IASC Update – Sex, Success, and Skateboarding

At times alliteration in journalism is considered taboo, but sex-the very mention of which is often considered taboo-usually succeeds where others fail, thus, the success of sex and skateboarding. We’re into success. Since I’ve always approached skateboarding as a sexual activity-it’s physical, it’s literal, and it’s exhausting-and since success is so circumspect, in today’s world and economy, I figure we should address what’s important: sex, success, and skateboarding.

Sex, perhaps unlike skateboarding, continues to be enormously successful in today’s marketplace. Is there anything or anywhere not affected by appeals to or suggestions of sex in today’s culture? Successful sex, however, seems to be in short supply, otherwise why would so many rely upon the suggestion of successful sex for their marketing or product successes?

Sex has even proven successful in skateboarding. Historically, in the skate market, when in doubt, those designing ads and graphics have always been able to resort to sexual images for success. I know this is true because a decade ago, when I was working for Powell Peralta, I asked Bucky Lasek what he wanted in his ad, his response was immediate: “I want that Victoria’s Secret chick (Stephanie Seymour) in my ad!”

Despite the seemingly fleeting status of skateboarding today, everyone seemed to enjoy the amazing success of the past few years, right? Was that success? But are there cycles of success?

I remember the first cycle, when skateboarding went in the tank in 1958. Total sales in the worldwide skateboard market reached $38.73. Roller Derby sold six steel-wheeled boards. They may have even considered replacing the red board design with an image of Marilyn Monroe, but more than likely no one thought that would be appropriate for a product sold in hardware stores. Had they created it then, it would be a hot collector’s item today, wouldn’t it?

Of course, the sales slump of ’58 didn’t affect my skateboarding directly, because I never bought a red Roller Derby board-we made our own boards in the 50s. I remember La Jolla Hardware stopped selling those red Roller Derbies. They had two, sold them, and never reordered. That was the beginning of skateboarding’s first sales slump.

Then again, I never did buy a Makaha clay-wheeled surf-skate board, either. Makaha was involved in the next cycle of skateboard-market slumps. Larry Stevenson, Hobie Alter, Mark Richards-the then-giants of the industry, all of them-were victimized by skateboarding’s second “collapse.” There they were, churning out product. Solid decks and clay wheels-good products. Sexless products, too, except, of course, until Michael Murphy’s movie Skater Dater was released and considered for an Academy Award-sex has been part of skateboarding ever since.Murphy’s sweet little film was steeped in pubescent energy. Everyone thought the film was cute, and it was, but the underlying theme had everything to do with the potential of losing innocence and rolling into the wonderful world of … sex? Of success? No-the wonderful world of skateboarding!

Despite the successes of skateboard sales in the early and mid 60s, there was eventually a huge cyclical sales slump-skateboarding nearly went the way of Frisbees and hula hoops. It was a fad. Like sex, like success, skateboarding was fleeting. It fleeted.

The 70s had urethane and private skateparks. The 80s closed private skateparks, creating street-skating punks, and videos. In the 90s-a mere ten years ago-Brian Schaefer walked the ASR show pleading support for a contest he wanted to have at his ramp in Tampa. Here’s the list of events taking place in skateboarding in 1993.

No. 1: _______.

No. 2: _______.

That’s it. There wasn’t anything happening. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one. Don and Danielle Bostick struggled to keep competitions alive (thanks, guys). They survived and kept skateboarding alive in the process.

There’s a whole slate of candidates now claiming they’ll fix the economy, if given the chance to move into the White House. An argument could be made within the skateboarding community to launch a voter-registration program. Does it make a difference to skateboarding? Evidently, yes. Let’s skate out the vote!

Is there anywhere in the bigger marketplace not affected by today’s economy? Yes. Weapons sales. They’re up. Up more than 1,000 percent over the past three years. The Pentagon’s budget has risen to more than 500-billion dollars (Our children and their children will be paying that tab!). There’s no slump in that market. Them military boys are happy. Oil guys, too. Big media companies, too. Why is that? Political decisions reached by elected officials. Skate out the vote.

But a shiver of uncertainty extends nationwide as the economy continues its struggle. Who and what isn’t affected? Skateboarding is. Operas are. Ticket sales for tenor Placido Domingo are slipping. For the first time in his career he’s facing audiences that aren’t SRO. Fishing-tackle sales are slipping, too. More than 200,000 Californians with jobs within the computer industry have been forced to look for other work. That makes for stressful sex, doesn’t it? And tax revenue, which is used to build skateparks, is poor as well. It’s all connected.

The Business Information Network estimates that advertising spending, regardless of whether or not it includes sexual explicitness (or skateboarding), has dropped 26 percent since last year-which is on top of a drop of 24 percent from 2001. Closer to our home, Watson Laminates Owner Charles Watson laid off 75 percent of his workforce, and Dwindle’s Frank Messmann was quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, claiming, “Within the next twelve to 36 months all skateboards will be made down south (Mexico) or overseas (China).” Is there hope? Is there a future for skateboarding. Is this whole thing over?

How can it be? Success in skateboarding recently reached levels even hardened skeptics had to admire. Forty-percent growth each year, for two years, three years, four years … few were prepared for this exponential rise, but several enjoyed the ride. Some even took advantage. Some sold, many stayed, and others seem to accept that success, like sex, often depends upon a long-term commitment.

Skateboarding’s future success is right around the corner. Several people already know this. They’re preparing, even now, for the next cycle. What do they know? They know, that like successful sex, the ingredients are simple. Our world has become complicated. For instance, a generation ago there were three major sports and each dominated a season-a time of the year. Now, turn to the sports page (where there are usually very suggestive ads) and there are three or four major sports each day. In fact, the trading of players is now as “seasonal” as actual competition. Drafts have become as eventful as “games.” Every sport seems to be happening every day. It’s complicated.

Now, today, for this generation and the next, there are new constants-new standards that didn’t exist before, and one of them is skateboarding. It’s everywhere. Like the other sports, right? ESPN, EXPN.com, 54321, FOX, NBC, PlayStation-where isn’t skateboarding? Seventeen-hundred public skateparks, and more and more on the books. Why are we in this cycle? Is it stupid to say it’s the economy? Or is it a cycle that was inevitable? Do we sit back and wait, or are there skate companies that know something? Are there skate companies today positioning themselves for a future that isn’t moving south or overseas for manufacturing but for sales?

What companies could those be? Could there be an association of companies preparing for the future? Preparing for a better future? Indeed. Success in skateboarding has much to do with planning and organization, which is the current event at IASC-planning and development-IASC is an organization reorganized!For the past few years I’ve sat down alone or with Paul Schmitt-I love Paul, but not in that way, thus, these scenarios had nothing to do with successful
sex. Now, I sit down with Don Brown, Bod Boyle, Per Welinder, Steve Van Doren, Rob Valerio, Jeff Kendall, and Tod Swank. This is an incredible transformation. Truly.Consider the companies involved: Birdhouse, Flip, the Firm, Baker, éS, Emerica, Etnies, Vans, Santa Cruz, Independent, World Industries, Tum Yeto, Foundation, Giant, Element, Destructo, Quiksilver, TransWorld, PS Stix, DC Shoes, ASR, Alien Workshop, Planet Earth. And South Shore Distribution is coming on board. What about you and your company? Aren’t you part of skateboarding’s future? Aren’t you part of skateboarding’s success?

Membership criteria and information will be available in the IASC Hospitality Suite during the San Diego ASR trade show, or online at skateboardiasc/org.