Brand Highlight: Santa Cruz Skateboards

Skateboarding as we know it just wouldn’t be the same without Santa Cruz Skateboards.

As one of the longest-running skateboard companies in the world, Santa Cruz has lived through nearly every era of skateboarding and continues to innovate and thrive today. Ironically, the very beginning of the company was somewhat by chance, but it eventually played a part in the creation of several other iconic brands and even kept the skate industry alive at some points.

As a proud retailer of Santa Cruz Skateboards, Cruisin City presents a Brand Highlight that focuses on the history, art, and products that have made Santa Cruz Skateboards so great.

The Foundation of Skateboarding & Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Skateboards ultimately began with three friends: Richard Novak, Doug Haut, and Jay Shuirman. In the early 1970’s, the three of them had been operating a “raw materials” business in Santa Cruz, California that supplied the materials used to create surfboards.

Their company was founded under the name NHS, Inc (Novak, Haut, Shuirman). Following a particularly negative business interaction with an unpaying customer, they received what we could now consider a “historic” phone call from McCully’s Bike Shop in Hawaii. The shop requested that NHS create and produce an order of 500 skateboards. They accepted the order and it was in 1973 that Santa Cruz Skateboards (as well as the foundation of Road Rider Wheels and Independent Trucks) was officially born.

The very first Santa Cruz Skateboards are quite reminiscent of what we might consider nowadays as a “mini-cruiser”. The decks were small and even remotely resemble something like today’s Penny Skateboards but without the kicktail. They had very narrow trucks and large, soft wheels with loud “loose-ball” bearings. At the time, skateboarding was largely about downhill skating and racing as few “tricks” had yet to have been developed. However, it didn’t take long before skateboarding entered the era of skating backyard pools and bowls. Skateparks also began to appear across the United States.

With this, Santa Cruz catered to the mid-to-late 1970’s styles of skating by producing wider boards with features like kicktails and developing more advanced urethane wheels and precision bearings. At this point, the company also began working on their now iconic logo and developing more artistic deck graphics for their product.

All these developments have truly paved the way for how and why the modern skateboards of today look like they do. In the late 70’s, official bowl skating contests appeared, which also created the foundation for sponsored skaters, teams, and even professional skateboarding.

Difficult Times

While the 1970’s could be regarded as a successful period in Santa Cruz history, the skateboarding industry met it’s first real “downfall” in the early 1980’s. In addition to founder Jay Shuirman passing away due to Leukemia, the current skateboarding magazines went out of business, skateparks closed, and overall participation in skateboarding dropped.

However, Novak and Independent Trucks founders Eric Swenson and Fausto Vitello decided to start their own skateboarding magazine – Thrasher Skateboard Magazine. Not only did this magazine create a new “bible” for “true” skateboarders, one could argue that Thrasher actually helped to replenish the then dying skateboard industry as a whole.

Things started to turn around in 1984-85 and sales of Santa Cruz Skateboards rose once again.

Jim Phillips – An icon in Santa Cruz & Skateboarding History

In the mid-70’s, NHS began to employ a freelance artist by the name of Jim Phillips. Some of Jim’s earliest work includes creation of the Road Rider Wheels logo, the early “slanted” Santa Cruz logo, the Santa Cruz “Red Dot”, and the “cross” logo for Independent Trucks.

Practically all of these logos are historic or continue to play an integrate role in skateboarding, but it wasn’t until the mid-80’s that Jim created several pieces of graphic artwork that have truly gone down in skate history. Starting in 1984,

Jim created the “Rob Roskopp” deck series which was a best-seller through 1989. In 1985, Jim created the now unbelievably iconic “Screaming Hand” logo, which is still found in many Santa Cruz deck graphics today and has even been the focus of global art shows.

Before the early 90’s, Jim also created legendary decks like the Jason Jessee “Neptune & Sungod” decks, Jeff Grosso’s “Toybox”, and Jeff Kendall’s “Atomic Man”. All of which have become incredibly sought after and valuable classic skateboards.

For Santa Cruz in the 1980’s, Jim Phillips’ artwork played a massively important role in both the success of the Santa Cruz brand as well as the overall brand image that the company continues to portray today.

In the early 1990’s, skateboarding again went through a downward phase which challenged brands like Santa Cruz. Street skateboarding was developing and in the mid-90’s, the skateboarding industry as a whole began to bounce back with the introduction of events like the X-Games which brought skateboarding to a more “mainstream” market. However, this era also brought on many new competing skateboard brands which specifically catered to different types of skaters/skateboarding.

With their roots in the foundation of skateboarding and a background of “old-school” skating, Santa Cruz faced challenges in appealing to the changing market. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that skateboarding underwent a “renaissance” of sorts for classic deck models such as those with Jim Phillips artwork.

In addition, between 2000-2010, Santa Cruz began releasing more modern, “street-oriented” skate videos including Uprising, Guarte, Out There, and V-Day which helped greatly in keeping the brand relevant.

These videos featured a global team of skaters which increased the company’s presence in Europe and other regions outside the US. In more recent times, Santa Cruz released the Right to Exist video in 2016 and Til the End in 2018.

Santa Cruz Skateboards Today

Santa Cruz Skateboards offers a unique combination of legendary, old-school graphics and designs with the latest and greatest deck constructions and a team of top professional skaters. The company is still widely known for their original “Red Dot” logo and Jim Phillips’ “Screaming Hand”, which are both often used in modern SC deck graphics and male/female clothing styles.

They produce classic 7-ply maple decks. However, they are also known for their revolutionary deck constructions featuring their “Everslick” coating, “Powerply” construction with a reinforced nose/tail, and the latest “VX Deck” which competes with Powell-Peralta’s “Flight” construction.

What really sets Santa Cruz apart from the other skateboard brands of today is that they still offer many decks or cruiser skateboards like those that they produced in the past.

At Cruisin City, you can find complete Santa Cruz cruiser skateboards with many of the original Santa Cruz deck shapes and graphics. These completes truly offer a taste of skateboarding history. See the Santa Cruz shop at to see all of our SC products and gear!

Text by Skatetexter

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