Skateboarding has been apart of my life for over 22 years. Not a day goes by without my mind wandering towards that board with 4 wheels, but it's so much more than that. I knew how to ride a skateboard before I knew how to ride a bike. I recall riding around the laundry mat for hours while my mom did our laundry. With a sunkist in hand, I understood what happiness was. Skating did something to me that nothing else had ever done before. I felt alive for the first time in my life. Needless to say, that touchstone of my life is still there. While most kids were sneaking in Playboy magazines, I was sneaking in Thrasher magazines (my mother did not approve of the content). My idols were found within those pages, and I studied them in great detail. Their tricks, their boards, their look, their clothes, their shoes, their enviroment. I understood what they were, without knowing who they were. Skateboarding has been embedded in me ever since. The following is a list of the top ten skaters who helped to create this abyss within me.
Ray Barbee was the first guy that I remember watching and thinking to myself: "I want to learn to do every trick that he just did". Barbee was one of the first kings of street skating, and a pioneer in developing hybrid styles of freestyle and flatland. Along with Ron Allen and Ron Chatman, Ray Barbee was one of the first black pro-skaters in the industry. However, I did not see the color of his skin...I saw the ease and grace by which he landed every trick. Ray Barbee holds the #1 spot because he exposed me to what true "street skating" was and I have never been the same since.
As a kid (and even now), I was never crazy about vert skating. Christian Hosoi was the exception. Hosoi was the first "rock star" of skating. He was "going bigger" before anyone knew what going bigger really was. Hosoi had a look and a style that helped create the industry as we know it today. Hosoi battled Tony Hawk in nearly every major pro skate comptetion of the mid to late 80's but the money, the fame and the drugs ultimately cost him the "Tony Hawk" status of today. I will never forget those Jimmy-Z ads where Christian was 12 feet above the vert ramp, t-shirt hanging out his back pocket...owning the moment. Christian Hosoi earns the #2 spot because he made me expect more out of myself on a skateboard.
Koston began his skating career in 1993 as a member of the H-Street team. At the time, no one knew that Koston would later become the person considered to be the best street skater of all time. Koston has been the most consistent and progressive skater in the industry for over a decade. There is what Koston does and then there is what others do in response to what Koston did. Eric Koston's part in Girl's "Yeah Right" video stands alone as a reason for my placing him at the #3 spot.
Somewhere around winter 1995, I was in a skateshop in Dayton, OH when I first witnessed the insanity that is Rodney Mullen. I walked in just in time to see the opening of Mullen's part in Plan B's video "Second Hand Smoke". As Mullen taped his fingers and the opening notes of Aerosmith's "Dream On" began to play, my awe for Rodney Mullen was born at that exact moment. Mullen is credited with inventing the ollie...so therefore, in the evolutionary terms, Rodney is considered the microbes that all other life forms sprang from. Rodney Mullen earns my #4 spot based on his unique style...oh, and helping to create nearly every trick in skating today.
One of the worst moments of my life involves Jeremy Wray. My friend Grant and I were on our way to see a Plan B demo in Dayton, OH when we were involved in an auto accident. By the time we finally arrived at our destination, the demo had just ended. There sat Jeremy Wray, drenched in sweat and looking right at us. I often wonder how insane his session was that day. Wray went really big and he did it with a style that no one had ever seen before. The board seemed to be a magnet and his feet were pure metal. I had never seen someone skate so fast and go so big as a result of it. Jeremy Wray earns my #5 spot, in part, because he was the first person I ever saw do a trick (that wasn't just an ollie) over a roof gap.
On the subject of going big in street skating, Jamie Thomas wrote the book. Thomas burst onto the scene around 1994. In an era where most skaters were so heavily involved in learning complicated flip tricks, Thomas came out and more or less said "what else you got?". Jamie Thomas was so willing to go big on some tricks that people began to question his sanity. Was this guy for real? The short answer: yes. Thomas has remained a buffer for the industry to stay grounded in pure street skating, no matter how technical it becomes. Jamie Thomas earns my #6 spot partly because he did a barefoot 50-50 down a handrail in order to get a shoe sponsor (though I doubt that was the only reason he wanted to do that).
Marc Johnson was the most underrated skater in the universe until about a year ago. Johnson will likely climb this list as the years of his progressive skating pile up. I was first introduced to Marc Johnson via Girl's "Yeah Right" video. I had never seen someone skate so perfectly clean. Marc's style is like a gathering of all the great street skaters that came before him. Marc Jacob's extra-large part in Lakai's 2007 video "Fully Flared" solidified him as one of the top three skaters in the industry today. I placed Marc Johnson at the #7 spot because he is a flat out amazing skater who has no flaws in my book (plus he picks really great songs for his video parts)
The picture kind of says it all. Again, I've never been into vert...but Danny Way makes one stand back and marvel at his feats. Danny is one of the late 80's products that is still around today because he has never stopped putting in the work. The result: pushing the limits of what is humanly possible with a skateboard and a ramp. Danny Way's humble beginnings in street skating have evolved to his attempts to leave the stratosphere via the DC mega-ramp/X-Games ramps. Danny Way gets the #8 spot for all of these reasons, plus...he jumped the goddamn Great Wall of China on a skateboard. Enough said.
9. Chad Muska
Chad Muska was one of the greatest pure street skaters I've ever seen. He went fast, big, slow, low, technical, simple...seemingly all at the same time. Muska is one of those guys who really never had to try, it was just easy to him. Maybe this is partly to blame for him ultimately growing bored with skating as a whole. Chad pushed the industry in a direction it so badly needed: the new era. Muska put together one of the best skate teams/skate video's I've ever seen: Shorty's "Fulfill the Dream". When he began referring to himself as "The Muska", I knew that his status as the new major talent in skating had gone completely to his head. The boombox present at every sesion, the faux-ghetto accent and the primary focus on the production of his "beats" all spelled the end of the short but sweet "Chad Muska era" of skateboarding. Chad Muska earns my #9 spot based on style points, raw talent...and as I said before, his part in "Fulfill the Dream" is a out-and-out showcase of unbelievable street skating.
Like Marc Johnson, I was introduced to Rick McCrank via Girl's video "Yeah Right". Anytime I watch McCrank I am reminded that A) he is amazing B) I could have never been as good as he is C) he completely shreds the streets...AND looks going do it. What more could you ask for? If Eric Koston is Coca-Cola, then Rick McCrank is RC Cola. There isn't much of a difference, yet there is a huge difference. McCrank continues to improve, which is hard to believe when you consider how great he really is. McCrank lands at #10 because he is a tremendous skater that is obviously still in love with what he does for a living.