The GTO design table

The GTO design table

Pieter Wijnant talks about the roots of Adapt, turning down the big money to design skates for Rollerblade, team changes and his brand’s renewed focus.

Since emerging on the aggressive rollerblading market approximately five years ago, Holland-based independent skate manufacturer Adapt have been a pioneering force within the industry and their innovation has gone from strength to strength with each passing year. The company, operated by couple Pieter Wijnant and Olga Bouwhuis, produced the first ever handmade aggressive inline boot and in five short years have been responsible for many other industry firsts, including the option to custom design your own skate via their website and the Vegan skate, for the conscientious skater who does not wish to wear dead animal skin on their feet. Their impressive arsenal of products now includes soul plates, wheels and bearings under the Symetrics moniker and this year marks the release of their new flat frame and two new skates – the Hyperskate Zero and GTO. It’s fairly safe to say that this is a company that refuses to go stagnant and constantly searches for ways to progress blading technology, and it seems like the industry giants are taking notice. Last year, Pieter was headhunted by Rollerblade and asked to use his expertise to design skates for the Tecnica-owned brand, an offer that he graciously declined due to personal reasons.

Throughout the past several years, Pieter and I have been in contact at various intervals and one thing I have always admired about him is his honesty. When he likes an article that we have written in the print publication or the website, he gets in touch to let us know and congratulate us on the good work. Alternatively, when we write something that he doesn’t agree with, he is not afraid to let us know. We may not agree on various things but it’s refreshing to have a working relationship with someone in the industry where that’s okay. He appreciates that we have positioned ourselves as an opinionated media outlet that gushes about things we like but are happy to ridicule things that we don’t appreciate…even when it happens to involve members of his own team.

The purpose behind this interview was to discuss the new Adapt freeskates, the Hyperskate Zero and GTO, as well as the recently-released Symetrics flat frame, but we also had a few questions about the curious team changes that have taken place in the past couple of years. We wanted to know why Guillaume Le Gentil left Rollerblade to ride for Adapt, only to go back to Rollerblade a short time later, and why Andrew Broom ended up walking away from the first sponsor that was willing to take a chance on him. It turns out that a lot more has been going on with Adapt than we previously thought and Pieter was more than happy to discuss the various individuals who have approached the brand for sponsorship, the reason for Rollerblade’s interest in his design ideas, the strange link that exists between Adapt and Valo and so much more. In short, this ended up being a far more revealing discussion than I could have ever expected.

Wheel Scene: I know you have a background in making ice skates, but what is it exactly that you do?
Pieter Wijnant: I’ve been making ice skates for the last five years. I was actually trained to make the blades. It’s really high end. We make skates for Olympians and all the best skaters in the world. The company that I work for, two skaters won gold medals on our materials at Sochi, so that was pretty good. Now I am getting more into making custom boots, but it will take another two years to perfect it before the pros skate on it. It’s not like skating at all. It’s way more difficult to create a boot for a speed skater.

I could imagine. Is the business doing well? Is there a lot of demand?
The company is called Evo. When I started there, my boss was just setting it up. Adapt and Evo kind of developed together because all the technologies were kind of similar. I was always trying to come up with new things instead of copying something else, so the company I work for ended up benefitting from me running Adapt with Olga because I was always searching for new materials and different stuff. It has grown into a really big company over the past five years because we have extra buildings now, really expensive machines and we are the world champion in the short track ice skate industry. It’s going really good and I had the benefit of being there from day one. Working on Adapt, making frames, wouldn’t be possible without the machines I can use over there.

I was always curious about that. Do you make Adapt skates at your day job?
Adapt was completely developed by us and I think a lot of people still think we make them one by one by hand, but it would be too much. We have people working for us who were trained to make our skates. What me and Olga are doing is making all the changes, testing and constructing. We also don’t want to go to China at all because that’s just not how we work. It’s one family working with us to make the Adapt skates, but they also make speed skates. I’m not saying Adapt is big, but it got too big for us to do all these things alone.

