• Thu. May 12th, 2022

the history of the iconic skateboard company

ByLinda W. Smith

Mar 9, 2022

Powell-Peralta is a skateboard company founded in 1978 by George Powell and Stacy Peralta.

The legendary skate brand created the Bones Brigade, the most famous sidewalk surfing team in the history of the sport.

Stacy Peralta left the company he co-founded in 1991, but the iconic skateboarder eventually returned for the brand’s second life.

Here’s everything you need to know about Powell-Peralta, one of skateboarding’s most influential brands and the creator of Flight Deck technology.

From Stanford to the streets

In 1974, George Powell, an engineer from Stanford University, started making skateboard decks and wheels for his son in his garage.

The decks featured new materials like fiberglass and aluminum, and the wheels were made of urethane, a smooth and tough substance.

At the time, Stacy Peralta was already a professional skateboarder and a member of the The Z-Boys team.

In 1976 Powell was laid off from his job in the aerospace industry and began experimenting with building skateboards for SIMS, with the Quicksilver ProSlalom deck as his glorious model.

Peralta was the number one ranked skateboarder in the world.

A year later, in 1977, George Powell started his own company – Powell Corporation – while Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva designed the iconic Vans Era shoes.

Powell Corporation decks featured maple and aluminum and the revolutionary Bones white urethane wheels.

In 1978, George Powell and Stacy Peralta team up and found Powell-Peralta alongside Craig Stecyk III.

Soon, Ray Rodriguez became the company’s first professional skateboarder, and Vernon Courtlandt Johnson, also known as VCJ, was brought in to do the artwork.

VCJ created the famous skull and sword graphic that we now see on Powell-Peralta skateboards.

“Johnson created most of the well-known images of 1980s skateboarding,” Cole Louison points out.

“Images so famous they would be parodied in the sport’s next weird wave, and images you might recognize even if you’ve never skated.”

“VCJ developed Hawk’s skull on a Celtic cross, McGill’s spooky snake-wrapped skull with horns on its side, and the skeleton royal planks with Ray Bones sword that Rod loved so much.”

George and Stacy were a dynamic duo and worked brilliantly as a team.

While Powell, the product designer, was always on the lookout for new materials and new ways to produce and improve products, Stacy Peralta, the team leader, was a fantastic marketing and management guru.

In the 2012 documentary “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography”, it is clear how Peralta helped the young riders on his team build a long-lasting and lasting career.

In 1979, Stacy Peralta was named “Skater of the Year” by Skateboarder Magazine and announced her retirement from professional skating.

Immediately after, he formed the Bones Brigade crew, a pro skate team consisting of Alan Gelfand, Mike McGill, Ray Rodriguez and Steve Caballero.

In 1981, Powell-Peralta was fired.

The company has released professional models from Jay Smith, Alan Gelfand, Mike McGill, Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullen.

In 1982, the brand launched the first Tony Hawk skateboard.

Although it didn’t sell very well that year, it became a highly sought after skateboard collectible that could easily be worth over $10,000 today.

Vernon Courtlandt Johnson, aka VCJ: Artist Created Powell-Peralta's Most Iconic Skateboard Graphics

1980s: The Glory Days

The Bones Brigade also took off and won almost every competition it entered, increasing and tripling the company’s sales.

“The company cared a lot about the riders, and it was a great company to ride for,” said Kevin Harris, one of the original Bones Brigade members.

“George and Stacy later set up my family in the skateboard business to distribute their product in Canada.”

“It was another dream come true and a natural step in moving from being a professional skater to being a business player.”

“It was an extra gesture that I’m so grateful for. Skateboarding meant so much to me. It’s been a big part of my life.”

In 1984, Powell-Peralta released their first media production titled “The Bones Brigade Video Show”, the world’s first skateboarding video.

The project had a budget of $15,000 and all 30,000 copies sold.

In 1985, the skate company released their second video called “Future Primitive”, followed by “The Search for Animal Chin” in 1987, their most famous video.

Powell-Peralta actually built a spectacular green ramp to shoot the video in the desert outside of Oceanside, California.

