Early skateboard innovator Larry Stevenson dies

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Larry Stevenson, a skateboard maker who helped take the sport from a gimmick aimed at children to a pursuit on par with surfing, has died in Southern California at age 81.

Stevenson's son Curt Stevenson says his father died Sunday at a hospital in Santa Monica after decades of suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Skateboarding historian Mike Brooke calls Stevenson "the godfather of skate culture."

He was a lifeguard in Venice Beach in 1959 when he first saw kids tooling around on mostly homemade boards.

He began promoting the sport with pictures and stories in Surf Guide, a magazine he started with a friend.

Stevenson then started designing and building his own boards. In 1963, he founded Makaha, the career-defining company that would help skating becoming a national phenomenon and professional sport.