Interview – Tony Evjenth, eS Team Manager

The skateboard industry has always focused on the professional skateboarder to promote its companies, but have you ever wondered who the people behind the scenes are. This month, makes known what it like to manage a team of the most elite skaters in the world. eS team manager Tony Evjenth makes known what its like to sign a $10,000 dollar hotel bill and exactly what it takes to make it onto the select eS team.

Can you briefly explain how you became the team manager of the eS shoe team?
It was quite surprising to hear Don Brown (Soletech’s head of marketing) state to me that one day soon he was going to appoint me as the new eS team manager. That was March of 1999; exactly one month after I had began working for Sole Tech. The previous team manager, Sasha Stienhorst, had his hands full managing both the eS and etnies skateboard teams. I don’t know how he did it, but it was obvious he needed a lot of help. Having no previous team manager experience and not really knowing the eS team in a personal manner, I gladly accepted the position! Besides, who wouldn’t have? At that time (1999) the team consisted of Eric Koston, Rick McCrank, Arto Saari (who had just signed on), Tom Penny, Bob Burnquist, Rodrigo TX and Ronnie Creager. Talk about a dream team, you couldn’t get any better than this. I was in complete awe.

What do you think are the responsibilities of a team manager?
I can sum up team management in 2 words: Baby Sitting. I am actually pretty fortunate to have been dealt my current cast of riders. They’ve pretty much grown up in this industry, and realize that their roles as professional skateboarders consist of more than just being good skaters. They understand that their ability to market themselves is just as important as their skills on a deck. Take Eric Koston for instance. He really doesn’t enjoy contests as much as it would seem, but he realizes that most contests are excellent promotion for eS and his other sponsors. It is my responsibility to teach them what they can do for themselves outside of skateboarding for their future. Save your checks and buy house, instead of a G-Wagon. Put that $10,000.00 in your savings account, and not on your wrist or earrings. That sort of advice goes a long way with our riders…Help them with taxes, W-9 forms, choosing proper sponsors. I also pick the up-and-coming am’s for the eS team to choose from. Riders like Paul Rodriguez, PJ Ladd, Cale Nuske and Justin Eldridge were my findings that eventually the team decided needed to be on.

Is it 9 to 5 or are you on call 24 hours a day?
I am on call 24-7. I get calls from Cale Nuske partying in Australia at 5 in the morning. I’ll get calls from Tom Penny at all hours of the day when he needs something shipped to Europe. From shipping sample shoes, working on the eS team travel schedule, working with the R&D team on shoe design, working with the eS web designers on design and many other small jobs, I will have to say that team management is a 24-7 job.

Most would assume being team manager is all fun and games, but what are some of the drawbacks to this type of work?
There are very few drawbacks to being the eS team manager, when I really think about it. I think I have the greatest job on earth, until I remember times of dealing with riders losing their passports, missing flights, being completely lost all together, or unreachable for a months at a time; dealing with that stuff gets a bit stressful. Other than that, I get free Girl, Chocolate,4 Star and Flip gear, so I’m pretty content!

How many sponsor-me tapes do you receive a month?
5 to 10 a month. I try to respond back to most of them, especially if they are good! I’ll either write a letter, or call them (if it’s good enough). If you think you’re good enough, send your tapes to “21062 Windrow Drive, Lake Forest, CA 92630 Attn. Tony the eS Team Manager”.

eS is notorious for its small, elite team, do you pick the riders yourself, or does the team vote on new prospects?
The process goes like this, and we’ll use PJ Ladd for the example: PJ had been one of my flow kids for over 3 years, but he wasn’t ready to take it to the next level in 2001. He eventually gained some confidence, stayed with me on and off for a few months in 2001, and skated with Eric and rest of the team during that time. By the end of his stay they responded “PUT HIM ON NOW”! That was it, done deal. It was the same with Justin and Cale. In order to get on eS, the team riders decide your fate, not me. I’m just the middleman. We usually fly the rider out for a bit (if he lives outside of Southern California) to hang out / skate with our team. Then Scuba Steve gives us his rating after filming with the hopeful subject. If Eric and the team agrees that adding this rider would be add strength to eS, then we’ll put him / her on eS as Am status, which is different from flow as the am’s get paid. It’s an extremely slow process, 6 months to a year to be exact. The next generation eS rider takes much time to find. Not only do I observe a rider’s skill, but his potential to handle the certain situations that fame and fortune can bring you. A good clean style, good personality, ability to handle life on the road, ability to handle fame (people asking you for your photo or an autograph), not into much partying.

Any hotel horror stories?
In 2001 we participated in an eS Germany Tour. It was a 10-day excursion with Arto Saari, Tom Penny, Eric Koston, PJ Ladd, Rick McCrank, Rodrigo TX, Mike Taylor and Paul Rodriguez. Also included was Atiba Jefferson, Ako Jefferson, Josh Powner and myself, Tony E. We had 3 cities to visit, 3 demos and signings in total. Each city we stayed in, we had hotels for 3 nights in total, then onto the tour bus and drive anywhere from 3-12 hours to our next destination. By the time we checked out of our 1st Hotel, I signed an $8,000.00 hotel bill. Again, it was $8,000.00 US for 3 nights. Something wasn’t right, as my calculations came to about $3,000.00 at the most. I looked over the room service charges and telephone bills. Calls were made back to the US, Brazil, Finland, England, France and Spain. Between TX, Paul, Mike Taylor, Arto and Tom, their calls totaled $3,000.00. Room service charges for all rooms totaled over $2000.00. WHAT THE F*%K? Instead of getting upset, I thought of a convincing story to tell my boss, explained to the riders that this was a 1 time deal and signed the bill off. 3 days later, checking out of the next destination, I noticed the bill was close to $9,000.00, $1000.00 more than last time. What could I do? Scold the riders? Never. So when everyone was on the bus I read the bill totals out loud. Immediately Tom, Paul, Mike, Arto and TX started to look worried. Paul and Mike ran up a $1000.00 room service bill, with lobster/steak and champagne bottle orders that were $300.00 a pop. Tom had $1100.00 worth of calls to seemingly every nation on this planet. Arto spent a few hours talking to his girl in Finland and seemed to forget to hang up the phone after his conversations and TX did the same calling Brazil. Once everyone stopped laughing at the totals i had just read off, I started laughing too, in amazement over our last 2 bills. I decided to give them one last chance to beat those bill totals in Hamburg, our final destination. And they did. The total of that bill was $15,000.00. I laughed it off until I got back to the office. Don was not impressed with our total spendings:$32,000.00. Big Pimpin’.

Which team rider do you talk to the most? Least?
Eric, Rick, Justin, Scuba, Rodrigo, Cale and PJ are the riders I keep in contact on almost a daily basis. Tom is a little hard to get a hold of from time to time, but that’s what happens when you travel from England to France and back a lot.

Where is PJ Ladd right now?
He’s in San Diego with Ryan Gallant. He has been keeping himself on the DL as of lately. He wants you to know that he has been skating a lot down there and filming for the upcoming eS video.

Have you ever seen Rodrigo not smiling?
Never. He has nice teeth, and if I did, I’d be smiling just as much.

Koston vs. McCrank in a game of S.K.A.T.E. Who do you put your money on?
McCrank, his bag of tricks include the elusive hard flip – both regular and switch – both of which Froston can’t do…