Some of you reading this might not remember life before Instagram, let alone what it was like before there were skate clips on it. That’s right, when it first launched, all IG had was square photos with shitty preset filters and basically none of the features we are used to today, like Stories or the ability to reply to hateful comments in a single thread.
Similarly, TikTok is a new platform that is still constantly changing and people are just getting their bearings on there (no pun intended). Users are slowly figuring out what sort of content to post, and given its relatively short lifespan and cringey reputation within our community, there aren’t a lot of skaters posting on TikTok just yet. We did some digging and found some early adopters who are carving a lane for themselves and asked them about the future of skating on the app.
How long have you been active on TikTok?
Since a little bit before COVID, so like 2019, 2020. I was treating it like I do Instagram or anything else — go out, get a clip, and post it to TikTok and Instagram. I started gaining a following more recently because I started treating it differently judging by what I was watching on TikTok.
You’re going to watch something that catches you or you can engage with and talk about or learn from. That seems like what the app wants you to post on it. I just tried to do that probably within the last three months and that’s when I really saw a gain in my followers. I think I went from 6,000 followers to 14,000 in a couple of months.
I can post a skate clip on Instagram and get like 100,000 views or whatever. I can post that same clip on TikTok and it’ll get like 2,000. It’s literally night and day. But I can post me sitting at my desk talking about skating on TikTok, and maybe people can agree or disagree on the topic, and that’ll get 100,000 views.
Do you see a lot of crossover between your followers, or is your TikTok audience very different from your Instagram and YouTube?
I have a feeling that my TikTok audience is very different than my Instagram audience, and YouTube might be a little more similar. I find that a lot of people on TikTok have no idea who I even am, which is kind of awesome because then they learn about me and learn I’m pro and it’s like a whole new fanbase.
Being 33, I’m kind of an older pro at this point, so they might not know me. I’m almost regaining a younger audience and fanbase by posting on the apps that they’re commonly on. I notice people commenting, “Oh man, you should be sponsored!” They just have no idea, you know?
I don’t say anything back or whatever, but they’ll learn about me, and that’s what I want. It’s really cool to, at my age and where I’m at in my career, still be gaining a new fanbase.
Do you know if any sponsors or brands are incentivizing skaters to be on TikTok like they have in the past with Instagram?
I think brands like Powell have either an incentive program or they just highly encourage or want their riders on YouTube and apps like that. I think all their riders are on YouTube.
As far as TikTok goes, not that I’m aware of. I don’t get any extra incentives or anything. I mean, they love it. Santa Cruz will hit me up and be like “Dude, you’ve been killing it on your TikToks,” or whatever. I think the best incentive I get is literally building those relationships and products selling better.
Branded posts seem to do better on TikTok, or people just don’t hate on them as much. Have you noticed that?
I have. I think that people on TikTok want to learn about stuff. It’s very “Check out this product and buy it!” That’s just how it is.
I can scroll through right now and I’d probably find like five posts in the next 10 minutes of someone trying to sell me something. That’s obviously what people are watching. They want to gain something or possibly come up somehow. I think any time people can feel like they’re sitting down and talking to you about a product, it’s going to do better, too.
TikTok feels a little less polished than YouTube or Instagram overall, too. Would you agree?
I agree. If a post does badly on TikTok within the first three hours, I can delete it and repost it. I would never do that on Instagram, but you can just delete something, repost it, and then it does well or it could take a whole different turn and see new people. It’s really, really weird how that works. I would never do that on Instagram because I think it would just be too obvious.
Is there anyone that you’re taking pointers from or that you look up to in the skate industry who’s doing TikTok well?
I catch a lot of inspiration from video game creators, cause I watch a lot of Call of Duty and Apex Legends. I see what they post on TikTok and think about how to apply what they do. They might play with a specific gun all day until they get a good game and then polish it up and post it, and that’s kind of what I’m trying to apply to the skate world.
I think it’s going to take a long time as skateboarding has always been very gatekeep-y about certain things. We don’t want to do things and we don’t accept things right away. We want to see how they go or whatever.
Were you ever apprehensive about starting your channels from a skate reputation perspective, like getting clowned on by other pros or older fans?
Dude, 100%. I didn’t know how I was going to be accepted into the skate world. Even when I go out filming, sometimes if more than like five people are there, I’ll be like, I’ll do this video tomorrow…
I think I have a pretty good track record within my career to be able to do that and not get clowned on too hard for it. I didn’t start out doing YouTube. I came up, turned pro, and did all the things the way that your core skateboarder should, or everyone thinks they should. I rode for a bunch of different companies, had video parts, and skated in the biggest contests. This is just new to me. Alongside everything else, I’m going to do this. I think that helps people accept it a little better. I’m not just some new dude on the scene who’s trying to come up through YouTube.
