When I first heard rumors that Riley Hawk, Stevie Williams and Nyjah Huston were on some new skateboard team, I thought it was a joke. It sounded like something you would find on the SLAP message boards, along with a photoshopped fake ad and a bunch of people calling bullshit. Things got even stranger when I went to their launch party in Malibu expecting your usual dirtbag skate bar party but instead was rubbing elbows with the likes of Paris Hilton, John Stamos (Uncle Jesse), French Montana and some random reality TV stars.
While other apparel brands are cutting back on skate, it seems like Asphalt Yacht Club is doubling down: supporting a big team, advertising everywhere and not afraid to flaunt a big budget. Curious to know why, I got in touch with Jesse Fritsch, AYC’s Marketing Manager (and former pro skater) along with Stevie Williams to figure out what the hell these guys are doing.
Q & A WITH JESSE FRITSCH (Director of Marketing) & STEVIE WILLIAMS (Owner)
How do you feel about how AYC has been received by skaters so far and did you expect the response you got before you launched the brand?
Jesse Fritsch: Like any new brand it will take time for kids to understand what we are doing with AYC. I’ve been in skateboarding long enough to know that people were immediately going to look at the team and go, why is Stevie next to Figgy, who’s next to Nyjah, who’s next to Riley? It makes no fucking sense. So I knew there was going to be a backlash to some extent as Stevie was doing something completely different with this team than he has done in the past…at the very least there would be a ton of questions about who, what, why, and how. That’s something I love about skateboarding, you can come in, but you’re going to get tested on why you’re here and what you’re doing here no matter if you’re someone random or have been in the game for years like Stevie. So far a lot of the industry and kids have really supported us and we’re doing our best to support them as well. On the other side of that, we have caught more than our fair share of hate from kids online following our launch party with celebrity guests.
What’s the idea behind starting the brand?
Stevie Williams: It’s a lifestyle brand. Skateboarding is a lifestyle just like music and other sports. Our roots are definitely in skateboarding but if other people outside of skateboarding want to support, that’s cool. I have a lot of respect for everybody within the industry, and a lot of respect for DGK and Kayo. I didn’t steal anybody or wanna start a brand born out of negativity.
Jesse Fritsch: Stevie has a ton of respect for this industry and company owners, so when picking the team, we wanted to do something different but we were restricted by the fact that he didn’t wanna take anyone from Kayo, or steal from other skater owned clothing companies. He could easily have thrown money at skaters who were on other teams, but he didn’t wanna do that, which I think is really cool. On top of that, he also wanted guys from different walks of life with unique styles. We talked about it and thought it was cool to start with Stevie and Stefan, who are both legends in their own right, but from different walks of life. They skated together in Miami and had fun, so we went from there. I’m the first to admit that the team as a whole seems like a weird mix, but we have eight guys who all kill it on a skateboard in different ways and it’s fucking rad to watch! The more kids see these guys skating together, the more it will make sense and they will want to be a part of what we are doing.
”I’d say Stevie is giving back at this point rather than ‘selling out'”
Has anyone called Stevie a “sellout” or anything because the brand gives off a bigger budget or more corporate flavor?
Jesse Fritsch: Lots of people have said that in comments. We’re simply fortunate enough to have a budget to put a team together, advertise in magazines, go on trips…etc. Does that mean AYC is a huge corporation, and we forced skaters into doing something they don’t want to do for a ton of cash? Absolutely not. AYC is supporting skaters to continue doing what they love for a living, as well as supporting our magazines, websites, local events, and more. We are doing all we can for skateboarding during a time when many brands have jumped ship or scaled way back. I’d say Stevie is giving back at this point rather than “selling out”
Stevie Williams: Yeah I hear that from friends, fans, it is what it is – I’ve heard it all. It’s OK. I definitley work hard at what I do and what I believe in, and everybody isn’t gonna believe in what I believe in. I’m fine with it. Just work hard and improve, there’s always room for improvement.
What does AYC have to do with celebrities like John Stamos and Paris Hilton? Why were they at the launch party for the brand?
Jesse Fritsch: Those people have nothing to do with AYC. A friend of ours is simply friends with them and invited them out. First and foremost with the party, everyone that went, yourself included, hopefully had a lot of fun. It wasn’t your typical dive bar skate party but I think everyone that was there had a good time and that was the point. It wasn’t planned that celebs were gonna be the face of the brand, but when the media came in no matter how many skaters were there, they focused on John Stamos and Paris Hilton. That’s the skate media too. But that said, who wouldn’t want their fucking photo with Uncle Jesse? [laughs] I think everyone that was there loved it, but when skaters saw the celebs online they thought, “What the fuck is this? This isn’t skateboarding.” And yes, you are right, that wasn’t just skateboarding. That was just a party to have a good time. I guess there are rules? Maybe you aren’t allowed to have certain types of people at your party or it’s not “cool for skateboarding”? [laughs] We aren’t fazed by the hate though. The party was super fun.
