Rise with the Fallen: An Autopsy April 11 2016

I don’t hate Nike, they just didn’t sponsor or do anything with skateboarding for the first decade or two I was in skateboarding. They didn’t run ads in mags, they didn’t make videos, they didn’t do a single thing in skateboarding. And it was good that way. I don’t know who Phil Knight is nor any board members, and I don’t really care. He/they might be a nice people. My mom is nice too, but she doesn’t understand skateboarding at all.

I skated with Jaime Thomas a few times in Pennsylvania during a Jump Off a Building filming trip in 1996 or 97. Bam, Mike Maldonado and Kerry Getz were there too. I recently read Chromeball’s interview with Alien Workshop’s co-founder Chris Carter where he talked about Kerry’s move from Toy Machine to Habitat, making sure it was known he never intended to steal a rider from Ed Templeton. And I believe in most cases that ethic or etiquette exists because we are all peers, we all know each other and we all want to see skateboarding as positive and healthy.

You can call me a hypocrite because I am a huge fan of Rocco’s early years. But who was Rocco stealing from mostly? The big boys, the establishment*. More importantly those team changes occurred when pros left companies (alone or in mass exodus) to START THEIR OWN BRANDS! To pursue shared goals with your skateboarding peers to contribute something DIFFERENT in skateboarding.  The irony is that Rocco WAS “skater owned”. But the karma quickly came back on him when those same riders he stole defected to start Girl. Circle of life… at least in retrospect.

In this case it was that Fallen did not adapt. But how could they? You can’t just go from punk skinny jeans (and the associated image) to fresh-ass neon tiger print boat shoes. Change is probably inevitable in all industries but in skateboarding it’s constant.

There are guys out there wanting to change skateboarding, be the “skate announcer” at the Olympics, starting “skateboard talent agencies” who gain from mega-corporate involvement by taking cuts from the salaries of sellouts and measly crumbs from beneath the CEO’s floor. However, I think skateboarding as a whole thrives when we are our own culture, separate and free to evolve as necessary. If it’s okay to buy your skate shoes from sporting goods companies, what makes skate shops and skate brands necessary for the rest of your skateboarding needs? Without small brands with the agility to take sharp turns when needed, we will stay on the same boring course and kids will lose interest. A footwear rep said to me last week, “I have a 9-year-old son and he hates skateboarding, and I don’t blame him.”

Skateboarding is unique in that the “teams” are not local. In skateboarding most kids don’t have a “home team”, they just absorb the influences and cheer with their dollars. That influence is all available to purchase, there is only one $30 billion company and they can buy it all. There’s no salary cap to level the field, no Larry Bird rights to retain return on investment. And please don’t give me that “oh but they’re better quality” excuse. If Rocco could take over hardgoods it sure as fuck wasn’t because he made a more durable skateboard! It’s because he made it cooler than other brands. It’s because he presented a view of skateboarding that the next generation (pro’s included) NEEDED to be a part of.

If Consolidated can make BS drunks, you can start a shoe company. Just fucking do it, right? Even Nike started SB with unwanted and homeless pro’s. There has to be a VC firm out there that just can waste some money for a while. There was no “skater-owned footwear” when I started and I’m pretty sure there won’t be any left when I’m finished.


* We won’t wander off into the whole Big Brother exchange between Rocco and Swank over Richard Mulder but I mention it only so that it is acknowledged.