Mike Obedoza, a member of the marketing team at Powerslide and Xsjado rider, admits the brand is going through tough times, but remains positive about its future.
The past few years have been tough on Xsjado. Since the brand was acquired by Powerslide, it has faced a difficult transition period, with countless production delays which resulted in shops around the world unable to provide skates or parts for their limited but loyal fan base for the better part of a year. The pro team isn’t exactly flourishing either. What was once an all-star cast consisting of Dustin Latimer, Chris Farmer, Jeff Stockwell, Ben Schwab, Damien Wilson and JC Rowe now appears to be on life support, with a skeletal cast of just Chris Farmer and Ben Schwab remaining. Controversies with disgruntled former riders haven’t helped. Damien Wilson publicly named and shamed various employees of the company for apparently edging him out of his spot on the pro team, Sean Kelso claims he was unceremoniously sacked ahead of the release of KCMO and less than a year after receiving his pro skate, Dustin Werbeski appears to be promoting USD Skates with no explanation. However, he has taken to The Xsjado Group on Facebook to leave various comments which suggest the split was not amicable.
The Xsjado Team Video seemed to perfectly reflect the mixed fortunes that brand has endured in recent years. What started off as a potentially epic release spearheaded by blading video auteur Brandon Negrete soon fell into disarray when he unexpectedly abandoned the project halfway through filming and the responsibility fell to Paul John. The result was an underwhelming team video that featured relatively tame sections from Chris Farmer and JC Rowe, brilliant but infuriatingly brief appearances from Dustin Werbeski and Ben Schwab, and a surprisingly long section from the video’s editor Paul John, who doesn’t actually appear to have an official position on the team beyond receiving free product from the brand.
Xsjado recently relaunched their website and released a new team edit that features quite a few relatively unknown skaters and only a handful of clips from the people that are known riders for the brand. That same day, the brand came under fire on The Xsjado Group on Facebook, prompting Mike Obedoza to respond. He started working at the American distributor for Powerslide last year and has put a lot of energy into Xsjado in that time, so it is understandable that he would take any negative comments towards the brand personally. It seemed like the ideal time to invite Obedoza to discuss the current state of the boot company, get a better understanding of what’s going on with the team at the moment and find out why Dustin Werbeski is no longer representing the brand. At times the conversation got a little heated, but it became abundantly clear that his belief in the company and what it stands for is steadfast and he is determined to help guide it towards a brighter future.
Wheel Scene: What is your official role at the company and what are your tasks on a daily/weekly basis?
Mike Obedoza: I’m marketing specifically for Xsjado, but I sort of absorb most of the aggressive activities inside of the US; some USD, Undercover and Kizer stuff. I distribute packages for riders throughout US. I help do the social media, design the website, assist in design and try and help coordinate sponsored events, all while trying to skate. When I can, I squeeze in filming and editing – this also is on my free time. When I’m not working 40 hours a week, I assist in designing the skates.
Tell me more about the new website. Why did you decide to re-launch it if the brand isn’t doing very well at the moment?
Because there’s so many different reasons for the re-launch. There’s the business aspect – it completes the brand experience. It’s a tool for communication on upcoming projects that I look forward to working on with the new riders, and having cameos from the old ones, and for some reason it helps the brand feel alive, which I am very passionate about doing. I want to keep Xsjado alive because I believe in the skate technology and everything it stands for; the out of box thinking, and how Shane Coburn and Dustin Latimer and Farmer were on some forward thinking stuff.
When you say “new” riders, does that mean people have been added to the Xsjado team?
Well, just those “believers” are fresh, but most of them were riding on Xsjado for a long time; they were just literally in the shadows. (Laughs) I think all of blading is seeing that transition of new dudes. I showed my best bud from ’97 the new Xsjado edit and he was saying he didn’t know one guy in there, but, there are a couple of dudes internationally that are rippin’ it. Krisztian Szilagyi is crazy, hungry and he has that old school Mindgame Farmer in him. Juanan Herrera is a dope Spainish dude. There are the US dudes; Anthony Gallegos – never can get enough of that guy. Lampman is the perfect example of what a Xsjado dude is supposed to look like. Lunger from New Jersey is sick, Gregory Preston has that dope out of the box thing going on, just another offspring from Coburn and Latimer, but I bet he doesn’t even know it. I feel like I’m missing people and I love that entire team but, yeah, those are new faces that are fun to watch at the moment. Keaton Newsom’s sort of considered new.
