Never confuse popularity and talent. They are rarely synonymous, especially when it comes to public perception.
Take for example the top three videos of all time on YouTube: Gungam Style, Justin Bieber, and Jennifer Lopez.
Rollerblading may not be popular, but damn does it have talent. Whether technical or burly, the sport has produced a level of skill and finesse that rivals anything under public consumption.
If high school teaches us anything, it’s that popularity is almost tied to money. It creates opportunities you don’t rarely see. Hell, growing up well off is a scientifically-backed predictor for future entrepreneurial success. Then again, guts, confidence, and a willingness to challenge the norm is equally important too.
While we show a certain level of ballsy confidence on our skates, blading is overdue for some serious risk-taking to benefit the future.
Our current climate is a prime petri dish for taking a risk.
A Statement on the Industry
Now that we exist inside a Bitter Cold-less industry, it’s time to start having some serious conversations about what’s going on in the industry.
Sure, it’s happening on message boards and behind closed doors, but the loss of the U.S.’s largest trade show—and a final one filled with more holes than police testimony—means there’s some work to be done in the industry, if you can call what we have an industry.
And the work is being done, but there’s no denying the sport needs some new blood. We’re so busy promoting inside our own industry, essentially scrapping for the same $5, that we’re failing to secure a financial future within realistic view.
But it’s never as doom-and-gloom as it feels if we focus on what’s going on in the sport—the progression of tricks, style, and talent—instead of comparing ourselves to the industries we share skate park space with.
Brian Lewis, co-owner of Create Originals, made one very important fact clear when we talked on the phone Monday night: go to any big sporting goods store and you can find a pair of aggressive skates. Sure, they’re probably made by Airwalk—maybe a K2 Fatty if you’re lucky—but amid some 20 different kind of recreational skates, there’s still an aggressive skate.
That’s a sign of customer demand. Without it, they wouldn’t have any shelf space, whether in a warehouse or a store front.
Products and service drive industry. It’s plain and simple. Since rollerblading’s services come by display of talent, we’re entirely dependent on money coming in from products going out to paying customers.
Even the trolls of the internet can’t help but discuss every single detail of every new skate company. Then again, after years of bad, expensive gear that’s come and gone, you can’t blame people for being pessimistic and protective of their compliments and money.
Lewis, the rest of Create Originals, and everyone else in rollerblading has felt this pessimism more than once.
“No matter what you do, you’re wrong,” Lewis said of the general tone of the dominant online discussion surrounding rollerblading. “People always have a tendency to say they know what’s best for others.”
Lewis said, more or less, is that he doesn’t give a shit if…
- you call him a fag.
- he doesn’t make a million dollars in his lifetime.
- anyone likes blading.
- he can’t make a living in blading.
“If you can’t rise above that, you’re not going to be anywhere,” he said. “That’s what blading is—having the balls to do what you love to do.”
That’s why he and co-owner Hakeem Jimoh have spent years working at a moving company, saving up money to make the original CO frame mold. The idea behind getting the patents for their work, Lewis said, is to license the technology to other applications, such as roller hockey or recreational uses. It’ll fund the aggressive end of things on their own.
That’s been a model for companies that aren’t go to fold in the near future, but manage to get their bladers all over: Valo, Razors, Rollerblade, etc. Even Powerslide is doing it with Powerblading and Doop skates. Seba is the latest boot manufacturer into that market by snagging CJ Wellsmore as their aggressive spokesman while the funding comes from a diverse, inline-focused background.
Basically, right now, blading is in it’s Wild West days—a time of chaos, lawlessness, and huge potential.
“That’s my favorite thing about our industry: we get to build it,” Lewis said.
CO’S CRS: A Kickstart in the Ass
I’ll admit one thing: when I saw the $30,000 price tag for the Create Original Custom Ride System Inline Skate Frame project, I thought they was smoking some shit that’s illegal, even in Colorado. But that’s the cost of doing business in the injection molding business, even if it’s not all of it.
With limited dollars and a heavily-pessimistic online culture, rollerblading as we know it doesn’t sound like too solid of an investment on paper. Then again, if you’re in it at this point, you know there’s not much value on paper since we can’t even support magazines so they can print more than four times a year.
But Lewis doesn’t give a shit about any of that either.
“You invest in things because you believe there, someday, may be a payoff,” Lewis said. “You can’t invest without some kind of risk.”
And it appears a ton of rollerbladers are currently into investing in Create Originals’ latest risk.
The project took off. As of the writing of this article, there were…
And Create Originals is one of those companies worth supporting. Entirely blader run, they’ve not only changed what frames can do with their line of graphics frame, but they’ve amassed an impressive pro team that demands a video in the near future.
The project was immediately compared to Fiziks and with good reason: it’s a suspension frame. This, however, has no arms, fewer parts, and gives skaters a better chance to perfect their setup.
Broskow called them a “game-changer.” While Broskow has a personal interest in the project, that’s a statement the CO family is ready to stand behind their product.
Personally, I’m excited as hell about it. The steel spacers meet a faster, more solid ride. The urethane spacers will be easier on my old joints, make crappy pavement a non-issue, and create a ride as original as the name on the side.
There’s no need to go into all the specs of the products. Brian, Hakeem, and Billy O’Neill did an overly-professional job of doing it on the Kickstarter page. If you’re dead to blading and haven’t seen it already, go there now and check it out. All you have to do is click here.
I’m excited to hear everyone’s reactions when the frames come out in October or earlier. So is Create Originals. Brian and Hakeem will be your personal customer support team when the frames launch, so hit them up and give your feedback. It dictates the future of the company and they welcome comments. It’s not like they plan on going anywhere soon.
“We are the guys that will ensure things go on,” Lewis said. “We’d do what we have to do to make sure that happens.”
That mentality sounds like one worth supporting.
The Last Few Words
You don’t have to be as ga-ga over the frames like I am, but at least respect the idea of making an investment into the future of blading. As many times as I’ve heard people use the phrase “this isn’t what our sport needs right now,” I’m confident this kind of investment strategy is exactly what our sport needs right now.
If CO’s Kickstarter project can work, it shows that bladers have found a way to invest in their sport without waiting for some outside corporate sponsor to fund—and ultimately dicatate—its future.
Take a stand. Make an investment.
Blade or Die,
— Brian Krans
P.S. — If you want to make an investment in your upcoming summer reading list, I appreciate any support of my book publishing company, Rock Town Press. It’s what I love to do as much as rollerblade.