With some sports, the way that athletes are paid is relatively simple. The organization that hires them gives them a contract. For example, a rookie in the NFL may sign a contract to play for a certain club for four years and be paid $5 million as a result. They know that they will get $1.25 million per year, on average.
But action sports – skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, etc – tend to be very different. For one thing, the number of skateboarders making millions of dollars is far smaller. Plus, skateboarders are not joining a team in the same way that an NFL player may be joining the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers. An organization isn’t going to agree to hire them, essentially as an employee. So how do they make a living?
Various revenue streams
Action sports can be more complicated partially because many skateboarders have numerous different revenue streams. This starts with sponsorships. Major brands will essentially sponsor athletes to use their products – they may call this being on a “team” – seeing it as a type of advertising. For skateboarders, this could include companies that make decks, wheels or even skate shoes, just to name a few examples.
On the bottom end, sponsors will sometimes just provide their products for free. But there are some skateboarders who are prolific enough that they actually get a financial form of sponsorship as well. As long as they use those products, they may be paid a certain amount of money per year or per month, and they may sign a contract to confirm this arrangement.
Talent certainly makes a major difference as well, in that some skateboarders will win competitions with cash prizes. For instance, there are those who have made up to $100,000 for winning competitions during the X Games. This is much different than the long-term stability of a contract, but it can be a significant influx of cash.
This certainly does not apply to all skateboarders, but it has to be mentioned because it has been so prolific in the sport. Video games have created an incredible amount of interest in skateboarding, and riders who have their likeness in a game may be provided with compensation based on sales.
These are just a few examples, but they do show how complicated the process of getting compensated properly can be. It’s important for all action sports athletes to understand exactly what legal steps to take to safeguard their interests.