In a year full of surprises, skateboarding is seeing the biggest boost in participation in decades, perhaps ever. Time for a special Skateboard Hardgoods and Surf Skates Report by SOURCE Skateboard Editor Dirk Vogel.
Welcome to the new normal. But actually, let’s call it the new reality. Because normal, it is not. “I have been in the skate business for 26 years and I have never seen it like this. Every pocket of the world has huge skate demand and we have seen the demand for completes definitely increase,” said Eben Woodall, VP of Sales at Carver Skateboards. “Every planet is aligned for skateboarding right now. Skateboarding is being taken seriously and towns across the world are building proper skateparks. It’s really the perfect storm,” said Steve Douglas, Director at Rolling Thunder Distribution.
Several micro trends are already in play in this new boom. Jamie Smith, Enuff Team Manager, noticed: “One of the biggest growth markets is women taking up skateboarding; this is becoming more and more evident by the increased coverage at the bigger skateboard contests.” While skaters are more safety conscious and look to avoid potential injury amid strained healthcare systems, “it seems that the flatland skate is coming back and decks between 7.7 to 8-inch are coming back,” said Benoit Brecq at HOFF Distribution. And as this report showcases in a separate section: “We are seeing a boom in the surfskate scene which could be as big or bigger than the longboard boom a few years ago,” said Xué Gil, Brand Manager at Yow Surf.
The Skate Market and Covid-19
“Spring business was staggering, up five times from what it was last year,” said Steve Douglas at Rolling Thunder, global licensees and distributors of Zoo York, Ocean Pacific, Speed demons, Vol 1, Blueprint, Verb, KFD, RAD, Pivot trucks, Killer Speed Co and The Heart Supply. The combination has created a unique situation: “Production delays and a surge of demand have left nearly everyone in the industry with limited available inventory. COVID-19 has taken us on a wild ride, but the future is looking bright,” said Ross Druckrey, Marketing Manager at Arbor Skateboards.
The situation could be worse, but it’s also far from ideal, said Jörg Ludewig, Managing Partner at Urban Supplies distribution: “The demand has been bigger than the supply. Basically, that is better than vice versa, however, we have been selling less than we could done under normal conditions.” Looking ahead, securing enough inventory will be the make or break for retailers and suppliers. Some are lucky, including Shane Maloney at Madrid Skateboards: “We make our own boards, so we’ve been able to control the supply better than most.” But as Xué at Yow Surf sums it up: “The brands that are producing in Asia have been highly affected, with difficulties in producing their goods, whilst somehow the demand has grown exponentially.”
Surging demand and low inventory usually translate into higher price points. But quality skate hardware has remained stable, at least for now. “Covid-19 has affected prices and consumers will notice that next year,” said Dave Price, International Accounts Manager at Landyachtz. As Jörg Ludewig at Urban Supplies breaks it down: “Decks sell the most expensive at €59.99 retail, wheels at €57.99, trucks at around €40, while completes sell the most expensive at €99.99.” Speaking of completes, they’re easily the season trend across diverse riding styles from street to surf skate and an important point of entry into skate. That’s what Benoit at Hoff is pushing: “Kids complete decks in the Hillmore Range at €35, but our main product is our CARTEL complete at €69.” Jamie at Enuff is catering to kids with Pow and Skully mini completes: “These are a fantastic way of getting kids into the sport and giving them a proper taste of skateboarding on a board that is slightly lighter and easier to control.” Rolling Thunder is dedicating an entire brand to beginner completes with price points around €40, said Steve Douglas: “Vol 1 offers good quality completes for skate shops intended to get more kids on skateboards.”
Here are Five Skateboard Hardgoods Trends to Watch Right Now:
- Season Trend: Proper complete boards
“The demand for completes has increased dramatically this year,” said Ross at Arbor, pointing out the Recruit Series featuring Ace trucks and Revert wheels. Steve at Rolling Thunder said it’s about time for core brands to embrace complete skateboards: “90 percent of the market doesn’t even make complete skateboards but completes are what most people start with.” As Jamie at Enuff said: “We believe that if kids get a good feeling from their first board, they are more likely to keep skating for a longer time!”
- Less brand preference
The drought in skate hardware is causing consumers to consider alternative options (also see 5.). “At this point the ‘star’ is the product that is actually available. Shops enjoy available products of ‘no so hot’ brands over not having anything from the ‘hot’ brand. And in some cases, a ‘not so hot’ brand turns into a ‘hot’ brand, simply as it has not been visible before,” said Jörg Ludewig at Urban Supplies.