Why is Dustin Werbeski no longer riding for Xsjado?
I guess we have to define pro first – a person who gets paid – and Werbeski got his pay cut, so he was a free agent and wanted to try Aeons. It’s not because he was doing bad. Like any failing business, Xsjado downsized.
It sounds like he chose to ride for USD Skates instead, but that’s not what his comment on the Xsjado Facebook page suggests.
Yeah, it’s hard to open up publicly that your company is doing bad – or the company I work for is doing bad – that I treat as if it were my own, but I can never speak from a standpoint of the person who put up the capital to run it.
I asked Werbeski for his side of the story, and he said he would like to say something, but then he never got back to me.
I think there’s a lot of animosity – people are crying about why certain people aren’t on the team, doing this and that, and mainly I just wanted to say that those people on the team are the people that work hard to be there.
So who is on the professional and amateur teams at the moment?
Farmer is pro, but I hate how along with the money aspect of that title, the word “pro”, comes the judgement of skill. Those guys that are “believers” – the people in that team edit – are all good in their own pro way, but just because Xsjado doesn’t pay them they aren’t pro any more. Everyone there gets skates. We’re a team and do cool street stuff. Why can’t it just be cool like that? Blading is like walking on egg shells, or dealing with the blading community is like walking on egg shells.
Schwab doesn’t get paid? Did he get paid for his pro skate?
He was on a salary, and I know he was affected by the budget cuts, but I don’t know what the agreement is with Powerslide on his “pay”. I don’t know if he still gets royalties or if he gets paid per project.
“Dealing with the blading community is like walking on egg shells.”
Do you not worry that, with a bunch of believers, and pretty much no pro or amateur riders, it means there are no recognisable faces to represent the brand?
Those were the cards I was given. I can’t force the old time legends to skate Xsjado if they don’t want to. It’s a new era. It’s the wild wild west right now – anything goes. Aggressive participation is at an all time low. I can’t rely on what those people care about. We need new blood.
I appreciate that, but without any personalities a brand’s image begins to suffer. When people think of Xsjado now, all they are going to think of is Farmer. I am not denying the believers are good skaters, but with no real status it makes it difficult for any of them to really stand out to the blading community.
That’s fine. Things are rebirthing right now. There are plenty of projects that will have cameos from the legends, which I think needs to happen more, and then I’m also celebrating the new guys. All in all, new blood!
Can you be more specific about the projects you are working on? Or how you are planning on celebrating the new guys?
I’m still trying to put pieces of the puzzle together, but I’m working on a few things to identify Xsjado, share the brand’s story and, at the same time, give the believers a chance and show how they are the offspring from Coburn, Latimer and Farmer.
Do you genuinely believe the people in the team edit are the offspring of Coburn, Latimer and Farmer? Watching the new edit, there wasn’t a lot unconventional blading. In fact, it was mainly just rail and ledge grinds.
It’s a new generation. What about Cody Lampman and Gregory Preston? Their tricks were fucked up.
There were some unconventional tricks – Victor Galicia, Gregory Preston and Cody Lampman – but most were just standard grinds and switch-ups. I just think that the type of skaters that skated for Xsjado is what set them apart from other brands in the beginning, but most of the people in the edit could have easily been on any other team.
That can be said about anyone though. We all thought Stockwell could have been Xsjado forever, but he fits on Valo just as much. The thing is, good is good.
I think Stockwell is a poor example because he can pretty much skate anything and make it look good.
So what are you asking me? The public wants old faces on the brand? They want to go back to the golden days? ‘Cause those days are dead, man. Those “personalities”, what have they done for the sport? Why are we left in shambles right now? Why is Julio the only one?
I’m not saying old faces. I’m saying you need new faces that skate unlike anyone else. Victor Galicia, Cody Lampman and Ben Schwab fit into that category, but the rest of them don’t.