Before the interview, you said there were a lot of changes happening with Adapt. What does that mean exactly?
Olga and I are trying to find a way to make Adapt work. We both have jobs and we want to make the best product available in rollerblading, but the industry is not so big. We have to find a way for the company to be profitable – not for us, but to have money to create what we want. We have been doing it for five years and all the money goes straight back into Adapt. We are not taking any money out. This year we went all out with new fabrics, creating our own eyelets, waxed laces, new six-mount system etc. We have the new Hyperskate, T-shirts and magazine, so it’s costing a lot of money. We have made new moulds etc, so we are still at zero. We started thinking, “Do we want to stay at zero every time we try and do something special for the industry?” We are trying to make the brand stronger. People need to feel special when they buy an Adapt skate because they are buying something direct that is trying to be unique, like I see the sport. The sport is really close, everybody knows each other, and we have a group of clients that always buy Adapt, so they are kind of our friends as well.

How does that translate into changes at Adapt?
The big change will be the team. When we started, we had a really small team. I used to run a skate shop in Belgium and we had a really big team: Roman Abrate, Sven Boekhorst, Edwin Wieringh and a lot of other guys. It’s pretty demanding because they all need your time. You need to talk to them and you need to make sure they are doing stuff. We have a pretty big team right now and it’s getting too much for us. We have ten riders, who all need…

Whoa! I didn’t realise there were that many. Who is on the team?
Levi van Rijn, Rik van Huik, Sem Croft, Frieda Reisch, Dominik Wagner, Dan Collins, Julian Bah, Russell Day and Andrew Nemiroski. Some people also get skates from us because they are friends, like Nick LaBarre, Robert Guerrero and some other people. It all adds up to a pretty big team. Nick LaBarre is not on officially yet. It had to be smaller so we can do more with the people that we have. When sales are slow and we need to worry about the accounts, and then you have people asking for things, I get a bit stressed out with that. Next year we are going to have a closer team. We haven’t made any cuts but it will end up being the people that we can talk to the best and are on the same page about what the brand is. It will be hard to see some of the guys skate other skates because that always sucks. When Guillaume left, that was like… It was hard not to take that personally. Then there was Broom. He was the one I was trying to promote for the future.

Let’s start with Guillaume Le Gentil. What happened there? I don’t understand why he left Rollerblade to ride for you guys, then went back to them.
From our perspective, he was really motivated to skate for Adapt. He was searching for a company where people would listen to what he had to say. When he first got on the team he was really responsive. He was always making suggestions and sending over drawings, and it was interesting because a rider was trying to think of how to make the product better. At one point we were doing a lot of stuff together, but it also got a bit strange. He was asking for so much attention, getting in touch every day on Skype, email and Facebook. It was getting too much for us. Olga and I are quite honest with our riders and, at one point, he was changing his clothing style and we were trying to make him into a professional, not somebody who would copy other pros. We want somebody to be themselves. We liked Guillaume’s skating, but he started to take a lot of influence from Nemo. He kept saying, “Maybe we should film and Nemo should edit it, and make it look like this and this.” It was weird because he was emailing Nemo and Nemo was like, “I don’t want to just edit random footage. I want to be the filmer as well.” I think Guillaume was offended by this and our comments about his change in clothing style. In the end, we did a Euro tour with the Dutch guys and he asked us to visit him. We cancelled the Barcelona stop and went to where he lived for four days and he didn’t want to skate. He skated with us the first day at the local park to meet the locals. The vibe was so weird – everybody was feeling it. He just wanted to hang out at the beach and not skate, so we just went out, on our own, in his city, not skating with him. Even the locals would join us and ask where he is. Then he sent me an email saying that we wanted different things and we didn’t support him. We spent more than 4,000 euro on travel budget, filmers, skates, prototypes etc that year on him alone. Rollerblade gave him one pair of skates a year and that was it. We paid for travel, edits and a lot of skates. It was his decision to leave but we were kind of glad in the end. No hard feelings.

Pieter Wijnant building his pride and joy

Pieter Wijnant building his pride and joy

It sounds like having him on the team was a full-time job in itself.
We want to do the best we can for all our riders, but we don’t have a team manager, so we have to take the time to speak to them during the night. The first edit Guillaume made was really nice. It was good having him on the team for a while, but it was a weird story.

