it really isn't the same. think about any small company in this industry (remote, watermonsters, integrity/mutiny, obscura) and how tight they are within, and what the friendships are like. there are emotional investments; it's not just about monetary transactions or whatever.
and people probably care because they feel some sort of connection to some side or the other, and what people represent. you care about people and what they stand for, so you're either excited to see them come or sad/angry to see them go. I'm older now and I still totally get that, even though this is "just wakeskating." _________________ *The opinions expressed are on my behalf and not those of wakeskating.com*
Joined: 13 Nov 2003 Posts: 14538 City: Anna Maria Island
Posted: Apr 11, 2012 1:06 am Post subject:
Alright, where do I even begin?
First things first- yeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww
Next up, thanks so much to everyone who's stoked for me and everyone who's had my back for so many years. It's pretty mind-blowing to me to think that over 7 years ago, I was part of an equation that made my name & style synonymous with Integrity. Erich helped plant the idea in my mind (inception style) that I could live the wakeskate life, if I give it everything I have, I could travel the world, have my photos in the magazines, and be someone that kids look up to...
Fast forward 7 years- Here I am, with a board refined for years to suit my style & needs, the frontman of a sick little team of black sheep, and the underlying satisfaction of years of loyalty to a small company that has stood the test of time, outlasting dozens of other small independent wakeskate companies, doing it all with strong underground support and a reputation of making some of the finest wakeskates in the world... but when you look carefully, there's imbalance... There are only enough boards in a year to keep a couple hundred customers happy, my ideas for making a price-point flat deck that could be put into shops under the Mutiny name were ignored, I don't fit in with the rest of the team (a couple of them genuinely don't like me), and I spend most of my time with a different crew, to the point where I felt uncomfortable around half the Mutiny guys...
When the idea of leaving to a different board company started to cross my mind more and more frequently, there was an instant torrent of uncertainty, paranoia, worry, doubt, and anxiety. It was like questioning my sexuality or something. I was an Integrity guy, and no matter how many times I caught myself looking, or how sweet it seemed it would be to switch to the other team, I talked myself out of it. I was an Integrity guy... And who knew if I could even get used to wood? (Alright, this metaphor seriously has to stop )
So anyways, as 2012 was starting to feel like an actual year and less like a synonym for doomsday, I actually decided to consider the pros & cons of riding for another company... I went through a list in my head,
Owned by Bob - No.
Waterski company - No.
Owned by Bob - No.
Waterski company - No.
Owned by Bob - No.
Haven't heard good things from team riders - No.
I don't think they are still around - No.
WaterMonsters - Hmmmmm...
Remote - Hmmmmm...
Then with those last 2 in mind, I went through personal history...
WaterMonsters - spent a good summer with Andrew Pastura on Lake Nan, crashing on a couch at Waterside. Back then, me and the rest of the guys demanded that Nike put him on. We've done a few trips to the Philippines, a houseboat trip, and spent plenty of time hanging out and riding in Orlando. Even though he's really quiet and it's hard to get to know him, I consider him a good friend. Such a good dude, really funny too... Austin is a wildman, and his "seriously not giving a f.uck" attitude towards riding & the industry is something that commands respect, whether you like how he goes about it or not.
Remote - Back when I was a young grommet of 16, I made it onto the podium at a pro wakeskate event in Acworth, GA. After the awards were given, I was talking to Kyle Walton who I had known for a little over a year at that point, and he gave me a piece of paper with a name and a number on it.
Me: What's this?
Walton: You wanna ride for Nike?
Me:...Uhhhh yeah? Definitely?
Walton: Call Silas, he's putting a team together. He's the man.
And like that, I was introduced to Silas Thurman, an anomaly in wakeskating. Where other action sports have entire generations of guys who got their start riding and moved into the business side of things, running the show in ways that 98% of riders can't even comprehend, wakeskating has Silas Thurman. My first experiences with Silas were of Team Manager and rider, but that has changed immensely since those first years... Around that same time when I was just starting to grow in wakeskating, Silas was putting another name on his list. A skater kid from Georgia that I had been hearing about from Walton. It was said he made wakeskating look so legit, it hurt. Mostly by the way his ankles roll when he's flicking his kickflips.
In the time since those first couple of years, Silas, Ben, and myself have been on literally countless adventures in Florida, Georgia, Texas, California, Oregon, Germany, the Philippines, and every single one of them ranks in the best times of my life. We've worked together on Aquafrolics, projects for Sea-Doo, about a hundred Nike shoots of one kind or another, Retention, we've been on several weeks worth of road trips, The Wakeskate Tour, on top of tons of smaller projects that we've done.
We go snowboarding every winter... Nike is what brought us together, but it can't be said enough that these guys are a huge part of my life. We don't hang out as the product of corporate orders. Ben & Silas are genuinely 2 of my best friends and have been a MAJOR part of my involvement in wakeskating for the last few years, keeping me motivated & stoked, and helping to keep it fun for me at times when I was taking some things too seriously...
So I weighed these 2 out for a little over a week, still not totally comfortable with the thought of leaving Integrity.
