Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Skateboard Industry Needs To Change

"By skateboarders, for skateboarders." Sound familiar? This seems to have been the motto of all the "core" skateboard companies in the industry for year. "Don't buy from those guys, they are run by suits, they don't care about skateboarding. We are better because we are skateboarders." These claims are nonsense, yet rebellious youth looking to skateboarding for a members-only social club continue to buy into it. Actually, I shouldn't be so generous with the older crowd, the 20, 30, 40+ somethings are also guilty of falling for this illogical propaganda the skateboard industry has spewed for decades too. Let's have a look into what makes up the industry and determine how the "core" companies rank up:
  • Many of these companies tout the fact they were started by and run by former professional skateboarders. That is all well and good until you consider the tiny minority of pro skaters who have gone to college or even graduated high school.
  • Progress is taboo. While innovation on a skateboard is encouraged, innovation in business practices, technology, and marketing is passed off as fads and selling out, while the status quo is held in high regard. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
  • The industry likes to stay within the industry with very few tie ins with outside companies, events, and people. It is very incestuous, in other words.

Now if we look at other industries that are doing much better, such as the basketball market, it is obvious what skateboarding is doing wrong. The NBA may hire a few former pro basketball players, but they hire them for announcer and commentator gigs, not to run the business units. They hire people that were educated and have experience in those respective fields. The NBA and the respective teams pull in a lot of money. You know why? It's because they get people excited about the sport and grow the audience for it. Skateboarding may be at 11 million participants now, but that is no thanks to the industry. That can be attributed to pop culture and ESPN. I didn't see Lupe Fiasco or Pharrell throwing out skate product that the industry gave them at their concerts. The industry, on the contrary, shunned them for being "posers" (excuse the middle school terminology).

I have met countless skateboarders that get upset when they see a non-skateboarder wearing skateboarding brands. I have been explaining for years to these people that the more people that buy from the industry, the more it can grow, the more pro skaters there can be, and the more progress can come out of it. Since when did you see a basketball player getting mad at some kid that didn't play basketball for wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey or some Jordans? Again, this is the fault of the leaders in skateboarding, those in the industry influencing these kids because they are scared about losing control.

There may be some companies that are more open and trying to make a change, and there are some that are trying to use new media, but these are unqualified skateboarders with no business doing it. Don't get me wrong, it would be great to have skateboarders working in these role, but there are plenty of skateboarders who have worked in much more progressive industries and have gone to college that are much more qualified than washed up ex-pro skaters that should be in there. With the recent growth of the industry and the relatively stability it has, skateboarding has a lot of potential...but there needs to be a change. Something has to give. But with the next generation having learned from the previous, it seems like that may not happen for a long time.


S Ouk said...

I totally agree! WOW! Wake call anyone

Karoumy said...

I agree.

What surprises me is the shitty websites these companies have. Can't they hire people who know what they're doing? It's not like good programmers are expensive or hard to find.

elastic back said...

Exactly, there are so many ways to use the digital space effectively, but most are clueless. The Berrics are the best of the bunch, but that isn't saying much...they have a lot of work to do to be on par with a real content site. The potential is there, but the know-how is not.

Anonymous said...

you clearly dont skateboard.

Anonymous said...

enemiez !!!!
who ever wrote this is a bro we don't want a bunch of people who don't skate profiting from "us"
you think its a fad you can make some money off of
first of all the progression and explosion of skateboarding sucks now there are "skate moms"
jocks trying to skate cause its "cool"
and the eccentric individuals that make skateboarding what it is are being shit on by major companies and money hungry republicans who jump on anyway to make some cash to feed there fat gut. f@ck face

Jenna Hannon said...

I think skateboarding and business can go hand in hand. If you love skateboarding and you want to make it your life you might as well make it a business. Tod Swank and Jamie Thomas are two examples of pros turn business men that run the vast majority of the industry— we aren't calling them suits or capitalists. So George Powell doesn't skate; big fucking deal. He is an engineer with passion for the sport who made a great product that made sure the rest of us could. The ones who are angry and bitter about this are the ones too snobby to realize that sharing the stoke and making a business based on your love of a sport is how you make it your life.