Before I start rambling on, I think it would be best if I give you some background. So you can better understand where I am coming from.
I made Downhill skateboarding my passion the same year that I started racing. That was back in 2009, now it doesn't sound too long ago but if you talking in terms of Downhill skateboarding in South Africa, that is generations ago. When SA had only one store stocking Longboards, and Hot Heels Africa only had 20 something riders competing. That was in total, as in the EVENT! There were no Juniors, no Girls and virtually no spectators. That one store only had one brand on the racks: Sector 9, and back then Sector 9 didn't even have Downhill specific boards. I myself bought a 'Bomb Hills Not Countries' board, as it was stiff, nice and wide. The only trucks we could get were Randal RII's, and if you were really lucky and badass you had not the normal 50 deg baseplates, but you had the 42 deg ones. Too sick!! To paint an even clearer picture...the only decent wheels that you could get locally were Kryptonics (groms today won't even skate to the cafe on those). We had to wait till Hot Heels dawned for the internationals to come grace us with their presence, so we could buy their used, usually scrubbed old race wheels. We would ride that one set for the whole year till the next December when the internationals got back again. Needless to say kiff gear was unheard of.
Things slowly started picking up about the time I met up with the Cornerstone guys. I dragged them feet first into our obsession. Showed them what the scene was all about and what gear they should stock. Now it's not rocket science so they quickly figured it out for themselves and well, look at Cornerstone today. About that time too I was privileged enough to be able to import Orangatang wheels and sell off to my fellow Downhill junkies...this progressed to where it is today. Today I am a full on Distributor for Loaded/Orangatang/Paris and Riviera and Divine supplying skate stores all over SA.
Now all that being said I have not been part of the scene for half as long as some of us. But I have been around long enough to see where our scene came from and where it is going. What I would like to touch on this time round in this particular rant (yes there will be more) is this whole 'Sponsor me' business. Now this is aimed at riders and Brands/Manufacturers/Stores and freakin Online Stores alike.
Being sponsored is awesome yes, and you do get gear or race entries paid for. Some get sick leathers and some even get travel expenses covered. It's rad! You might even say that being sponsored helps you improve your skill as a skater and helps you realise your dreams. What the sponsors get out of it or is supposed to get out of it is exposure, exposure they get from you supplying them with being involved in the scene...riding, photo's, video's, organising events, being a role model, interviews, articles, reviews and sales. You know that sort of stuff, now I can promise you more than half the riders and even the sponsors don't understand what all that entails. This is where I get worried.
I see more and more kids getting sponsored and in all honesty why?! Why ride for a company when you don't even have the decency to actually ride their products? Why sponsor a rider if he is not riding your gear? Why ride for a sponsor if you don't believe in how they do business or you don't believe in their product? Why sponsor a rider if you are an online store on the opposite end of this planet!? Why ride for that online store? They are stealing business where they shouldn’t, you are supporting a company that is actively trying to destroy your local scene?! It doesn't make sense.
Being sponsored or sponsoring someone is like being in a relationship, you're not going to be involved with a girl that is a total bitch, that doesn't want to hang with your mates, that cheats on you, talks behind your back. No, you are going to be with someone who believes in you, you believe in them, you support each other and sometimes put in a little effort with. I honestly love my sponsors, and not because of the sick gear, that's a bonus. But because I believe in what they are trying to accomplish, I feel they have good intentions for the greater scene and they are rad people, and I can promise you they feel they same way about me.
There are so many sponsored riders now that companies feel that they have to get in on the sponsoring otherwise they are going to lose out somehow. The scene is a lot bigger yes, but don't fool yourself as it is still very, very small. If you sponsor everyone, who is left to buy your product?
Now I don't for a second think that our scene will stop growing, I am just wondering with all this selling of souls and companies not understanding and well riders taking companies for a ride, where is our scene going? It's not exactly as pure as it used to be...
Now put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Thanks for reading my rant, watch this space for more