What makes it even stranger is the fact that he’s never going to get that kind of attention at Rollerblade.
I know what Rollerblade will offer him. I actually went to Rollerblade and they are honest about this kind of stuff. He is only going to get one pair of skates a year, maybe two pairs. But Guillaume has been asking me to hook him up with soul plates or make prototypes for the Rollerblade skates.

Is that something you are going to do or…?
No. Rollerblade bought an Adapt skate online and Sven and I ended up visiting Rollerblade.

I saw that and wondered if they were planning on using your technology.
Tom Hyser was buying soul plates from us and we were flattered. Rob G, Sean Keane, everybody on Rollerblade in the US, kind of, had the Symetrics plates.

Do they fit onto the Solo without being modified?
Yeah. If you have a really big size, you need to Dremel a bit off. Sven asked me if I would be interested in meeting the guys at Rollerblade and mentioned their European representative, and said they would like to meet me to discuss some ideas. I told Sven that I only wanted to speak to the guy in charge of Rollerblade because I am the boss of Adapt and I only want to speak to the boss of a company that wants to work with us.

Sounds reasonable enough.
I didn’t think it would ever happen! Then we got an order for some skates and it was under Tecnica Group, the company that owns Rollerblade. We debated whether or not to make the order or just give them their money back. We ended up making it and we knew they were going to examine it or whatever. I wrote them a thank you note because Rollerblade was the first skates I used in 1992. It has always been a good company in my eyes – not really corrupted. I know they had some weird team changes, but that’s all…

Well, it’s just business. The aggressive market wasn’t doing well, so they stepped back.
They are always pushing the sport in their own way, so we thanked them. One of our heroes was also on the team at the time – Rob G. After we sent the box, we were told the guy from Rollerblade is going to fly over to Switzerland, so we drove there to have a meeting. I went with Sven and got to meet the boss at Rollerblade. He said to us, “How can a company that has been around for three years make a better skate than ours when we have been doing this for 20-plus years?” My answer was really simple. I said, “It’s just passion. We just do whatever we want to do and are not restricted by what China offers, or get bolts from certain companies because it’s cheaper.” This happens a lot in rollerblading. They go for the nearest factory, the cheapest materials and save money.

What was their proposal?
They came up with an offer. They weren’t going to buy me, but they wanted me to make something to defeat the competition It was pretty funny. They had flown in Tom Hyser in for this meeting to talk to me, which was really cool. I was a bit afraid, to be honest, because I have a lot of knowledge about the industry. With Fiziks, it was Tom Hyser’s idea but it wasn’t 100% his design because that is by Sprung, but he was really open about this. In my experience, some Americans can act like they invented the wheel, but he wasn’t like that. He was really nice. It turns out Tom actually said to the boss at Rollerblade that they needed to work with me and let me design their skates. They asked me to design their skates and do Adapt on the side.

Why did you turn them down?
It has something to do with my past. I had my own skate shop in Belgium and wanted a place for kids to skate and I wanted to start a skatepark. There was a Winterclash in Belgium and the park ended up burning down, so I wanted to do a skatepark. My friend ended up working with me because his father had a lot of money. I was like, “All right. I’ll move my shop into the skatepark and we will run it together.” I ended up losing everything. That was the moment Adapt started because the name came to me in a dream, so I made a logo and talked to Olga and we decided to make skates. But that whole experience took a little bit of the magic out of rollerblading for me. You think your friends that rollerblade are in it forever and I didn’t know they could be like that. You realise that not everybody is all in doing everything for whatever they love. That was a good lesson. It was good that I had Olga then because she was actually on my team, then we started blading together and now we are a couple.

What happened next?
I turned off Facebook and everything for about two years and did everything I could to figure out how to make skates. I learned about the technologies, finding the company where I now work… But that experience is why I don’t want to work with anybody else. Adapt is me and Olga and nobody is going to take it away. We don’t need anybody to make it go well. People who buy from Adapt are buying from us and it’s never going to be a big company. That’s our goal: to make it smaller but better. We’re more dedicated than ever. We had offers from quite a few companies but we always said no.

What if Rollerblade offered you enough money to pay off your mortgage, buy a house or put towards something that you are passionate about?

(Laughs) You are a stronger man than me!
It needs to be my own thing. I asked them, “If I want to create this, can I do it right away?” They said, “Sure, but we have to talk with the designers.”

