A Short History of Santa Cruz Skateboards

Santa Cruz Skateboards is the oldest continuously running skateboard company in skateboarding.

In 1973, surfer friends Richard Novak, Doug Haut, and Jay Shuirman founded the business, NHS, an acronym from their surname initials; Novak, Haut, and Sherman.

The fledgling brand struggled to stay in business, as margins were low manufacturing surfboards however, unexpectedly, a friend from a Hawaiian company ordered 500 skateboards and, as they had a surplus of fibreglass, and very few customers, they used the materials to fulfil the order and the first Santa Cruz Skateboard was produced in 1973. The skateboards sold fast and another 500 boards were ordered and Santa Cruz Skateboards was born.

Santa Cruz didn’t stop with skateboards and have been a key player in the innovation and development of skateboarding, one example were their Road Rider wheels. During the infancy of skateboarding, wheels were made of metal or clay, and mounted to the axle. These wheels were not very strong and would not last long, leading to the development of urethane wheels in the early 1970s. Santa Cruz recognised this was the future of skateboard wheels and developed their own urethane wheel, with one improvement, they had precision bearings, instead of the loose ball bearings that were currently being used. This changed the wheel market and by the end of 1975, they had sold over a million sets of wheels worldwide, and a further six million the year after that.

This injection of cash meant NHS could really invest in Santa Cruz and more innovative products followed, such as graphite-loaded slalom boards, one of the first five-ply boards and trucks. In the 1980s Santa Cruz was one of the first brands to introduce concaves in their board designs and the first upturned nose and in 1994, Santa Cruz developed NuWood, a plastic, injection-moulded deck that was virtually indestructible, a board that could be sent back to NHS to be recycled once the rider was finished with the board.

The list of Santa Cruz past and present pro skaters reads a who’s who of skateboarding and included Steve Olson, Duane Peters, Steve Alba, Rob Roskopp, Jeff Kendall, Micke Alba, Jason Jesse and Jeff Grosso. You should definately check out their historic videos, Streets on Fire, Wheels of Fire and Speed Freaks.

Santa Cruz was also one of the few skateboard brands that crossed into pop-culture, creating boards with Marvel, The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars to mention just a few of the amazing collaborations. These special boards were packaged as collectables in beautifully designed boxes and now fetch high prices on the collector market. Check them out online, they are awesome!

You can’t mention Santa Cruz without talking about Jim Phillips, the red dot logo and the screaming hand which have all become as iconic as the company itself. Designed by Jay Shuirman and Jim Phillips, the red dot logo was one of the very first Santa Cruz logos used to market the company which was quickly followed by the legendary Screaming Hand, again created by the equally legendary Jim Phillips.

Jim Phillips is one skateboardings (and surfing) most recognisable artists. He was responsible for creating some of the most memorable graphics and logos for decades and is known for the Independent Truck Company logo, Steve Olson Checkerboard, Grosso Toy Box, Roskopp Series 1-5, Jason Jesse Poseidon, Salba Tiger, Natas SMA Panther, Jim Theibaud Comic Book and many, many more!

His graphics are part of what made Santa Cruz the brand it is today and his involvement can not be understated. Jim was even inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame in 2017 to recognise his contribution to skateboarding. We could talk for hours about Jim Phillips, but we will save that for another blog post soon.

Some interesting facts about the founders:

Rich Novak with Rob Roskopp and Mike Marquez, also co-founded Santa Cruz Bicycles, a very successful mountain bike company which has won and continues to win world cup and championship races to this very day.

Doug Haut later sold his shares in Santa Cruz to start a surf company under his own name which also became so successful he was inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame.

Jay Shuirman passed away tragically from leukemia in 1979, and didn’t get to see the Santa Cruz flourished into what it is toady.

Richard Novak and the NHS crew were inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, winning the Icon Award in 2013.

Check out our Santa Cruz goodness here.