I’ve been getting hit up by like a lot of other pros saying like, “I love what you’re doing.” They want to start doing YouTube and stuff like that. I feel like I kind of helped open a door for a lot of pros to be like, “Oh, maybe this is okay for me to do.” People can see it now.
Right, and like, “bypass the industry” or whatever.
Which is okay. You have so many people out there who probably would never make it in skateboarding without YouTube. They can live off skateboarding and that’s fucking insane to me.
YouTube skating has always been a little bit of an outcast. They’re never accepted 100%. I didn’t do the same thing that Revive did, but they fucking did it and they made it in skateboarding. So did I, but I did it a totally different way. I think me doing all that stuff in my past made it a little bit easier for me to just be like, “Are you going to hate on me because I’m not a real skateboarder? Do your research, then.”
What do you think it will take for TikTok to become a big platform for skating?
It’ll take a few people within skating making a lot of money off of it. Right now I don’t think there are enough people on it really making a living from it. I think it’ll just take seeing other people’s success on it, to be honest.
I still don’t think it’s going to be for everybody. You’re going to have those people who are not going to want to talk about things to a camera, but you’ll still have your average skater posting their skate clips on it.
I feel like Instagram is not what it used to be, at least in my eyes. It’s not run its course yet, but the time will come kind of like Facebook where it’s still there but it’s not doing as much as it used to.
I also think that’s been good for the industry. When Instagram was really popping, I was just posting crazy shit on there all the time. It really watered down a lot of my video parts. I was almost focused too much on it. I feel like people would watch my video parts and then kind of be like, “Oh… It’s okay… I thought it was gonna be better because his Instagram is crazy.”
I think it’ll be good if people can get on TikTok and just start making different sorts of content in general where they’re not fully based on your tricks and you can kind of keep that for the video parts.
How long have you been active on the platform and how long did it take you to start gaining traction?
It’s been since late 2020, so it’s about to be three years.
When I first got on that shit, I was not fucking with it at all. I was like, “Bro, none of this makes sense,” so I deleted it. Then my girl’s like, “No, you got to get back on. You got to try. You got to trust.”
I downloaded it again, boom, start posting, and the first video I post hits like 600-700,000 views or some shit. Every day after that, I kept posting, posting, posting. It was some shit where that shit just took off instantly almost. I started the brand probably two months after that shit.
Now it’s just insane, I’m not gonna lie. I feel like there’s no stopping.
What do you think made your page catch on so quickly?
If I’m being honest, I think it’s just me trying to be different. When I got on the app, there wasn’t even really too many skate creators. It was just all the same repetitive videos. Either an aesthetic video or the same boring fucking trick tip type shit, and I just got bored watching, so I was like lemme throw some personality in this shit.
The skits is what lowkey fucking saved me. I was just doing NYC skaters, Cali skaters, all these types of different fucking skaters. That’s where I really had the page going crazy. That’s when I was like, I’m doing something different right here.
I think another thing that plays to your advantage is people like New York accents [laughs]. There’s all that fucking “Lemme get a bacon, egg, and cheese” kind of shit.
You gotta take advantage of that shit! 100% bro. I’m from the city. I feel like it would make the most sense if I just started playing that character in a sense.
Are there other tweaks you make to your videos so they’ll pop off or go viral more easily?
Yeah, definitely. Like I said, the titles and shit, but I noticed just having certain outfits low-key makes a fucking difference in videos and making people watch because it gives people something to comment on.
Sometimes I’ll say some shit just cause I know it’s going to stir some people up to get them mad in the comments and people go defend it.
Also, certain sceneries. I know if I film anything at the LA courthouse it’s finna go up just cause all the mid-90s people that don’t watch skateboarding like that will recognize it.
For some reason, voiceovers go pretty fucking stupid. Whenever I make a voiceover, it’s finna go up. It kinda hooks people. Now I know exactly how I’m finna get somebody to watch a video for a minute and a half or two minutes or some shit.
So it’s just different ways to do skate content other than posting straight-up clips?
A hundred percent, bro. I feel like skaters just got to start opening up to that shit because you can gain a crazy audience through that and bring that shit to your skating. That’s how you get people to go and get your fucking boards, bro. You get people to invest in you, get your boards, get your trucks, get your wheels, because they already know you.
But on top of that, there’s a whole other bag on TikTok, even aside from the brand deals. TikTok pays like real fucking good to the point where you don’t have to work. It’s damn near YouTube numbers.
For the most part, they average $1 per 1,000 views, so for a video that has two million views, that’s like $2,000 in your pocket just off one video. You’ll never know how many videos will go up.
Shit, I didn’t know that.
