You’ve all seen Mumford Smith-grind a twenty, Chad Bartie traverse the untransferable, and Dustin’s kickflip á la crooked. But I’ll bet ya haven’t taken a second to think about what might actually be going on down under, other than the hammer count. In a country where most skaters would prefer not to worry about local industry, there is a hell of a lot of political moving and shaking, and slowly but surely a developing base of local manufacturers. Given that Australians tend to surf rather prolifically, it’s not surprising that skating took off here in Oz soon after it was discovered overseas.

Since embracing skating in the early 60s, Australia’s adrenaline-craving youth have been rolling in a manner more or less mirroring U.S. styles and trends. We have developed an amazing level of skating in this country as a result of a number of factors: good weather, high-class facilities, and a high standard of living. The skate-friendly environment has led to plenty of local talent that promotes and fuel a local industry, and a plethora of international pros who command international respect and attract general curiosity.

Only over the last ten years have Australia’s best skaters started really turning heads on an international level. Those who feel compelled to visit us for the first time in 2002 will notice a rocking skate scene down here fueled by a plethora of parks, plenty of local rippers, distributors, shops, and even a couple of manufacturers, although those are few and far between.

History

As we all know, skating has been cyclical by nature. These cycles are like ripples in a pool, they seem to begin in California and then reverberate out into other markets. Australia is no different from other countries, as it gets just as rocked by the ripples as any other nation. As soon as the notion of “sidewalk surfing” took off, there were Aussie surfers out there seeking the latest form of land-based fun. We asked Tim Dawe, founder of Cockroach and Cortech wheels, about his first skateboarding experience to get an idea what it was like for young Aussies way back when: “My first skateboard was back in ’61/62,” he says. “I custom modified my Jaco skates with a hammer, nails, and a piece of one-inch-thick timber. It wasn’t until about 1976/77 that I got more serious and bought a Bahne. Then a friend introduced me to a pool at Pymble, Sydney, in 1978. This was my introduction to ‘modern’ skateboarding.”

Tim soon took a huge step and began manufacturing decks, trucks, and wheels under the name Ozi. Australian Skateboarding In-House Photographer Tony Nolan can remember bombing the big hills in Sydney’s eastern suburbs as early as 1962. He says that even then the challenge was to get from the top to the bottom without getting caught by the coppers.

In the late 70s the first professionals from overseas visited. Russ Howell and Stacy Peralta came out and confirmed the suspicions of the masses-that these kids could defy physics! The first skatepark to open in Australia (and most likely the Southern Hemisphere) was built at the seaside port of Albany in 1976. Russ Howell was rumored to have done a handstand down the entire snakerun on the opening day. The first Australian pro was Wedge Francis, who skated for Golden Breed (an old-school clothing and once skateboard brand)!

After spending the late 70s doing sketchy car-park demos, the Hill brothers (Steven, Peter, and Matt) decided to make a go of importing equipment themselves and eventually formed Hardcore Distribution, which grew into Globe International Limited. Up until this period the only person who imported equipment was John Hurrand, who operated JHS Distribution in Adelaide. “John Hurrand was the first serious guy to bring stuff in for a living,” says Peter Hill. “We used to call him up just to dribble about what new stuff was coming in. Come to think of it, he was pretty cool to waste his time talking to a couple of kids about what color Powerflex wels might be coming in.”

By the mid 80s the Hill brothers had brought out Alan Losi, a vert skater who was taking it to a whole new level. In 1987 Australia’s own Sixty Minutes had done a profile on the Hill Brothers and their exploding sport. This was in the midst of a wave of skateboarding popularity that lasted the rest of the 80s. During that era, Dawe’s Cockroach Wheels was a highly successful Australian-made product and could be spotted on setups from Carlsbad to Glasgow. Other Aussie companies that were kicking it down under were Borgy Copers, Universal Wheels, Primate kneepads, and Burford Blanks (decks), although these were on more of a local level.

