ASR Spring 2002

Walking ASR is quite an experience. And if you drop your solid schedule of appointments and meetings, and make the time to stroll through the aisles, and meet and greet new and old friends, it can be a pretty good time. If you also manage to save enough energy in the evening and happen to score a pass to one of the company parties-bonus. Dude, it’s what the trade show is all about.

Or is it?

Actually it’s not, and over the past few years, the casual ASR attendee (read: chronic rager combing the aisles for party passes) seems to have found somewhere better to be, because these days the trade show is pretty much all business.

It’s nice to re-acquaint with familiar faces you only see twice a year (February and September), but if you’re not late for a meeting, they usually are. So the quick hellos are loaded with sentiment, and encounters remain brief. But then, the people I run into have usually traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to be there, and they have to accomplish six month’s worth of business in three days. Actually, in a sense, so do I.

As Long Beach is traditionally the smaller of the two shows (spring and fall), we’ll have to wait until September to truly quantify the effects of the so-called national recession and 9/11. It’s possible that the dramatic growth we’ve been experiencing over the past few years-twenty to 30 percent annually*-may slow down. But we seem far from recession. Of course, that won’t stop competition, particularly in footwear, and if anything, shops are getting even more selective in choosing what to carry. Every company in every supersaturated sector (hardgoods, softgoods, footwear) is fiercely competing for market share, and that’s a tough environment to be in regardless of where the economy is.

If the trade show demonstrated anything concretely, it’s that skateboard brands are working as hard as ever to develop new products and campaigns to attract and keep the attention of active youth. Never in the history of the sport has it been so diverse in terms of its appeal and so broad in its promotional efforts-teams, tours, ads, contests, am-contest and event sponsorships, and the like.

While the young street skater remains our focus, the older pool skater is demanding some attention-and differentiated product. Older shapes, bigger sizes, and even some nostalgic retro products have become regular fixtures at ASR. This year Vision celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary by bringing back some classic graphics and shapes from the 80s, and Brigade has released Steve Caballero’s original first graphic, a mono-color skull-and-propeller design that never actually came out on the Powell Peralta brand but is finally seeing the light of day thanks to the marketability of such historic artwork.

Homage to our past hasn’t redefined skateboarding’s core consumer, however. And this show proved that our industry’s leaders are focused on creating product that addresses the specific needs of the young (and smaller) street skater. Decks with new constructions and scaled down sizes for the kids; shoes with tougher, lighter, and more breathable materials; and bearings shrouded in the latest collectible packaging scheme filled the glossy catalogs passed out to passersby unlucky enough to not have appointments with salespeople. If the average shop is as busy as the average skate-company sales rep was, we’ll all have great summer and back-to-school seasons.

* * *

This show also featured an array of events for those attendees who happened to have some extra time. The skate demos were highlighted by the Tony Hawk Twentieth-Anniversary Doubles Contest-won by Hawk and Lasek, with Tony Magnusson and Kevin Staab beating the duo of destruction Lance Mountain and Steve Caballero in the masters division. Birdhouse also threw a surprise anniversary party for Hawk, complete with a host of long-lost friends and performances by Bt-punk icons The Adicts and Peter And The Test Tube Babies, and lots and lots of food.

Slightly less fun, but perhaps more useful to skate marketeers, was the weekend’s Board-Trac (board-trac.com) seminars, presented by the action-sports-industry market-research company. Now an ASR tradition, the lunchtime meetings cover various aspects of marketing and retailing. Saturday’s meeting included a panel of ten teens who were asked what motivates them (what the pros are wearing or riding in mags and videos was a common response), and where they buy stuff (locations ranged from ‘core shops to department stores, the common thread being that they were close by, and few said they even thought about buying online). The most interesting and seemingly unanimous sentiment expressed by the panel was that drug use among athletes doesn’t impress them, and that athletes are generally admired for their abilities, rather than their lifestyles. But then, a few of the panelists’ parents were in the audience.

Sunday’s seminar was a presentation from Board-Trac’s Street Team Panel, a group of skaters, snowboarders, and surfers from around the country who canvassed their own areas to find out what their peers buy, where they shop, and related topics. The Board-Trac seminars seem best suited to action-sports industry newcomers, and few skateboard-industry old-timers usually attend.

