Skateboarder  What They Do

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dotProfessional 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.

dot"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."

dot 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.

dotAlthough 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!

At a Glance

Ride a skateboard in competitions or endorse equipment and products

  • Most money is earned from sponsorship, not competitions
  • It takes a lot of practice to become good enough to be a pro
  • There are no educational requirements -- most skateboarders train on their own time in skateboarding parks


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