Investment banking, Real Estate, Medicine, Law… all of these career paths have one thing in common: direction. Enter school, declare a specific major (Finance! Business! Pre-med!), and off you go. There are advisors to help, and a mostly predetermined path set before you. But what about when your interests take the road less traveled? There’s no entirely determined path to becoming a pro skater. There’s no “Skateboarding Industry” major. But there’s so much more to the skateboarding world than just skating on a pro tour or working at Zumiez. Nearly ten years ago the New York Times estimated the annual worth of the skateboard industry to be just over $5 Billion per year. And like every other major business sector there are many ways to break in. If you’ve ever wondered how to break into an actual skate-focused career, we’re going to tell you all about it.
A career as a skateboard photographer/videographer is entirely possible! Like any arts-based career, a personal vision and style are essential, and if college is in the plans, then consider majoring in photography or videography and focusing your projects and homework on the skating industry as often as possible. And with the advent of photo and video sharing platforms like Instagram and YouTube, it's easier than ever to get noticed for your skills. If you love digital art, and you’re willing to put in the hard work to shepherd your personal brand and grow your following authentically, you’re bound to get noticed. Eventually seeking out a photo career for Thrasher or applying to be Tony Hawk’s creative director might seem like reaching for the stars, but everyone starts somewhere!
We’re not talking dissertations here. The skateboarding industry is based on FUN, and the writing style reflects that. From brand blogs to magazines, to websites like Vice and BuzzFeed, there are piles of platforms looking for great writers. And while it may not seem as glamorous as becoming InstaFamous, but it’s stable, lucrative, and incredibly fun! Majoring in creative writing or communication is a great start, as is writing for a school news publication. Take time to hone your individual voice, grammar, and storytelling skills. This will make you even more desirable. Want to be a freelance contributor to Transworld magazine? Skateboard novelist? Extreme sports reporter? The options here are as open-ended as you dare to dream.
This is the option most skaters dream about, and hey – why not? This potential career is also arguably the most challenging, time-consuming, and brutal path into the skateboarding industry. The first and most crucial step to becoming a pro skater is to get SERIOUSLY good at skating. According to practice experts, it takes roughly ten thousand hours of deliberate practice (not just going out for a fun cruise) to become great at any skill. If pro-skater is the goal, be prepared for the time investment, and also be prepared to possibly relocate. If you don’t live in California, you’ll want to consider it. We’re not saying a rise to pro-skater stardom is impossible in Cleveland, but it doesn’t help your chances. If pro-skater is the goal, also consider a degree in business or sports industry management. These fields of study will help you manage your brand when you make it big. Read more about how to become a pro skater here!
Products and Gear
Skateboarding is a product-heavy industry. For proof, check out this post about our favorite products and gifts for skaters! From helmets to wheels, to shoes to ramps, there are millions of skating accessories, and each one of those has entire teams of people developing that particular product. The options here are truly endless. Product design is an incredible industry with tons of creative opportunities. If skate clothing is your jam, consider a degree in Fashion Merchandising. Are you always tinkering with your board? Why not get an industrial design degree and create your own skateboard line? Consider a degree in sales and help bring new skate products to market. A degree in computer programming would put you on the cutting edge of the latest skateboarding tech. The most lucrative portion of the skateboarding industry is all of the accessories, and this is a great way to get a slice of that pie.
Doing your own thing might sound scary, and for a good reason – entrepreneurs work tirelessly to develop and bring to life their ideas, and if they fail, there’s no 401k to hold them up. BUT, nothing compares to building something from the ground up off the sweat of your brow. Every enormous skateboarding company or brand started with one person who had a dream and was willing to do the work. If you have a great idea and a killer vision, just GO FOR IT. We’re personally biased toward entrepreneurs because of our own story! Our founder, Greg Rudolph, spotted a skater on campus at Arizona State University with Christmas lights duct taped to the bottom of his skateboard and thought, “There’s got to be a better way.” Risking his personal savings, he created the original fully-customizable LED underglow board lights, and the bright idea quickly took off (read more about our story here!). Does that sound like you? Do you find yourself thinking, “How can this be better?” or “Why not try a new way?” You might just be a serial entrepreneur. Consider a business degree to help foster your passion. Or risk it all on your next great idea. You only answer to yourself, and that’s a vision we can get behind!
There are so many ways to build yourself a life-long career in the skateboarding industry. Find what you love, be it photography, writing, inventing, skating, or something entirely different, and foster it. Whatever the direction of your passion, do that thing and do it well. Hustle. Work hard. Hone your craft. Put in the effort and believe you will succeed. A career in skateboarding is just one great idea away.