When and why did you start NYskateboarding.com?
I launched the site back in 2009 after a couple of NY skate sites I had followed stopped posting regularly. Being a skateboarder born and raised in New York with a background in web design/development I wanted to keep the torch lit. So I started NYSkateboarding.com to provide the NY skate community and people who love it a place to visit daily.
Was it a slow process to get people to know about the site and start coming to it?
I would say social media played a major role in helping me get the word out. Our Facebook following grew to over 200,000 really quickly. I also did the conventional stuff, too, like stickers and shirts. Everyone I already knew through skateboarding like Steve Rodriguez, Billy Rohan, Rodney Torres and Michael Cohen helped get the word out as well.
Do you make a living from the site?
Personally, no. Any money we make goes back into the site, either through equipment, shirts, stickers, web hosting stuff or dinners for my crew. My day job pays the bills.
What’s your day job?
I’m an IT Manager for a popular retailer.
When do you work on the site?
I mostly handle all of my NYSB stuff at night or on the weekends. I guess you could consider it my “night job” haha.
For those that don’t know, how does a blog make money?
I get that question a lot and the answer is simple: traffic. The more people who visit your site, the more money you can make. So if you’re looking to make the big bucks, create a blog that reaches the masses. Skateboarding may not be the best topic for that! For us, though, money is not the motivation. We do NYSB for the love and recognition of New York skateboarding and the experiences it brings.
Who are your partners in the site, and why did you decide to bring partners in?
The NYSB Crüe started with two of my closest friends, Shawn and EJ, who I met through skateboarding back in 1994. They were the first two involved once the site started getting more popular and I needed help. Then throughout the years we brought in Michael Hurley, Peter Pabón, Gizmo, Alex Corporan, Michael Cohen and most recently Chris Miller.
Had you worked in the skateboard industry prior to the site?
Not really. I helped out my local skate shop [New Skool] growing up, but that’s about as close as I got to working in the industry. I was mostly just a skateboarder attending skate things to skate, not to work.
Has running the site opened up new opportunities for you outside of the site?
Definitely! Opportunities and memories worth way more than money. My first major opportunity was through Steve Rodriguez; it was an online clip contest seeking “The Best Line in New York”. We got some great entries and ended up awarding the winner $2k, a sick 5Boro box and a year’s worth of eS shoes. The winner, Nate Rojas, was announced at a video premiere and the clips played on the big screen. That was our first major accomplishment.
Another memory that stands out is when we helped promote the Maloof Money Cup when it first came to Queens and they built the skate park in Flushing Meadows Park. It felt great to hook kids up with tickets; I think we gave out around 500 that year. We also got to interview Geoff Rowley, Andrew Reynolds and Remy Stratton.
Other memories include our 3 year anniversary party at House of Vans, being involved with the indoor LIC spot, being given a SPOT Thanks for Nothing Award, countless interviews…oh, and having John Cardiel hit us up for a NYSB shirt!
Where did you grow up and how did you start skating?
I grew up near Ronkonkoma out on Long Island where I started skateboarding back in 1989. A local paper delivery dude was a skateboarder and he would come around on his board when it was time to collect money. I saw him and his friends doing ollies and kickflips, and I was completely intrigued. Immediately I scrounged up some change and bought a used Tony Hawk board for $15. It had pieces of grip all over the top, the nose was chunked out, the tail was scraped down and chipped, but it was a real Powell and Peralta board, so I was stoked. The next couple of years my friends and I started building ramps and rails and eventually skateboarding took over our brains.
Tell us about selling your car and moving to Bushwick.
After a few years of constantly travelling back and forth into the city to skate, it was finally time to leave Long Island. I was 19 years old working as a laborer for a construction company and I felt like it was time for a change. So I ended up selling my car and using that money to get an apartment in Bushwick on Broadway & Dekalb. The place was a slum, our ceiling leaked everywhere, it had the smallest water heater ever and the whole apartment rattled every time the J train would pass by. BUT it was $350 a month and that’s all I could afford back then. Some crazy memories at that spot to say the least!
You were held up at gunpoint once, correct?
One of the scariest nights of my life! It was at the Cherry Tavern on 6th street. A close friend was bartending that night so I decided to stop by on my way home from another party. It was after last call so there were only a few heads inside, all friends of the people working there, and the bouncer. I was sitting at the far end of the bar when a scruffy looking older dude poked me in the back ordering me to go down in the basement. Cherry was near Tompkins and it wasn’t unusual to encounter bums so I figure this dude was another crazy bum. I told the dude to leave figuring the bouncer would assist at some point. To my surprise I see the bouncer with his hands spread on the pool table behind me and everything emptied out of his pockets. On the other side of the bar I see another dude ripping the register apart trying to get money. I realized at that point that the bar was getting robbed! The dude quickly replied “you wanna die” and poked me in the stomach with a hand gun. I’ve never sobered up so fast in my life. Having a gun on you changes your entire thought process, one wrong move and you’re done. I immediately made my way towards the stairs thinking how lame it would be to die in that bar. Once I got down into the basement I heard my friend and the other girls downstairs crying in fear. Turns out the dude was sending people into the basement one by one and we had no clue what his plan was next. It felt like hours, but after a few minutes they ended up jetting after a car beeped outside waiting to pickup the bouncer. We ended up staying for a couple hours later to fill out the police reports. I’m very thankful to still be alive!
