You may not be too familiar with Dave Mayhew’s skateboard career, but you will definitely recognize the shoe he designed for Osiris, the D3. It might look like a “cyberpunk baked potato” to you now, but back in the early 00s, this was the hottest shoe you could have, adopted by skaters and blown up by ravers, celebrities and the mainstream masses.
But what about Dave? How did this mellow skateboarder from Wisconsin design such a sought after shoe? What happened to his skate career and how much money did he really make? These have been questions on my mind for a long time, but it was only until recently that I had a chance to reach him at his skate shop, Alumni, and ask him myself.
A lot of people know about the Osiris D3, but not necessarily about you. Tell me a little bit about your career and how you became a pro.
My career was mostly from around 1993 through 2002. In 1993 I turned pro for Evol during my senior year of high school. I was just a kid in Wisconsin then, if I got a box it was like Christmas, I didn’t care what board it was. They made a video called “Back in Black” which I was in, that was my first video part and the initial start of me being pro.
In 1994 I moved out to San Diego and ended up skating with the Maple guys all of the time and that’s how I became good friends with Marc Johnson. All of the Maple guys wanted me to ride for them so I switched board companies from Evol. So I was riding for Maple, Krux and Etnies. Krux gave me my first ad in Slap magazine; it was a kickflip noseslide nollie flip out.
When they turned you pro were you getting paid at that point?
Yes, but what’s funny about this, kids couldn’t imagine this now, but at that point skateboarding was at its rock bottom point. So when I first turned pro I was making $500 dollars a month. Marc Johnson and I are always talking about this, but it’s just so rad that we did it for the passion and lucky to come up when we did. I look at it like this, I grew up playing baseball and soccer, those sports are set in stone. You can be a better player but there’s no changing the way the games are played. With skateboarding you can invent new tricks, land things you never imagined, and change the sport every single day. That’s what made me want to be a skateboarder.
At the time, were any of the other companies paying you besides your board sponsor?
Was that the norm at the time? The board sponsor was expected to pay and everyone else didn’t? It would be crazy now to think of a shoe sponsor not paying.
I mean, even after I filmed a part for the Etnies “High 5″ video I still wasn’t making a penny from them, I don’t think anyone was. They treated me right giving me shoes to skate but going on trips and seeing that shops are selling your shoes, it just wasn’t adding up in my head.
The first generation of skate shoe companies was Vans, Etnies and Airwalk, and everyone was riding for one of those companies. Eventually I assume everyone started to feel the same way, like, “why aren’t I making any money off these shoes that you’re selling all over the world?” But there was no way of even saying that back then. I’m guessing other skaters were thinking the same thing and that’s why in the late 90′s all of these new shoe companies started up.
The only thing I got from Etnies other than shoes was an airplane ticket to the first Tampa Pro contest. They never gave out money. Eventually they started paying people, but they held off for as long as they could.
So when you jumped to Osiris, were you one of the first riders on that team?
Yeah, so what happened was, my former sponsor Evol was trying to start an Evol shoes division, but I didn’t think it made sense. I thought if they called it something else, maybe more people would get involved. A board company using the same name for shoes, it just doesn’t work. So they took the name Osiris and changed it to that and I joined them as my shoe sponsor in 1996. The original squad was me, Adam McNatt, Gershon Mosely, and Tyrone Olson.
Did Osiris give you money to join the team or give you a pro shoe off the bat?
They paid us to switch over. We did “design by” shoes, where it’s not technically the riders shoe, but it’s designed by the rider. You could make a little more money doing that. I was hesitant to have my own pro shoe because only a couple other pros had shoes. Like Danny [Way] Colin [McKay] on DC. Sal Barbier still had his on Etnies. I always felt like, I respected those guys so much, and why do I deserve a shoe? Those were the dudes I looked up to and respected what they had done for skateboarding. Then over a year or so it just became the norm. At that point it was early 1997, we had ridden the whole wave up from the bottom. All of a sudden all of my sponsors were paying me. I wasn’t just getting $500 a month anymore. People were making careers out of this.
In 1997/98, what were the average sponsors paying you?
Shoe companies could pay a couple grand. Board companies, you’d be getting maybe anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 a month. Truck and wheel sponsors were less.
What about your board sponsor at this time. Did you just stay on Maple?
Well, when MJ left Maple for the A-Team he asked me to come with him. The Maple dudes were my friends and it was tough, but a year later I switched. That was a super fun time because everybody was skating really good and it felt good to be on the team. But after a while the graphics and theme got really crazy with conspiracy theory stuff. Turns out that not many of us were into the stuff. That’s how Enjoi started; we wanted
something fun and different. That was MJ, Rodney Mullen, Jerry Hsu and me at first.
Looking back at it, what do you think of Osiris’s video “The Storm?”
I think a lot of good skateboarding went down. One problem was we had so many different filmers working on it. The whole Storm movement was insane. Our premier in downtown SD was sold out 3 times with lines still around the block. Other videos would do one showing but for some reason it just blew up. I think it was the first skate DVD ever also.
People might not realize this, but the D3 was actually your 3rd signature shoe with Osiris. Can you talk about designing the first two?