- Fewer seasonal products
The amount of new pro models was already declining in favour of logo-driven boards, then came the pandemic. “Covid has definitely made us think and plan a little differently. We have reduced our number of SKUs for our 2021-line plan with the hopes it can make it easier on our suppliers,” said Eben at Carver. “We decided to carry over a big part of the range during the COVID situation but the sales after the break are pretty high, so we need to create and produce a new range,” said Benoit at HOFF. At Rolling Thunder, permanent board graphics are labelled ‘Evergreen’ designs and offered year-round.
- Niche deck brands
Decks are among the scarcest commodities right now, and brands previously considered niche are filling the gap. The likes of Thank You Skateboarding, April, Jeremy Klein Industries, Business & Company, are selling out of new drops almost instantly. European labels like Jart, Enuff, Mindless, and Cartel are flying off the shelves. The Heart Supply was co-founded by Element Skateboards creator Johnny Schillereff with a social mission: “Our aim is to give kids the gift of enjoying and riding their own skateboard. We believe the freedom and friendships that come from skateboarding are invaluable.”
- Crumbling truck and wheel monopolies
The truck segment used to be cornered by Independent, Venture and Thunder, while Bones and Spitfire dominated in wheels. After Covid-19, these brands are sold out in many a shop, so brands like Krux, Ace, Gullwing, Carver, and Enuff with their Decade Pro Trucks have their time to shine. Wheel companies like Small Wheels are suddenly ‘big’ and Shane at Madrid is hyped about sales of Autobahn Dual Duro Ultra wheels, “our fastest and most durable wheels yet.” Meanwhile, Steve Douglas is stoked on, “Pivot trucks, a new price point made in the key truck factory in China.”
SURF SKATE: RIDING THE WAVE
“Surfskate is stronger than ever. It is now officially its own genre and whether or not you surf and want to use a Carver as a surf trainer to become a better surfer or just have fun on a surfskate not living near a beach, surfskate is a lifestyle,” said Eben at Carver, pointing out the patented truck systems C7, CX, and C5. At OB Five Skateboards, Founder/Director Kris O’Brien is on the same page: “We are seeing more everyday cruiser people upgrading to our Surf Skates. It’s no longer just surfers buying them to use as trainers, a much broader range of riders are looking for that loose carvy surf feel.” Kris recommends the latest Resonate Surf Skate, Psyched Tiger and Happy Hour Surf Skate models. At OP, Steve Douglas recommends the OP Swell 40” pintail, Swell 31 Cruiser and OP Regular popsicle. Jamie at Enuff suggests Mindless surf skate trucks and Viper wheels.
Over at Jucker Hawaii, Mike Jucker said: “I am more surfer now than skateboarder and I LOVE skatesurfing. Also, our balance trainers have become extremely popular. I love our Bamboo Fiberglass constructions and our Rugged2 Skatesurf truck.” Speaking of new product, Iciar Sánchez, Product Developer at Slide Surfskates is proud to announce the new 3.0 Slide surf skate trucks and significant updates in completes: “Based on our best-seller model, the Gussie 31”, we have created a board more focused on surf training. And our Quad Sunset is great for kids, as it is 30” long and quite wide so that they can start turning safely.” At YOW Surf, Xué Gil is banking on surf-specific trucks such as the “System S4 and an upcoming new system which will be called Meraki. We offer the same trucks for all our models at 9 inches, we are mounting all models with 66x51mm wheels in different hardness depending on each model’s necessities.”
At HOFF, Benoit attests: “Surf skate is still the best segment in cruisers and longboards this year. We are out of stock in our summer collection!” Benoit recommends the Capitol truck, STR truck and Lombard truck with dedicated base plate for maximum turning sensation.” Dave at Landyachtz has the surf skate and cruiser market covered with, “Dinghies, Dinghies, Dinghies and price point drop through completes under 250 euro.” At DB Longboards, Designer Tim Mackey is happy to say: “Factories in China have been backed up but we are very fortunate to have manufacturing capabilities in house in the US. Our Coreflex technology is a fiberglass bamboo construction that is very durable and produces a trampoline flex great for carving and cruising.” At Flow Surfskate, this season is all about the 159mm surfskate trucks, “spring-loaded to create smooth and flowing turns that replicate the feeling of surfing in the ocean.” For retailers looking to ride the wave, make sure to get inventory sorted now and read our Inventory Strategy Guide on our website.