I don’t know what to say to you. I completely believe in those guys.
Plus, I think it’s unfair to expect the old pros to stick around forever. People need financial stability and if they can’t get that with blading then surely they have to leave and find something else? I don’t understand what you mean when you say “what have they done for blading’? I think most of them did everything they could until it was just no longer sustainable.
They made blading good during that time. Let me put it this way; if we continue to pollute our air on this planet, we are going to leave it shitty for the net generation, correct?
I don’t know how that comment relates to what we are discussing.
If blading was doing as awesome as we wanted it to be, it’s because it was laid out correctly by the people in the past, but everyone in the past came, did their thing and bounced, and just said fuck it to blading, except for people like Jon Julio.
But that’s because Julio was offered a deal by Roces to start Valo. Other professionals from that era weren’t as fortunate.
But that’s blading! We visualise and manifest our own destiny. The topsoul down that rail in the Xsjado team edit came with a vision. That translates to life also.
You could use that theory for pretty much anything – doing a soul stall on a step.
I want this to be better for the future than it was for me. I dreamt of being a pro, I wanted it so bad, and then when the time came there wasn’t anything for a pro. Why? ‘Cause those people who were there before didn’t nurture the position. Well, there are a handful who did. I don’t want that to happen to the next guy. I want the next guy to come in and aspire to be pro and be the best that they can be, but the pro definition is a little outdated. Pros in other industries still don’t make money unless they are one of the top guys, but I want a better future for those guys who are the future, that keep blading breathing right now.
But how do you relate that back to Xsjado?
Xsjado is the artist, the street skater – that’s what those believers are. They’re also down for the brand. I’m tired of the brand being blamed for a skater’s actions; it’s a two-way street. You’re saying that Xsjado needs to have another David Sizemore, but how many more of him are left? Bolino is another last of his breed. If you can find me a guy that can do something awesome like them…I’d love to help him out.
I think Werbeski was the perfect example of what a new Xsjado pro should be – risky, creative and he did things that other people just can’t do on blades.
I love Werbeski’s skating, but he wants to ride USD. What can I do? Why aren’t we nurturing the next Werbeski?
I don’t know. That’s what I am asking you.
I am nurturing them, but you think they’re wack! (Laughs)
Ha! I never said that! Don’t put words in my mouth, Obi! I just said they aren’t skaters you would associate with the image Xsjado has created over the years.
Yeah, I know. Like I said, it’s the wild wild west, man. That’s why that Xsjado Group thing bugged me and I acknowledged it and the fact that I’m having this conversation with you. I want people to know that, dude, if you can do better please, but I’m trying. And I feel the same way that everyone else does. I’m a blader, just as much as they are.
Just to throw a curve ball in there, and go back in time, why did Brandon Negrete stop working on the Xsjado video? I interviewed him while he was filming it, then Paul John randomly took over.
I don’t know, dude. Negrete had his own reasons as to why he dropped the project and at the time I was treated as only a “rider”, but from what I observed was it was not an easy task and I’m just guessing that it wasn’t something he had fun doing.
Can you tell us about any of the projects Xsjado has planned for this year?
Ha! I just got done with the website. It’s hard to want to consider the next project. I’m trying to get a little history page going, so I’m excited to get Xsjado’s story. That’ll be the next project. In the meantime, I am hoping to do a collaboration. I don’t want to say who yet, but people may already know. I’m just afraid of saying anything before it actually happens. I don’t want to jinx it, ya dig?
Can we expect any new Xsjado skates this year?
Fingers crossed. We have been going back and forth about some designs and Farmer’s next skate looks really cool. JC had a good one, but he always has good designs. And then there are some discussions of limited edition 1.0s to sort of give Xsjado some original flair, but I don’t know production schedules or when things are typically made, so hopefully this year.
JC Rowe designed a skate?
He designed Farm’s
That makes more sense! Anything else you want to discuss?
Buy that shit, share with your friends, especially the lady friends.
Photos: Joshua Goodell
Read our previous interview with Mike Obedoza HERE.
Watch more Xsjado videos HERE.
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