In the mid-1970s, teen skateboarder Jay J. Adams descended on an empty swimming pool in Southern California, with beers and board in hand. A drought had recently ripped across the state, forcing residents to drain their backyard swimming holes. For many, it was a disappointing summer. But not for a crew of misfit young skaters known as the Z-Boys. From their vantage point, those smooth concrete craters made perfect skate bowls—sanctuaries for a sport and subculture they were unwittingly pioneering.
As Adams and his team of now-legendary skaters moved across Venice Beach’s mobbed streets and abandoned backyards that decade, photographer and writer Craig Stecyk was there to capture their antics. In one iconic image, Adams pulls off a frontside 5-0 while simultaneously downing a beer mid-air. On the other side of the empty swimming pool-cum-skatepark, his buddy looks on, wearing massive sunglasses and Converse high tops.
Since the early ’70s, when skateboarding went from a kids’ diversion to a full-on way of life, photographers have documented its evolution. Below, we highlight nine artists who’ve chronicled the adventurousness, camaraderie, and exuberance of skateboarding.