So you would essentially need permission to proceed with your own ideas.
Yes. That’s what I like with Adapt; we’re not in a rush to make easy or quick money. With the new Symetrics frame, Adapt started with the idea of making a frame, and now it is just being released after about five years.

Stealth mode activated

Stealth mode activated

Is it now available internationally?
Only from our store. That’s one of the things we’re going to change for next year. For the aggressive models only, you are only going to be able to get them on the Adapt website. Because of the margins, if we sell a pair of Vegans to a shop, it’s basically like we are sending them for free. They are pretty expensive to make and we don’t want to be a 400 euro or 500 euro skate. There’s a limit. Nobody wants to buy an aggressive skate for 500 euros. The new GTO skate, that’s something else. People will buy those like they will buy a bike. It looks really cool, it’s stealth and they will buy it if they like the materials and they like skating. With an aggressive skate, you have to be realistic. After a year, they’re done if you skate a lot.

Just going back a little bit, I find it odd that Rollerblade would say they want you to create a skate that would kill off the competition because they can’t be selling that much to the aggressive market. Seba only has one skate, and it’s pretty expensive, and you don’t see that many people riding them. Very few parents are buying their kid those skates. Only adults with a passion for blading are buying them because they are high end skates.
I think they were joking, but not really. (Laughs) In slalom or speed skating, they are a really big competitor. Rollerblade was also aware of me working on the Hyperskate, so they have done their research. There wasn’t anything on the website about it, so they must have been following us on Facebook or whatever, but they knew I was working on a freeskate. For Rollerblade, I think about 5% of their sales are aggressive.

That doesn’t surprise me. I actually thought it would be less.
From the Rob G, they maybe sold 500 – that’s not a lot. I’m not saying they’re a bad company that doesn’t sell – that’s just the demand. The market they are really interested in is the freeskates. Freeskates or any type of urban fitness skate, that’s the big seller as far as they are concerned. The speed market isn’t even very big.

It seems like everyone is heading towards the freeskate market because I know Undercover are looking to take over the inline wheel market as a whole. Apparently Powerslide want Dustin Werbeski to be a professional freeskater for them and they will be able to pay him again.
Yeah, but for how long? Nick Lomax has been promoting freeskating for them as well. I think he is really good at dealing with Powerslide. He does what they want and he’s really good at it. Having a rider like Lomax would be really nice to work with, I think, because he is really good at promoting stuff. A big company wants a workhorse. Great skaters with a big image aren’t necessarily the biggest sellers.

I think I know what you mean. They are great skaters, and people will buy products with their name on it, but they’re not the type of skater that will promote a product. All they want to do is skate.
Yeah, and look really cool. With Lomax, you would be like, “Can you do the Metropolis skate? Can you do a quick promo?” He’s like, “Sure, I will do it for you.” He gets paid for the edit and all is well, everybody is happy. But if Valo started doing freeskates, do you think Broskow would make an edit holding hands with a girl on a pier? That’s not going to happen. When I was in the USA on the Shop Task tour, we met up with Nemiroski and he was riding some free skates that were in the van and everyone wanted to be like him. In person, he is so good at skating, but he is really focused on what he puts out. I asked him to make a promo for the Hyperskate and he wanted to skate them, but he didn’t want to film anything on them. I was like, “Then why would I send you some skates?’ But now he’s changing. The line between aggressive and free skate…

It does seem like a lot more people are adopting it.
Before, if you had big wheels, it was like witchcraft. Now it’s getting a bit wider and I think that’s nice.

Variation is always good.
If it brings us together and we can take strengths from other things, I think it’s good. But it’s difficult with riders. One of the things I would like to mention is Julian Bah – he has proven to be one of the most professional riders we have. We never expected it, but…

He does have a pretty poor reputation in the industry.
He asked us about riding for Adapt. Brett Anthony told us Julian had a lot of interest in the skate when he saw it at Bittercold Showdown. We were like, “We’re a young company. We don’t need any trouble.” Then Julian emailed us and he said he understood, but asked us to send him a pair. Olga didn’t want to do it, but I decided to give him one pair of Vegans and see what happens. A week later he released a really small edit of him taking the skates out of the box. Another three weeks passed and he had a full edit. If I’m honest, his skating did seem like it was in a bit of a lull, which if you had just got sacked by Razors and Ground Control, you can imagine that would happen. We were worried that he was one of those guys who just wants free product and in a year he’s going to start asking for more then we can give, but it never happened.

