Skateboarders are cool. I have seen a bunch of videos of skateboarders doing tricks online. And I don’t think I could ever do those tricks even if I practiced hard enough. I am always amazed wherever I see them ride their skateboards down a flight of stairs or even while riding down a halfpipe and doing tricks mid-air. There are so many ways for skateboarders to injure themselves but it is jaw-dropping when they manage to do the tricks unscathed.
Aside from the people who ride on the skateboards, the people who make the skateboards are the reason why there are people who ride them in the first place. Who would think that a small curved board with four wheels can be used to do gravity-defying stunts like that? Sometimes, people who have some experience with using a skateboard would understand what other people might look for in a skateboard. Having experience as a consumer can surely help shape what a product could be like. Knowing exactly how people use a product informs the decisions they make when updating it to fit that use case.
George Powell grew up at a time when skateboards were starting to become a thing. Skateboards started because a bunch of surfers wanted to find something to do whenever waves were flat by the beach. You can’t always have perfect waves every time you go to the beach. Somebody had an idea to fix the wheels you’d normally see on a pair of roller skates onto a wooden board. Thus, sidewalk surfing became a thing. It wasn’t until later on that they started to sell skateboards that you could attach yourselves.
In 1957, George basically had those do it yourself kind of boards that he would use. Eight years later, he had a board made out of a sturdier wood and with clay wheels. Eventually, George went on to study engineering at Stanford University. He would still hop on a board every now and then. As time went on, George put his boards into storage. He found a job, got married and had kids.
It wasn’t until nine years later that he would dust off his old boards from storage. At this point, George was working at an aerospace company. His son asked him for a skateboard. And George remembers that he had one in his garage. He gave it to his son and let him go his way. The day after, his son kind of complained because his skateboard didn’t look like any of the skateboards his friends had. Apparently, he really wanted the same yellow wheels his friends had. The wheels on skateboards at that time now used urethane instead of clay. Clay breaks down quicker than urethane did.
So George bought a bunch of materials needed to test out a bunch of prototypes. He tried to find the right materials for the board. That’s sort of the coming together of his skateboarding experience and his engineering degree. He even made his own wheels using premixed urethane. He did a lot of prototypes for it.
Then one day, while testing out one of the boards, he got to meet with legendary skateboard Tom Sims. Tom had apparently been doing a commercial shoot nearby. He told his wife that he met up with him earlier then she mentioned that her parents lived near where Tom lived. That lead him to contacting Tom to see if he had any interest to test out one of his prototypes.
Tom did test out his prototypes but he wasn’t that into them. Still, he was looking for a slalom board that had used a different material other than Fibreflex. That basically lead to where George’s career is now. Through multiple tries, he managed to find the perfect combination of fiberglass and aluminum for the boards. One of the first people to test out those new boards was Stacy Peralta. Having been impressed by it, Stacy bought one on the spot.
Even though was doing all of this, he was still working at the aerospace company. He was deciding to whether or not he should quit his old job and pursue this manufacturing career fulltime. In a strange twist of fate, the company laid him off with a severance package worth four months salary. He and Tom Sims got into an agreement to sell the Quicksilver ProSlalom deck. That deck sold very well. So much so that he was able to make another deck, the Quicktail.
It was in 1978 that Stacy Peralta joined up with George to start their own company called Powell Peralta. The main reasoning for it is that Stacy was directly involved with the company. If he wanted to try out a new design or use other materials, George was there every step of the way. Stacy managed the marketing and sales of the skateboards that they made. Until now, Powell Peralta boards are still really popular among boarders. At this point, George Powell has amassed a net worth of $20,000,000.
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