And Then We Came To The End!

Eric Koston scouts his last-minute trick for “Debacle.” Interesting fact: The truck, made of crepe paper, was designed by Swedish architect Johan Fredrik Åbom and cost $850,000.

Nike’s final, successful attempt to crack the shoe-chewing skateboard market is probably the story of our lil pasttime in the ’00 decade, even if it’s sort of a bass-ackwards version of what the rest of the industry has undergone. Skate shoe companies took center stage as the big-money game beyond boards and wheels, muddling through the thankless game of trying to maintain credibility with the dirty, scabbed kids that brung em to the dance, while signing pro wakeboarders and serving up juicy discounts to big-box retailers that will happily put your trucks on backwards as you shop for carabiners. Meanwhile, the suits at Nike were cherry-picking independent skate shops and aging East-coast pros that together would ride the wave of sneakerhead largesse and make it hard for even the die-hard purists to argue that Nike was the bloodthirsty corporate monster we’d all been led to believe.

It was an interesting story that died a boring death today, as Nike SB signed Eric Koston and can no longer be seen in any shape or form as an underdog in skateboarding. The Birdos were half-right in that Nike eventually decided to be Nike and throw its wallet around, buying up top talent as they see fit, flowing everybody in the industry who isn’t skating for another shoe company, reigning supreme over Tampa, flooding the mall shops with SB’s and pushing “Jocks Suck” 6.0s elsewhere. Meanwhile the current generation doesn’t remember a time when people didn’t skate Nike shoes, pre-fab skateparks are awash with swooshes, and the SB branch has more or less figured out how to act like a skateboard company as far as putting out videos, doing demos, getting tour articles into the magazines; eventually they can be expected to start blowing video deadlines I guess.

Getting Koston has seemed so much like the predestined move for Nike from the beginning that you wonder what’s next, except it appears Nike’s already provided the answer in the form of Sacto-birthed pro models for Stefan Janoski and Omar Salazar, both Vans knock-offs that make it pretty clear Nike’s given up on trying to be any kind of leader, the way they were when they came in with the Dunk a few years ago and helped the Es Accel usher in the wave of low-tech simple shoes. Beyond the staple Blazers and Dunks Nike SB is/was the one company making teched-out shoes that A. had serious space technology behind them and B. actually sold despite said low-tech shoe trend, so seeing their operation fall into line with the parade of Vans imitators (belatedly) communicates complacency at best, surrender at worst, or perhaps an Antarctic sabbatical with Marty Stouffer for the shoe design squad.

There have been and will be long and usually boring debates on Nike’s role in this big teddy bear picnic, but at this point the threads feel like they’ve been played out — Nike came on the scene and boosted some half-forgotten pros* like Danny Supa, Reese Forbes, Gino, etc.; they proceeded to make the expected power moves via P-Rod, Janoski, Salazar, and now Koston. For a few years there SB sales, restricted to actual real skateboard stores, translated to serious loot for the operators that they weren’t seeing selling other shoes, for various reasons; now you can order “CCS Exclusive” colors of Nike Dunks off the internet or get them at Zumiez. Nike takes good care of its people, pros to reps, and they do joint ventures with Blueprint and Slam City and the SPOT and Slap and Skate Mental; they should do all this stuff because they can and it keeps cranks like me from complaining too much.

But now that Nike’s at last acting like the 800-pound gorilla it is, it’s hard not to feel wary about what comes next. Best case scenario is they generallhy follow the rest of the shoe pack, make good videos and do right by the proper people. Or, perhaps they scoop up Ryan Sheckler, appoint him president of the 6.0 division, and sponsor nationwide skate camps hooked up to Rob Dyrdek’s proposed “skateboard league”… clearing the way for a generation of talent scouts and parent-managers hanging off the skatepark chain-link fence, calling the cops on the oldsters and scaring away all the precious weirdos that came up with the screaming hand and the idea to jump a skateboard on a handrail.

*By the other shoe companies, anyway

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25 Responses to “And Then We Came To The End!”

  1. Rocuronium Says:

    You’re such a great writer that I feel compelled to point out these two trivial errors. I can’t stand for the your post not to be perfect, even just once. I’m sure it has something to do with a wailing neonate.
    …For a few years THERE SB sales
    …Best case scenario is they generallhy

  2. smorales Says:

    never have, never will

  3. kay Says:

    I can remember when Nikes were legit skate shoes in the 80s (red, white and black jordans for example). Before it was important to feel the board.

    You’re right that most skate shoes are just Vans knock-offs.

  4. SB Says:

    It’s a blog man, informal writings are going to have some errors. He’s not running this through an editor each time.

    I suspect he’ll go the way of Jordan, releasing shoes long after he’s done being a spotlight pro.

  5. Watson Says:

    Amazingly written piece as always.

    I have to disagree though that the Omar shoe is a Vans knock off. Besides the vulcanized sole, I think it looks more similar to Adam McNatt’s Osiris pro potato than a Vans.

    Ah fuck I just got all shoe nerded again.

  6. portlander Says:

    the last sentence of that post was perfect. well done.

    a family friend was a mucky-muck at nike when i was growing up in the early-80’s, i always had nikes galore, i blew ollie holes in dozens of pairs of hundred dollar jordans… this was when skate shoes were either chucks or vans.

