Board boom: Reno-Carson skate shops riding a revenue wave

Ryan Lyall, of Reno, catches air while skateboarding at the Las Brisas Park skate park in North-west Reno on Wednesday, May 12.

Ryan Lyall, of Reno, catches air while skateboarding at the Las Brisas Park skate park in North-west Reno on Wednesday, May 12. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW

Ryan Lyall hits a ramp and floats over a handrail, tapping the tail of his skateboard on the metal bar before sticking the landing.

It’s a sun-splashed Wednesday afternoon and Lyall, 45, is breaking in his new skateboard at the Las Brisas Park skate park in Northwest Reno.

“I just bought this board today,” Lyall says with a smile. “This is the first board I’ve bought in probably 20 years.”

Lyall is not alone.

While the pandemic was quick to silence cities during lockdowns last spring, it propelled the snaps and rattles of skateboarding to grow louder across the country.

In fact, sales of skateboarding equipment in the U.S. had increased 118% by last June alone, compared with a year earlier, according to Action Watch, a research firm for the skate and surf industries. By the end of 2020, skateboard sales had jumped 75% compared with 2019, ActionWatch found.

Lyall, who bought his board last week from Tahoe Dave’s in Tahoe City, said he’s noticed an increase in skateboarders of all ages rolling around neighborhoods and skate parks in Reno-Sparks.

“Who knows how much of that is because of the pandemic and people being bored and needing something to do versus the fact that skateboarding comes and goes in waves,” Lyall said with a shrug.


Whatever the reason, skate shops in the region are riding that wave on an upward trajectory.

Eric Lantto, owner of Classic Skate Shop in Reno, said business has been booming since he was able to reopen to the public last June.

“Business was so incredibly good for us that I considered opening a second location or expanding my shop,” said Lantto, who declined to reveal how his revenue in 2020 compared to 2019. “I didn’t do either just because I’ve been in this game for a long time and I know trends come, so we just rode the wave. But it was incredible. All of last year, after we were allowed to reopen, was absolutely a huge success.”

Eric Lantto, owner of Classic Skate Shop in Reno, said 2020 was a “banner year” for his business as skateboarding boomed during the pandemic. Courtesy photo


Lantto credits the surge in skateboarding’s popularity to a couple factors: The pandemic led people to rediscover the outdoors. Meanwhile, with schools closed, cooped-up kids — perhaps with their parents’ encouragement — were finding new ways to spend time outside and burn pent-up energy.

The boom wasn’t limited to kids, either: Many who had drifted away from skating dusted off an old board or, like Lyall, bought a brand new one.

“People were stuck at home just trying to do anything,” Lantto said. “We sold an incredible amount of skateboard products, shoes, everything. It was a banner year.”


Milton Bradshaw, owner of Sierra Nevada Skateboards in Sparks, said girls are also helping usher in skateboarding’s revival. He said there are more female skateboarders now than he’s seen since he started skateboarding in the ’80s.

“Skateboarding has opened up 50% of the market because females now participate at almost an equal level,” Bradshaw said. “And so, that has increased the market without any outside influence. It was organic — girls just started skateboarding.”

Like Lantto, Bradshaw said he’s seeing a wider variety of customers in his shop. One trend he’s noticed lately is an increase in experienced skateboarders from California who’ve relocated to Reno-Sparks.

“We benefit because there’s people who are from California who are already acclimatized to skateboarding and they know what it is and what to expect,” said Bradshaw, who’s originally from Santa Cruz. “My shop is kind of a mirror of what the shops were like when I was a kid in California.”

Reno resident Ryan Lyall, 45, hits a ramp at the Las Brisas Park skate park. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW


Bradshaw opened his shop in February 2019 before moving into his current Sparks storefront in January 2020.

Being in a new location, Bradshaw said business was slow going leading into the pandemic. It wasn’t long, though, before foot traffic steadily grew as skateboarding interest soared. Now, his top priority is keeping his shelves stocked while business is strong.

“It is definitely booming,” he said. “My number one concern is, can I keep enough stuff for the people who are going to come in? Right now, I’m as ready as I can be.”


Over in Carson City, The Wheelhouse also benefited from the rejuvenated demand for skateboards, said general manager Teak Dopf, noting the shop also sells bikes and scooters.

“The parents have expressed a big interest in not only riding with their kids and experiencing the outside, but maybe showing them some of the old-school ways,” Dopf said. “So, they’ve been picking up new skateboards and getting out on the bikes with them. I think people want to get out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the area that we live in, and they’re seeing more and more that skateboarding is a good way to engage with the environment and their kids in a positive way.”

Dopf said The Wheelhouse even hosts training sessions for younger riders, teaching them the “basics of balance and crash techniques.”

Ryan Lyall, of Reno, bought his first new skateboard in 20 years last week from Tahoe Dave’s in Tahoe City. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW


“That’s so when they do get out onto the skate park and are kind of stepping up their level, they can do it a little bit safer,” Dopf said.

When asked, Dopf did not have sales figures available. He said The Wheelhouse, which opened its original Carson City shop in 2014, moved into a new location in the winter of 2019 and was working on growing business in its new spot. Moreover, he said supply chain issues have made the availability of many products “tricky.”

“We’ve done a lot to try to get pre-orders going,” Dopf added.


With more and more people spending money on travel, dining out and entertainment, the skateboard shops that spoke with the NNBW are eager to see what their sales will look like this summer.

“This summer is going to be a big test for every industry out there,” Bradshaw said. “I’ll use this analogy: If I was skateboarding, I would be in the air right now, waiting to land, waiting to see if I made it or not.”

Lantto said foot traffic dipped slightly when kids returned to school and working adults returned to offices, but weekends remain “extremely busy.”

Many walking through his doors, he said, are kids hunting for their first skateboard. Lantto said he makes sure each first-timer finds the board that calls to them. After all, he still remembers the first skateboard he picked out as a kid more than 35 years ago.

“It was a Santa Cruz board with independent trucks, and, of course, it had every single one of the plastic guards,” Lantto said. “It was so special to me — to this day. It absolutely changed my life.

“I take that feeling and express that to my customers, especially if they’re first-timers.”


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