Enjoy this chat we had with the head Blue Sky Longboards and #ShowMeATrick about the fast growing community, building a skate brand and his motivation for pushing the stoke machine.
Hello Matt, how are you?
I’m great, its Friday morning and I’m chilling with my dog and a glass of chocolate milk.
How’d your week go?
Pretty brutal actually but it’s all good now and I’m stoked for a big skate “MeatUp” this weekend. Starts tonight with a keg party in Philly.
What’s a Meat Up?
When members of the Facebook group #showmeatrick group get together in real life and show their meat in public.
Does someone come dressed as bacon?
That is a very strong possibility.
What’s the prize for the best Meat costume?
Road kill squirrel dish.
How did you get into skateboarding?
44 years ago, in 1971, it was a huge trend. My neighbour built one out of a 2×4 and roller skates. That one lasted one day and my mom bought me a “real” one. Plastic of course. I have been skating almost every day since.
What has kept you in it for so long?
Honestly, the feeling of a single really good carve. When you get to the apex of a good turn and shoot yourself into the next turn. Its magic.
What was it about in those early days?
It was about freestyle for me, how many 360’s could I do, and eventually ramps. I also loved hanging with an older crowd.
Have you ever gotten to see them skate?
Nope, not in real life but at Surf Expo Tony Alva held my pool shape and complimented me on it. Said he liked it. It was a pretty epic moment for me.
Nice! Have you met any other legends?
Christian Hosoi. He is still killing it and I met him at The House of Vans in Brooklyn New York. He was about to drop into the bowl and I told him “This better be good, I’ve been waiting 40 years for this moment”. He proceeded to slay it and then gave me a high five when done. He’s rad.
How long did you ride the plastic?
I can’t remember. I believe the first board I loved came along in 74. It was the G&S Fiberflex. I won it in my first competition.
What makes a skateboard lovable?
It was the first time I realized that you could exchange energy back and forth with your equipment. You can load the board with pressure and actually feel it giving the energy back when you wanted it. That was when I realized the potential for a “living relationship” with my gear and I wanted to build boards.
How does the energy from building differ from riding?
Well, I shape boards. I don’t actually press in-house. We ship our molds to one of the best manufacturers in the industry and they do the pressing and cutting after I have shaped the original. Unfortunately, I am not even doing that this year. I am just sending digital “cut” files and then the team and I ride the prototypes. In regards to the “energy”, nothing beats the energy of riding.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
Definitely seeing a kid I don’t know ripping on one of my decks. Also, I really love having the team around the world and hearing what they are up to. They keep me young.
What got you into competitive skating?
I was never really into competing. I just liked to be where everyone was skating. To be totally honest, I was never as good as many of my buddies.
Who’s the best of your buddies?
I wouldn’t touch that question with a ten foot pole. Next question please.
What disciplines did you compete in?
Freestyle, ramps/vert. Now, after breaking my back many years ago and having disks fused in my neck (not to mention the extra weight I have recently put on) I am a bit fearful of pool skating. Overcoming that is my #1 goal this season.
When has been your most intense involvement with skateboarding?
Today, right now. Its always intense. Currently I am owner operator of Blue Sky. It is extremely time consuming but I’m loving it and its keeping my mind young. It is literally 24/7 intense for me right now.
What is a Blue Sky Longboards?
My dream come to life. It’s a four year old company that I have been thinking about since the 70’s. I have a small lineup of decks that I am continually trying to perfect in order to create a “Timeless Lineup”. One great deck for every discipline. We have a team of about 20 riders around the world. They are my #blueskyfam.
“Once it was about skate and destroy (when I was much younger) now it is more about friendships, self expression and freedom from the everyday grind of career and raising a family.”
Has the dream evolved since inception?
I see you. It is always evolving. Once it was about skate and destroy (when I was much younger) now it is more about friendships, self expression and freedom from the everyday grind of career and raising a family. I have changed so I guess what I bring to the design process has changed.
How does one get in the Blue Sky Fam?
It’s not all about riding skill. Its more about personality and stoke spreading. Right now, I get at least one “sponsor me” request a day. Unfortunately, most are endless clips of kids getting sideways on longboards. I really want to see more variety and personality and I don’t get enough of that.
What’s the best submission you’ve received?
It was from Giovanni Lategano in Argentina. There was no “sponsor me” submission from him. He just started talking to me and we developed a friendship on Facebook. I knew he wanted a sponsor but he never asked. He was just so full of stoke and humility that I eventually asked him to ride for us. One of the best moves I ever made.
Why are relationships so important in skating?
Relationships are the most important thing in every aspect of life. In regards to skating, it has always been my second family. At some points in life it was my first family. Its very sad when I hear someone say they don’t have friends. I couldn’t imagine not sharing this journey.
Did you have a history with the backend of our hobby before Blue Sky?
The closest thing would be when I was teaching snowboarding in Colorado, back in the late 80’s, and working for Steve Link at Summit Snowboards. He taught me how to select, press and shape wood.
What made you set up Blue SKy?
I was 43 and pretty much tired of my career in marketing in NYC. Yep, I worked on Madison Ave and found myself enjoying the traffic surfing from the train to the office far more than anything in the office. The time was right for me to step up.
What did you step up to?
I stepped up to the “plate” and decided to take a swing at living out my dreams.
How much of your soul is intact after Madison Ave?
More than you would think, thanks to my good buddy and Blue Sky Team Manager, Luke Ayata. He is a master when it comes to seeing through the bullshit and getting me to focus on the positive all around us.
What were you riding back then?
A Gravity something. It was too long for the city so I shaped a small cruiser for myself. It was a great little commuter I called The Finch. I may bring that shape back into the lineup later this year.
Why ‘Blue Sky’?
