Skating with Celebrities: How Skateboarding Achieved Superstardom

Skating with Celebrities: How Skateboarding Achieved Superstardom

Create your success!

It's no coincidence that some of the most creative people in the world are people who skate. The sport is true freestyle art. The possibilities are endless. The boundaries are constantly redefined.

But it is incredible to see just how far-reaching the sport's impact has been in so many different creative fields. From music to art to film and photography – creative people everywhere reach for their skateboards when they need a muse.

Be sure to look around the next time you're at the skatepark – you might be skating with celebrities.

For many celebrities skateboarding has not only inspired creativity – the values it teaches and the culture it embodies has provided a pathway to success.

Skating makes you "Happy"

Pharrell Williams was so into skateboarding in high school that his nickname was Skateboard P. His brother, Cato, is also a professional skater. Now, Pharrell sponsors the Ice Cream Skate Team with Reebok.

As he told the Guardian:

“The first sport i got into – and the one that has had most impact on my life – is skateboarding. Most people think skateboarding is for some kid with blond hair from suburbia. But I remember when I was 12 or 13, growing up in Virginia Beach, everybody – black and white – was doing it. Skating taught me what it meant to be cool – to have credibility. I had it. I got so mad with it that I had a half-pipe put in my house. I had the look – the baggy jeans, the Vans. I still wear Vans shoes. I rap about skateboarding. My nickname is Skateboard P.”

In 2012 Pharrell helped to open the Williams Farm Skate Park in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., along with the Williams Farm Community Recreation Center – a music-technology-learning center for city youth.

He's currently helping to develop a $300 million surf park on the beach there. "The Wave" will be a place that “embodies the energy, the spirit, the imagination and potential of Virginia Beach and its people,” Pharrell said.

Whether it’s his pro skate team or a community project, Pharrell is using skateboarding to reach out to people and affect their lives in a positive way. “It’s my way of keeping in touch,” he said. “I send kids around the world. I put money in their pockets. I’m trying to help spread the culture.

He believes in the impact skateboard culture can have on the lives of people everywhere.

A creative history

The early history of skateboarding might have had a punk rock soundtrack – but skating is as intertwined with hip-hop as any genre. The Beastie Boys are credited as one of the links that helped the skate scene jump that gap – from power chords and shouted anthems to sampled beats and slick rhymes.

Why the Beastie Boys? They weren't celebrities skateboarding – they were authentic skaters. Skating wasn’t just a part of the image they were trying to create – it was fueling their creative vibe. Like Pharrell, they grew up skating and didn’t care how it made them look – which is exactly what made it look so cool.

As High Snobiety wrote, “Contrasted against INXS putting skate photography on the cover of Kick a year later, the Beastie Boys posing in photos with skateboards just seemed like how they got to the shoot rather than a prop – and it probably was.”

They added that the group’s “affinity for skateboarding not only set off a grip of style trends and influenced soundtracks and even brands (via their friendship with Spike Jonze) – but it can be argued that it grounded and revitalized their careers.”

The Beastie Boys were by their nature against the mainstream – they were launching a sabotage on the status quo while fighting for their right to party. Their skater vibe gave credence to their message.

The Beastie Boys.

The future is odd

Today people who skate are surrounded by djs, rappers, actors, filmmakers, photographers, designers and entrepreneurs. It's easy to find celebrities skateboarding because skaters are creators. Skating remains a large part of the counterculture in its birthplace of LA and all over the country.

Travis Bennett (a.k.a. Taco from Odd Future) told okayplayer. last year that the hip-hop skate energy is as strong as ever in Southern California. “Since skating came from here, I feel like it’s been passed down generationally to the misfits,” he said. “If you didn’t fit in with the jocks or the nerds, it just made sense to you.”

Odd Future founder Tyler the Creator was a dedicated skater before he became a music and fashion entrepreneur. But Bennett credited skateboarding celebrity Terry Kennedy with bringing skating to LA’s urban Black communities.

“He was the first skater that looked like a rapper,” Bennett said. “He had chains on, grills on, drove cool cars.” Bennett called Kennedy “the first superstar athlete skater.”

There was another reason he noticed Kennedy though. In 2003 – when Kennedy was 18 – he was signed by none other than Pharrell Williams to be the first team captain of the Ice Cream Skate Team. From there Kennedy went on to a number of other creative endeavors. He released rap mixtapes and in 2007 he founded the clothing and music brand Fly Society. In 2010 the reality series Being Terry Kennedy debuted on BET.

