Are Pro Skaters Sell Out? Unveiling the Skating Sponsorship Saga

Explore the debate around pro skaters and 'selling out.' Dive into the balance between authenticity and commercial success in skateboarding.

We’ve all been there, rocking out to our favorite tunes or watching killer videos on YouTube, when suddenly we’re interrupted by an ad for Rage Shadow Legends, Raycon, or Nord VPN. Pause. Are pro skaters selling out? Before judging, remember that the skateboarding scene, like most industries, navigates the thin line between authenticity and monetary gain.

In this piece, we’ll delve into the definition of selling out, its historical evolution, and how it applies differently to skateboarding. The journey leads us through the esoteric back alleys of skateboard history, bursting with stories about monetization, personal gain, integrity, and skateboarding awesomeness.

How has the idea of selling out evolved?

Skateboarding began as a fringe activity in the 1950s and has grown and evolved tremendously over the decades. Alongside its growth, the “selling out” concept has been an ever-present debate within the community. Like any other industry, the idea of selling out in skateboarding has morphed and evolved over the decades.

Image of a pro skaters showing what he can do with a board. Source: wiki commons
Image of a pro skaters showing what he can do with a board. Source: wiki commons

The explosion in skateboarding’s popularity in the ’90s, coupled with its exposure through the X Games on ESPN, has led to mixed reactions from the community. Today’s pro-skaters are navigating an entirely different landscape, where selling out might not be viewed as black and white.

My favorite complete skateboard (at the moment):

Enjoi Whitey Panda Complete Skateboard

Are pro skaters sell out? Unveiling the skating sponsorship saga | 61vn95mf7ql. Ac sl1184 | skateboard salad
My favorite complete skateboard (at the moment):

Enjoi Whitey Panda Complete Skateboard

I had my board stolen a few years ago and was forced to quickly replace it with a complete. I got one with an Enjoi deck and loved it so much that I still buy the Whitey Panda deck each time I need a new deck. This complete with budget-friendly, beginner-friendly parts, but I still swear by it.

Are all pro skaters sellouts?

Consider this: “selling out” is tossed around fairly in music industry circles, where artists cater their sound to a broader audience, often relinquishing their unique, niche voice. But things become much sketchier when we transfer this concept to the skateboarding scene. The definition of selling out typically involves compromising one’s values for personal gain, usually money.

Its origins trace back to biblical times, and it entered everyday vocabulary in the early 1900s as a politically charged slur borne from the clash between economic growth and personal principles. But skating isn’t about music albums but thrills, tricks, and self-expression.

From an insider’s eye, like mine, you’ll see that skating’s monetization sphere follows a different path. Instead of patrons paying for our awesome skills, we rely on sponsors to finance our passion. This form of monetization is widely accepted, if not encouraged, within our community and is hardly seen as selling out.

Isn’t sponsorship a form of an artist’s brand?

Our relationship with sponsorship runs deeper than a musician’s engagement with a record label. At the same time, a music artist might be accused of selling out upon receiving a product endorsement; skaters busting sick tricks and risking their bones daily aren’t exactly in a position to turn down sponsorships or free stuff.

To put it into perspective, picture a skater nailing quick flips all day. Without a sponsor, that killer talent doesn’t pay for itself. So when a deck is thrown their way, that’s a solid choice. And if they shift to a different skate team? That’s another day in the park, not a judgment against their character.

Image of a pro skater going down the rail using his skateboard. Source: unsplash
Image of a pro skater going down the rail using his skateboard. Source: unsplash

Here’s my two cents about “selling out” in skateboarding

From the perspective of a fledgling skater, this narrative is refreshingly nuanced when applied to the skateboarding world. You’re out there to shred, to feel the adrenaline rush, and to be part of a unique, energetic community. Sponsorships offer opportunities and resources for skaters like me to keep honing their craft.

“Skateboarding truth remains – we’re out to shred, feel the insane rush, and belong to an extraordinary, invigorating clan. Sponsorships give us, budding skaters, opportunities to keep up this passion. Skate on, and let’s keep making this a better and bigger community!”