Because it is the first thing I look for when I open my eyes in the morning. I know I will get to skate if the sky is blue. The intro to some of our insta videos tells this story via some cool yet janky animation. Keep an eye out for it.
Is skate business the escape you hoped it’d be?
Of course not, hahahaha. Far from it, but it beats the hell out of any other “job” I have had. It takes a lot of work to build a brand that people want to be a part of. Especially when you are talking about a “lifestyle” industry.
What’s the most critical part of a good skate brand?
Authenticity. You have to be engaged with the community and recognize they are looking for companies to make a product that not only functions but is an extension of their individual personalities. Oh yeah, its takes a hella lot perseverance.
“…you have to listen to the young riders for feedback but you can’t let them drive all of the innovation.”
How has Blue Sky grown since inception?
In many ways. I understand the backend of the business a lot more now and that has lead to several changes in how we operate. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that you have to listen to the young riders for feedback but you can’t let them drive all of the innovation. I have found that by the time the board is produced they have moved onto the next “new” thing. These experiences are what lead me to the “Timeless Lineup” concept. Innovation needs to be tempered by a clear headed thought process and reality checks along the way. You have to ask yourself “will this shape be relevant 5, 10, 15 years from now”.
Who is Blue Sky Longboards for?
Like I mentioned with the “Timeless Lineup” I am trying to bring in as many types of personalities and styles of riding as I can. I have found that most of our customers are pretty chill and just love to skate with the same type of people as I do. Chill.
How is it different from the other longboard brands?
I think that, like with most things, I come at it from a different angle. I wasn’t trying to take the easy way out and come up with the most shocking graphics like many brands. I’m not trying to have 30 shapes in my lineup. I’m just trying to slowly build a company with staying power. I want my products to be on point and my vibrations to be positive.
In what ways does your Madison ave. background influence how you operate?
I spent much of my career collaborating with many different types of people with many different responsibilities. It was always my job to find the opportunities, make the sale and then make sure the client was happy and projects were on time, within budget and successful for the client and my firm. I was always the “middle man” of massive projects with many moving parts. That had a direct impact on how I operate today. I have a vision of where I want Blue Sky to be and I have to deal with every aspect of making that happen but more often than not it is me just keeping track of all the other people doing the hard work. I have a ton of support from my team, partners and friends in the industry.
How hard is it not to turn Meat Rick into a Blue Sky ambassador?
Easy, we have three rules and one of them is “no branded videos”. I want this FB group to be for the community to fill with content, not a place for all the companies to just push product. That being said, I have started allowing contests by other companies and brands. Loaded ran the first giveaway on Meat Rick and it was a great experience. Now we have had brands like Earthwing, Hawgs Wheels and Cheaux Skateboards running promotional contests to win product. Blue Sky will make its appearance in due time. I have to make sure people don’t get the wrong idea and think that I did it all to promote Blue Sky. Its not that at all. I created #showmeatrick to be a fun platform for people to take janky phone clips of their tricks, post them to the group and challenge someone else to show a trick. It’s that simple.
“I created #showmeatrick to be a fun platform for people to take janky phone clips of their tricks, post them to the group and challenge someone else to show a trick.”
What’s your favourite thing about the group?
It is honestly the only group I know of where “street” skaters are talking with Longboarders, Freestyle skaters are talking with Downhillers and etc. If I can do more to help all of us skaters respect, inspire and communicate with each other I will always be stoked.
Where can we catch you skating these days?
I am battling a bad back at the moment but when I do skate it is usually at a local park during school hours. It’s very calming for me to be by myself and working on my game.
What are your goals/plans for this year?
Plans and goals? Well, we are introducing two new pro model decks within the next few weeks. The Max Alessandri DK 36” and the Jason Quinn 44” dancer. We are all really stoked on these two additions to our lineup. We are also sponsoring Central Mass 6 Skate Festival. I love that event and its producer Mike Girard. He does so much for the community and industry. His Central Mass event is my favorite of the year. Blue Sky is sponsoring the Junior Downhill and the Rainbow Rail. Super stoked! Meat Rick will be there also. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we are turning Show Me A Trick into a mobile app. My plans there are really quite simple, I am going to build the largest, most engaged, community of skaters in the world. I hope you join me.
I never even thought of it in terms of flashy corporate, X-Games big. I just want every skater in the world, no matter what skill level, to know that there is a place for them to feel comfortable and inspired. I get jazzed when I see a kid in Utah responding to a challenge from Korea and then in turn challenging a dude in the Netherlands. I want more of that.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
I hang with my wife of 24 years and my son Noah. They keep me driven and grounded at the same time. But mostly, if I’m not skating, I am thinking about it, watching it, or talking about it.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-21.
4,20 and I can’t remember the other one.
4 – do you have any recurring dreams?
Not at night but I have a very vivid recurring day dream of my wife and I enjoying food and drinks in an open air restaurant in some oceanside, south american village. It just feels great to think about a chill retirement in a friendly atmosphere with her.
20 – Lyndsay McLaren asks – what is your dream skate destination?
Ha! I know Lyndsay! I used to love to see her at skate sessions in NYC. We miss you Lyndsay.
There are so many parks and cities where I would love to skate with locals but lately I was thinking about getting back up to Duluth Minnesota some day and skate some of the streets I learned on. Getting back to my roots and maybe rekindle some of that spark I had when I was 10 years old. That would be pretty awesome.
1 – If you had to be a bad guy in a movie, who would you be?
Gru from Despicable Me. I would like to have my own army of minions please.
Matt Rick, it’s been awesome taking this trip with you. Thanks for all your time. See you in Europe sometime?
I hope so man, I would like to check out the Dock Sessions.
Any last words?
Thanks for your interest in Blue Sky. I really appreciate being given the opportunity to talk with you and your readers. Keep pushing wood & doing good brother!