Skateboarding and surfing will always be inextricably linked. But in the mid-1970s, the four-wheeled toy cut the birth-mother cord to go its own way. That’s when Long Beach–born James O’Mahoney — now the curator of the Santa Barbara Surfing Museum — made his mark as one of the sport’s earliest promoters, just as equipment breakthroughs and the choreography of balanced aggression grew by leaps and bounds. He organized record-setting events, published Skateboard magazine, and created a cutting-edge team of the best young men and women of the day, including the now-legendary Tom Sims and future world champ Edie Robertson, both with deep Santa Barbara roots.
For those savvy endeavors and others — which rarely unfolded without grand flashes of O’Mahoney’s own fearless confidence on a swiftly rolling board without brakes — the 70-year-old surfer/skater took the stage recently to receive the Icon Award from the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. “I didn’t realize the box that I was opening, but I tried to promote the sport in a professional and fair way,” he said during his acceptance speech. “It was new, we were innocent, and it was really a lot of fun.”
By Paul Wellman