HOW DO YOU GET A JOB IN THE SKATEBOARD INDUSTRY??

Let’s face it, if you have ever spent any significant amount of time on a skateboard, you have probably dreamt about working in “the industry” at one point or another. How could you not! You flip through the magazines and see these people touring the world, filming, skating, partying – you’d be an idiot if you said you wouldn’t want to do that for a living.

But how do you do it? There’s no guidebook or guaranteed way to get there. You can’t just go to grad school or college and get a major in it… So we figured we’d get in touch with a bunch of people that are successful in the industry and ask them for advice. Remove the curtain and find out how they got started, what makes them tick, and if it’s really as amazing as everyone likes to believe it is.

photo: courtesy of paul chan


1. PAUL CHAN, Videographer & Photographer – Lurker Vision [Skateboard Mag], Frank Hurts Show [ABD] and SGV.

How did you get involved in the skateboard industry?
In the mid 90′s I was clubbing in Hollywood a lot and would always run into the Girl / Chocolate / Menace guys. I was working at a Hip Hop magazine at the time and wanted to start interviewing skaters for the mag. I approached Joey Suriel one night and handed him a copy of the magazine and Kareem Campbell eventually got a hold of it and was psyched on it. I ended up doing a ton of interviews for the mag and Kareem even took me on a few tours and introduced me to a ton of people in the skate industry. I’ve been lurking ever since.

What advice would you give to kids who really want to get involved but don’t know how?
I like to believe that the cream rises to the top. If you’re legit, people will notice. And nowadays with the internet there are plenty of ways to get yourself noticed. Or better yet, take the Jenkem route and just DIY yourself to the top. No matter what, don’t give up. If you’re not getting noticed by “the industry” then go back to the lab and keep at it. Refine your craft and appreciate the learning process.

Some people say the skateboard industry is like highschool. Would you agree or disagree?
Absolutely. There’s a reason why everyone wants to work in the skate industry: it’s cool as fuck. So you best be knowing that the gatekeepers of the industry take full advantage of this. Bottom line: homies are gonna get preferred treatment. That doesn’t mean that if you live in the midwest and can’t go to all the cool premieres that you have no chance, but it sure doesn’t help.

Is it really more about “who you know” than “what you can do?”
Because there can only be so many team manager positions available, I think its better to create your own job in the industry. Take for instance my Lurkervision show. I brought the entire show to The Skateboard Mag. I produced it myself 100%. I shot it (most of the time), edited it, and delivered the show to them. The point I’m trying to make is that if you bring something unique to the table and have it nicely packaged then you are effectively creating your own destiny. If I would have just told the guys at the Skateboard Mag, “I got this idea for a video internet show where I go up to pros and ask them funny questions,” they would have not cared. I had to have an episode done and fully edited in order to have a chance to get picked up. If you build it, they will come… hopefully.

What was one of the major obstacles you faced to get to where you are now?
For me, the obstacle was more about second-guessing myself and being intimidated. Once I started thinking of Pros as just normal people that skate really really well It helped me to speak up and say / ask what I wanted. i used to be afraid of coming off like some doe eyed man-fan that was too afraid to do anything in fear of being ridiculed by “the industry”. A closed mouth don’t get fed.

photo: rob meronek

2. RYAN CLEMENTS, GM at Skatepark of Tampa – SPoTlight productions

How did you get involved in the skateboard industry?
I started skating when I was 12. Just out of high school I went to college, quit that, and started a landscape maintenance company. That was right around the same time that Schaefer started Skatepark of Tampa 1993. I was so stoked that there was somewhere to skate, and having a bowl to ride kept me skating. Schaefer and I were tight because we knew each other from skating, of course, but we both owned businesses at young ages, too, so we always had something cool to talk about. I suggested to him that I sell my business and come over to SPoT to see if I can help make things easier on him. I figured I’d work there for a few years, then maybe go back to school, or do whatever. That was 15 years ago.

What advice would you give to kids who really want to get involved but don’t know how?
You get into the skateboarding industry just like you do any other industry. Get to know the people that work in it and make things happen. Email, call, be friendly, open up conversations, etc. with people that have jobs that you think are good/cool. Make yourself visible, attend events and tradeshows, read publications and blogs that matter.