WaterMonsters - It would be EPIC to ride with Andrew & Austin more, to do more trips up to Ohio (one of my top 3 favorite trips of 2010), to not get made fun of, to shoot another video section, and I would love to be on a team with my AMI grommet Travis Belsito and travel with him more (Australia was so awesome dude). I would be riding for a brand that I'm totally into and stoked on. I love Walton, TJ, David Hanson, Rau, Aaron, and the whole Pastura family.
Remote - It would be so sick to go on all the Remote trips with the boys instead being the kid stuck in algebra class because he couldn't get his permission slip signed. Road trip in the Remote Van this summer. Shooting another video section. All the fun stuff that Silas & Ben think up for Remote that I had to head home for, being part of that. I love Tyler, Yan, Hooker, and Léo. Being part of a team that likes me and is doing all the right things for wakeskating.
Wow my choices are looking good... I need to try the boards.
Last year, when Andrew first split off to start WaterMonsters he called me. I think it was the first time he had ever called me.
I got all nervous and everything and wondered what it could be about. He told me all about his plans for WaterMonsters, talking with more heart in his voice than I had ever heard, and certainly with more words than I had ever heard him say at one time. He asked me what I thought about the idea of leaving Integrity and joining up with WaterMonsters. He sent me the first mock-ups for what would become the first line of graphics for WM... Awestruck and ecstatic, I told him I would sleep on it and let him know... I ended up telling him a few days later that things were great with Integrity and I couldn't really see myself leaving, but that I'm really stoked on what he's doing and would support it however else I can... A few months ago, I ordered 2 Austin 39.5"WaterMonsters as soon as the site went live. They went quick.
In early 2009, shortly after Remote first assembled their dream team, we were in the Philippines filming for Aquafrolics, and the guys were testing the prototypes on the cable at CWC. I rode whichever one was handed to me first and it was really weird to ride a 39" or 40" or 41" wood concave after being so used to the Integrity, but it was fun playing around on different shapes. That day, the "joke" started. Silas would ask me every couple days that trip when I was gonna make the jump over to Remote. I'd play it off. After the trip, we would be hanging out somewhere and he'd ask casually when I was gonna make the switch and I'd tell him to send me a board and we'll see... Back then, it was mostly to have a Remote for my wall (which displays about 10-15 personally significant wakeskates), but it was also a way for me to test the waters for how serious he was about this thing. A couple years went by, and I let my lack of a Remote board be the answer to the "joke"... for a while.
More recently, I traded TJ one of my WM Austin decks for his with the newer graphic, and took the other one out for a session. I watched Austin & Andrew's parts in More Than Machines to watch closer and get a feel for how these boards ride before my session... I got used to the weight pretty quickly and the concave was sweet, but as anyone who's watched me ride can tell you, I like to put it on rail. I like to carve around and spray and slide around for fun. There was something about the WM deck that didn't quite flow with the water the way I needed it to. The relationship between the rail shape, outline shape, and rocker line felt rigid and I reached up to the sea-doo for my Integrity after about 30 minutes of trying to figure it out.
In late January, on our last snowboarding trip, I told Silas I was starting to seriously consider switching board companies...
I didn't tell him that (unnamed Integrity rider) had gone to Schmaltz the previous summer with things that I had never said, leading to 9 months of zero contact between me and Erich, but you can bet it was on my mind... Me and Silas talked about how sick it would be for me to be a part of everything going on with Remote. I asked him how soon he could have a board to my mom's house in Florida. It was there the day after I landed. Due mostly to another project I'm working on, I didn't have time to ride it before the O'Neill/Sub/Island trip to Australia and nobody there but myself and Ben knew that I had a Remote in the states waiting for me. I got home and with the workload piled up from my time away, it was another 3 weeks until I could ride it. On March 28th, I took my first session on a non-prototype Remote... Could. Not. Believe. That within a few minutes of feeling it out, I could ride a wood deck so comfortably and do every trick just as well, if not better feeling, than I had before...
I asked TJ if I was just imagining this, like a kid who puts on his Nike basketball shoes and thinks he can jump higher, and TJ told me that he was really surprised- It worked for me and it looked good. He said he couldn't get over the idea of me riding another board, and he liked it. TJ pulled me for well over an hour to dial the board in and I was electric as I got it dialed in. Varial heelflips never felt so good. 360s were solid. Everything had a new kind of pop that I related to a rediscovery of swing weight. Catching a kickflip felt kinky it was hitting so hard. Lip tricks are still making me grin. Bigspins felt lofty and really easy to control. First try hardflip made a smack on the water...
I called Ben & Silas that night: Let's do this- but there's one thing first. Yeah? We're doing the final video premieres for the Integrity video and I want to end on a good note with those dudes. We put a lot of time into making this video and I don't want to put an asterisk on the fun of the celebration. We'll make the announcement after the last premiere is done and I can spend one last night high-fiving and bro-hugging those dudes for all the good times we've had...