That’s got to be a relief.
When you email him, you get a response within five hours. He tells you what he expects and we try to work it out. He gets money for travel, but he doesn’t have big expectations, which is really nice for us. I think now that he is filming in Atlanta with Chris Smith again it has been a really good influence because we get to see the old Julian again. The last edit that he had for Adapt is the Julian Bah that everybody remembers and loves.

I did think that was one of the better edits he has released in recent years.
We were always hoping that would happen. Everybody thought he was going to eventually get dropped or disappoint us, but I feel like he’s getting better all the time. It feels really good to have Julian on the team. We are proud to have him.

To completely change the subject, why did Rob G leave Rollerblade and then start wearing Adapt if he’s not on the team?
Olga and I had one legend left that we wanted and that was Rob G. His skating was always a big influence, but also his mind. I always felt there was a connection and I always looked up to him. We met him a few times when he was visiting Europe with Rollerblade and a friend of ours took a picture of me, Olga and Rob and that was in our living room. We started talking online about life and other things and he told me he didn’t want to skate professionally for Rollerblade anymore. He said he was thinking of going to USD or Seba and I told him I thought it would ruin the image he has created.

He would look pretty strange on the USD team, considering his unconventional persona.
I told him we couldn’t offer him anything other than skates. We had a talk at Winterclash and…

How did he get to that Winterclash if he wasn’t riding for Rollerblade anymore?
That was paid for by Jonas Hansson I guess. I shipped him a pair of my personal Adapts and he was filming for State Of The Art with those skates, and I told him I would give him a pair of the Dominik Wagner Stealths if he came to Winterclash. He’s now in Peru doing cool stuff.

What is he doing there?
I think he’s doing something with lessons and stuff. It’s all about earthly environments, meditation, so that’s what he’s doing right now. He’s got a girlfriend over there. We email back and forth for a while, then nothing, then six months later he will get in touch again. If we had a budget, I would send him all over the world. He’s just a great person.

Going back to the Symetrics frame, how long you have been working on that for?
I think we have been working on the frames for five years now. At first I wanted to do what is now called a powerblade frame, but then I found out Kizer was doing something similar, so I basically abandoned the project because i didn’t want to be the small brand that everybody thought was copying what Powerslide was doing. I have all those designs stored on my computer. Then I started thinking, “What do we need?” We need a good flat frame. I don’t understand why no-one can do it. It’s easy if you can do calculations and measure wheels. Fifty-50 frames back in the day, with the normal block, those worked. The frames now have weird grooves that don’t make sense. All the angles on the original prototypes were right and you didn’t have any hang-ups if you skated normally. If you have been skating freestyle for years, there will be an adjustment. If you want to do a royale, your feet actually have to be in the royale position.

What size can you skate flat set-up in the new frames?
60mm and it doesn’t matter what profile.

If the measurements were correct from the start, why did it end up taking five years to make them?
Because, for the first two years, I was certain it was going to be 72mm flat and then other companies started releasing those kinds of frames, so I didn’t want to be just another company that did it. There were some problems… Well, one problem: bad plastic. We had a batch of plastic for prototypes from Italy that was really good. We ordered more for the actual production batch that we were going to sell at Winterclash and we didn’t test it because we just ordered the same specifications. The problem is there can be a lot of difference in the quality, even when you order the same specification, and still be the same on paper.

So even if you order the same thing there is variation in the quality you receive.
Yes. We ordered the same plastic from Holland because it was closer, and we were machining it, and they were finished and looked really nice. We sold them at Winterclash and a week later we started getting complaints. People were saying they bent, or ripped, or cracked, so we tried to find the problem and it ended up being the plastic. I went back to the plastic guy and showed him what I needed and he was like, “Yeah, you need the top notch grade.” So we got the plastic sorted, but I still had some ideas to make the frame better. It’s now really basic, no extra parts and, with the angle, even in 60mm, you can do cess-slides without touching wheels.