Yeah, nah, when people are tripping on the TikTok videos, I’m like, “Y’all do not understand, bro. This shit pays so well.” On top of fucking everything else, if you have a brand or you making money off music, you making money off of so and so, that shit adds up.
Literally, if you have 10,000 followers on TikTok and you’ve gotten 100,000 video views within the last 30 days, and you’re older than 18, you could be making a full-on income off of that shit. Good ass income.
Does it bother you that most skaters still have a negative opinion of TikTok?
I personally don’t give a fuck because I know the situation I came out of in order to get to this shit, and I know the lifestyle I’m living is so fucking crazy compared to what it was when I first started skating.
I just got hit up by fucking Deluxe the other day because they watch my fucking videos and they just wanted to send me shit. Bro, I used to send fucking sponsor me tapes to Deluxe. That’s like the most core fucking guys right there. They understand it’s a new age that we’re living in. This is where you got to go to fucking blow up.
Do you think it could overtake Instagram as the primary platform for skaters?
I’m not gonna lie, it is definitely going to, simply because of the fact that you can make a living off of this shit. Instagram used to pay people for Reels and stuff. They weren’t even paying anything good. I needed 14 million views in order to get like $1,000. I’m not doing that every month. That’s corny. They stopped that program anyway.
TikTok is more like a personality app versus just posting crazy-ass clips, so once skaters start figuring out that they can just be themselves and not have to fucking air all their tricks out… You just go on the app to be yourself and save your fucking tricks for the video part. They’re gonna do it, bro. It’s gonna change the game.
That’s a good point. You don’t have to huck yourself down Hollywood High to get a viral clip to stay relevant.
On god, bro. And it’s able to fund your skate career. I’ve met so many skaters that I’ve looked up to on some childhood shit and I meet them and, like respectfully, n****s is broke. N****s don’t have money, bro. I’m over here thinking these n****s is making a crazy amount of money skating for so-and-so companies and all this other shit.
When you’re making a dollar a board, or if you even get a dollar a board, shit gets tough, you feel me? My favorite pro skater is asking me if I can fucking get them an Uber and I’m like, “Damn, bro… It’s like that?!”
It’s like bro, hop on the outlet, put your pride aside, and just fucking make easy money. It’s not that deep. Ya’ll post on Instagram anyway, you might as well post on TikTok.
What made you go in the content direction you’re in?
My initial goal was to share my experience because I think there’s value in skaters who are not really good but can give their perspective. The majority of skaters are not insanely good at skateboarding. I was like, let me refocus my TikTok on the tips that nobody really talks about — the stuff about skateboarding that we all kind of think about in the back of our minds, but nobody ever says.
There’s a series on my page about learning skateboarding on a deeper level. I talked about how when you ollie, you have to kind of float instead of jumping. It’s more like a box jump. From there, I was like, okay, people seem to want to have a deeper understanding of what skateboarding is.
What sort of feedback have you seen in the comments on your videos?
On TikTok, you get a lot of younger kids who don’t necessarily know the culture. They don’t really know the dogmas of skateboarding, and then there are those people that know it and they want to get a deeper knowledge.
For example, there was a video I did on ABDs and those being a thing in skateboarding. It didn’t necessarily get a lot of hate with people, but there were some people like, “There’s no rules in skateboarding. Skateboarding is free.” Well, yeah, it’s no rules, but there are things that we follow that were in the culture before the skateboarding you see today and now.
Are the people who respond to your content older people or younger kids who are learning and applying it as newcomers?
The demographic that I have the most of is 23 to 30, and then the 30 to 40.
You can see the shift now with all of the pro skaters that are getting into their 30s and beyond. Like, Paul Rodriguez is doing that series on YouTube where he’s revamping his life because he can tell that he’s starting to get into that age where it’s taxing on his body.
The culture is starting to accept itself as a sport, as in we should take care of our bodies. This is something that we can do for a long time. This is something that people can prosper from. We just have to give it its respect and respect our bodies as athletes do. It’s not going to hurt it. It’s just going to allow everybody to skate longer.
Is it hard to figure out what you’re going to talk about next?
No and yes, because as my content transforms, so do the ideas.
Skateboarding’s niche. That’s kind of why I approached it with being athletic because if it’s an athletic tip, anybody can get value from that. It doesn’t just have to be skaters. It’s just in the skate realm.
My goal is to be able to provide value for anybody that watches. There are some comments on my Instagram where people are like, “Dude, this applies to the gym,” or “Bro, I’m an artist and this applies to me.” My goal is to be able to talk about skateboarding because that’s what my passion is, but reach people outside of it.
Do you think that there’s potential for TikTok to overtake Instagram as the primary social platform for skaters?
