Pioneer of the Year

George Powell

George Powell is the “Powell” in the legendary skateboard company Powell Peralta. From the humble beginnings of the company in his garage, Powell Peralta now has over 120 employees making thousands of skateboard wheels per day.

Powell didn’t intend to reinvent the skateboard wheel, although he’d been an avid skateboarder growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s. He studied engineering at Stanford before going to work for Hewlett-Packard as a Product Designer. But when his son, Abe, asked for a skateboard in 1974, Abe soon rejected it for the lack of a smooth ride. This piqued Powell’s interest about how the wheels on a skateboard could improve the experience, and soon he was making his own skateboards. Inspired by early polyurethane skate wheels, he purchased urethane to bake wheels in his home oven, and suddenly he was more excited about skateboarding than he’d been in years.  Eventually he used newer materials like aluminum and fiberglass to fabricate his own composite boards, thanks to requests by famous skaters for more flexible boards.

Powell moved from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to start his skateboard manufacturing business, intending to be the best in the business. In 1978 George joined forces with top skateboarder, Stacy Peralta, to form Powell Peralta.  Their first task was to gather young, unknown skaters into a new skateboard team they called The Bones Brigade, named for their industry leading Bones Wheels.  In the early 1980s, Powell Peralta created the first skateboard videos, which electrified and re-energized American skaters, with the exploits of The Bones Brigade, and exported California Skateboarding around the world.  Top members of The Bones Brigade: Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, and Rodney Mullen, enjoyed amazing careers and went on to became legends among the top skateboarders in the world.

Soon, Powell Peralta became as well known for their signature artwork, created by Santa Barbara artist Court Johnson, as the quality of the boards themselves, as they quickly realized that every skateboard was a blank canvas. These designs helped Powell Peralta become the most popular skateboarding company in the world, and are credited with some of the most iconic imagery in the industry’s history.

Today, Powell Peralta employees continue to conceive, design, market, manufacture, and sell their skateboards all under one roof in Goleta. Powell still looks forward to producing these legendary skateboards every day, and he’s happy to be doing it in a bigger, better garage with his friends.

He is a true pioneer in his industry and in our community. Please join me in offering George Powell the recognition he well deserves for his contributions to the South Coast business and technology community.