When the baggy-pants/small-wheels era arrived, everything slowed down. While the big companies and distributors felt the brunt of it, many small yet progressive companies began to emerge, run by various retired pros. During this period, two devoted Queensland skaters added two separate distribution houses to the list: Andy Mackenzie (who had previously distributed Walker and JFA) started Kwala Skateboards, and Jamie Bartie started Equal Central (formerly Kewday). All these distributors stuck out the dark period of the early to mid 90s, and along with their more recently established (and fast growing) counterparts, they’re the crux of the Australian distribution network today.

Aside from importing, there is a strong industry base growing locally. Companies like Omni boards, Cortech wheels, Blank clothing, and Juice clothing are proving that Australia’s companies can produce goods locally that are well received in the marketplace.

Growth

Now as we bomb the hill into 2002, skating is as strong-if not stronger-in Australia as it has ever been previously. Across the board, distributors and manufacturers alike seem to have a pretty confident outlook. When asked about the current state of skating in Australia compared to previous years, Kwala’s Andy Mackenzie, a long-time supporter of the Australian scene, agrees that it’s still very strong: “I think skateboarding has a few years of growth left in it yet. I believe the booms and crashes are gone. Skateboarding has a solid infrastructure right throughout the world, and most of it has been provided by local government. It is now an accepted lifestyle choice, and it’s definitely not going to disappear overnight.”

Overall, the rise and fall of Aussie industry activity can be traced by roughly adding three to six months to whatever is happening “Stateside.” According to company owners, they have seen the market in Australia grow from 7.5 to 12.5 percent per annum over the last three years. Kevin Wadham from Sole Technology’s Australian distributor GSJ sums it up: “We are probably only six to twelve months behind U.S.A. trends. I would estimate in the last four years growth has been about five to ten percent per annum.”

The Parks

Since the conception of the first skatepark down in Albany, Western Australia in 1976, Australia has steadily accumulated one of the biggest collections of rideable concrete present on this planet. There were three main periods of park implementation: the 70s, the late 80s, and over the last three years. Most of the parks are government-funded, free, and aren’t governed by the same ridiculous helmet laws that some countries have.

Our best vert skaters grew up on government-supplied ramps from the 80s boom. Even during the quiet times, those towns that had quality facilities tended to have stronger scenes, mainly because they had a central meeting point. Where I grew up skating, for instance, in Perth, there were no parks during the quiet era, and this led to a dissipated scene.

In 2002 Australia is a dreamland for the traveling skater. It even has a Web site (sk8parx.com) devoted to its collection of concrete, steel, and metal beauties. At press time, there were 633 parks and legal spots listed around the country. Just as the country’s population is concentrated on the East Coast, so are the parks. Here’s the breakdown:
New South Wales: 169
Victoria: 130
Queensland: 111
South Australia: 44
Western Australia: 84
Tasmania: 30
Northern Territory: 5

Jamie Bartie (yes, he’s Chad’s brother) sees the presence of quality terrain as one of the leading factors toward the size of the Australian scene today: “The number-one factor would have to be the public skateparks going up nationwide, and the accessibility of them to the entry- and intermediate-level skaters. I have found that there is an overwhelming level of entry and intermediate skaters now skating, and with them being too young to drive, accessibility to facilities is the key. Councils Australia-wide have done a good job-mostly-of park positioning.”

The direct relationship between parks and numbers skating has been exemplified in Western Australia. In a state where there was previously a shortage of transitions, there has been a recent downpour of concrete and an instant rise in board sales. Much respect to locals such as Chad Ford of F-Beat Productions and Simon Oxenham Convic for setting the standards in Australian park building today.

Retailers And Distributors

The Australian population is mostly situated on the Eastern seaboard, as are the parks, shops, and distributors. All the main distributors are also located in the east, from Melbourne all the way up to Brisbane.

There are hundreds of shops that sell skateboards in Australia, but only a handful of actual skate shops. Actual shops include 99 Degrees (Sydney), Daily Grind (Adelaide), Red Herring (Launceston), Skate Biz (Brisbane), Bartie’s Boards (Queensland), Momentum and Ride One (Perth), Yodgees (Melbourne), and PSC (Melbourne). The owners of these stores are mostly local skaters who have come of age. These stores generally have a pretty relaxed Aussie vibe with approachable staff.