Pieter lacing a wallride in the Hyperskate

Pieter lacing a wallride in the Hyperskate

What category do you think the Hyperskate fits into?
To me, it feels like the best thing ever on your feet. When you skate it, you don’t want to go back to aggressive. It took me two years and about 15 to 18 prototypes before I had it right, which is quite a lot. I thought it was going to be a walk in the park because we had the Stealth going on, but… It’s all about the feeling in this skate. The padding is way different than the Stealth. The way we composed the shell is totally different. You cannot compare it to any skate on the market. I have tried so many free skates, but the Hyperskate is so advanced. There is a really big slalom industry and they are the same as the aggressive industry: they think they know everything. If you go on Be-Mag message board everyone thinks they know better and it’s like that in slalom as well. Internet wisdom, I call it. They really like the new skate, they are intrigued by it, but they are like, “The frame should be like this or…” It’s not a slalom skate. You can do slaloms in them, but my idea was just to make the most badass-looking skate. This should be the skate that people buy instead of a cool fixed gear bike. A friend of mine bought the GTO instead of a new bike and that’s the purpose of the skate. When I skate in the city and skitch cars, I don’t want to have toys on my feet, I don’t want to have plastic. I want to have the best I can get and that’s the Hyperskate.

When I saw the photos and the advert of the GTO, I thought you were trying to reach into other markets to make Adapt more profitable by making a freeskate, but it sounds like you have once again made another very high end product that only certain people can afford.
That’s true. (Laughs)

You are like the high end boutique fashion equivalent in blading. In order to afford these products, you need to be dedicated and either have a good job or…
That is the difficult thing for me with aggressive skating. I love the sport and it will always be in my heart but as for technique, aggressive is destructive. I am creating something that will be destroyed. People will not spend 1,000 euro on an aggressive skate.

Because they know that they are going to punish it.
But they will spend that money on other skates and that gave me an opportunity. I need to have a goal, otherwise I go crazy. I had the aggressive skate and I was like, “What am I going to do next?” I was thinking of ways to make crazy frames and other stuff that would be really expensive and then I was like, “Nobody’s going to buy it.” Having the Hyperskate allows me to make something like that.

That sounds like a pretty big gamble. How many pair of skates do Adapt sell in a year?
That was actually one of the things Olga and I wanted to keep a secret!

(Laughs) Okay. Give me a rough idea of how sales are going.
Sometimes no-one would order the skate for a while and we would start to doubt ourselves, but after five years we
have realised there are just points in the year when nobody buys stuff. This year has been the best year so far. Every year has almost doubled in sales. This year was really good, but also not good because of all the investments. We are back at zero. We have our own wheels, bearings, frames, soul plates, boots, shirts and we went all out with the new Stealth, creating a new mould with the six-mount, the laser-cut plates in the shell, nobody has done that before. The leathers we use are made for us and that all costs a lot of money, but that’s what we do.

The GTO skate in all its glory

The GTO skate in all its glory

Surely, in terms of a business model, it’s sustainable though because, when it was just you and Olga making them, if people stop buying them, you just stop making them. There’s no wastage.
That’s the ideal, but companies do not sell you one hide of leather. We’d sell ten pairs of skates and be pretty sure we would sell another ten pairs in a month or two, then we have to buy all this leather and materials and that’s a problem. That’s where the money is going. If you want quality, you need to buy a bit more to have a good friendship with the guy who sells you leather, otherwise you are going to get shit. When we took over Chimera we couldn’t handle another team, so we decided Symetrics is going to be parts and stuff that you need for skating but no team. The riders from Adapt can have the products if they like. We learned from Chimera and ended up developing a really good wheel, but it’s really expensive. We have a lot of products lying around that will take a while to sell. We are not the type of people to constantly write emails to shops, “Buy some wheels, buy some wheels.” I used to have a shop and that’s what they do.

There are a few skate shops that constantly badger me and it can get incredibly annoying.
If you buy things from Be-Mag as a shop, they would just put random stuff into your orders. When I ran a shop, every time I made an order, I would open up the box and I would be like, “What the hell? I didn’t order 50 Them Apples DVDs.” However, they were on the bill. I thought it must be a slip up, but I decided just to try and sell them. Next order, same problem – extra T-shirts. Now we talk with a lot of stores about Adapt and we came to the conclusion that we are not the only ones that had this problem. Of course the shops are not going to go to the hassle of sending everything back that they didn’t order: they’re just going to sell it.