The Reese Forbes Ollie Challenge, presented in 2000 by Element Skateboards, has been one-upped. Grind King sponsored the first Switch-Ollie Challenge, which was emceed by SkatePark of Tampa’s own Brian Schaefer and Ryan Clements. The pair can liven up even the most mundane demo with their jackboot command of the crowd and ability to motivate the skaters. They brought the spectators right in to give the skaters a ten-foot-wide aisle, in the middle of which stood the high-jump-style obstacle. With five attempts at each height, the competitors were weeded out, including favorites Paulo Diaz and Paul Sharpe, before rookie pro Alex Bland became the official Switch Ollie Champ with a 40.125-inch backward banger. Compare that to Danny Wainwright’s winning 44.5-inch straight ollie in 2000.

The most interesting skate-industry event of the weekend was the IASC meeting, which included a call-to-arms from Executive Director Jim Fitzpatrick, an update on the Damn Am series from Brian Schaefer, and a formal introduction of the United Professional Skateboarders Association (UPSA) from Executive Director Ellen Zavian.

Despite some e-mail debate regarding the importance and effectiveness of the California Legislature’s newly proposed skatepark law (SB 994), Fitz made the case that it’s the best law we could hope to get passed, given that the California Trial Lawyer’s Association is both powerful and adverse to any legislation that limits the right of citizens to sue municipalities (and keep the trial lawyers very busy).

While SB 994 still includes language requiring that full safety gear be worn in all skateparks in California, individual cities will still have some flexibility in how they enforce that or don’t. The reason we need the law passed, he suggested, is that cities currently operating parks, and the 100 or so with plans to build them, are watching this particular bill, and consider its passage a reassurance that building and operating skateparks is not a liability problem.

IASC lobbied to pass the initial California skatepark law (AB1296) in 1997, and continues to promote such legislation because Fitzpatrick believes that California sets legislative trends for other states, and that a law like SB 994 is necessary to continue the tremendous growth in the number of skateparks nationwide. He says that skateparks remain the number-one requested recreational facility nationwide, and that in the last four years there have been no liability lawsuits filed against public skateparks anywhere.

Fitzpatrick asked companies to help spread the word to their customers and to contact their local state legislators and express their support for SB 996 and public skateparks in general. The tax revenue skateboard companies generate and the sheer number of people they employ will get the attention of politicians, and we can use this to promote the cause of public skateparks.

The National Amateur Skateboarding Championships Damn Am series was conceived, designed, and executed within a few short months last summer, and Damn Am’s Brian Schaefer presented his goals for this year’s series. Schaefer participated in the old National Skateboard Association amateur contests in the early 90s, and spoke about the camaraderie he felt with other skaters from around the country because they traveled to contests and skated together. He has created a comparable atmosphere over the years with his Tampa Am contests, and hopes the Damn Am series provides a similar experience for kids today, and has been working with IASC to communicate with the skateboard industry.

Last year Paul Schmitt and Giant Distribution funded most of the series, though Schaefer hopes to attract several more sponsors to be able to carry out his expanded schedule for 2002. This year Damn Am will include ten district contests, two of which will be in Canada, and the top ten from each contest will be invited to the finals. The only vert event will be at the finals. A staff of eight will travel to all the contests, including five pros who will serve as judges.

After Schaefer, UPSA’s Ellen Zavian spoke to the group of about 30 company owners and pros about the new organization’s goals and structure. Founded by a core group of pros, many of whom make up the association’s board of directors, UPSA is designed to help promote the sport and improve the working conditions of pro skaters-and not just UPSA members. Zavian is an accomplished Washington, D.C.-based attorney with a long record of representing professional athletes. While UPSA is the first group of skateboarders she’s represented, Zavian emphasized that the association was created by and is governed by the skaters, and that as executive director she will offer advice but will not vote on issues before the board, and will carry out their agenda.

She clarified that UPSA is an association and not a union, and as of February they had 57 paid members. One of UPSA’s top priorities is to review contracts for future contests, and to develop a group health plan for all members. UPSA Board Member Andy Macdonald said that membership is open to active professional skaters, and that UPSA will offer other types of memberships for retired pros and other associates.