Sure, a few big names might have irked the purists by signing deals that seem at odds with skateboard culture’s foundational principles. Still, they’ve also spurred our community’s growth. You can learn more about this rollercoaster journey in this article about the worst pro-skateboarding bails.

Advantages and disadvantages of skateboarding sponsorships

Skateboarding sponsorships can be a double-edged sword. They offer substantial benefits but also pose certain drawbacks. Understanding these can help you make mindful decisions in your skateboarding journey.


  • Sponsorships are a great way to fund your passion.
  • They provide exposure and can propel your skills to a wider audience.
  • The networking opportunities are worth mentioning. You never know who you might meet!
  • You gain access to top-of-the-line equipment and possibly training resources.


  • Aligning with a brand may sometimes mean modifying your style or message.
  • Sponsorship often comes with heightened expectations and targets, which might add undesired pressure.
  • If not careful, there’s always the risk of being tagged as a sellout by the skateboarding community.
  • As Tony Hawk experienced, you risk losing control over your name and brand. It’s critical to read every contract thoroughly before signing.

If you are a visual learner, check out the video below from YouTube.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Skating, sponsorships, and selling out can be perplexing areas with lots of intricate layers. Here are some additional focused questions that might help provide further clarity:

What happened to Tony Hawk’s brand after he signed with sponsors?

Tony Hawk navigated the tricky waters of sponsorship and brand endorsement as skateboarding transitioned into the mainstream limelight. Signing rights to some sponsors led to his endorsement of products he wasn’t associated with, which might be considered a sellout move in other circles.

While this could have been a significant issue today, it was mostly overlooked at that time due to the different climate and the fact that Hawk was paving the way for future skaters.

Did sponsorship affect Tony Hawk’s popularity?

While controversy can affect a public figure’s image, Hawk remained a beloved figure and the poster boy for skateboarding despite his early deals with sponsors. His popularity soared, opening up skateboarding to a mainstream audience. Hawk’s primary focus was, and still is, to grow skateboarding as a sport and an art form, leaving a lasting and positive impact on the skateboarding scene.

What are some alternative ways skaters can fund their passion?

While sponsorships are the most common and accessible way for skaters to fund their craft, alternative means are available. Skaters can start their gear line, host skateboarding events, or visit platforms like YouTube to document and share their journey. A more detailed exploration of skater livelihoods can be found here.

How can a skater maintain their authenticity with sponsorships?

Skaters must engage with sponsors that align with their values. One should leverage sponsorships as opportunities to grow and develop their skills rather than just a monetary gain. Always maintain an open line of communication with your sponsors, and don’t push products mindlessly. Ultimately, it’s about contributing positively to the skateboarding community while staying authentic to your craft.

Final thoughts

Navigating the world of skateboarding sponsorships can feel like twisting on a half-pipe. With the thrill comes a fair bit of risk. Staying true to your craft, aligning with brands that resonate with your values, and keeping your fan base in the loop might be the holy trinity of mastering this art.

What’s your take on the skateboarding sellout narrative? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below. I read and reply to every comment. If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and don’t forget to peruse my full blog for more insights and tricks on skating. Until next time, keep those wheels spinning!

Key takeaways

This article covered the intriguing interplay of skateboarding and selling out, a narrative as twisty as a laser flip. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Selling out in skateboarding is a nuanced concept that deviates from its definition.
  • Sponsorships are a lifeline for skaters and shouldn’t necessarily tag them as selling out.
  • Despite some controversy, Tony Hawk’s deal with sponsors in the 1980s paved the way for the future of skateboarding sponsorship.
  • The sale of World Industries highlighted an instance of selling out, fueling a visible backlash from the community.
  • The idea of selling out in skateboarding has evolved with the industry’s growth, adding further complexity.
Steven Portrate
Written by Steven Sadder, Staff Writer

Hey! I'm Steven, a lifelong skater, and proud New Yorker. I’ve been skating since I was a teenager. I may be a bit older now, but I'm not slowing down. Follow me for skating tips and latest gear reviews.

Nick eggert.
Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

Nick is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

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