HAVE WE REACHED PEAK KICKSTARTER?
A note to the butthurt – the opinions in this article are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my corporate overlords at SkateSlate. – Dubler
If you really need money to start a skateboard company, you should probably just sell drugs like pretty much every other successful skate businessman did*. Asking strangers for money via kickstarter is an admission that (a) you are not down to flip bricks at the trap-house, and (b) you don’t have enough faith in your idea to invest your own cash (c) you were dumb enough to invest your own cash even when the bank said no and now you gotta drop it hot, or face the flop and move back in with mom.
We’ve seen a number of questionable, and some just awful, longboard and skateboard related kickstarters in the past few years. There’s the Rockochet rock deflector, clearly invented by someone who hit a twig and ate shit hard enough to be extremely bummed, but quite not hard enough to quit skating. The MorfBoard “action sports fitness trainer” is a device invented by a former professional inline skater that transforms from a shitty longboard into a balance board, a bouncing platform ball, and a resistance band trainer. (Their website has some truly excellent CrossFit™ inspired fashion and this excellent gif.) HalfTones wheels promise to deliver those marbled thane lines that some people apparently wanted and help you learn the hard way that wheel pigments have major performance side-effects (to anyone who bought a pack of 4 different colored Venom Sidewinders back in 2011: we’re sorry). And we all know about Shark Wheels, who successfully raised $80,000 to make wheels that certainly look crazy but didn’t deliver on their performance claims. Someone ask Troy Yardwaste how that worked out.
And it’s not just kooks using kickstarter: Resource Distribution crowdfunded twenty thousand dollars to fund their Foreign Exchange promotional trip to Europe in 2013. Last I heard, they finally shipped the promised rewards to backers in late 2015.
Last week I saw a skate-related Kickstarter campaign that was so brazenly ridiculous in both its purpose and its fundraising goal that initially I thought the person running it had only put it up because he had to for a school project. And while he did develop the concept in a high school engineering class, I was wrong. The guy behind the SydeWynder wheel is totally serious.
Tired of wearing out wheels and having to buy new ones, Jonah Staab of Kearney, Nebraska decided to invent a new kind of longboard wheel that would save urethane. After some prototyping and testing, he made a 65mm omni wheel that accepts 608 bearings and apparently functions decently.
Flush with stoke and positive reactions from a few skate shops, dude put together a kickstarter campaign to attempt to raise five hundred thousand dollars. He only had $497,000 left to go when the campaign ended on April 20th.
I had to know more about this project, so I got in touch with Jonah to find out what the deal is. At first glance, this idea is completely ridiculous: how are you going to ride a skateboard with no traction at all? Staab solved that design problem by putting metal hubs inside the rollers, which are tightly fitted around pins to provide stability when cruising and resistance when sliding so your skateboard doesn’t ride like it’s on caster wheels.
What about downhill riding? They haven’t been tested at high speeds yet, though there are plans for a downhill-specific wheel in the future. And won’t they explode if you do a boneless or something? Impact resistance hasn’t been a problem yet, as Staab has ridden his prototype wheels off a few pretty big ledges.
Sadly, Sydewynder wheels did not successfully raise the half a million dollars they needed to go into production and we will never have the pleasure of watching someone attempt to ride them down Burke mountain. Indeed, now that longboarding is less of a fat cash cow and Kickstarter has had a few well-publicized failures, I expect to see fewer completely insane longboard-related kickstarter campaigns, but that won’t stop me from enjoying a few laughs at the more egregiously silly ones that still get posted.
*As far as I know, Venom was not started with drug money.