Before we get into this, let’s get on the same page. The original version of the trick was known as a boneless one, which Thrasher defined as “a front-footed, frontside footplant.” Specifically on transition and banks. We’ll get into other variations later, but that’s the original version of the trick.
Also, check out this definition of “vidiot” – “Any person who considers the playing of video games as actually something to do. Symptoms: swollen hands, square-shaped eyes.” It’s funny because Thrasher later made their own game, but a lot changed in those 16 years.
So who really invented the boneless? There’s really not all that much debate on it, so let’s just get to that right away. It seems to have been invented by Garry Scott Davis, known as GSD. Jeff Phillips used to claim that he invented it too, but there isn’t much evidence there. At best, he might have co-invented it independently, but it seems pretty safe to say that it was GSD. Here is his story:
“In December 1979, influenced by a trick I saw in Skateboarder Magazine called the footplant (done backside, planting the rear foot), I thought up a frontside version, planting the front foot. It all happened when Robert Hamrick, Mark Mounts, and I were messing around with our boards while sitting on the floor in Robert’s house. We considered this trick impossible and promptly forgot about it for the next few months.
Mark called me up in the spring of that year, breathless, announcing he’d just pulled “that trick” I had thought up. I rushed down to the D.O. banks in Cincinnati, only to find him popping Boneless Ones three feet off the Main Bank. Within a few minutes, I was doing that “impossible” trick, too. We were blown away at how much higher, and easier, we could boost than with a backside footplant. At first, the trick was given the literal-and not exactly catchy-“front-footed frontside footplant” moniker, which stuck for over a year until Robert renamed it “The Boneless One” after a puppet of his-Harry The Boneless One.”
Another account says that they were laying on the floor, riding up the side of the couch and using the cushions like coping and working stuff out that way.
OK, so he thought it up in December 79, and his friend Mark Mounts landed it first a couple of months later. There used to be something called ‘boneless day’ that some people were trying to get together. It doesn’t look like it really went anywhere, but they specifically pulled out December 1st as the exact day this happened. I don’t think there’s any proof of a specific day, and I don’t think it really matters anyway.
But what’s up with that name? He mentioned it was named that in 81 after Robert Hamrick’s puppet called Harry the Boneless One. He was boneless, and therefore needed your hand and bones to move around.
But what did the trick actually look like back then? This is something I’m not entirely sure of. A footplant could mean a lot of things… Either a boneless as we know it now where you use the footplant to launch into the air, or it could be a frontside air where you land on your foot and jump back in, or it could be a stall, then you jump out of it.
He mentions popping them 3 feet high on that first day, so it sounds like the way we think of them now, but take a look at this. This is from October ‘83. It’s a sequence of 2 backside bonelesses, done by Steve Caballero and Neil Blender. As you can see, they’re backside airs into a boneless plant, then a hop back in. Of course, that’s backside, which you can’t really get the same kind of pop out of. But it’s still interesting.
Later in that same issue, it mentions Hans Gothberg, and it says that “his ‘boneless’ ones are 4’ plus easily.” So my thought is that frontside ones are launched in the air like we’re used to today, and only backside ones are stalled out like that. But I just wanted to point out that possibility to be thorough.
OK, so it was GSD, but if you’re like me, you probably haven’t heard of him. If you weren’t there at the time, you probably wouldn’t have heard his name. I know I hadn’t.
Before turning pro, he ran the first ever documented skate Zine called ‘Skate Fate ‘Zine’. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because he ran the first no comply photo that we know about. It ran from 81 all the way until 91. It’s all handmade on a photocopier and he had interviews with a lot of the big names at the time. It had comics made by Neil Blender and all kinds of other content. He sells a ‘best-of’ book right now that compiles the best content from that era, and you can flip through it on the site.
GSD turned pro in 1985 – 5 years after inventing the trick that got street skating going. Think about that. Before him, you could ride around, do acid drops, caveman stuff, and early grabs on street. Maybe street plants and stalls on curbs. No complies hadn’t been invented yet – you can watch a video about that here – so the boneless one had a huge impact. And yet it took him 5 years to go pro. In fact, in an interview, he said he probably should have been pro UNTIL 85, because that’s when he became a washed up has-been. It’s funny, but the first pro contest I was able to find footage of has him in 9th place out of 10. He says his pro model with Tracker was the first ever true street board though, so that’s pretty cool.
He was pro until 89 and made a few other appearances on video before fading away. When asked about Ollies in modern skating, he said “I didn’t ollie early on, but I did get into ollies in the late 80s. I never did a handrail or anything, though. I could ollie up onto curbs and bus benches.”
He also added, “I was instantly made irrelevant by the Gonz and Natas and all those guys.”
Since then, he toured with a band for a while, then worked for Skateboarder magazine when it restarted, and then later worked with SoleTech.
A common question about boneless tricks is: what’s the difference between a boneless, a fastplant, and a beanplant?
This is confusing to some because some of the Tony Hawk games put them in, but they all work exactly like a boneless. They even had a ‘mike v boneless’ in there too, which was just a boneless 540.
All of these tricks are footplant variations. They can all be done as a way to get extra air, or as a stall. A lot of early footplants, like the one that inspired GSD, are when you pop the board into your hand out of the coping, stall on your back foot, then hop back in.
GSD changed it up with the boneless, which is front footed. That one works better on street because you have more time to jump before your foot gets too far away.
Beanplants are essentially the same thing, but grabbed on the heel side. Grabbing heel side on a frontside air was called a ‘Lien’ air, which is Neil Blender’s name backward. So, Lien + Boneless is Beanplant. These days, we don’t really make that distinction very much. You can grab mute or even nosegrab, and people just call all of that stuff bonelesses.
Fastplants are a bit different. You Ollie up into the air, grab the board, then plant your foot on something. It’s usually done with the back foot, so it’s an ollie footplant on an obstacle.
Aside from that, there are countless different boneless handflip variations you can do. I made a trick tip about it years ago that you can find on my channel here. I prefer to do boneless flips back to grab because it feels more legit to me, but there isn’t any rule there. There are also guys like Nicholas Carbone who are doing all kinds of different variations and flips. The sky’s the limit, really.
Just like no complies, boneless ones fell out of style around 1990. They’re getting popular again, but it hasn’t been quite the same comeback as no complies. It seems like a lot of people have a hangup against actually grabbing onto the board and pulling it up into the air. Plus, it’s really easy to do some seriously ugly boneless tricks. Because of that, the trick has gotten kind of a reputation as being cheap, or a fake trick. I don’t think that’s really the case though.