Really?! If that happened in any other industry, you would take them to court! That sounds insane!
That’s why I am kinda done with Be-Mag. For me, it feels corrupt. At first, we wanted to make one skate for them for the 15-year anniversary and they kept asking us to do more. “We should do more. We should sell them.” We were like, “No. Why don’t we just give them away at Winterclash as a prize?” They just kept pushing it and we ended up doing it in return for free advertising in one magazine and a banner on the website in exchange for us making skates and giving them money from the profits.

You mean like a percentage?
Yes. At first it all seemed really good, but then I started thinking, “We are doing all the work, taking a big risk, spending a lot of money and we only get one advert in the magazine and a space on the website.” We tracked how many people actually visited our website from the banner on the Be-Mag website and it was not a lot.

Surely that’s because most people use Be-Mag for the message board, not the actual site.
That’s what I think. Every week we would get an email, “How are sales? How are sales?” It ended up giving me a lot of stress. That was never what I wanted Adapt to be about. In the end, it wasn’t about how cool the idea was of having this skate, it was more about making some money. That’s how it felt. And now they have a shop…

It does feel like everything on the website is pushing you towards the Be-Mag shop because they mention it at every available opportunity. It’s almost as if everything on there is used to try and sell you a product now.
That’s it. If you are a media source, you have to be interested in everybody or at least give them a chance. Now you can only really see their adverts – they are really big – but they still ask for money from other stores to advertise. Other shops are paying for adverts on Be-Mag but Be-Mag’s shop has the biggest banner. For me, that’s already weird. Then they have the distribution company, which sells to shops. They sell these products to shops, but they sell these products themselves as well.

So Be-Mag is essentially competing against the clients it advertises on its website.
Some companies do this, but I have talked to the owners of the shops and they don’t like it. With Wheel Scene, you have something that is your own voice, which is something that I really miss inside of the industry. In the car industry, if your read Top Gear magazine, there is a voice.

But when they say what they like or dislike it’s fine, but when we do it we are “hating”.
I think that’s needed. It’s like…a pro without a good image is not a pro. What you are doing with Wheel Scene, it’s the same with Adapt: people want to know what’s going on inside our heads when we develop a product. They want to know what’s in your head when you write about something. With Be-Mag, it just seems like they’re always on their toes. They’re trying to be polite and I think they’re pissing off a lot of people by doing it because they don’t have an opinion.

It does feel like Be-Mag tries so hard to please all the companies in blading that it results in them not really having a voice.
I liked Wheel Scene in the beginning and I like the writing. Olga and I were talking about the piece you did on Rik van Huik: it was like reading Daily Bread. With Be-Mag, you flip through it on the toilet and that’s it. You don’t get to know anything about the people in it and that kind of bugs me. It doesn’t get you thinking about stuff. I don’t agree with some of the things you write, but…

That’s exactly the intention. The articles are written to spark debate and invite other opinions. I don’t expect people to agree with everything that I say.
There is humour in it, so I appreciate it. Then again, you could write something really not cool about Adapt. I think there was something about Julian Bah.

Admittedly, I have made fun of Julian a few times. I have nothing against the guy, but sometimes he does and says stupid things that are easy to make fun of.
It’s true, but now he is on Adapt and I think that is a benefit for him and us. I think it’s showing a solid version of Julian.

Then again, it’s not just Julian. We do that with everyone. Hell, we do it with companies. When Razors released the Aragon 6 I just couldn’t help myself. That is the luxury of having your own media outlet.
Did you read the recent blog from Jake Eley? I’m not sure how you are with Jake… But I really like that style of technical writing.

I respect him and we get along, but we’re not close. He seems like a nice guy, but I don’t pretend to know him very well. I am guessing you are talking about the recent K2 thing he wrote.
Yes, I have to be honest that it felt not entirely true. Maybe he likes the skates, but I had so many problems with the 6mm bolts and angled spacers. They would crack all the time and I am sure I am not the only one. They made a complete new frame (ripped but whatever) and they did not go all the way and change the bolts or hardware. That is just not being inside of our industry.