Some people say the skateboard industry is like highschool. Would you agree or disagree?
My experience outside of the skateboarding industry is pretty limited, but I think that most, if not all, professions are like high school to a certain extent. There’s always the cool crowd, but really, who cares? Do what you love to do to the best of your ability at all times and none of that really matters. There’s drama in every workplace. I know that for a fact. But once again, does that really matter?

Is it really more about “who you know” than “what you can do?”
Skateboarding is definitely about who you know, but once again, so are many professions and industries. Who doesn’t want to work with someone they’re already friends with? We definitely make an effort to hire our friends and people we think are cool. Why not? It’s easier and you’re guaranteed a good time when you’re hanging out. Of course there’s work to be done, and that’s what it’s all about, but work can be a helluva lot of fun when you’ve surrounded yourself with all the right people.

What was one of the major obstacles you faced to get to where you are now?
My toughest obstacle has always been me. I’ve just had to learn to accept what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. Sometimes where you’re the most valuable isn’t where you want to be, but you can’t always worry about what you want when you’re working with a group and trying to do things for the greater good. Over the years I’ve also tried to get better at accepting others for who they are, too. That’s just a matter of maturing…you realize that you can only change yourself, not others. Usually when you love what you do and give 100% with a great attitude, things tend to work out for the best.

photo: oliver barton

3. ROB BRINK, Writer – Digital Communications Manager: Emerica/Altamont – Host & Co-producer of the Weekend Buzz – Senior Writer: SBC Mag – Contributing writer: ESPN skate, Vice, Concrete…etc

How did you get involved in the skateboard industry?
Found a crew of local skaters. Met Tim O’Connor a few years later. Got some flow sponsors and entered some contests but pretty much sucked at skating so I stuck with college and real jobs (bagel bakery and skate shop). Went to grad school because I was still nervous about entering the “real world” and met a professor who (for some strange reason, out of a class of 25 people) asked me if I wanted a job as an editor at a local book publisher. I accepted, and around the same time, Tim hooked me up with the email addresses of Ted Newsome, Sean Mortimer and Eric Stricker (rest in peace my friend), all of whom were amazing enough to give me opportunities, despite being complete strangers, to write for TransWorld Stance, MonsterSkate.com and Strength. I owe them a lot. Those gigs lead to gigs for TransWorld Skateboarding, TransWorld Business, ESPN and so on. Soon after, DC shoes, who I frequently worked with on TransWorld Business stories about footwear, offered me a position as a copywriter in their PR department, which I accepted. They moved me to Cali in late 2004 and things accelerated even faster from there. Got a gig as Staff Writer for The Skateboard Mag for five years, been at Sole Tech for almost eight. Doing Weekend Buzz and all that. Shit man, I got really lucky. I don’t know if baking bagels would pay the rent in Laguna Beach these days.

What advice would you give to kids who really want to get involved but don’t know how?
Work hard. Really hard. Don’t stop. Go to college and grad school if you can. Find your “thing,” whether it be photography, sales, filming, etc. Be influenced, but be original about your output. Try new shit. Fail. Work more. Stop emailing people on Facebook who have “made it” asking for a jobs if you have nothing to offer. The easy way sucks. Earn it. If no one offers you something, get better at it. When you are good and unique, it’s undeniable. If still no one offers you a job, do it yourself. Start a blog and put yourself out there or whatever and it’ll lead to good things. Don’t be afraid to move to California. You might have to. There are only so many job openings at Zoo York, CCS, 5Boro or whatever local “industry” you might have. You may move and blow all your money, lose your girlfriend, fail and have to move back home to start over again. So what? Don’t be a pussy about it; otherwise you don’t want it bad enough. Pay attention to the other people doing what you do or want to do. Learn from their mistakes and successes as well as your own. Don’t coast. Ever. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. You might be surprised how many people believe in you. Be prepared to hate skateboarding at times or be really disappointed by your idols and favorite companies, but don’t forget that you started this because you love skateboarding. There will be challenges and let downs, but at the end of the day it’s a way better life than what most people do.