Crazy. Do you have formal education?
Yes, I have a BFA degree from the New York Institute of Technology. I attended the Manhattan campus up by Columbus Circle. I learned a great deal of my video editing, motion graphics, graphic design and web design stuff there. Juggling a job and going to school full time wasn’t easy, the days of skateboarding every day were over. I’m still paying off the loans haha!
With so many skate sites and so much content coming out daily, how do you differentiate your site?
Our site is very niche, we stay focused on New York skateboarding. It’s about the people, the brands, the spots, the shops and the events that make up one of the best skateboarding communities in the world! We try to stay consistent by posting new stuff every day.
How do you go about choosing who and what you cover on the site?
It’s pretty organic, things come our way for the most part. I wish we could do more, but there’s only 24 hours in a day! The NYSB Crüe and our contributors play a major role. I couldn’t do it without them!
Do you feel print magazines are still important in skateboarding?
Out of New York we have 43 Mag, Stoops Magazine and a bunch of zines. I love what they do. They have a different level of quality, I guess print makes you think differently since you’re paying for the paper, printing, shipping, etc. I grew up with skate mag covers and pages all over my bedroom walls. Hoping kids will continue to do the same!
Is your readership mainly NYC or is it countrywide and international?
Our core is definitely NYC based and its surrounding areas, but we have a strong following all around the world. It’s kind of crazy. We were in Japan back in 2014 and I snapped an IG pic inside of FTC when a dude ran up to me and showed me the pic on his phone. He was from Spain, also visiting Tokyo, and had just seen the photo on his feed. Skateboarding can make the world feel small!
What are your favorite skate sites outside of your own?
We follow so many sites on the regular, so it’s hard to pick favorites. Off the top of my head I would have to say Quartersnacks and Jenkem of course, SkateDaily, SLAP, HellaClips, skately and all of the mags like Thrasher, TWS, TSM, Juice and LowCard….can’t leave out SkateboardStory.com!
You hear lots of criticism about the massive amount of skateboard content coming out. People worry that things are getting watered down. What are your thoughts about the constant stream of online content being released?
Growing up in the 80’s we waited a month to see a new mag or months/years for a new video. This definitely made mags and videos very special to us. Now we’re bombarded with stuff, so it can feel less special. Instead of waiting, we’re now weeding through social media all day. However, it’s cool for the kids or brands being able to easily get themselves out there and be recognized worldwide.
What type of content performs best on your site?
Exclusive stuff does really well, of course. The bigger the name, the better the traffic, which is probably no surprise. We also have our staple stuff like the event calendar, skate shop directory, and skate spot/park directory.
When it comes to marketing and content, what brands do you feel are doing it right?
I feel like the brands who are just being themselves get respect from the masses. Our audience can see right through BS and can sniff out any Slugworths. Supporting the community is key. DLX and Vans continue to keep the worldwide skate community strong, Theories of Atlantis and the brands they distribute have been making waves from an underground perspective. Right now I’m feeling Bronze, FA and Transportation Unit. I can’t leave out SHUT and 5Boro – roots!
Where do you see skateboard media going in the future?
Looking at how the internet has changed the game, I think skateboarding media will become more edgy, more creative and feature a much higher caliber of talent and style. It’s just like the music industry if you think about it. Pop skateboarding will flood the market, but companies true to skateboarding will always have their place in the hearts of true skateboarders.
What has been your biggest challenge running the site?
We try to do so much with limited resources. Everyone involved has day jobs or other responsibilities, so sometimes it’s hard to achieve everything we want to do.
What’s been most gratifying for you?
On multiple occasions I’ve met skateboarders who moved here after following our site for a few years. Through our event coverage or articles they felt like New York was the place for them. The internet is so crazy. The world is watching! Oh yeah, I also got an op-ed in the New York Times haha.
Amazing. What’s next for the site?
We just turned 7 years old and launched the 5th major redesign. The new site is simpler, we consolidated advertising, beefed up the skate shop directory and optimized everything for mobile devices. Most importantly, we’re focusing on more original content, which is why we brought on Chris Miller. No pressure, Chris!
What advice can you give to someone wanting to start their own skate blog?
Just like skateboarding – don’t half ass it! Always put in 100% and don’t expect that it will make you loads of money or any money at all. The true payoff is the experiences and the friends you make along the way. Hopps has a good tagline – “Enjoy the Ride”!
Thanks to Ben/SkateboardStory.com for the interview. Thank you Steve Rodriguez, 5Boro, SHUT, NYSB Crüe, Chopper & Frank at Vans, Quartersnacks, SkateDaily, Jenkem and all the sites who help share our links. Much love to the NY shops, brands and filmers and anyone that helped out NYSB along the way. Special thanks to my friends & family, my wife Wendy and of course all of our NYSB contributors and fans!