Professional skateboarders ride skateboards for a living. They practice
doing tricks on ramps, in skate parks or out on the city streets. They take
what they've learned to contests, where they enter alongside other pros and
compete for cash and prizes. They get sponsored by companies and may receive
everything from free skateboards to free shoes.
Sounds like fun, right? Well yes, it is, but not everyone can make a living
at skateboarding. For every famous pro like Tony Hawk, there are countless
others who will probably not make it past the hobby level. So if you're thinking
about becoming a pro skateboarder, it's important to be realistic.
"I've always believed in dreaming and [the belief that] whatever you want
to do, you can do it," says pro skateboarder Kristian Svitak.
"I've seen a lot of guys who are really good go to California and think
they're just going to make it. But it doesn't always work that way, so you
have to be real with yourself. You probably have a better chance of being
a professional football player or baseball player than a skateboarder, because
there are not as many of us."
There are different types of skateboarding: some skaters prefer to skate
vert ramps (the kind that curve from a horizontal to a vertical plane); some
like to keep to the city-built skate parks that municipalities build for their
residents; others ride street, which means cruising around and finding everyday
obstacles to perform skateboard tricks on and off of.
Although it is hard to be a skateboarder if you have any physical limitations,
there are people who overcome obstacles and ride. In Victoria, B.C., Canada,
for instance, there is a blind skater who loves to hit the skate parks.
Generally, being a pro skateboarder is kind of like being your own boss
and working alone. Although most people like to skateboard with others, some
prefer to skateboard alone. And you will essentially be contracting out your
services to companies who will sponsor you -- this is actually how most pro
skaters earn their living.
"The majority of all of us make our money off of sponsors and royalties,"
says Svitak. "Contests, believe it or not, in skateboarding, are minimal and
in fact most companies don't even care if you enter contests. What the sponsors
care about is your video footage and magazine coverage. So you have different
sponsors and have contracts with them and they pay you a yearly salary, and
you get checks every month from them for riding for their companies.
"And you can endorse a product," he continues. "I have a pro shoe, a pro
board, a pro wheel; if a clothing company makes you your own pair of pants,
for example, you get royalties on all those products that your name is on.
You also get photo incentive: every time your photo is in a magazine and your
sponsor's logo is showing, your sponsor pays you for that as well. If you
do a contest and win some money, that's just an extra bonus."
There is no typical hourly workweek for a pro skateboarder. Sometimes you'll
be on the road traveling to contests, so be ready for irregular hours and
weekend work. Not that you'll be complaining!