I was sick to my stomach about the thought of telling Schmaltz about the decision I had made, no matter how sound the logic was to me, it was killing me to think I'd lose Schmaltz as a friend, after I'd learned so much from him and we'd done so much together. He was my connection to Integrity from the beginning. No offense to any of the other dudes, but none of them ever came close to the depth of my pride and loyalty to Erich Schmaltz. Sure they rode for Integrity or Mutiny and they were really stoked on the brand and all that and posted about it on their facebooks and filmed really hard for the video, but I knew that Erich had bled for this. That his life was in this, and everything he has sacrificed to keep his dream alive, and my heart was set on helping him see his dream through, just as he helped to start the fire that led to me living my dream... If you ask me now if that desire to see Erich succeed is still alive, I can tell you with an honest heart that it still is, and I still do. My decision to leave Integrity is the realization of 2 concepts. 1) I have put 7 years into doing what I can for Erich as a team rider, bringing Integrity to the awareness of an innumerable amount of people and representing the brand in a positive way, in my own manner 2) I believe that metaphorically removing my monolithic shadowy oak tree from Integrity will give the smaller trees more light to share and lead to some healthy growth for them as a team. I was always on a different wavelength from them, and my absence will see a new unity between them all. They have to prove themselves in a new way now. I'm really excited to see what they come up with in these next few months...
A few days ago, I sent Erich a long email spilling my heart and explaining my mind, and why I thought this was the right next step for me and for Integrity. I chose not to tell any of the team riders because I didn't want to hear the backlash from people who wouldn't understand and I didn't want news to get out before the pieces were in place. We wanted to do a big announcement (and the fact that the internet exploded today totally validated keeping the secret for a few more days)...
Erich replied after a day and my heart was rectified. He was calm, understanding, and supportive- a true testament to our friendship. I would have been a mental case if he would've gone off on me, because he means that much to me.
A few things that need to be set straight-
- I was paid a few times by Integrity for board sales on my pro model, even though I was always hesitant to take anything. Being an independent wakeskate company is not lucrative business and I felt bad taking a check, even though that was one thing Erich always wanted for Integrity- for it to grow enough to be able to pay riders, among other things... In a cool sort of roundabout way, the things I learned from Erich over the years helped me land some large contracts with my other sponsors, allowing me the freedom/luxury of not depending on a paycheck from my board company. I sometimes referred to Integrity & Erich as my shaper instead of as my sponsor, and I was really psyched to think of it that way. Erich had taught me about the absolute ideal business agreement- a smile and a handshake. And so for 7 years, that was the basis of our "business" relationship... With that in mind, I hope to never sign a contract with a board company. I'll make my deals in this particular arena with a smile and a handshake.
- Calling Integrity underground and Remote commercialized is a poor way of expressing a level of involvement in what's happening in wakeskating. If I had gone to Hyperlite, Liquid Force, Byerly, CWB, O'Brien, or any company like that, then your sense of disappointment in the inherent flaws of capitalism would be justified, as well as your pretense of some "sad fact" being inevitable and inherent, but the real fact is, I'm not taking a paycheck from Remote. That's right- I'm going from not making money from my favorite board company over to not making money from my favorite board company... Silas & Ben offered to share Remote's income in whatever way they can, and I declined, insisting that the money be reinvested into Remote for board production costs, ads, trips, R&D, paying photographers, gas money for the van, and all the other stuff that's way cooler than me having a bit more money in the bank... My decision to ride for Remote was influenced by many things, but money certainly was not one of them. They aren't much bigger of a company than Integrity, and like I said, the agreements I have with my bigger sponsors, written in ink, have allowed me the financial freedom to ride for whatever board company I want... Now I ride for Remote.
- Ryan Lemons hasn't changed in 7 years. I know him well...
- You guys are gonna freak out when you hear who I'm paddleboarding for.
- Every single picture The Kid just posted has me almost pissing my pants laughing
- Anyone who has any other questions about me walking away from Integrity and joining the Remote team, just ask me...
I'm always here.
Thanks again to everyone who has shown their love today, I can't tell you how fortunate I consider myself to be living the life that I do, and it all started here on the green and blue...
I was crazy shook when I first heard of you crossin over (still kinda am) but this was what I was waiting for. The time you spent to write all this out, to people you have nothing to prove, shows what kind of person you are....and I appreciate that. In the end, it's still gonna be weird to me at first but I'm glad it'll be better for you. Still my favorite, hope to get to talk to you at one of the stops for the tour.
You better look good on that wood! _________________ Zero.
It's not companies trying to live the dream, so much as it's the people behind them who are trying to help good riders actually make a living off of wakeskating.
- Anyone who has any other questions about me walking away from Integrity and joining the Remote team, just ask me...
I'm always here.
this is why i love u TNT. u didn't have to pour your heart out to the world. u could say fvck off and mind your own damn business or like most riders don't say a damn thing; but by opening your heart, love will pour into u from everywhere, racing in, u have become a bottomless pit, an abyss. in my eyes u are the truest ambassador bringing wakeskating to people all over the globe.....wether in be at CWC or right here at my kitchen counter.
it was a pleasure to read your testimony brother, and look forward to see you bounce back.....just like the uncompromisable resiliency u get in an all natural wood deck. keep it poppin son. respect. _________________ dbanana wrote:
May you have friends,boards,beer,and glassy water forever. Cassette4life
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