The association’s operating revenue will be generated through membership dues, as well as UPSA-logo licensing and group-licensing deals. UPSA’s initial focus is to review contracts presented to members at contests and televised events, and to negotiate any changes they feel are needed. More information about the association can be found at UPSA’s new Web site at whatupsa.com.

There’s clearly a lot happening in and around skateboarding. Up the road from the trade show, Heidi Lemmon and the Skatepark Association Of The USA (spausa.org) held meetings on Saturday and Sunday that attracted some of the top names in skatepark design and construction. Central to the discussions was the topic of standards, and helping create guidelines that will ultimately improve the quality of skateparks being built, while not limiting the creative range that top designers need to evolve with the sport. Wally Hollyday proposed that the guidelines the top skatepark developers agree on could be presented to cities as SPAUSA’s recommendations, and the cities would then have the option of requiring contractors who bid on park projects to follow the guidelines.

Two committees were appointed to help draft the guidelines: the concrete committee includes Chad Ford, Tim Payne, Dave Dunchelp spread the word to their customers and to contact their local state legislators and express their support for SB 996 and public skateparks in general. The tax revenue skateboard companies generate and the sheer number of people they employ will get the attention of politicians, and we can use this to promote the cause of public skateparks.

The National Amateur Skateboarding Championships Damn Am series was conceived, designed, and executed within a few short months last summer, and Damn Am’s Brian Schaefer presented his goals for this year’s series. Schaefer participated in the old National Skateboard Association amateur contests in the early 90s, and spoke about the camaraderie he felt with other skaters from around the country because they traveled to contests and skated together. He has created a comparable atmosphere over the years with his Tampa Am contests, and hopes the Damn Am series provides a similar experience for kids today, and has been working with IASC to communicate with the skateboard industry.

Last year Paul Schmitt and Giant Distribution funded most of the series, though Schaefer hopes to attract several more sponsors to be able to carry out his expanded schedule for 2002. This year Damn Am will include ten district contests, two of which will be in Canada, and the top ten from each contest will be invited to the finals. The only vert event will be at the finals. A staff of eight will travel to all the contests, including five pros who will serve as judges.

After Schaefer, UPSA’s Ellen Zavian spoke to the group of about 30 company owners and pros about the new organization’s goals and structure. Founded by a core group of pros, many of whom make up the association’s board of directors, UPSA is designed to help promote the sport and improve the working conditions of pro skaters-and not just UPSA members. Zavian is an accomplished Washington, D.C.-based attorney with a long record of representing professional athletes. While UPSA is the first group of skateboarders she’s represented, Zavian emphasized that the association was created by and is governed by the skaters, and that as executive director she will offer advice but will not vote on issues before the board, and will carry out their agenda.

She clarified that UPSA is an association and not a union, and as of February they had 57 paid members. One of UPSA’s top priorities is to review contracts for future contests, and to develop a group health plan for all members. UPSA Board Member Andy Macdonald said that membership is open to active professional skaters, and that UPSA will offer other types of memberships for retired pros and other associates.

The association’s operating revenue will be generated through membership dues, as well as UPSA-logo licensing and group-licensing deals. UPSA’s initial focus is to review contracts presented to members at contests and televised events, and to negotiate any changes they feel are needed. More information about the association can be found at UPSA’s new Web site at whatupsa.com.

There’s clearly a lot happening in and around skateboarding. Up the road from the trade show, Heidi Lemmon and the Skatepark Association Of The USA (spausa.org) held meetings on Saturday and Sunday that attracted some of the top names in skatepark design and construction. Central to the discussions was the topic of standards, and helping create guidelines that will ultimately improve the quality of skateparks being built, while not limiting the creative range that top designers need to evolve with the sport. Wally Hollyday proposed that the guidelines the top skatepark developers agree on could be presented to cities as SPAUSA’s recommendations, and the cities would then have the option of requiring contractors who bid on park projects to follow the guidelines.

