Sunday 14 June 2015

The Man Behind Descent Skateboards

Chris Pulman. Photo Gorm
Hey Chris so Descent Skateboards has been going for around 2 years now, what has been some of the challenges of starting a board company?
Yep, I guess by the time people read this it’ll be heading towards 2 years. I think I launched in Jan ’14 but it was all starting to happen way before that in my head. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do even while I was still riding for Heroin and that was ten years ago now. Challenges? Well, every day brings a small challenge but that’s half the fun. I find easy things quite boring to be honest.

You’ve had various roles within the skate industry ranging from rider to manager, are there any experiences from those past roles that can be applied to running a company?
Well, I guess I’ve done a bit of everything, yeah. Jack of all trades maybe? Haha! I have learned a ton of stuff but I think the most important thing is not to follow what everyone else is doing too much. Pay attention to it and appreciate it of course but have the strength to do your own thing and be yourself. I mean, if you’re constantly following what everyone else is doing, even if you’re an expert at it, you’re always gonna be behind, right? As far as skills go, the mechanics of the skate industry are not that complicated or mysterious. If you want to make something rad, you just have to figure out how to do the background stuff. Very often passion is far better than skill for getting things done.

You’ve been involved in skateboarding for a while now, have you noticed a change in the role of deck companies?
You know what, outside of the financial aspect of skating, the board companies are still the single most important factor in what makes skateboarding rad. Through artwork, videos, finding new up-and-comers and generally keeping the reigns on outside factors, they have the biggest impact. They make the most honest videos, ads and events because they have the least to lose. There’s way less at stake and they almost always feel more personal than a clothing or footwear company to me. I don’t think their role has changed a great deal except that now they’re a stepping-stone to a paid career in skateboarding; one that can come from later deals with footwear companies or other, less wholesome endorsements.

You’ve got a pretty solid team are there any trips in the works to possibly contribute to a promo or full-length?
I think so. They’re just genuine skaters with their own angle on things. They all remind me of me a little in one way or another (well, except that they’re actually good at skateboarding…). Descent is just here to support these guys so that they can be themselves and make the most of their talents and passions… We’ve been filming a little bit independently from each other and we’re just starting to travel around a little and get on some trips together. Yep, I’d love to get a video out when the company is mature enough for one. I’m down for solo parts or whatever the team want to do to represent their skating. I’m not cracking the whip just yet…

Fs Smith. Photo Gorm
The current skate climate seems to favour those (companies & skaters) who are willing to put out footage on instagram on a daily basis. Is this something you find you need to adhere to?
That makes sense, Media needs to be easily digestible in the current climate. I believe the term is ‘snackable’ in media circles. I’ve often wondered which would have the greatest effect: one video part that took two years to film or two years worth of instagram clips released weekly. I don’t think anybody really knows what works right now from a marketing point of view but somebody will hit a winning formula at some point. Personally, I’m a fan of Daewon or Puig’s instagram feeds they’re worth checking every day. I really believe that genuinely good footage and content will win in the end; format is secondary if the content is rad.

Accepting that you can’t possibly appeal to everyone and just looking after your fans and the people that look up to you and appreciate what you have to show or say is way more important than trying to appeal to the mainstream; unless of course, you want to make a lot of money. But there are way easier ways to make a lot of money if that’s all you’re interested in.

The leather wristbands and wallets are quite a unique product for a board company to make but to me embody Descents ethos, was it something you always wanted to do?
It’s a point of difference I guess, a genuine one born out of something I like to do in my spare time that might appeal to skateboarders that like something genuine and not mass produced. Something made with skill and care. People seem to like the bits that I make and want to show their support by wearing a wristband or have a nice phone case or wallet or whatever. They’re not just another product in the catalogue though, there to fill a product category. They’re in there for a good reason. I was worried that people would think I was trying to take the company down the whole ‘artisan’ route but it’s not really about that. I hope I inspire people to look at the quality of the things that they spend their hard-earned cash on. Better still; to maybe make something of their own… It’s not that hard if you’re prepared to find out how.

leathery goodness. Photo Gorm
Running a company and being a family man is pretty time consuming are you still able to find time roll around? 
Yeah man. Skateboarding has been my biggest passion for a good chunk of my life. I skate 4-5 days a week if the weather is on my side. A good chunk of it is at skateparks though. That’s the only concession I’ve had to make due to having limited time to skate. You can get a hell of a lot more done in two hours at a park than you can in two hours of street skating. I miss the texture of the street and the pavement and the tarmac and the cracks though, so when I do street skate once a week or so, it feels amazing. I guess skaters deal with parenthood in different ways. I’d be the first to admit that I’m a little selfish with my time and maybe I skate a bit too much. Generally though, it makes me a better person to be around. You have to be able to express yourself to stay sane and interesting. My kid is rad. He comes skating sometimes and he’s getting a kick out of learning stuff. Of course, secretly, I’d love him to skate; but I’m not going to push him. It’s the best thing any kid could do, to travel the world, meet interesting varied people and not be part of the general populace. Being a skateboarder gives you an edge and helps you to be an individual. I’d like my kid to be interesting, appreciative of his surroundings and have a healthy distrust of society and consumerism.

Descent seems to be in a pretty good place right now, is there anything in the works that we can expect?
It feels like that to me too. It grew way quicker than I planned and was noticed by more people than I imagined. That kind of took me by surprise. We just came under the wing of Keen Distribution so now it’s surrounded by other rad brands that home a lot of my favourite skaters.

I’m just trying to make something that would appeal to me when I was younger; something for nerds basically… haha! It’s been really encouraging to find out that there are way more interesting, questioning and individual skaters out there than I first feared. As skateboarding gets more and more mainstream, pushed in that direction purely by financial goals, I think it’s good to have ‘safe ports in a storm’ for skaters to go where they’re treated as skateboarders first and consumers second rather than the other way around. I’m glad Descent can be one of them.

Cheers Chris, any final words?
Well, if you got this far, thanks for actually reading and not just looking for the pictures and insta clips. Thanks to each and every one of you that has supported Descent so far. Thanks to the Descendants, our own mailing list of like-minded skaters. Thanks to the people inspired and brave enough to ask questions and speak up.

I can never thank skateboarding enough. To quote a great skater “skateboarding is about you, your board and what you do with it’. Remember that first and foremost.



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