Highly successful “cross-cultured” shops that sell skateboards include chain stores such as Surf Dive And Ski, General Pants, Blindside, and Jetty Surf. These stores are scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard. Another smaller (but growing) member of the retail pie is the online store. Shops such as Daily Grind, Momentum, and 99 Degrees already have external online mail-order systems implemented.

Taxes And Price Differentiation

Australia’s government has been promoting local manufacturing for as long as we’ve had any level of skateboard industry. Nearly two years ago the GST was introduced-a ten-percent “goods and services tax” charged to retailers and importers (although the importers have their ten percent reimbursed later).

As far as import duties are concerned, Brett Margaritis, a Think pro, who is now establishing Five Foot 4 Distribution says there are a variety of rules applying to different categories: decks, cushions, risers, trucks, and wheels carry no duty at all; all other hardware and accessories are five percent; and clothing has a 25-percent import duty that will decrease to 17.5 percent in 2005-this will still make it almost impossible to compete with any locally produced softgoods.

Equipment is slightly more expensive in certain cities, due to freight and retailer opportunism. A board with grip is likely to cost twenty Australian dollars more in Perth than in Sydney.

Manufacturing And Local Brands

Considering the amount of foreign skate labels brought into our country, we have an alarming lack of local competition. Most of the “local” companies turn overseas for manufacturing in order to be competitive. The following are a few of the local brands.

Cortech Wheels: The Cortech wheel is regarded by many who have ridden it as the best pour in the world. Tim Dawe has been making and exporting wheels since 1988. He’s the man who reinvented the wheel, and he has the combination of science skills and lifestyle experience to give the Australian industry the kick-start it needed:

“I did do heavyrated on the East Coast, so are the parks. Here’s the breakdown:
New South Wales: 169
Victoria: 130
Queensland: 111
South Australia: 44
Western Australia: 84
Tasmania: 30
Northern Territory: 5

Jamie Bartie (yes, he’s Chad’s brother) sees the presence of quality terrain as one of the leading factors toward the size of the Australian scene today: “The number-one factor would have to be the public skateparks going up nationwide, and the accessibility of them to the entry- and intermediate-level skaters. I have found that there is an overwhelming level of entry and intermediate skaters now skating, and with them being too young to drive, accessibility to facilities is the key. Councils Australia-wide have done a good job-mostly-of park positioning.”

The direct relationship between parks and numbers skating has been exemplified in Western Australia. In a state where there was previously a shortage of transitions, there has been a recent downpour of concrete and an instant rise in board sales. Much respect to locals such as Chad Ford of F-Beat Productions and Simon Oxenham Convic for setting the standards in Australian park building today.

Retailers And Distributors

The Australian population is mostly situated on the Eastern seaboard, as are the parks, shops, and distributors. All the main distributors are also located in the east, from Melbourne all the way up to Brisbane.

There are hundreds of shops that sell skateboards in Australia, but only a handful of actual skate shops. Actual shops include 99 Degrees (Sydney), Daily Grind (Adelaide), Red Herring (Launceston), Skate Biz (Brisbane), Bartie’s Boards (Queensland), Momentum and Ride One (Perth), Yodgees (Melbourne), and PSC (Melbourne). The owners of these stores are mostly local skaters who have come of age. These stores generally have a pretty relaxed Aussie vibe with approachable staff.

Highly successful “cross-cultured” shops that sell skateboards include chain stores such as Surf Dive And Ski, General Pants, Blindside, and Jetty Surf. These stores are scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard. Another smaller (but growing) member of the retail pie is the online store. Shops such as Daily Grind, Momentum, and 99 Degrees already have external online mail-order systems implemented.

Taxes And Price Differentiation

Australia’s government has been promoting local manufacturing for as long as we’ve had any level of skateboard industry. Nearly two years ago the GST was introduced-a ten-percent “goods and services tax” charged to retailers and importers (although the importers have their ten percent reimbursed later).

As far as import duties are concerned, Brett Margaritis, a Think pro, who is now establishing Five Foot 4 Distribution says there are a variety of rules applying to different categories: decks, cushions, risers, trucks, and wheels carry no duty at all; all other hardware and accessories are five percent; and clothing has a 25-percent import duty that will decrease to 17.5 percent in 2005-this will still make it almost impossible to compete with any locally produced softgoods.