Two committees were appointed to help draft the guidelines: the concrete committee includes Chad Ford, Tim Payne, Dave Duncan, Mike Taylor, Geth Noble, Wally Hollyday, Jim Barnum, Brian Harper, and Mike McIntyre; the wood-and-steel committee includes Aaron Spohn, John Tyson, Greg Benson, Dave Duncan, Tim Payne, Twister, and Mike Mapp.

Steve Hawk of the Tony Hawk Foundation was also present and announced that THF will work with SPAUSA to draft and publish the guidelines.

With so much attention on public skateparks, the private parks that in some areas provide the challenging terrain and environments to develop expert skaters are finding it more difficult to compete and survive. The group discussed developing skatepark contests and seeking grants for after-school programs. Martin Ramos of Kona USA in Jacksonville, Florida volunteered to chair a committee to look into these and other possibilities.

SPAUSA and Concrete Disciples magazine also presented awards to top designers and builders. CD Editor Jeff Greenwood helped make the presentations, which ranged form Lifetime Achievement (Tim Payne) to Innovative Technology (Ranier Richlite, developers of Skatelite).

Immediate goals for SPAUSA are to develop its membership and hire a permanent office staff. Lemmon says that the show of support for the association from top skatepark designers and builders at the meetings was strong, and that she hopes to build on that and continue to foster cooperation among them that will ultimately lead to more and better skateparks.

Another non-ASR event that drew a number of people from the show floor was the ill-timed Super Bowl, and the most popular venue seemed to be the Tum Yeto anti-trade-show installation across the street from the Convention Center. Again occupying a nightclub space, Tum Yeto served food and drinks to a crowd of about 150 that showed up to watch the game while sales staff continued their business with buyers.

Tum Yeto hasn’t been in the trade show for two years and has instead set up shop nearby, but out of reach of ASR-at least they thought so. For the second year in a row, Long Beach authorities visited the space to follow up on an anonymous tip. Last year it was the fire marshall counting heads, this year it was the cops investigating a report that someone was planning to unlawfully float a huge balloon, which was news to Tum Yeto staffers.

Even inside the show, several booths played the Superbowl on TVs of all sizes, and traffic in the aisles slowed to a trickle for a few hours. Maybe skateboard teams ought to start wearing matching jerseys at contests again. Remember that? Yeah, back when skating was huge. So here we go again, racing through trade-show aisles, trying to keep up.

Nice to see ya.

* TransWorld SKATEboarding Business Retailer Surveys, 1996-2001.

Skatepark Developers Recognized

At a meeting of top skatepark developers during the Spring ASR Trade Expo in Long Beach, California, Heidi Lemmon of the Skatepark Association Of The USA and Jeff Greenwood of Concrete Disciples magazine recognized several of them for their dedication to their art and contributions to skateboarding.
Lifetime Achievement: Tim Payne (Team Pain)
Twenty-Year Recognition: Jim Barnum (Canada), Dave Duncan, Chad Ford (Australia), Wally Hollyday, Mike Mapp, Simon Oxemham (Australia), Mike Taylor, Twister.
Best Use Of Public Land: Calgary, Ontario, Canada-Jay Blamer and Jim Barnum for Shaw Millennium Skatepark (91,500 square feet).
Innovative Technology: Ranier Richlite for Skatelite ramp surface, Rhino Ramps for a portable ramp system (Belgium).
Skatepark Design (overall for a body of work): Jim Barnum (Canada), Jay Blamer (Canada), Dave Duncan, Chad Ford (Australia), Wally Hollyday, Monk Hubbard, Mike McIntyre (Site Design Group), Geth Noble, Simon Oxemham (Australia), Tim Payne, Mark Scott, Mike Taylor, Twister, Zak Wormhoudt.
Skatepark Quality Of Construction: Airspeed Skateparks, CA SSkateparks, Convic Skateparks (Australia), Dreamland Skateparks, Dave Duncan, Hardcore Shotcrete, Grindline Skateparks, Rick Carje (RCMC), Skateparks International, Spectrum Skateparks (Canada), Spohn Ranch, Tim Payne, TrueRide Skateparks, Twister, VPI. Mike Taylor, Geth Noble, Wally Hollyday, Jim Barnum, Brian Harper, and Mike McIntyre; the wood-and-steel committee includes Aaron Spohn, John Tyson, Greg Benson, Dave Duncan, Tim Payne, Twister, and Mike Mapp.

