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While there are many ways to ride a skateboard, from mere transport to extreme pursuits like mega ramp, a few are etched in skateboarding culture as popular formats. Skateboard New Zealand’s focus is to support and promote skateboarding that the people of Aotearoa, New Zealand and the world want to do. Our current funding model prioritises Olympic disciplines, in just so happens that they are also the favourite pastimes of most New Zealanders that skateboard.

Olympic disciplines

Currently, there are two Olympic skateboarding disciplines — Park and Street.


Street skateboarding is the most accessible way to start skateboarding. Its origins are linked to the inception of the activity or sport, where skateboarders used the landscape around them — be it the actual street, sidewalk or schoolyard — as their terrain.

In the late 80s and early 90s, street skateboarding rose in popularity. The use of the urban architecture of a city, such as plazas, stairs, handrails, banks and car parks, became a skateboarder’s landscape. 

As skatepark designers attempted to mimic this environment, the desire for creative and diverse settings meant skateboarders continued to leave their local skatepark to explore cities and find new things to skate. Even with the proliferation of skateparks, the actual “street” is where most street skaters still cut their teeth and shape their style and ability.

Olympic Street skateparks are based around common obstacles you would encounter in urban areas such as stair sets, banks, handrails, gaps, ledges and benches, etc. During competitions, skateboarders will follow the Olympic 2/5/4 format, where the skater performs two runs of 45 seconds each, followed by five single trick attempts. It is judged on a scale of 0-10. The top four scores from all seven attempts are added for a final overall score. 

Skateboarders will use features of the street park linking together grinds, slides and flip tricks, and tricks down ledges, stairs, and drops. Street skateboarding gets technical when tricks are combined, with multiple tricks merged into one fluid motion.


The Park discipline incorporates several different formats of transition-styled skateboarding such as vertical, bowl and backyard pool. As a result, the Park bowl is one large flowing area made up of transitional walls, hips, spines, banks and other riding surfaces. Additionally, there are often large ledge, bank or rail features on top of these parks for skateboarders to explore more difficult or creative manoeuvres. The park provides a space for skaters to generate momentum and flow, allowing them to perform a ‘run’ of multiple tricks without pushing. During competitions, skateboarders will have four 45 second runs in which they aim to use the whole area to showcase their style and ability with a mix of aerial and lip tricks. Skaters are judged on a scale of 0-100 for the entire run. The highest scoring of the four runs becomes their final score.

Other disciplines

Elissa Mah, Banks Peninsula. Photo by Ingmar Weinby


Downhill skateboarding has its origins in the 1970s surge of popularity in the activity or sport. It has developed as a discipline in its own right with a passionate following of speed seekers across the globe. Downhill skateboarders use specialist equipment such as longer boards, purpose-built trucks and larger, softer wheels to maintain stability, slide and turn while travelling down hills at very high speeds. Protective gear akin to that of a motorcycle racer’s is common attire.

Ben Wallis, Pauanui. Photo by David Read


Pool skateboarding originated in the Western United States in the 1970s when droughts resulted in backyard pools being left empty. The style of backyard pools with curved surfaces and edges was particularly enticing to the surfers and skateboarders of places like California. As a result, pool skateboarding took off and is still alive and well today. It directly informed the development of the first skateparks and other disciplines such as Vert and Bowl and Park more recently.

Josh Malthus, heelblock, Wanaka Skate Park. Photo by David Read.


Simply put, skatepark bowls are more accessible backyard pools. Bowls come in all shapes and sizes, big and small. They range from replications of backyard pools to more open and flowing bowls, similar to what you see in the Olympic Park format.

Chris Wood, backside Smith grind, Wanaka. Photo by Tom Peden


Vertical skateboarding traditionally takes place on purpose-built halfpipes with large radius transitions and 30 cms or more vertical at the top. Like the skating seen in Park and Bowl formats, skaters will do a series of aerial and lip tricks in one run. Due to the design of the halfpipes and their plywood or Skatelite surfaces, this skating format is a place where more height and trick innovation takes place, bringing elements of bowl and street skating together. New Zealand skateboarders have seen the most success in this format in the 1980s and early 1990s. Dave Crabb, Lee Ralph, Andrew Morrison and Gregor Rakine are a few who have become well known professionally, competitively and culturally.


Several adaptative skateboarders have been active in skateboarding over the last few decades, often competing alongside their peers in regular formats. The popularity of adaptive skateboarding has seen a surge in recent years, and there are global campaigns in place to have Adaptive skateboarding included in the 2028 Paralympics. Watch this space.

Since its inception, many forms of skateboarding have held a place in the hearts and minds of skateboarders. Disciplines such as Freestyle, Slalom and Skatercross are but a few of them. Skateboarders are creative and innovative, so we’ll never rule anything out.