”You do something different and you are bound to catch some hate.”
Do you think skateboarders can be close minded in terms of if people outside of skating get involved with anything, everyone freaks out?
Jesse Fritsch: Yeah that’s one of the funniest things about skateboarding, I mean I’ve spent my whole life doing it, I love it. But you know, skateboarding is like, be yourself… but don’t be too much of yourself or we may hate on you. Be innovative or do whatever tricks you want but don’t do these tricks cause they’re wack. Same thing with starting a brand. You do something different and you are bound to catch some hate.
Stevie Williams: Yeah I mean it’s a gift and a curse. We definitely got some feedback from having celebrities at our parties, and taking pictures. It is what it is. Sometimes it’s the kid’s opinions that count and sometimes it’s the industry’s opinion that counts. Our intentions are skateboarding and I think it’s cool that other people outside of skateboarding support our parties. It makes it bigger, it makes it louder.
There have been rumors that Lil Wayne or Justin Bieber are involved somehow secretly. Is there any truth to this?
Stevie Williams: No. Lil Wayne is definitely a friend, Bieber is cool too. They support skateboarding, a lot of people might not like it, because they are such megastars, pop, or whatever you want to call them. But at the end of the day, that’s how skateboarding got so big. I mean back in the day, rock bands were supporting skateboarding and you had people like Tony Alva and Christian Hosoi. It’s the same now, it’s just our time.
Skateboarding is dope and people in pop culture want to support it, and it just sucks we would turn our back or talk shit. That’s what sucks. That hurts. Skateboarding has come so far, from back in the day, where they knew they used to steal our swag. You know baggy jeans came from us, white T’s and blonde hair, and different types of original styles came from skateboarding and our lifestyle. And now that we have a Lil Wayne or Justin Bieber and they decide to support skateboarding, it’s like we turn our back on them. And I can admit, I’ve done that too, with Pharrell. But I lived and learned and at the end of the day, I respect whoever can make skateboarding bigger and louder so we can create opportunities for more skaters and get kids off of the street and not selling drugs. If Lil Wayne or Bieber can get 10,000 or 15,000 more people to skateboard, that’s 10,000 or 15,000 thousand more kids that will probably make it somewhere in life, other than jail or getting in trouble. That’s how I look at it. And I’ve skated with Wayne and with Bieber, and they are both pretty dope. I respect them for that and I’m grateful that mega pop stars can actually make what we’ve been doing our whole life, a little bit bigger.
Some people have said you used the triangle logos because you are a part of the illuminati, is this true?
Stevie Williams: [laughs] No, there’s no truth to that. Actually Riley Hawk drew that logo. We put it on a shirt and when it dropped it created its own type of hype around it. Even my mom asked me if I was part of the Illuminati. It’s skateboarding, it’s triangles, it’s circles, it’s obstacles, joy, success….
Do you think it’s hard for kids to relate to AYC’s imagery: Yachts, red carpets, success, fame, money and all that?
Jesse Fritsch: You know, the skate kid in me thinks it’s hard to relate to some degree because skateboarding has always been so modest – you know these unwritten rules of skateboarding to not brag about what you got. Which is an awesome part about skateboarding. Now I’m surprised more and more everyday with how many kids do feel comfortable or proud to be ballin’ out or successful and they want to flaunt it, which is a huge change. Now obviously you can take that too far, and just be arrogant, but that is not AYC’s intention at all. Stevie is simply saying, “I worked my ass off, came from nothing, and now I’m successful. I’m proud to be here and you can do it too.” It’s a learning thing for all of us everyday. It’s tough for me as it’s a different world than what I grew up with.
Stevie Williams: Once the kids can support the identity of AYC, the way I put it together, everybody on the team has a set fanbase. Collectively we share a lot of the same fans in a weird way. Like a friend of a Figgy fan, might be a fan of mine or Nyjah or Stefan. We don’t all share the same image, but putting together AYC, just makes it like a cool superteam. When we go do things, we’re gonna have Figgy fans, Riley Hawk fans, Stevie fans, Nyjah fans, everyone can come support it. You don’t feel singled it out. We just have to show how well we work together and represent this brand and how we all have skateboarding in common.