TikTok’s algorithm is not very nice towards skate clips. It deems them as Dangerous Acts or whatever, and sometimes people get their clips taken down. So while that is up I don’t think it will ever transition over to TikTok, but if TikTok made a change in its algorithm and TikTok was widely accepted as you know, not a “cool thing” to do, but just a “normal” thing to post on, maybe.
Have you seen any hate on the stuff that you post?
Yeah, definitely. I think just putting yourself out there, you get a little bit of hate.
You got to realize, bro, we’re the weird ones. We’re not the cool guys who are throwing ourselves down gaps on Instagram over and over, just destroying our bodies. We are the anomaly in skateboarding right now. We’re kind of pushing against the grain and we have to just go into it knowing that the majority may not agree with us now.
I think if you provide enough value, if you do enough stuff to let people know that all you care about is their best interest and you are genuinely trying to share skateboarding, then it will over time be more acceptable. I think I’m starting to see that now.
There seems to be space for everyone these days. Braille and Revive get a negative rep from core skaters, but they’re more successful than a lot of pros.
Yeah, dude. Braille might be responsible for like 30-40% of the kids skating now even buying a skateboard. Even me, I used to watch Braille when I was a little kid. I was never too cool to watch Braille.
They’re putting on for skateboarding. Whatever, in the skate scene, they’re corny, but bro, they’re putting on for the culture. They’re getting people into skateboarding. That’s not respectable?
How long have you been focusing on TikTok?
I started posting in 2019. I just started with little skits basically, and I guess lifestyle stuff. I think for the first two years I didn’t post any skating, and then a bit later I started posting skate clips.
Did you notice a lot of crossover from your YouTube or did you get a new TikTok-specific fan base?
I thought I was building a new platform and audience, but I think it’s just mostly people who found me through YouTube. I think it’s all the same, so I just started putting skate stuff on there eventually.
How would you describe what your TikTok is like today and how it’s different from your YouTube?
I feel like on TikTok you have to make something more entertaining because there’s less time and you have to catch someone’s short attention span. YouTube is more just winging it until we get something. We can film and have hours of footage and I just look through and then cut it down.
I felt a lot less pressure on TikTok when it first started. I don’t think anyone really took it seriously. I felt more at ease to experiment with trying to be funny or whatever.
Stuff seems more casual and less polished on TikTok. It’s almost as if it does better if it’s like that, right?
I think so. I think that’s what the difference is between TikTok versus Instagram or even YouTube. It’s the platform that highlights or is supposed to highlight authenticity and rawness.
It’s also more algorithm-based. I don’t think people are going to people’s profiles and checking their videos like they do on Instagram as much. People stay on the flow of the waterfall, the algorithm of videos just popping up, so people aren’t really afraid to just shitpost a shit ton of videos. There’s no such thing as being a watered-down TikTok creator.
A lot of skaters look down on the platform and think it’s cheesy or whatever. Were you ever apprehensive about that?
Oh, definitely. TikTok has not fully grown out of that, but it’s definitely made some progress since its earlier days.
When Instagram videos came out I remember seeing Nigel Alexander first post an Instagram video for skateboarding. I remember thinking, “Damn, that’s weird. I don’t know if I like this.” The idea of vertical videos felt so new to me. Now it’s just funny to see Instagram is the dominant platform for skateboarding.
Are there other mediums that you’re interested in or have been exploring and trying out?
Right now I’m really looking at live streaming and Twitch. In my YouTube recommended page I’ve just been seeing so many highlight clips of livestream stuff that’s just so ridiculous and funny. I feel like it could be like something that’s fresh and new, you know?
Why do you think streaming has grown in popularity so much recently?
I think similar to TikTok, it has its own version of authenticity. Livestream is as real or authentic as it gets. Everything feels so real. I don’t know what the next platform would be. I don’t know how much more real it can get.
I think people are so tired of cancel culture these days and everyone walking on eggshells. Everyone knows controversial shit is more entertaining, and I think the live-streaming community is a breath of fresh air for people who are tired of everyone playing it safe. Whatever is considered cancellable on TikTok and YouTube, on Rumble and Twitch nobody gives a shit. It’s like everything goes, and I think that’s refreshing.
Do you ever get burnt out on having to upkeep these different channels you have?
There are two types of burnout. I think there’s burnout where you’re literally burning yourself out and working so hard, and then there’s a slower burn that’s like, okay, you’ve been doing this for a while, and it gets scary thinking about what’s next. But I think that’s normal in any job, you know?
I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s hard to think of different ways to reinvent yourself and create and not do the same thing for two decades.
Do you think TikTok can ever overtake Instagram as a primary social platform for skaters?
Can it? Yes, definitely. But I feel like if it was going to happen, I think it would have already happened by now. I’m still so shocked that it hasn’t. I think the values of the skate community have stuck with what they want, which is to keep it on Instagram, which is pretty cool honestly.
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