Pharrell also raps about Kennedy and the Ice Cream Skate Team on the track “Reminisce” from his 2015 mixtape with DJ Drama titled In My Mind: The Prequel.

“Pharrell was the one that showed everybody that you can do everything,” Bennett said. “He was really the godfather of all of this.” He added, “He showed us you could do it all – you don’t have to be the tough guy with guns.”

Na-Kel Smith is an Odd Future-associated rapper and pro skater for Supreme. He said skating helped him find success in other things he’s passionate about.

“I found other things that I love to do,” he said. “Jay-Z did not get a billion dollars off of just rap,” he added. “I skate how I rap, how I act, how I draw – it’s just all me. I think skateboarding teaches you that. And then also too, you’re not afraid to fail. You’re not afraid to jump.”

Celebrity skaters – Famous people who skate


Skateboarding isn’t limited to punks and rappers though. Plenty of more mainstream musicians of all genres embrace the alternative creative energy skating brings. 

Famous musicians who skate include Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Lupe Fiasco, Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne – just to name a few. They've all credited skateboarding with helping to lift their careers in music and other ventures.

Harper has previously said having his music featured in a 411 skate video largely fueled his rise in popularity. Many other skateboarding celebrities have found skating to be a catalyst that propelled their artistic careers too.

Tommy Guerrero was a star of the famous Bones Brigade – Powell Peralta’s legendary 1980s skate team. He later found success as a musician and wrote songs inspired by skate rock, hip-hop, funk, soul and jazz. In 2005 his song "Organism" was featured on the soundtrack for the video game Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland.

Skateboarding is a true breeding ground for other creative endeavors.

Actors and filmmakers

Many famous actors and filmmakers are also super into skating. They are drawn to the freestyle nature of the sport – people who skate embrace creativity and pushing their mental and physical limits.

Jason Lee was an up-and-coming pro skater when he starred as a "doomed skateboarder" in a music video for Sonic Youth in 1992. The video was directed by none other than Spike Jonze – who was a key influence of the Beastie Boys' skater style.

Lee has gone from acting in movies directed by Kevin Smith and Cameron Crowe – and starring national network prime time TV shows – to releasing a series of photography books.

He considers his career to be a lot of lucky breaks and good timing – but it all started with skateboarding.

As a kid in Orange County he skateboarded to school. What he learned on those trips might have been more valuable than anything he studied while he was there.

Jonze has directed more than 60 music video in his illustrious career – but he started out filming skaters and BMX bikers. One of his earliest skate videos – "Video Days" – features shots of pro skater Mark Gonzales intercut with scenes from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As the story goes, when Gonzales showed the tape to Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Gordon hired Jonze to direct the music video for "100%" – featuring Lee.

Jonze then went on to collaborate with the Beastie Boys as Lee starred in Mallrats -– both have had an immense impact on skate culture.


Photographers like Arto Saari, Ray Barbee, Greg Hunt and Atiba Jefferson have all said skating has made them better at their craft.

“Skateboarding has paved my path in life,” Saari said. “It’s not something I do vs. who I am. Through skateboarding I was introduced to traveling, photography and cinematography which play an integral part in my everyday life.”

He added, “The thrill that I used to feel landing a trick – I found that same high when I could shoot something amazing and meaningful.”

Jefferson is one of the most famous skate photographers working today – and it’s easy for him to tell you which comes first between skating and photography. “Skateboarding will probably always be my one and only love,” he said. “I started skating at 13 – picked up a camera at 15.”

You can hear his skater attitude even while he talks about his work. “I always say just do it,” he said. “No matter what you’re into – skateboarding, music, being a doctor. Just do it.”

People who skate are creative – find your creativity!

People who skate get their creative juices flowing. Don't have a skateboard? Just schedule a session at DIVERT! You can get hands-on instruction at our skateparks – and the equipment is all provided.

It doesn't matter if you're a football player or an artist – skating will inspire you. DIVERT also offers guided Skills Sessions at our Creative Lab so you can translate your creative vibes into something productive! We're on a mission to help kids develop their creative skills through action sports.

Our Creative Lab has all the equipment, tech and resources you could need for music, art, photography, videography and more.

Not feeling inspired yet? Just schedule a session at DIVERT and let the creativity flow!

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