Equipment is slightly more expensive in certain cities, due to freight and retailer opportunism. A board with grip is likely to cost twenty Australian dollars more in Perth than in Sydney.

Manufacturing And Local Brands

Considering the amount of foreign skate labels brought into our country, we have an alarming lack of local competition. Most of the “local” companies turn overseas for manufacturing in order to be competitive. The following are a few of the local brands.

Cortech Wheels: The Cortech wheel is regarded by many who have ridden it as the best pour in the world. Tim Dawe has been making and exporting wheels since 1988. He’s the man who reinvented the wheel, and he has the combination of science skills and lifestyle experience to give the Australian industry the kick-start it needed:

“I did do heavy chemistry, physics, and mathematics at school and university for my main subjects, but my real background was in rock ‘n’ roll. I owned a record and music shop, I was just cruising, surfing, skateboarding, and having a general good time.”

Over twenty years ago, Dawe tapped his science skills to begin manufacturing trucks, wheels, and decks under the name Ozi. These were quality completes, ideal for entry-level skaters, at an affordable price. Everyone wanted an Ozi. He soon realized that he had to focus on one realm of skateboard manufacturing: “After realizing that to do decks, trucks, and wheels in-house was a total nightmare, I decided that with my chemistry knowledge, I should just focus on wheels.”

Cockroach was born, eventually sold, and then years later, in 1993, Tim began designing and testing a new concept in core wheels. His Cortech wheel debuted in 1998 and revolutionized dual-durometer wheels, and his recent Disc wheels again have challenged the “high-tech” status quo. Apart from his product, the most interesting aspect of Tim’s company is his general belief in quality rather than hype (a refreshing angle in a world full of WWF super pros). He doesn’t see Cortech as having any competitors, so why go into a marketing battle with them? “My attitude to wheel making has not much to do with competitors,” he says. “We focus primarily on delivering something that works, and works the best, meaning that we concentrate on what the wheel does, rather than how it looks or how it is marketed. From a performance point of view, I consider that we have no competitors at all. From the ‘traditional’ marketing angle, we may have many, but I honestly don’t have the headspace to give it much thought. My focus is on what we do, rather than what others may try to do. It’s very easy to make a cheap wheel, slap a color graphic on it, and market the hell out of it. We are not a marketing company.”

Globe: Globe shoes need no introduction. They’ve managed to take a major chunk out of the international shoe market since the company launched in 1995. With a team including the cream of the pro crop and constantly evolving designs, it’s easy to see why they are rocking so hard. Globe shoes haven’t ever actually been made in Australia, but it is the company’s headquarters and design base. Globe Partner Peter Hill says that he and his brother were inspired to start their own shoe company when a top American brand they were importing in the 80s turned its back on its skateboarding roots. He admits that initially Globe wasn’t well received overseas. “People basically look for reasons to say no to new brands,” he says. “You have to pay your dues.”

Companies like Globe and French-brand Etnies have since proven that it is possible to pull it off regardless of where a company’s roots are. A longtime title sponsor of the annual World Championships in Germany, Globe also successfully brought the first World Cup event ever to Australia this past February.

Omni: Omni boards are the only Australian decks that are actually pressed (and hand finished) here. Other local board companies tend to use overseas presses and printers, or go through Omni. Omni boards are extremely durable, but are a tiny bit heavier than some of its overseas counterparts. Another staple in the Australian industry.

Blank Clothing: Since the company’s conception in 1993, Raph Rashid and Danny Young at Blank have put out everything from quality Aussie hip-hop fashions to hoodies. Hands-down one of the strongest combinations of dedicated owners, riders, and garments in the country. “The advantages are more quality control and faster turn around,” says Rashid of domestic production. “The disadvantages are price, garment production, and accessory resources.”

Juice Clothing: Since 1993 Juice has been cranking clothes out of Sydney. A combination of two hardworking Bondi skaters, rocking staff, and a top-notch team, including Jeff “Skunk” William