Nate tells us all about the scene in Michigan, the Holland half, REY Trucks, distance skating and… Free Hugs. Yeah, he’s that guy.
Hello Nate, how are you?
Hey Gbemi, doing fantastic, chillng at my favourite coffee shop, sippin’ on some joe and loving life. You?
Sitting next to Joe, liking life. Where are you from?
Joe is a great dooga. I’m from a small town in Michigan called Hudsonville, right next to the great and mighty Grand Rapids. We are located on the left side of the mitten, right next to Lake Michigan.
What’s Grand Rapids famous for?
Currently, its beer. But it’s just a great place to be. Not too far from the lake, great community. It started this thing called Art prize that brings a lot of people in from all over. We have some hollywood movies that are shooting over here right now as well. So if you like art and music, it’s a pretty great place to live.
When did you start skating?
I started skating when I was a little kid. Back when they made those plastic ramps for your bike. The neighbourhood kids would post up on a little hill and launch ourselves off it on our boards. I started getting into longboarding about 6 years ago though. A friend bought a sector nine bamboo drop-thru and brought it to the fourth of july party. I kicked around on it and was hooked on the feel ever since. I worked at a hardware store and would take the spare sheets of wood used to protect soft woods like luan in shipping and make them into longboards. We watched the dimm press videos and made our own and started selling them on the side.
Why did you want to make your own?
I was a noob when we started out making boards. I didn’t know too much about some of the companies out there and the boards they made. I’m the kind of person who likes making things with my own hands. I really enjoyed having control over what kind of board came out. Plus we really liked having our artsy friends make some really cool designs on them.
How long did you stay in the shape and sell business?
It was more of a hobby than a business. We would get tons of requests from friends and family. Never really advertised at all, just a word of mouth kind of thing. Our boards were more pieces of art than anything else. We would sell the board and just break even with costs with materials and paying the artist. But I was in the board making scene for about two years. I met a ton of great people and learned a lot about what kind of rider I wanted to be from it.
Who were you riding with in the early days?
The local scene here is really tight. During the board making years I was into flatland and long distance pushing. Jason Yerke was one of the first guys I met that was more into the competitive scene for LDP. But in my area I met up with Alex Bolen (Owner of Sweet Spot Wheels) and the MIDH crew (Michigan Downhill Crew). Alex is a beast on the board doing flatland style dancing, cross stepping and flip tricks. The MIDH crew took me under their wing and taught me how to slide and got me addicted to just going fast.
What kind of terrain does the land offer?
Michigan is a mixing pot of terrain. We have some of the nicest bike paths in the country. We don’t really have lush mountain runs for downhill, but if you look around you will find some great runs that will help any rider progress in their riding. Just watch out for potholes! The saying here is, we have two seasons here in Michigan. We have winter, then we have road construction.
“…we have two seasons here in Michigan. We have winter, then we have road construction...”
What is the MIDH?
MIDH stands for Michigan Downhill. This is a crew of some of the top riders here in michigan. But to most of us it’s a brotherhood/sisterhood. “Be Based, not Basic.” These are some of the most influential riders you will find in michigan. They help progress the scene in their area, they host events, and they race. Most of the riders in the group are sponsored in some way or form, but in reality it’s really the type of person you are, on and off the board that defines a MIDH rider.
Are there any local events?
Michigan is growing in the event scene. We have some local events that have been going on for a while. Madness in the Mitten is the longest running event to date, it was my first race. Rage at the Ridge is a downhill event that is coming up on it’s second year, great course and a great time at that event. The Holland Half is a IDSA sponsored half marathon that is going on its third year here. That event is hosted by Alex Bolen of Sweet Spot Wheels and myself. It is a fundraising event that helps support Vox United, which is an organization that provides clean water well for Mozambique. It’s a great way for riders to give back.
Why is it important to host charity events?
It’s always important to give back. The trend of going to an event to win and get free stuff is great and all. But if receiving is always our focus, we will never grow as community or as people.
“The trend of going to an event to win and get free stuff is great and all. But if receiving is always our focus, we will never grow as community or as people.”
Who organises Madness?
Go Green Longboarding has been organizing it since the beginning. Alex Kwiecinski is still the guy behind running that event. Its a 4.1 miles push race through the bike path in downtown East Lansing.