The brand also launched the unforgettable “Skateboarding Is Not a Crime” ad campaign, and the Bones Brigade later appeared in “Police Academy 4: Citizens.”

Paradigm shift

In 1988, Rodney Mullen and Mike Vallely left Powell-Peralta to partner with Steve Rocco and start World Industries with a $30,000 investment.

Ten years later, they will resell the brand for $20,000,000.

Additionally, in 1988, the Santa Barbara-based company released its fourth video, “Public Domain”.

In 1989, the growing company made an appearance on “Gleaming the Cube”, released “Ban This”, and by the end of the year had hit $30,000,000 in annual revenue.

“Powell had the best image, the pilots, the artists and a lot of the best selling t-shirts,” Cole Louison recalled.

“They purchased a 185,000 square foot facility that housed products and a private skate park and ride rig with a full-size ramp that folds out hydraulically. Life was still good.”

But a new trend hit the streets – skateboarders were leaving big companies to ride for smaller brands.

The biggest companies – including Powell-Peralta, Santa Cruz and Vision – are all losing passengers and steam.

Tommy Guerrero leaves George and Stacy and joins Jim Thiebaud to launch Real Skateboards.

After Powell-Peralta drops the “Propaganda” video, Blind Skateboards makes a bold marketing move and launches the famous “Dear George” ad attack.

He read:

“After seeing all the ads lately (especially yours) making fun of news or small businesses, I realized how stupid I was to have one.”

“Man, you were right, small businesses are left out.”

“Anyway, I’ve spoken to Jason and Rudy, and we all agree that we should try to be big like you guys.”

“Here’s a picture of our new graphics and logo.”

“I hope they’re okay. And if there’s anything else we’re doing wrong, just make another announcement, and we’ll change it.

“Sincerely, Mark Gonzales.”

“PS: do you think I should kill myself? »

“Blind – no longer a small business.”

Dear George: The infamous Blind Skateboards ad attacking Powell-Peralta


The announcement marked the beginning of the end of an era for Powell-Peralta.

And Blind Skateboards went on the offensive, taking their target’s most famous graphics and making parodies of them so that everyone left on the boards looked like crazy.

In the early 1990s, as street skating took over and green skating stagnated, Stacy and George had different visions for the future of their business.

Peralta wanted to create spin-offs and give their stars their marks; Powell disagreed and thought they should keep the mothership together.

“Then came that weird – and now, for skating – predictable time when the supply was huge and the demand went down to zero,” adds Louison.

“Powell cut everyone’s wages and then cut their royalties. Things got so bad they opened up their warehouse park in a futile effort to pay the bills.”

In 1991, Stacy Peralta left the company he had founded to pursue a career as a filmmaker.

He ended up producing several commercials, films and documentaries, including “Dogtown and Z-Boys” (2001) and “Lords of Dogtown” (2005).

Peralta also teamed up with Tony Hawk in the hit “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” video game series.

Z-Boys: Stacy Peralta filmed a documentary about the legendary skateboard team of the 1970s |  Photo: Glen E. Friedman

Breakup and resurrection

Two new videos are released: “Eight” and “Celebrity Tropical Fish”, but the company is struggling to stay afloat.

“A global recession hit and the skate industry was deeply affected,” says Michael Brooke, author of “The Concrete Wave”.

In 1992, Steve Caballero was the only remaining original member of the Bones Brigade.

“As in the past, a number of manufacturers faced significant financial losses. The industry became extremely negative and began to reinvent itself.”

Tony Hawk and Per Welinder launched Birdhouse, Lance Mountain launched The Firm and Mike McGill opened the McGill Skateshop.

In 1993, George Powell reorganized Powell Skateboards and continued to design gear.

After spending more than a decade apart and without speaking to each other, Stacey and George resume their relationship at Mountain’s request.

With the release of “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography” (2012), the magical duo mend fences and new products hit the market.

VCJ is even invited to join the founders and start creating artwork for the brand again.

In 2016, Powell-Peralta was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.

And if there’s one skate brand that will forever stand the test of time, it’s this one.

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