IASC Update November 1998

The Shift

Geologic time has much to do with plate tectonics, the theory that the Earth is enveloped by a crusty granite layer of twelve major sections that are constantly shifting in their effort to adjust to the thermic demands of our planet’s inner core. Our particular molten mass creates (amongst other things) movement at the surface. The resulting tectonic shifts bring about earthquakes, volcanoes, and other major upheavals.

Entering the next millennium with a new appreciation for time, is it perhaps appropriate to recognize the shift taking place in our industry? Is there a thermal storm creating movement within and without skateboarding? Companies going away like the Pacific plate subducting beneath the Andes Mountains? Companies emerging like a volcano suddenly rising above the plain?

Older, established companies, like the Cascades in the northwest, weather the continual storms, perhaps with an erosion here and there but with such an established base that their elimination would seem unthinkable.

IASC emerged from an interest in strengthening the sport of skateboarding and its businesses. One of the early goals was to help provide stability to the marketplace by establishing criteria for better events, better exposure for the sport, and better business practices. Despite agreement with the importance and potential impact of such criteria, there was also concern for the implementation of any such criteria – what were we going to do, establish industry-wide contracts for professional skateboarders that would bind them to

sponsors for specific amounts of time?

Imagine the impact of that one concept. Imagine the impact if a retailer knew that a company’s athletes were going to be with that company for a year, or even two years. Knowing that a skater’s products would be attached with particular sponsors for specific periods of time would actually allow the retailer to project potential sales and thus directly affect order quantities and inventory.

Of course, from the sponsors’ and manufacturers’ point of view, the potential stability would be astounding. Imagine a manufacturer’s delight in knowing that a particular athlete’s contract would keep him or her with that company for a definitive amount of time. Production schedules could be planned accordingly, inventories could be controlled, costs would decrease, and savings could be passed along to retailers – and even the consumer!

What happened? Skateboarding happened. And continues to happen. Never more popular, there are more skateboarders today than at any time (geologic, or not). Worldwide and domestically there are more skaters today than ever before, and the need for standards and criteria for its businesses, and the sport itself, have perhaps never been greater, but …

Criteria have to do with regulations, and regulations have to do with making things regular, and skateboarding is not – nor has it ever been – regular. Regulations call for regulators. Regulators enforce regulations. Thus, regular sports are filled with regulators known as umpires, referees, or officials. Regular we’re not.

Thus, skateboarding, like geology, operates from within basic principles that transcend regulations. Mount St. Helens exploded a few years ago with little warning, defying all regular notions of what a mountain should do. It’s not within the regulations of mountain behavior that it would just blow up and send dust and ash into the atmosphere, encircling Earth for months.

Skateboarding, the sport and its businesses, operates from within a free-market system driven by entrepreneurial individuals competing for adolescent-aged customers, proving again and again the whimsicality of their natural tendencies. No surprise there, but what about the adults involved? Shouldn’t the owners and operators know better?

Look no further than the other sports for some answers – those that are regulated with rule books thicker than the telephone directories for NYC. Look at the NBA! Will Michael Jordan play this year? Doesn’t look like anyone will play this year! Pro volleyball is gone. Pro baseball was only saved this year by steroids. As it turns out, the turmoil of sport isn’t limited to skateboarding.

This was confirmed in September by an expert in the field – we asked the comedian Gallagher. Gallagher, as it turns out, is anxious to help build a skatepark in Las Vegas. His interest stems from his own experience as a young roller skater in Florida, where his father owned and operated a skating rink. When we asked Gallagher to respond to our theories, he said, “That’s not what skateboarding is. It’s not a regular activity, it’s not meant to be regulated, it’s different. If it had rules and regulations, it wouldn’t be skateboarding.”

Thus, like mountain ranges and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, we seem to be stuck with what we have. A sport and its businesses with their own way of doing things. Changing, evolving, emerging and disappearing, we go our way into the epochs.