If a pro skater
is really smart, he becomes a captain of this elusive 'urban'
market, because there's big money to be made. Many well-known
skaters have launched clothes, shoes, boards, and peripherals
heard of Rodney Mullen, Kareem Campbell, or Reese Forbes? What about
Jason Lee, Tony Hawk, or Bam Margera? If the last three names ring
a bell it's probably from movies, MTV, or Play Station.
the above are pro skateboarders, heroes to millions of kids around
the world. Each started out like any other little boy, ripping up
the streets, infuriating neighbors, terrorizing security guards and
generally breaking his parents' hearts. Who knew they'd come to fame
and fortune because of the very passion that got them into trouble
in the first place.
Bertino is not nearly so rich and famous as Tony Hawk, but at 25
years old, he's a veteran who's put in a solid 8 years skating
professionally. Bertino rides for ATM Skateboards and is sponsored
by Grindking Trucks, Ironhorse Grip Tape, Dark Star Wheels, and Dr.
Waterpipes. He's a street skater, which means ledges, rails, walls,
and just about anywhere other than vertical ramps.
bought me my first board," Bertino said. "As soon as I could nail
tricks I entered contests and got some attention. Becoming a pro
skater is all about sponsors noticing what you do, which happens
when other kids put the word out that your stuff is
sponsors spot a talented skater, they "comp" him boards and other
merchandise (give them to him for free), then stand back and watch
how he develops. "An amateur needs to prove himself and not just
with his skating," said Bertino. "He needs to have a good attitude
and be well liked in the industry."
build a mini-campaign around an amateur, featuring him in ads and
videos, selecting him for demos or full tours. "Tours are the best.
You can't beat traveling for free, getting out there, seeing the
world. I've been to Europe a couple of times," Bertino said. "Although
there are downsides, like bunking six to a room. That can get old,
fast." And then there's the money.
According to Bertino, "turning pro does change your life as
far as money is concerned. You go from having little or nothing to
living large. It's a very young culture, so it's easy to get caught
up partying. That can make the cash disappear as fast as it came in.
I mean, kids don't think about investing, or even taxes," he said.
"Sooner or later, though, they learn."
is the number one extreme sport of choice among male teens, which
makes it deceptively influential where merchandising is concerned.
In 2003, skateboarding also had the second most overall participants
of any extreme sport, over 11 million. In-line skating finished
first with 19 million participants. But the skateboard demographic
is about far more than actual boards. The real money is in the peripheral
products like shoes and clothes. "Before the shoe boom, pro skaters
were totally underpaid," said Bertino.
boom is an understatement. Just look at the skyrocketing sales of
Vans, eS, and DC, all shoe companies that cater to the skate or
so-called 'urban' market.
pro skater is really smart, he becomes a captain of this elusive
'urban' market, because there's big money to be made. Many
well-known skaters have launched clothes, shoes, boards, and
peripherals manufacturing companies. In turn, such companies (like
World Industries, Globe, and ATM) gather together the best skaters
to ride for their teams. According to one CEO of a prominent skate
shoe company, "Who is better qualified than we are to cater to our
own culture? We know that skateboarders favor what's under the
radar, that stuff is only cool until the mainstream taps into it. If
it's already out there, it's too late."
skaters-turned-corporate executives share the wealth with those
riding for their team? "We pay our skaters well," said this CEO.
"Anyone riding pro these days makes a very good living. Mid-level
skaters earn $50 to $100K a year, while the really good guys make
between $500K and $1 million. But believe it or not, it's rarely
about the money. Basically skaters get paid to do what they would be
doing anyway, which is trying to skate better than the laws of
Forbes is a top pro skater who agrees that companies run by skaters
really do keep things real. "If I can help sell more shoes so the
company can make enough money to pay their people properly, then
I'm happy to do it. Very few people understand that what we do is
extremely difficult. I mean, apart from the physical risk of tearing
out your knee, or breaking your ankle, it's very trying mentally".
skating is intensely competitive," he said. "You can start to wonder
if you're defined by the tricks you nail or the person you
all skaters, Bertino and Forbes have suffered their share of serious
injuries, broken wrists, torn knees, and sprained ankles. But
nothing so bad they'd ever consider leaving the sport. "I don't
really know why I do what I do," Reese said, "but I get psyched by
the challenge of something really complicated And then there's the
sheer joy of landing it. That's the coolest feeling in the world."
Forbes rides for Vita Shoes, Element Skateboards, Quicksilver
Clothing, Destructo Trucks, and Spitfire Wheels.