How did you do in your first race?
My first race was Madness in the Mitten. Before the event I had contacted Jason Yerke (defending champion) and challenged him. I said that if I beat him in the race, he would have to add me to his team. He owned a local board company called Bees Knees Skathletics. I ended up getting third place, but Jason was impressed by my spunk. So I ended up getting third and my first sponsor.
What did you get up to on the BKS team?
It was a small team, so it didn’t have the structure of teams like Loaded with Flow, Ambassador, and Pro riders. I raced a good amount, so if we had to name it, I’d say I was at the Ambassador level.
What do you enjoy about competing?
Racing was the only thing that really brought that sports style satisfaction. I played baseball, basketball, and soccer growing up, but never really found my place in it all. It wasn’t till I learned about distance racing, that I felt at home. I love the feeling of freedom and personal achievement it gives you every time you cross the finish line.
Is the rush from distance different from gravity?
Yes and no. When you are flying down a hill, you get that euphoric mixture of freedom and the “don’t die, don’t die” feeling. When you are pushing its an achievement based rush. When you pass a guy pushing as hard as you can, when the finish line is a mile off and you are exhausted. There is this fire that erupts in my legs and suddenly everything goes numb and I can push with everything I have. So in a way they are different. But both give the rider a sense of freedom.
Have you picked up any sponsors since?
I currently ride for Rey Trucks and Sweet Spots Wheels. I rode for Rayne for a year and a half but left for personal reasons.
What is a Sweet Spot wheel?
Some of the smoothest thane you will skate in your life. The Milk series wheels started it off with the 2% and the 1% thane. This year they are releasing a new DH wheel called the Beluga. As well as a new addition to the slide thane, the 65mm Poppie. 10% of your purchase from this company goes to support VoxUnited and their efforts for clean water in Africa.
What have been your most fun years of skating?
Hosting the Holland Half for the last two years has been really challenging, but ultimately, rewarding. But some of the greatest memories I have so far is skating with the MIDH and Sweet Spot crew at local events, and spots. I’ve travelled to a few events out of state, small events, but nothing beats a great session with your homies at your favourite spot.
What’s your role in the local community?
To help promote longboarding as a viable means of transportation. Stoke out and educate younger and new riders. Just being the guy that people can rely on for answers to questions, for setup advice, and just being at sessions to hang out and skate.
What is a Rey truck?
Rey Trucks is a precision truck company based out of Muskegon, Michigan. We are rider designed, and rider approved.
Are there many local companies?
There are a handful of companies, the two most prominent being Sweet Spot Wheels and Rey Trucks. But there are some smaller based board companies like CR Boardworks, and Smokin Mad Love. G-Bomb brackets and boards are also located here in Michigan as well. They are very popular in the distance world.
How did you hook up with Rey?
I met Paul Kuyt at Madness in the Michigan. We hit it off and a month later, I was added to the team for LDP. Since then I had been working with Paul in developing and testing truck designs. I started working for him though at the beginning of this year.
Who else is on the team?
The boys in Mexico, Gerardo Moreno, Oscar Gutierrez, Miguel Azanza of Treee Skateboarding. Max Vickers and Jon Sevik of Original. Cami Best and Steven Vera of Bustin. Some International Riders include Dani Gaislerova, Lyde Begue, Sofia Rodriguez. We will have a new updated team page up this year for people to check out.
Are Rey trucks different from others on the market?
The only difference between Rey and other trucks on the market is the price. Rey is apart of a fully functional CNC company called Resource Industries, also owned by Paul Kuyt. Other truck companies have to pay for machine time, but because Resource is a part of REY our machine time costs are substantially lower than all other companies. What that means for skaters, is that we don’t have to push our costs up to make up that margin. Our trucks are manufactured in top of the line equipment, designed by skaters, and are handled by professionals in the CNC field.
How do the trucks work for the kind of skating you like to do?
My skating has evolved from just pushing to freeriding and downhill. Rey Trucks has a truck for all styles. I rock Stingreys on my LDP deck and my double kick. I freeride my 2013 Lite Devilreys. I freestyle with my Deathreys. Currently been DHing with the new 2014 Devil Rey Lites and loving it. Rey has a setup for every style of riding, and the price allows you to have options on all your different setups.