My first design by shoe was called the Mayhem, real simple design. For the second one, the Damager, I kept it simple but tried to add these vents on the side because the shoes were bulky at that point. But for my 3rd shoe, the D3, I wanted something crazy.
At that point I was on tour a lot skating and there were more and more companies and shoes popping up in stores. I’d go from store to store looking at all the shoes and thinking in the back of my head, “I don’t wanna be the dude with the same looking shoe.”
I was in Sports Authority and there was a hiking boot I saw that had big lace holes at the top. I thought it would be cool if you put them down the side of the shoe and they got smaller closer to the toe. I went to Osiris with the idea and we started working on the shoe. It was my input. Osiris was open to whatever. We’d get samples back, and some people were like, “sick!” and then some other people thought it was nasty.
Funny thing is at the first tradeshow nobody really liked it and then 6 months later the shoe took off. I had shop owners asking me to try and get them shoes because they sold out so fast. We’d go to shops and demos and shop owners would pull me aside and be like, “I sold so many of your shoes that I bought a second house!”
“Shop owners would pull me aside and be like, ‘I sold so many of your shoes that I bought a second house!’”
It got so crazy that I stopped wearing them because I would go to a country town in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa, population 50, and all 50 people would be wearing them. It felt weird. Everyone was wearing them and I thought people may look at me and think I’m just another dude wearing those shoes.
What about your skateboarding, marketability or name, do you think they played into the success of the shoe?
I honestly don’t think so, well, maybe at first. Then it turned into a crazy thing. Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit was wearing the shoe, Avril Lavigne was wearing them on the album cover of her CD. It was way beyond skating. The look of Osiris was the right look at the right time with rave culture and tech skating being so big too.
How old were you when this hit?
Did that bother you that its popularity wasn’t based off of your skating, but just off the shoe’s design and luck of coming out at the right time?
It was something I had to swallow. I just wanted to sell to skaters, but at the end of the day you cannot control it.
How did things end with Osiris for you?
Things got kind of ugly. I’m not necessarily allowed to talk about it. Money has a weird effect on people. People at Osiris were making more money and things got weird. Things changed. I saved each paycheck, I got a house, everyone else was getting crazy cars. I was pretty close with one of the guys at Osiris and then he turned his back on me. I’m not a big fan of him now or the company. We don’t sell Osiris at my shop or anything. I look at some of the companies that are still around now and they still respect their sport, their primary people, which I think a company like Osiris lacks. There’s no back bone in their company, it’s just, “who’s the next move?”
Can you talk about a royalty check you got from those days?
I think one of my big checks for the biggest sale was about $80,000, but that was a high one. And when you’re making royalties it’s a different tax rate. There’s a lot of people who went on to make a lot of money, but then couldn’t pay their taxes. When the government takes 1/3 of everything you make and you are busy living life, there may not be too much remaining. That’s why people believe I am filthy rich. Yes, the shoe was a good shoe, but it didn’t last forever – more like 3 years.
Do you think the D3 was the best selling skate shoe of all time?
That’s what people say.
Soon after, you quit skating professionally. Why? What happened next?
Early 2000′s skateboarding kinda changed or I kinda burned out. Maybe a bit of both. I was riding for Enjoi at the time and MJ was running the company. He ended up spending a ton of time doing business stuff and not as much time on his board. He moved over to Chocolate a couple years after that and I figured it was a good time to change things up. I had a bad ankle injury back in 1995 which is still painful to this day. I rolled it jumping off 11 stairs and it just never fully healed. My leg was pretty much black and blue to mid calf. For the rest of my career I couldn’t squat, and without squatting it’s hard to jump off of stuff. The doctors explained that I was lucky to even be able to skate again. Then I ended up having ankle surgery in 2000. People started jumping off more stuff and bigger handrails and I couldn’t keep up because of my injury.
I quit my sponsors and moved out of San Diego back to Madison, Wisconsin. I loved San Diego, but there were just so many people. I’ve never been a fan of traffic and growing up in Madison there’s no traffic. It’s a fairly small city with a fairly large college population, so things are more centrally located, you don’t have to have a car, you can ride your board or the bus wherever you need to go. Being a midwestern guy, I actually like snow and the seasons too.
“I wasn’t filthy rich like a lot of people thought I was, I was just trying to figure out how to adjust back into society.”
In the beginning I was lost I guess. I am sure most ex pro-skaters can relate. I didn’t want a desk job. I wasn’t filthy rich like a lot of people thought I was. I was just trying to figure out how to adjust back into society. No more airplane tickets all around the world. No more boxes filled with free stuff. No more being spoiled. It was a rough adjustment.
Eventually I started Alumni Skateboarding with Derek Apel. At the time, the skateshop scene in Madison was stale. I’ve been skating a long ass time and this was a way for me to do something related to my passion. Since we’ve opened ten years ago, we have made 4 videos. Look out for our 10 year anniversary edit which is coming soon.
As of now, I am a happily married, stay at home dad with my two awesome kids, Wilson (3) and Clara (1). Life is good.
Finishing off, have you seen the videos of people stomping food wearing D3s?
Yeah, there are these weird videos of people in D3s slowly smashing food, like bananas and cakes and stuff.
I have never seen that.
Thats huge! It’s a fetish…