The IndustryWords, Photos, and Captions by Will Campbell
When you think of the people that own and run the companies in our industry, what picture comes to mind? The SoCal “dude-bro,” all surfer-ed out, riding his longbard to work, and ripping the mini-ramp in his backyard? Or is it the drunk skater that doesn't do anything but party, puke, and skate (and get paid for it)? Or possibly some guy that just got lucky and was friends with the right people who hooked him up? Is it the extreme sports jock, or is it the dreaded “old white man in a business suit?” Well, to tell you the truth, the answer is all of the above. Let me explain.
You see, I was thinking about this a little last week when I was out at sales meetings in Vista, California. Each person that is a part of a strong, profitable company has a little bit of each person listed above inside them. At our core we are all skateboarders, but when you make skate business your job, you have to look at it with more than one point of view.
Surfing created skateboarding, and with the soul that one finds in the early history of surfing (the art, appreciation of culture, and self expression), one has to have a respect for it. There’s a little bit of that original surfer in skateboarding.
Networking is a huge part of the skateboarding business. Making and keeping contacts is vital, as well as is starting new friendships. Some of the biggest companies were started drunk at a bar with a couple of good friends and a few pints.
The extreme part is the hardest thing for me to deal with because, lets face it, when you're at the park and you see the kid that bought all of his stuff at the mall, wearing motocross and rollerblading gear (oh yeah, you know he broke out his Linkin Park band tee to show off to all his friends), you wince a little and say to yourself, “He just doesn't get it.” But usually this is the kid that is just starting to get in the game, and eventually he will learn. You have to look at him like the older guys looked at us when we first got into skating. None of us completely understood what skating was when we first saw it, so you have to see the potential in every goofy little kid.
Then we have the side of us that is our dark side, the side we hate, which is the “businessman,” the “suit,” and the “numbers guy” side. The side that is a necessity, but we all don't like to admit it. This is the side that we can't ignore, or our employers would go out of business quicker than you can kickflip through a pair of skate shoes. Someone has to make sure the company is making money in order for it to keep making the product that we all know, wear, or skate.
Maybe I'm over thinking this. Maybe it's a bit simpler. Maybe if you want a job in the industry you can just start your own company. But I get the feeling that eventually you'll start to see what I see. And the next time you hear that “so-and-so company” has just hired some guy from some evil corporation, remember that more of us are just like you and we won't let the dark side of THE SUIT ruin everything.
Now just to prove my point, here are some nicely dressed industry-heads getting crunk at the DC Shoes Christmas Party.