How has your role evolved over the years?
I transitioned from a team rider to where I am now. I currently am working over at REY as an International Sales and Public Relations associate. That’s fancy talk for me talking with board shops and distributors from all over the world.
Who else is on the staff?
Mike Byrne from Bluesky Longboards is on staff as well. He does a lot of work with Marketing and Social Media. But also manages the Ambassador and Flow team. We are a young company and the people that work here have to be flexible and be able to wear many different hats. Our riders help a lot in the design and testing stages of a truck. But as far as warehouse workers we have five. Elly and Jake Kuyt take orders, assemble, package and ship. Michael Stafford runs IT, the blood of any company right there. Sponsorship, Events, Dealer accounts and International riders go through me. Social Media, Ambassador and Flow, and Marketing goes through Mike.
What’s new for Rey this year?
This an exciting year for REY. We learned a lot from the first two years and are stoked to release our 2014 lineup. We completely redesigned the Devil Rey truck, and will be offering a standard and lite version of that truck. We redesigned the Reyvolver baseplate and will release the new guy as the standard for all of our trucks this year. We are adding two new angles to the lineup as well 42 and 48 degrees. All of our baseplates will come with the option to have a standard bushing seat, cubed bushing seat, or both. The Deathrey hanger will be getting a facelift, and all of our trucks will be available with a whole slew of cool add-ons made possible by our friends over at Riptide. On top of that we are already starting concepting on a completely new truck that will hopefully be available later in the season.
Haha well all of our trucks are race trucks, but the design will be very geared toward the downhill scene. Not to give too much away, but those in the CNC/Truck world will understand when I say the new truck will be produced in a 5 axis machine.
How does controlling the machinery affect the quality of your product?
We are able to take every step of producing a truck into our own hands, no shortcuts. If we have an idea for a truck we have the ability to draw it up, concept it and produce it in a matter of days. If a team rider needs a custom truck, we can take his/her design and run a few sets again in a matter of days. Being in control like that means that the trucks that come off the line over here at REY will be of the highest quality/design. So for the skater, they get the highest quality precision truck available at a price that no other company can match.
How is your year going?
Life has it’s ups and its downs, but that’s what makes for an interesting ride. For Rey things are going really well. We have expanded our International Market, hooked up with a couple major companies to do some collaborating. Added some great new riders to the team. Stoked out some local crews with support and are gearing up for a great race season.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Finish this semester of school. Do some local and non-local push events. Do some DH events as well. Heading to Maryhill with some of the Rey crew to lurk, come say hi if you are there!!! The third year for the Holland Half is this year, so will be doing that in the fall. Adrenalina, look out, I’m headed your way this year. Chief Ladiga and the 24 hour event will also be graced with my presence this year.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
I do music production on the side. I work with local artists from around here and produce their EP’s. Im also a coach for a premier league soccer organization. I have a U11 boys team that is gearing up for their spring travel season, and I work with the Juniors program to help develop kids for their U8 tryouts.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-20.
……..3, 8, and 17
3 – what crime are you most likely to go to prison for?
I don’t know what category it would go under, but hugging a stranger for too long…yup, I’m that guy,
8 – what did Lincoln keep under his hat?
A bag of candy, if I were him it would have been Mike & Ikes or Sour Patch Kids.
It’s been fun getting to know you bro. Thanks for your time. All the best in the coming season.
Thank you Gbemi, its been a blast, hopefully I didn’t bore you too much. Thank you for all you do and many blessings in the future my friend.
Any last words?
Big thank you’s to my parents for always being supportive in my life on and off the board. Big thanks to Paul over at Rey Trucks, you are not only a friend, but a great mentor. MIDH crew, for adding a distance pusher to a downhill oriented crew, love you guys. The Sweet Spot Crew and all the local riders who make late night sessions a blast. Big ups to my church family for being the first ones to volunteer for the Holland Half and all the other events I do. Big thanks to God for blessing me with such a great family and friends. BE BASED, NOT BASIC my friends.
Go check out the New 2014 Lineup on Reys Instagram and stay tuned for the release.
Sweet Spot Wheels: