On the manufacturer panel Bod Boyle of Dwindle Distribution believes the skate industry is exciting at the moment with a lot of diversity in board sizes, graphics and styles.
He also notices all the different scenes going on in skate – the street scene, slalom, the Dogtown-looking kids, kids who bomb hills at night wearing headlamps.
Johnny Schillereff of Element said while hardgoods are central to the skate industry, the industry also needs to look at category extensions to grow and be able to tell the skate story at retail. He pointed to the surf industry, which grew way beyond surfboards.
In the next five to 10 years, he thinks its important for skate to tell its story beyond just boards and get some larger real estate on core floors.
Tom Ruiz of Volcom talked about the importance of segmenting product, and keeping the cool factor as a brand grows. He pointed to Vans, which has managed to maintain its authenticity and take care of retailers while having a pretty broad distribution.
Volcom has its Stone Age brand for core retailers, which may not have a huge financial return, but is important because it offers something special for retailers, he said.
“Everyone has to succeed and grow,” he said. “It’s a balancing act at the end of the day.”
Regarding technology in boards, Bod said 90% of Dwindle’s pro athletes ride tech boards, so there’s obviously a disconnect going on between what’s happening at the pro level and what’s happening at retail, he said.
Many skate sections in stores have not changed in 20 years except for the introduction of cruiser boards, he said, and more thought seems to be put into footwear walls.
Johnny also said if you look at the larger sporting equipment world, everything from golf clubs to tennis racquets have changed and progressed over the years. He believes if the industry works together and keeps trying, technological change in skateboards will eventually happen.
The panel on managing a pro career featured several pro skaters and a few team managers.
Steve Caballero, who has ridden for two sponsors for the entirety of his long career, said he came upon an important realization on. “When I was first sponsored, I realized if I made them happy, I would still be sponsored. That’s my theory and that works.”
He also talked about Stacy Peralta discovering him when he was a young teenager, and skating for Powell Peralta. Stacy made it easy for him, Steve said. All he had to worry about was skateboarding. Stacy didn’t party with him, and taught him how to act responsibly and professionally.
Steve also talked about making money so young – at one point he was making $17,000 a month just from his boards. Steve said just kept shoving money in the bank, and he had no real expenses. He was living at his mom’s in the garage, his car was paid for.
He drew an astonished laugh from the crowd when he said at one point the bank called him and said they couldn’t cover how much was in his bank account, so he had to transfer money and have a more sophisticated investment plan.
Jamie Thomas talked about how injuries made him a better person, and taught him how to overcome diversity and work toward a goal. Danny Way lives three houses down from Jamie, and Jamie said when he wakes up feeling achy, he thinks about Danny and realizes he has no reason to complain.
Several on the panel from the team management side talked about having constant, ongoing discussions with team riders defining expectations.
Volcom Skate Team Manager Remy Stratton said Volcom has intensified its contracts with skaters over the years. The contracts clearly outline what is expected, defines what a tour is, how many tours skaters are supposed to do, and other expectations.
As far as advice to prolong careers, Steve Caballero said his advice is to stretch before you skate, drink healthy drinks, and stay away from the stuff that will hurt your performance.