A wise man (possibly in Thrasher’s Mail Drop column) once said something to the effect of, “ Skateboarding is like a soap opera: If you miss one day, you don’t know what’s going on.” Never has that declaration rung truer than in 2015, a year in which team changes flew by on Instagram, with the skateboard public voicing its opinion on each in the comments.
We watched as new skateboarding companies formed and established pros left longtime sponsors. We speculated as to where Shane O’Neill would go when Skate Mental announced—with teasers beforehand—that he was on his way out. And we were stunned when Girl revealed that Guy Mariano and Eric Koston were off the team.
So, yeah: It was another year in skateboarding. The requisite team changes aren’t integral to what we do, but they’re a big part of our conversation, and they’ll shape part of the year to come. Without further ado, then, here are the 10 most important skateboarding roster moves of 2015.
10. Miles Silvas Leaves Organika- Miles Silvas turned pro for Organika in May. By early December, on the heels of a part that closed out LRG’s 1947 skateboarding video, he announced he was leaving, alongside fellow Organika pro Walker Ryan. Does he have a plan? We can’t say for sure. But someone of his caliber—a guy who backside noseblunted an 18-stair handrail—is unlikely to be without a board sponsor for long.
9. Brandon Westgate Moves from Zoo York to Element- Rumors of Brandon Westgate leaving Zoo York had circulated for years. Toy Machine was the commonly heard post-Zoo destination. In April, though, he vanished from his board sponsor’s site, and in the weeks that followed was announced as a member of Element’s team. He addressed the change a couple of months ago, on Anthony Shetler’s podcast. “There was no team vibe [at Zoo York], and Element had a big team,” he said. Also: “I just felt like there wasn’t a project. When I was with Zoo, I was kind of just going through the motions, whereas I like to film video parts, go on trips, feel like I’m a part of a team.” An Element video is said to be in the works.
8. Jake Johnson, Tyler Bledsoe, and Gilbert Crockett Start their own Company- Once again, the rumors were true: Jake Johnson, Tyler Bledsoe, and Gilbert Crockett, all former Alien Workshop riders, were starting a company called Mother with Chad Bowers, one-time Alien team manager. The announcement arrived in March, and in the months that followed, shops could barely keep the boards in stock. In the summer, Mother underwent an abrupt name change, rechristening itself Quasi after it was “hit with the corporate blues.” The company added Dick Rizzo and Josh Wilson as ams, and continues to inspire the curious to try square-nosed boards.
7. Jeff Rowley Leaves Flip after 20 Years- After spending more 20 years of his skateboarding career on Flip, Geoff Rowley said he was leaving in October. In many ways, he’d become the face of the brand, which he’d ridden for since its days as Deathbox—especially in the stateside absence of Tom Penny. But yeah, he’s off now, apparently with a plan. So we’ll see what 2016 brings.
6. Bastien Salabanzi Joins Primitive Skateboarding- After he parted ways with Flip, Bastien Salabanzi wound up on Jart, a European company, for a while. But everyone kind of wondered when he’d come back to an American brand. That happened early last year, when Paul Rodriguez welcomed him to one of the most elite teams in skateboarding right now—Primitive. With this move, we can hopefully expect Bastien to produce skateboarding video parts of the caliber he did during his Flip days.
5. Chris Cole on Plan B- When Chris Cole quit Zero in 2014, the working theory around skateboarding was that he would start his own company. But while he sold a couple of runs of his own decks, that, he said, was never the plan. Instead, after almost a year without a board sponsor, he joined the fold at Plan B. Yeah, some of us may always remember him as the crazy-haired Zero dude tre flipping Wallenberg, but he’s obviously got a long run ahead of him with Danny Way and co. And you can’t be mad at that.
4. Shane O’Neill Leaves Skate Mental for Primitive Skateboarding- Even if you’re too cool to admit it, Shane O’Neill is one of everybody’s favorite skaters. It’s OK—we all watch his parts. So we all paid attention when Skate Mental announced that He Who Goes was gone from from it roster. Once again, the skateboarding rumor mill pointed to a new brand. Shane, meanwhile, rode a question mark graphic for a while. And then, in advance of his second part of the year coming out, Primitive announced he was on the team and owned a piece of the company. Some dudes just have leverage.
3. Nyjah Huston to Nike Skateboarding?- On November 1, Nyjah Huston vanished from the the DC Shoes and Asphalt Yacht Club rosters. He promptly released a video part, “OMFG”—a possible footage dump—and in the weeks that followed was seen in Nike shoes and gear, and the rumors of a $40,000,000 contract with Nike SB hit the skateboarding rumor mill. The swoosh even adorns the walls of his private park. An announcement looms. Most years this would be the biggest skateboarding move of the year, but 2015 was an epic year for sponsor changes in skateboarding.
2. Guy Mariano Leaves Lakai for Nike Skateboarding- Following months of rumors, Nike SB announced Guy Mariano—who had ridden for Lakai since he returned to skating in 2005—as its newest rider. This one polarized the skateboarding Internet, with some praising the move and others calling Guy a sellout via doctoral-thesis-length comments. No matter where you stood, though, you couldn’t hate on his trick in Eric Koston’s part in the third Chronicles video—a backside tailslide/frontside bluntslide transfer to bigspin out. Yeah, Guy did that.
1. Eric Koston and Guy Mariano Leave Girl Skateboards- Even a year ago, the notion of Guy Mariano and Eric Koston leaving Girl seemed far-fetched. Both had been around from the very beginning, when the brand was distributed by X-Large. After Guy spent a few years away from skateboarding Girl reinstated him as a pro in 2005, and two years later he cemented his comeback with the penultimate part in Fully Flared (2007). Koston had the last part in Goldfish (1994) and Yeah Right! (2003). So, yeah, it was hard to imagine either on another company. But in November, as rumors swirled around skateboarding, the word that they were off the team arrived. Their destination remains a mystery, but something big is clearly about to happen.