At the risk of sounding like Count Grumpula, Captain Seriouso, or a bossy, biased, boring bitch, I’m going to type a little bit about the state of the skateboard industry.
Please forgive me.
I’ve used this example before when the subject of blank boards, shop boards, team boards, branded boards, and pro boards comes up—which is a lot lately. And it’s not to say that this example isn’t in use in our industry or in others, nor is it a new one. It’s just easy for me to explain and easy for skateboarders who’ve grown up with real skateshops to understand.
Powell has a model in place with their Bones Bearings brand that many other manufacturers (and many other skaters as well) may want to consider paying a bit closer attention to.
A million ways to roll. Choose one.
I think the kids call it range.
Quite simply, you can walk into almost any skateshop in the world today and pick from a very wide range of bearings—and all from just one manufacturer.
Got $140 burning a hole in your pocket? You can get Bones’ Swiss Ceramics—the flagship of the Bones Bearing brand. Wooooooo!
Can’t quite swing the ceramics? How about the same, no-lube, self-polishing Ceramic Super Reds? They’re $75. You can still ride some of that trickle-down tech with Bones Swiss L2s for around $62. Or if you’re game for something a little different, there are the Super Swiss 6s, Bones’ six-ball bearings for $58. Of course, you can always run the skate bearing to which all other skate bearings are compared, the Original Bones Swiss have been the industry standard for well over twenty years and are the bearings that all the pros are really riding—cool like that for $55. Want the long-lasting, quiet, smoothness of the OG, but at a nice price? Try Super Reds at $25. If all those are still a bit out of your budget, you can roll with Reds, the Swiss-spec bearings made in China for $18. And if you’re clever enough to jump to another Powell brand, you’ll find bearings in their MiniLogo line for $10 a set.
Powell has been investing in the development of this brand for more than two decades—researching new product, coming up with ways to make those products better, and establishing a range of merchandise in the unsexy but completely necessary world of skateboard bearings. And the only thing they’ve gotten out of the whole deal is respect, a vice-like grip on the market, and whatever you want to call it when you sell the hell out of bearings.
While it’s hard to compare bearings with boards, it is crystal clear that with some product there’s an obvious and easy-to-understand range to choose from, with jumps in quality from the bottom to the top and even some room in the middle for personal preference.
With skateboard decks it’s a little harder to grasp.
Who knows, exactly? But the inability for the layman to distinguish between the $30 deck and the $85 deck, the inability for board brands to communicate the difference between the $30 deck and the $85 deck, and the unwillingness of all of us to invest (monetarily and psychologically) in new constructions, manufacturing processes, and materials may be the easiest factors to blame. Or it could be the sluggish embrace by our once-progressive culture of this coattail hell ride that we currently finds ourselves dragging through.
Or it could be a zillion other things.
Look … very few skaters are willing to step out from the shadows of their peers and make something new happen. To those of you who are—congratulations. Pat yourselves on the collective back. But if everyone else would just take a second to think, pause, and then run as fast as they could from the trends and the forecasts and the lemming-like arrogance, we’d easily find all kinds of limbs to go out on, taking our culture and our industry in new, weird, and original directions.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
I hope I at least get a free set of bearings out of this.