  7. sean Says:

    On point as ever PL, but regarding “complacency at best, surrender at worst”, hopefully Koston can usher in a new phase in SB’s life cycle, and breathe some life in to it that’s been sorely lacking for the last year or so (and will continue with the lacklustre Fall/Winter releases). I don’t doubt for one second that he’ll come out with something a little more inspired than P Rod’s releases anyway.

  8. tunafish Says:

    sorry, but just one more error – there are definitely no SB’s in any Zumiez, or on their website. just the 6.0s.

  9. julio gongato Says:

    First, I think it is important to consider the chicken v. egg nature of nike sb’s entrance into skateboarding. Before skateboarding’s ‘soul’ was all but gone they couldn’t make it in… even with bam (snare rush please). Second, zoom insoles are the greatest thing that have ever happened to my feet. I’ve only skated a couple pairs of nikes but I have milked those insoles for all their worth. And third, to betray my true shoe nerdery as well, from the pictures of the salazar’s (which do bring to mind the hideousness of the mcnatt’s – good call) it looks like they sport flywire technology. Awesomely hilarious.

  10. CossRooper Says:

    Is that truck in the tree near Beloit, Wisconsin? I swear I drove by that thing in my youth all the time. Either way, great post/blog.

  11. mdspb Says:

    @Rocuronium: that sentence threw me as well, but it’s OK.
    for a few years there…
    sales were cool.

  12. NS Says:

    Concerning shoe nerdery, zoom air is nice, but not just in the heel, those insoles pack out flat and and the balls of your feet hurt after two days skating them. And as for Flywire technology, its just stitching, next time you’re at the mall cruise by Footlocker and take a second look.

  13. wiz Says:

    don’t do it.

  14. theProgram Says:

    his spelling of “there” in the sentence in question is actually correct, there just needs to be a comma after it.

    for example:

    for a while there, it looked as though SB….

  15. dale Says:

    this has been the best thing i have read in a skate blog all year. i loved it so much i reread it today

  16. Scott Says:

    Amazing piece, the last bit gave me chills.

    One of the sentences in the first paragraph also resonated with me–I can actually remember getting called a kook cause I wore a pair of completely trashed Etnies to a high school dance. They were my only pair of shoes at the time, and my school had an unusually low percentage of skateboarders, so I guess to most people I just looked like some kind of dirtbag weirdo.

  17. dkilos Says:

    have any of you seen the nike snowboarding deal? gives a new meaning to nike sb. ha

    whats next?

    the sb in nike sb doesnt stand for skateboarding so dont trip when i make fun of nike SnowBoarding being the new “sb”

  18. Surya Fernandez Says:


    Another person complaining about how skating used to be? How it used to be pure and simple before the evil corporations (& Sheckler) came along and destroyed it for us? How they ruined it and made it mainstream and commercial?

    I’ve been skating since the early 90’s so I totally understand what you’re getting at, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t take these ramblings anymore. I swear that for the entire year that I subscribed to Skateboarding Magazine that this very same theme crept up in just about every article or editorial, let alone each issue.

    Nike, with or without Koston, is still Nike. If you were under the impression that they were different than the other shoe companies than you’re, at best, naive. If you’re implying that Koston “sold out” by joining Nike than it’s a little too late to be accusing any pro of selling out in the year 2009.

  19. Disappointed Says:

    koston is a protected sellout for some reason and has been for a long time. hes done commercials, xgames and all sorts of weird buffoonery in the name of getting paid. only a few years ago were we all making fun of people getting energy drink sponsors but now that malto and other “legit” pros are on their program,the hate seems to have dissipated. what gives ? wheres the zeal ? it’s all gone. that’s kinda sad actually, it makes every sheckler and p.rod argument stupid somehow. integrity is a distant 2nd when the paycheck can buy you that 2nd house you’ve always been dreaming of.

  20. berger Says:

    We used to buy Nike Airs all the time back in the day to skate in because we could get them at Rack Room shoes for cheap and they held up way better than most “skate” shoes which, at the time, I think consisted of Vans, Vision Street Wear, and Airwalk. The Nike’s lasted more than two weeks and weren’t crappy vulcanized shoes that seem to dominate the market today. I personally think the best “skate” shoe I have ever owned was the Lakai MJ-1. I just wish Nike SB would bring back the Air Abingtons – Fortunately, I stocked up at the SPoT when they were being blown out for $35 a pair…

  21. sir jorge skate Says:

    i admit, it’s easy to hate when you’re broke. I’m so broke and still skate, but man would i sell out in a second if it meant i didn’t have to work 9 to 5

  22. clew Says:

    Remember the Oakley ad(?) where Koston was wearing a Laker uniform? I love the Lakers and still think that was weird. Neff hats, what else?

  23. wefr Says:

    In the eyes of many, Koston is the best skater in the world. He has contributed so much to skateboarding, not just with his skating but with his personality and attitude. That’s why he could never sell out. Instead of busting his balls for being in the X-games, people should have thanked him for making the whole ridiculous event tolerable.

    With all those pros getting the big checks from Nike, why shouldn’t he be earning what he’s well deserved over the course of the past 16 years?

  24. Inga Lena Ångström Grandien Says:

    I think someone’s pulling your leg by telling you that the truck was designed by the swedish architect Johan Fredrik Åbom.
    Johan Fredrik Åbom was an architect alright, but he lived from 1817 to 1900 and although he disegned many things, not only buildings, he surely never designed cars.
    Best regards,
    Inga Lena Ångström Grandien

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