I have had the pleasure of knowing Ron (aka “Fatboy”) for over a decade and a half. At one time he ran a company called Longboards By Fatboy. Ron and I caught up at Surf Expo this past January. Just recently he told me about a new venture he had cooking. An email led to an hour long conversation about the industry and I thought “time for an interview!”
What do you have cooking Ron?
I’m currently working with a new longboard company called Jersey Boards. It’s a line of entry level price point longboards with real features that even a seasoned skater can appreciate. We have pintails, drop downs, drop throughs at a price that is competitive with mass market but with skate shop quality.
I worked very hard with the factory to make real boards, not just crap you pick out of a catalogue and slap a skull graphic on. The woods are good, they hold up to my fat butt – one of my requirements. The trucks turn, something 90% of the boards in this price range fail to do. I found a cool RKP design and we went back and forth DOZENS of times over the bushings. They kept fighting me that I was asking for too soft of a durometer, but I hate when I see people bailing when they should just be turning. And it’s especially important for girls and younger skaters who just don’t have the body mass to make most price point boards turn all that effectively. And for full figure folks such as myself, we can tighten the trucks.
And let’s not forget the wheels – big and soft, so they grip and roll over everything. That’s what new skaters want. They’re not pulling 50ft standies yet. Most of the time it’s transportation or getting the stoke of carving. I put a lot of sweat into these boards, I actually rode prototypes which most product managers at this level don’t/can’t do. You should see the faces on the factory reps when I’d grab a board and take off through the parking lot in a suit! I’m really proud of these boards, in fact I took a couple with me on a skate safari to Albuquerque. Jersey Boards have been ridden at Indian School!
Why do you believe it’s so difficult to convince buyers to see act upon new trends in skateboarding?
After all, you knew about longboarding many years before retailers finally picked up on the idea
The problem with most buyers is that they have someone to answer to above them, and those people like to play it safe. They tend to buy RE-actively instead of PRO-actively. They will wait till they are sure that something is more than just trending before they commit.
Mass market buyers tend to be 1-2 years behind what may pop up on our radar. The buyers go to the trade shows to see what’s hot so they are at least exposed to what they may be looking to carry next year. They are becoming much more savvy these days – they actually know who Tony Hawk is. Regular skateboard sales are very flat and have been for the past 3 or 4 years. But longboards are trending, especially cruising and DH/Freeride. I don’t know that they will overtake regular skateboards anytime soon, but they are no longer the buck toothed red headed stepchild of the skate world. This mostly applies to the mass market, but even in the skate shop world I’m starting to see at least a few longboards in shops these days whereas a few years ago I would be laughed out of most skate shops by even mentioning the “L” word.
What are some of the other challenges facing cultivating new ideas within action sports?
Well I think with current media and the instantaneousness of life, people have kinda seen it all and are a little numb to traditional action sports – unless it’s a crazy extreme example. Oh, a backflip on a BMX bike….borrrrring. Back to back face high McTwists…………gee, what’s on Velocity? I see it on Facebook, friends that don’t do action sports only send me something when it’s waaaay over the top – like Roger Hickey breaking 100mph or some triple backflip on a motorcycle. Because they’ve seen the other stuff already and they’re no longer impressed. I mean, did you ever think a 900 would illicit yawns in our lifetime?
We’ve witnessed SO many cutting edge action sports milestones, and yet they keep coming, that envelope gets pushed and pushed. Whew! I’m so glad I’m not 15 – I’m scared to death of a 10 step! I just about wet my pants when I looked down the drop in on the Mega Ramp at Camp Woodward – I don’t have the stones for that kind of commitment. And yet there’s little kids tearing them up.
I watched a documentary on freestyle motocross and it’s the same there – these guys are crippling themselves to be competitive. I work with a bunch of guys who race DH Mt bikes, their GoPro footage makes me lightheaded. Hey, I’ve ridden bikes down ski slopes for years, but the trails and drops these guys hit on the race circuit are insane. I’d be afraid to walk down some of them. And one of them does Urban DH which is racing down city streets – down rickety staircases, ramps that launch them 20 feet up a wall where they bounce off and continue down the course, huge gaps. They even race in shopping malls – down the escalators, over jumps that throw them 30 feet up, and they do backflips.
If you ran the skateboard world, what would you do?
Gee, THAT’S a loaded question! Well there’s always that conundrum – do you wanna make skateboarding popular and more mainstream and get everyone involved? Or do you wanna keep it underground and just play skateboards with the fun people? Obviously the former makes more sense financially – more skaters keeps me in hookers and blow. The latter makes me nostalgic and all warm and fuzzy, back when you cheered each other on to get better. The real essence of skateboarding, in my opinion.
Then there’s the whole rivalry thing between the various disciplines under the skateboard header. Can’t we all just get along? Meh, it doesn’t work in real life, why would it work in the skate world? And as skating gets bigger, that divide will just get worse. Remember when you were a kid and the neighborhood kids would play whiffle ball or whatever? It was just for fun. Sure there was smack talking, but it was good natured and you would genuinely be happy for that kid that finally got a hit or made a good catch. Then you started playing Little League and fun wasn’t good enough.
The first mountain bike race I ever did was in the 80’s. It was a couple dozen people and the prizes were tires or gloves or whatever. I remember one guy got a flat and like 3 of us stopped in the middle of the race to help him fix it. Then we kinda staggered our restart afterwards to “make it fair”. These days there is doping in races at the amateur level.
If I could wave a magic wand, I’d make all skaters understand this silly progression and division crap and learn from it and instead go back to that stoke, that first time you landed a trick or went faster than you thought you could or even just went down the street and didn’t fall. That feeling and how cool it was. Now impart that upon all skaters regardless of discipline. Instead of hating, accept and support each other.
We’re skaters dammit, not everyone can say that. 90% of the world can’t push a board down the street and glide without ending up in the ER. It’s a pretty cool brother/sisterhood and we should treat it as such. I’ve met some amazing people through skateboarding, many became very close friends, and that is because we all have that fire inside and we all saw it in each other.