With the ongoing effects of the pandemic, we have all seen how important it is to buy local. This coupled with the ever growing popularity of skateboarding has led to this rant *ahem* opinion piece.
Over the past few months I have been engaging with stakeholders within the industry, discussing how we are going to see more non-skater companies capitalize on the popularity of skating to make a quick buck while the gettin's good. At the moment we have a bunch of overseas distributors starting to sell into New Zealand, but not putting anything back into our local skate scene. Rebel Sports has been selling skateboards for a while and today an advertisement popped up on my social media for Number One Shoes - they also sell skateboards now. I don’t blame them, both are massive companies and can see there is money to be made, but as skaters we need to ensure stores like this get the smallest amount of market share possible.
You might think I should stop my ranting, companies like the Warehouse for example, have always sold skateboards, how is this different? The average skateboard on the Warehouse website costs $25 and in the description tells you the weight limit (60kg). One should know they are buying a toy. And if you are just buying a toy, then cheap Warehouse board all the way. At Rebel Sport the skateboards cost $150 and are described as "...the perfect set-up for the skatepark..." At Number One Shoes the boards are $119 and the description begins “From beginners to pros, adults to kids…” If you don’t know skateboards you might think that’s all good. Maybe it is good, I’m not here to review skateboards, I’m here to tell you why you need to support local skate specific stores more.
Again, you might think that it’s not a big deal because it’s only a few options of completes, but perhaps Rebel Sport or Number One Shoes’ foray into skateboards goes really well and they decide to start stocking decks, trucks and wheels. Are they going to train their staff so they can advise on the best equipment for the different styles? Or on how to grip a board? Picture this, a 10-year-old child and their parent buying a skateboard and the child is super excited and talking about how they live on a hill and can’t wait to get home and bomb it. A Number One Shoes salesperson probably smiles and thinks ‘that’s cute’ and offers no advice. The Salesperson at a local skater owned-and-operated shop may offer to tighten up the trucks, give the kid some tips and also suggest the appropriate safety gear to the parent. You can’t “train" this knowledge into generic shop staff. With core skate shops come staff that skate; staff that have known the feeling of bombing your first hill, making your first drop in, landing your first kickflip, and they actually want to pass on that stoke to this child.
Knowledge aside, who’s giving back to skateboarding? When you hand over your hard-earned money, think about what else you're getting beside skate gear. Does this business have sponsored riders? Does this business support local competitions and other skateboarding events? Does this business employ skateboarders, giving members of our community jobs? The more you spend at skater owned-and-operated stores, the more money these stores have to give back to skateboarding. If you think this doesn’t apply to you because you already shop at your local, this isn’t enough anymore. If you care about skateboarding then it’s in all our interests to protect the reputation and progression of it in Aotearoa. We need to reach those skaters who haven’t even started yet, who are looking at their first board, who are looking at getting the first board for their kid. We need to make sure they get the right set-ups and advice from someone who knows what they are talking about from the get go. Spread the word now to your friends and family that if anyone is thinking about getting a skateboard for the first time, they are welcome to message you for advice so you can point them in the right direction.
At the end of last year my nephew was turning 5, it was time (IMO) he ditched the scooter and got a skateboard. I could have just bought one and sent it to him, but I waited until he flew down to Ōtautahi so I could take him in to choose his own. Because getting your first skateboard should be a goddamn magical experience and I wanted him to feel it; looking at all the decks on the wall, marvelling at the shapes, artwork and brand styles, examining all the trucks and wheels under the counter, flipping through the sticker books... you just don’t get these memories from a generic chain store with a token skateboard rack.
To use the now infamous quote from Tony Hawk when asked about skateboarding in the Olympics “They need us more than we need them”. We don’t need stores that aren’t giving back to skateboarding. We don’t need them at all. But local skater owned-and-operated stores need us. Where you spend your hard earned cash matters. Support skate shops, support skateboarding.
(Pictured below is my nephew Hugo, getting his first skateboard at Embassy in Ōtautahi)