the most famous person on this list, but it may be a shock to some that the Jackass star is a professional skateboarder. Nicknamed Bam Bam from an early age, which was then shortened to Bam, Margera started skateboarding when he was very young, and by the late 1990s turned pro.
He made his own skateboard films, and would cut them at a fast pace, and include non-skateboarding tricks and stunts performed by himself and his friends, called the CKY Crew. These gonzo-style videos were, at the time, revolutionary, and they soon got noticed by MTV and, along with the likes of Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera created Jackass.
Jackass went on to be a global success, with three series being made, which were repeated heavily in both the US and in Europe, and Bam Margera was the breakout star. Several Jackass movies followed, as did spin-off TV shows Viva La Bam and Bam’s Unholy Union, with the titular Margera the central figure.
Today, along with struggling with the loss of his close friend Ryan Dunn, his own fitness, alcoholism and other vices, Margera is back to skateboarding, looking for the simple pleasure it once gave him. Bam Margera tops the list of the most famous skateboarders on the planet.