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.”
Launched in 2009, the Skateboarding Hall of Fame awards ceremony honors women and men from each era — ’60s, early ’70s, late ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and now(-ish) — plus the icons, those behind-the-scenes players, cultural kingpins, and documenters who’ve helped grow the sport without getting sidetracked by too many visits to the ER. With his 2015 award, O’Mahoney joins photographers Glen E. Friedman and J. Grant Brittain, industry mogul Fausto Vitello, and artist Craig R. Stecyk III, who introduced O’Mahoney on awards night.
“I’ve been a D student my whole life,” O’Mahoney said in front of the crowd, holding his trophy high. “This is a fuckin’ A!”
The Skateboarding Hall of Fame & Museum is located at the Skatelab indoor skatepark in Simi Valley. See skateboardinghalloffame.org.