Features Skateboarding

Skateboard Inventions: A tribute to Larry Stevenson

Written by Ralph Lloyd Davis


On 25th March 2012, Larry Stevenson aged 81 lost his battle against Parkinson’s disease and signed off on one of skateboarding’s most important chapters: the creation of the kicktail.

A passionate surfer, Larry was quick to seek similar sensations a skateboard could provide when the waves were calm. Bitten by the bug, Larry started his own skateboard company Makaha Skateboards in 1963 and went on to sell hundreds of thousands of boards to fellow thrill seekers.

Even though Larry and Makaha were not alone in mass producing top quality skateboards, his love of carving through the ocean pushed him to create a feature that everyone takes for granted today: the kicktail. Awarded the US patent in 1971 for the kicktail and double kicktail, Larry’s vision and design had revolutionised skateboarding forever. Without it we would all be barefoot gorilla-gripping in a world of pain.

As homage to Larry Stevenson and first Makaha kicktail, we compiled a few lists of skateboard inventions and ideas that have hit the mark, missed the mark and have yet to make a mark (or not). Skateboarding is all about progression. Whether it’s tricks or trucks, the diversity and creativity on display make for an ever-evolving culture that throws the rulebook out of the window in search of the next high.

What you read here may not be your choice and we could have listed many more, but we will leave that to you, so leave a comment below on what you would have picked and feel free to leave a tribute message in honour of one of skateboarding’s biggest legends.

Top 3 failed skate experiments:

1. Powell Boneite – Despite being backed by the Bones Brigade, this soggy board construction had everyone disappointed as it soaked up ever drop of moisture and consequently fell apart.

2. Acme Single Bearing wheels – In a bid to make boards lighter, Acme removed one bearing from each wheel and half the speed and stability we desperately needed in the early 90’s.

3. Tracker Floater Trucks – Another brainfart in the undercarriage department that sought to axle slippage and shredded threads. All it gave us was a head ache and bent metal.

Top 3 successful skate experiments:

1. Double tail construction – Following Larry Stevenson’s lead, it wasn’t for another 20 years that World Industries introduced the Mike Vallely double tail board that provided an essential breakthrough for skateboarding’s progression.

2. Mega-RampsDanny Way is a legend and a pioneer. When he unveiled the Mega Ramp with DC he took transition to a whole new level and set a standard that separates the men from the boys.

3. Santa Cruz Everslick – You will always need wax to slide a lengthy curb, but Santa Cruz introduced an extra layer to our boards that sent us slip-sliding much further than before. It might have faded out of the limelight over the years, but Santa Cruz are bringing it back with couple of famous re-issues and more contemporary models.

Top 3 ongoing skate experiments: 

1. Pay-per-view webclips – A recent interview with media mogul Steve Berra has rung the bell for online video content. The video cassette and DVD are gathering dust and it’s time to find an economically sound service that separates the wheat from the chafe.

2. Urethane formulas – It’s been a game of catch-up since Bones introduced their Street Tech Formula. Period.

3. Board construction – Helium, extra plies, deeper concave, Epoxy glues, Teflon fibres… The search for the strongest (yet economically sound) board design is raging.

Top 3 extinct skate experiments:

1. Bridgebolts – Production costs are probably what robbed the infamous bridge bolts of their future alongside the allen key and crossheaded screws an bolts that dominate the market today. Either that or the danger of being sued for damages when kids placed the bridge bolts upside down in an attempt to ollie higher and further…?

2. RipGrip – RipGrip disappeared with street grabs and thumb tape. Today we leave it up to our shoes to do the gripping.

3. Osiris D3s – Probably the most incompetent skate shoe design ever manufactured yet undeniably the most successful cashcow the footwear industry has ever known. Today, fans of the D3 can be found crushing food for the fetishists or at a rave somewhere.

Raise a glass this week to the legend and innovator that is Larry Stevenson. Our thoughts go out to his son Curtis, his family and friends. RIP.