Steve Hawk of the Tony Hawk Foundation was also present and announced that THF will work with SPAUSA to draft and publish the guidelines.

With so much attention on public skateparks, the private parks that in some areas provide the challenging terrain and environments to develop expert skaters are finding it more difficult to compete and survive. The group discussed developing skatepark contests and seeking grants for after-school programs. Martin Ramos of Kona USA in Jacksonville, Florida volunteered to chair a committee to look into these and other possibilities.

SPAUSA and Concrete Disciples magazine also presented awards to top designers and builders. CD Editor Jeff Greenwood helped make the presentations, which ranged form Lifetime Achievement (Tim Payne) to Innovative Technology (Ranier Richlite, developers of Skatelite).

Immediate goals for SPAUSA are to develop its membership and hire a permanent office staff. Lemmon says that the show of support for the association from top skatepark designers and builders at the meetings was strong, and that she hopes to build on that and continue to foster cooperation among them that will ultimately lead to more and better skateparks.

Another non-ASR event that drew a number of people from the show floor was the ill-timed Super Bowl, and the most popular venue seemed to be the Tum Yeto anti-trade-show installation across the street from the Convention Center. Again occupying a nightclub space, Tum Yeto served food and drinks to a crowd of about 150 that showed up to watch the game while sales staff continued their business with buyers.

Tum Yeto hasn’t been in the trade show for two years and has instead set up shop nearby, but out of reach of ASR-at least they thought so. For the second year in a row, Long Beach authorities visited the space to follow up on an anonymous tip. Last year it was the fire marshall counting heads, this year it was the cops investigating a report that someone was planning to unlawfully float a huge balloon, which was news to Tum Yeto staffers.

Even inside the show, several booths played the Superbowl on TVs of all sizes, and traffic in the aisles slowed to a trickle for a few hours. Maybe skateboard teams ought to start wearing matching jerseys at contests again. Remember that? Yeah, back when skating was huge. So here we go again, racing through trade-show aisles, trying to keep up.

Nice to see ya.

* TransWorld SKATEboarding Business Retailer Surveys, 1996-2001.

Skatepark Developers Recognized

At a meeting of top skatepark developers during the Spring ASR Trade Expo in Long Beach, California, Heidi Lemmon of the Skatepark Association Of The USA and Jeff Greenwood of Concrete Disciples magazine recognized several of them for their dedication to their art and contributions to skateboarding.
Lifetime Achievement: Tim Payne (Team Pain)
Twenty-Year Recognition: Jim Barnum (Canada), Dave Duncan, Chad Ford (Australia), Wally Hollyday, Mike Mapp, Simon Oxemham (Australia), Mike Taylor, Twister.
Best Use Of Public Land: Calgary, Ontario, Canada-Jay Blamer and Jim Barnum for Shaw Millennium Skatepark (91,500 square feet).
Innovative Technology: Ranier Richlite for Skatelite ramp surface, Rhino Ramps for a portable ramp system (Belgium).
Skatepark Design (overall for a body of work): Jim Barnum (Canada), Jay Blamer (Canada), Dave Duncan, Chad Ford (Australia), Wally Hollyday, Monk Hubbard, Mike McIntyre (Site Design Group), Geth Noble, Simon Oxemham (Australia), Tim Payne, Mark Scott, Mike Taylor, Twister, Zak Wormhoudt.
Skatepark Quality Of Construction: Airspeed Skateparks, CA Skateparks, Convic Skateparks (Australia), Dreamland Skateparks, Dave Duncan, Hardcore Shotcrete, Grindline Skateparks, Rick Carje (RCMC), Skateparks International, Spectrum Skateparks (Canada), Spohn Ranch, Tim Payne, TrueRide Skateparks, Twister, VPI.ks, CA Skateparks, Convic Skateparks (Australia), Dreamland Skateparks, Dave Duncan, Hardcore Shotcrete, Grindline Skateparks, Rick Carje (RCMC), Skateparks International, Spectrum Skateparks (Canada), Spohn Ranch, Tim Payne, TrueRide Skateparks, Twister, VPI.