Some people say the skateboard industry is like highschool. Would you agree or disagree with that?
High school is one of many microcosms representative of society as a whole. You could go to the offices of Apple or Starbucks or an accounting firm and it’ll be like just like high school. You’ll never escape it while you have a job in corporate America. And skateboarding IS corporate America. Everything has a dark side. There’s always some dipshit making money off what you love who doesn’t respect it or that you (the collective whole of skaters in the world) are what provides a job for them, pays their bills and lines their pockets. Some asshole is always going to screw you over to get ahead. But the rewards outweigh the negative. Skate life is a great life and I have some amazing friends and have had amazing experiences out here. I ain’t leaving it until they kick me out.

Is it really more about “who you know” than “what you can do?”
It’s a combination of them all. Like I said earlier, cream rises, but there are plenty of places you will never work or hang out and plenty of people who won’t speak to you in public if you don’t play the “cool guy” game— and play it well. I’m about as good at the “cool guy” game as I was at the high school game.

What was one of the major obstacles you faced to get to where you are now?
I guess it was just getting through school and getting to California and having people give me a chance. But honestly, nothing was going to stop me. Those weren’t obstacles as much as just part of the journey. For some it might be the finances to attend college or buy camera gear or something. Maintaining what I am doing and not being discouraged by the aforementioned challenges and dipshits is more of an obstacle to me than anything else has ever been. But like I said, work hard and you can have nearly anything you want. It’s worth everything you put into it. Treat skating right and it’ll take care of you too.

photo: pilar vree

4. MARK WHITELEY, Photographer/Writer/Editor – Former Editor & Chief of SLAP – Currently with Nike Skateboarding

How did you get involved in the skateboard industry?
Got a video camera at age 16. Skated with some sponsored ams who needed to film for videos. Met lots of skaters and industry folks in the SF Bay Area through that, from age 16-21. Worked on tons of early/mid-90s skate videos. After graduating from college (BA in Art from UCSC), I got linked up with the honchos at SLAP mag through friends I had made during my filming days. Worked there as editor-in-chief/writer/photographer for nearly 13 years, and made another 1000x friends through that. After that chapter, I am now at Nike Skateboarding this past 18 months doing all kinds of things that involve writing, strategy and other cool stuff.

What advice would you give to kids who really want to get involved but don’t know how?
Hone your craft through tireless work, and meet as many sponsored skaters and industry folks as you can- but in as non-gross of a way as possible. Just be a skater and do your thing naturally. Nobody wants to work with overzealous kiss-ups. As you mention below, it is a lot about “who you know” in skating, but you also have to know what you’re doing so that when opportunity finally knocks, you can properly answer the door and let it in. Stay sharp on what it is you want to be doing. Concentrate on opportunity and exposure, don’t worry about getting paid from it at first.

Some people say the skateboard industry is like highschool. Would you agree or disagree?
Life is like high school, but you find your right place. Get in where you fit in, have fun, shine the noise.

Is it really more about “who you know” than “what you can do?”
For the most part, who you know has a lot to do with initially getting in. Not for all, but definitely often. But regardless of who you know, if you are doing weak work, you won’t keep getting it. You have to be doing something of value, not just be cool. Or at least you have to be doing something of value if you want to really make a place for yourself and do it right. That said, knowing a few key people who can drop your name to some other key people makes it a lot easier to get the chance. So be out there and get to know some people, but know what you’re doing, too.

What was one of the major obstacles you faced to get to where you are now?
The hardest lesson I have had to face in getting to where I am now is that sometimes when life wants you to change you might not be ready, and when you want to change, life might not be ready. You can’t force things. Sometimes it takes a little while, but if you trust that you will land where you are supposed to be, you will.


Words: Ian Michna
Original Illustration: Michael Giurato
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Comments

  1. How do you get a job in the skateboarding industry? Uh… be willing to work for free?

  2. mr.shitt:

    would like 2 see more of these

  3. Sk8r for jesus:

    I hear terry kennedy is looking for someone to hire to wipe his ass.

  4. truth:

    these dudes don’t have jobs. they just suck off pro’s and ride people’s jocks for a living.

  5. sanjay clam pop:

    wouldn’t trade my “what most people do” job in for a career in selling/marketing clothes and toys to a bunch of 12 years olds. Bunch of focken nerds! And fock California too. Have a nice day!

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