The Impact Of The Great Recession On Longboarding

Posted: 2021-08-26 in Uncategorized

I’ve often wondered about the impact of The Great Recession on longboarding – in Local Flavor, I touch on a few Michigan-based hardgood companies that existed at the time. Companies like Rey Trucks, famously, began production during the Great Recession as a way to keep their guys working and to keep money flowing during the downturn (and ceased production when their main business picked back up). Chicago Longboards was a cabinet manufacturer who, likewise, turned his efforts into longboarding to keep some money flowing. Malibu Longboards, out of Grand Rapids, MI, was run by a husband and wife who were experienced in far-East supplier relations, and were able to leverage that into their own longboard brand. Zealous Trucks and Confederate Trucks were both designed by out-of-work engineers. Tactis Skateshop was started by a financial guy.

Rey and CLB were implemental in bringing affordable, high-performance gear to the marketplace – Rey with their CNC trucks, and CLB with their composite-based boards. Zealous and Confed had groundbreaking innovations in their trucks – Zealous had an infinitely-adjustable kingpin, making their hangers usable on any RKP baseplate, and Confed had easily-replacable axles. Plus, Zealous was able to transition into being the bearing powerhouse that they are today. Tactis (and you gotta go back to 2009 for this) spread the stoke by sponsoring guys like Calvin Staub, Keith Henderson, and Peter Ramirez (Immortalized in the Cash L3wis song, Skateboard King).

But, we saw this play out in the Gearsplosion of 2009: Everyone and their duck was selling longboard stuff during that time. Small time board builders were coming out of the woodwork, the floodgates were opened on far-East companies selling private-label bearings, urethane manufacturers such as AEND loosened up minimum orders which allowed a ton of wheel brands to enter the market (using stock shapes and urethane formulas). While the brands above were important and influential, there are other variables at play.

Locally to me, around West Michigan in the summers and around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during the school year, we had scenes reminiscent of the 70’s drought leaving pools wide open for skaters to go vertical…though, instead of empty pools, we had winding ribbons of asphalt weaving through the undulating terrain of subdivisions that weren’t filled because of the crashing real estate market. There were skate crews tagging culs-de-sac in subdivisions like Summerset West in Georgetown Township, Shiras Hills in Chocolay Township, and Odovero Hills in the City of Marquette. Other areas around Boyne City became Michigan Downhill hotspots. Elsewhere in the country, abandoned industrial parks became locations for outlaw races. Countless other subdivisions sat as empty monuments to man’s materialism, and promised miles of smooth pavement where skaters weren’t likely to be harassed by neighbors or police. The only reason I feel comfortable in naming specific subdivisions in this post is because I know they’re nearly 100% filled…as of this writing in 2021, and having skated a bunch of ’em while they were being built in 2007, 08, and 09.

I’d like to offer the supposition that The Great Recession was at least part of a factor in the longboard boom of the late 2000s and early 2010s – as shown above, a sudden glut of hardgoods pulled the top end up, while the bottom end was girded by plenty of openly available terrain to utilize.

Thoughts?

Comments
  1. coldkennels says:

    It’s an interesting take. I don’t disagree with you in any way – I think you’re right in that the recession ultimately opened doors that wouldn’t have existed otherwise – but I can’t help but feel that part of the shift was cultural, too.

    When I think about Skateboarding in the early 2000s, it was so street-dominated that everything else was shut out. As a result of this, it only appealed to a small subset of people. Add in the Jackass schtick that had become endemic during that era and skateboarding was not really appealing to the masses.

    When longboarding came around, it was a breath of fresh air for many – including me. I’d put my board away towards the end of 2007. When I stumbled into a longboard shop in Falmouth in 2009, seeing this selection of pintails and giant wheels really excited me in a way that mainstream skateboarding hadn’t for a long, long time. I left the shop £150 lighter and spent the next year or so having a lot of fun on a 44″ or 46″ G&S; it was refreshing not thinking about flip tricks and just enjoying the act of rolling again.

    And I think that’s what really led to the boom of longboarding (and then of, course, of “penny boards”); the barrier to entry was lower as far as skill level goes, but the experience was just so much more enjoyable at a base level, and a generation of people who’d grown up thinking skateboards were just for jumping down stairs “suddenly” had a whole new option to play with, and they embraced it en masse.

    Now, whether that would have happened – or been able to happen – without the recession-era brands is up for debate. But I think there was a hunger for non-street-skateboarding, and longboarding was very much in the right place at the right time.

    • Bob says:

      I am finally catching up on your blog. Tony’s experience is on permutation of a very common experience. In 1999 it was the longboard that got me back on a board too. That, and the realization that I missed skating.

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