You can’t claim to be impartial and independent when you are working with a company and testing their products, and suggesting that they release the frames as an aftermarket product. There is nothing independent about that. You are writing that to help the brand.
Or help sales.  But I do like the technical aspect. I think rollerblading has been slacking on the technical aspect. There are people that dig blading for the professionals and personalities, but there are also people who are really into the technology or how skates look. I buy other magazines because I am interested in cool stuff. I think that is missing from blading. But with K2, you can see that they don’t give a fuck. They’re not trying. Everybody’s like, “K2, they’re back!” Sure, whatever. They made a new plate, that’s it.

I do find it funny that people think K2 is going to save blading, just like they did when Seba got involved in the aggressive market. No single company can save blading, that’s not realistic. We have to become culturally relevant again.
Everyone just seems to have their back against the wall and hoping for a miracle. Grow some balls and go skate. I am really not concerned about how skating is doing. There will always be people loving it and it will always continue. I think people are trying too hard to be cool and that’s when you don’t look cool. All the old pros are really bitter. We actually had Louie Zamora on Adapt…

I remember. I was trying to interview him at the time and he told me he couldn’t skate them because they felt like ice skates.
No… I could send you all the emails. He told us the skates were amazing, the best ever, and he sent us emails complaining about Valo. He wanted to make the skates cheaper, so then we could sell a lot more and then make him a pro skate. Not really making friends here, but then again, not so nice to say they fit perfect and then say to you they do not fit perfect.

(Laughs) Really?!
And then I said, “I don’t think you really get the idea behind Adapt, so that’s not going to happen.” That was it. When I read the stuff he said in his Be-Mag interview… I could send all the emails he sent me to Jon Julio and say, “This is what your friend says about your skates.” He was just sucking up to us, and as soon as it didn’t turn out how he wanted… I am guessing he wanted money out of it. Then he went crawling back to Valo, saying, “The skates make me feel like a ninja.” What the hell?! Olga and I have a list of pros asking to be on our team. I think most of the Valo amateur team, at one point, emailed us! Nothing wrong with asking, but to be honest, we would not like it if our riders would did that to us. I would leave first, then see what the options are. Just like Sizemore did. Perfect example. That is professional.

That’s crazy! What about Nick LaBarre?
Yeah, he said he was done with Valo. With Nick we said, “Let’s see where it goes.” He’s really good friends with Nemo and they live five minutes from each other. To be honest, the trend now seems to be a copy of skateboarding… I think I have been in the industry too long and seen all the trends.

Oh, definitely. Rollerblading adopts the trends from skateboarding…except we do it a few years later.
If it catches on… He is really talented. It’s like with Nemo. He is really good and he has this aura when you see him in real life. I don’t know. I get more excited when I see Dan Collins and he has all the creativity, the toe rolls, but he has the danger as well. But again, I speak for myself. A lot of people dig it and want to see more.

Dan is amazing. Last question; what happened with Andrew Broom?
He wanted to have a good relationship with us but he didn’t really communicate with us. He was the person we wanted to turn pro. We never told him, but he will find out now. (Laughs) I liked the idea of having a young guy on the team from the beginning and making it all the way to the top, and Olga and I would have done everything possible to get him there. He just wasn’t willing to recognise what others were doing for him. I didn’t want him to go but he wouldn’t communicate with us. With Valo… I told Andrew we had something good going, but…

I would be incredibly surprised if he ever went pro for Valo.
With that attitude, it’s just not possible. If you’re just going to say thank you for the skates and that’s it, why would anyone turn you pro? He actually asked us for new skates when he already knew he was going to leave us. We don’t just get our skates from China.

Yeah, you actually take him and effort into making them, so that’s gonna hurt.
We sent him the new Wagner skate and, two weeks later, he wrote us an email.

Didn’t he put them up for sale on Facebook?
Yeah. If you’re going to be like this, I would say that’s low. I wish him all the best. I know he had a difficult youth. It’s more important to have a good career and a good life, but within blading I am sure we could have worked on some cool stuff together. We’ll never know! But in the end, I respect his choice. 

Olga and Pieter at Winterclash

Olga and Pieter at Winterclash

The Symetrics 84mm GTO frame

The Symetrics 84mm GTO frame



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