Some say skateboarding has been consolidated by big contests and recent team upsets, but several upstarts are ringing in a new crop of independent skateboard brands. Whether they hail from Los Angeles, New York City streets, or from "across the pond," these brands all share a mission to support their local communities and celebrate skateboarding. Alex Olson, son of skateboarding legend Steve Olson, was born to make waves and has done just that by leaving Girl Skateboards to start his own company. "The reason why I wanted to start my own brand is that I was simply sick of seeing the same thing repeated over and over in companies. I want a company that's small, yet expressive and experimental. I don't want to say too much about the company, but we're going to be working with different people to make different things. For me, it's all about bringing in different artists from other cultures, who know nothing about the brand, and making something unique and different," Olson explains.
Skater Jai Ball makes the point that Canadian brand Studio Skateboards was launched out of necessity. "Canada was always lacking a solid board brand that represented what we liked in skating. We also wanted to create a company that would give Canadian skaters something to aspire to, something they could call their own," Ball said.
3D Skateboards, having just launched this year, is professional skateboarder Brian Anderson's new board company. Anderson recently parted ways with previous sponsor Girl Skateboards to try something new. Partnering with ex-Habitat team rider Austyn Gillette, 3D is a collection of products that reflect Anderson's visual aesthetic and sense of humor. Keeping it all in the family, 3D Skateboards are distributed by Anderson's old roommate and friend, skateboarder Brad Staba and Big Time Distribution.
In 2012, iconic U.K. skateboarder Paul Shier began the exodus from Blueprint Skateboards, followed by team riders Nick Jensen and Sylvain Tognelli, to launch Isle Skateboards. Other Islanders include Tom Knox, Jon Nguyen and Chris Jones. With Jensen handling the art direction, Shier and the team have a whole new look.
East Coast brand Politic Skateboards was launched by a group of friends wanting to take control of their scene and build something skaters in the region would be proud to support. "This is a labor of love for all of us. We all work other jobs to make this happen. It's not easy, but with all the extra work and long hours comes the freedom to grow Politic how we see fit. Our vision isn't dictated by sales or what the flavor of the month is, and that freedom is well worth the sacrifice," said one of Politic Skateboards owners Chip Marucci. (Pictured here -- Jason Spivey)
The U.K.'s Palace Skateboards, charged with bringing the fun back into skating, is one of the major new brands to watch. Palace founder Lev Tanju said, "I just hated everything that was out, and I still do, generally, except a few things.I'm from London, and I always bought American board brands, I just thought maybe it would be fun to do some London stuff, basically."
At the beginning of the 1990s, the scene at Embarcadero in San Francisco was the epicenter of street skating, trend-setting, music and all things cool in the world of skating. The unofficial mayor of this revolution was professional skateboarder James Kelch. After moving back to Cincinnati, Kelch got the itch to bring back the vibe and fun of those yesteryears with Hella Cool Skateboards. The Midwest has always been a hot spot for skateboarding's elite underground, and Hella Cool is at the forefront.
Boston legend Jahmal Williams explains why he started Hopps Skateboards. "The catalyst was to have fun creating and designing quality skateboarding goods that I could ride and wear for myself," he said. Williams' teammates include Steve Brandi, Joel Meinholz, Brian Clarke and Jerry Fowler. Hopps Skateboards reflects his artistic and visual sensibilities.
Professional skateboarders Anthony Van Engelen and Jason Dill set off an industrywide betting pool with their abrupt departure from their longtime board sponsor, Alien Workshop. The dynamic duo have recently launched F---ing Awesome Skateboards, taking the enthusiastic moniker from Dill's irreverent clothing brand. Expectations are high for the Supreme-backed startup.
Paul Rodriguez, the three-time X Games gold medalist, is no stranger to success, so his recent departure from Plan B Skateboards to start his own skateboard company is, no doubt, another strategic move in building his empire. The yet-to-be-name board brand is one of the most anticipated companies to come on the scene in years and the Twittersphere has been on fire wondering what it will be named. Stay tuned.