Mike ”emgeeman” Girard of Central Mass fame, gets real as he shares his unique insights on the industry and what it would take to #MakeEveryoneSkateAgain.
Happy new year Mike, how are you doing?
Happy new year to you too! I’m doing great, keeping very busy with snowboard industry work.
You’ve left the dark side?
No sir – I’ve just diversified my activities so that I have action in all 4 seasons.
What’s keeping you busy these days?
In the winter, my main focus is as a regional sales rep. I manage the New England territory sales for Jones Snowboards, YES. Snowboards, NOW Bindings, SPY Optic, Loaded Boards, Orangatang Wheels and Paris Trucks.
During winter, there are a series of trade shows, on-snow demos, and strict pre-book deadlines in early March, so it’s hustle-hustle until then. In spring, things will transition over to a more equal blend of sales and event organising work, managing the New England skate sales accounts and preping for Central Mass Skate Festival, Killington World Cup and any other events that I’m working on.
Central Mass is a thing now! What have you learnt from the last 7 years?
Central Mass is definitely a thing, and I’ve learned a whole lot! At this point it’s a pretty massive affair spanning 3 days, 4 venues, 400+ participants, 20+ sponsors, 30+ staffers and just about every possible discipline of skateboarding.
This experience has taught me an immense amount of skills in event planning and management – everything from the bureaucratic side (permitting and insurance), to building and delegating a team of volunteers, securing and delivering value to sponsors, working with the town and its residents, police, ambulance squad, stores to keep all the stakeholders involved and happy, and most importantly, marketing the event to get a large number of attendees to register year after year in all categories. Every year, the 3 days of Central Mass are the 3 most challenging days of my life thus far. It’s an intense experience that builds my strength and expertise.
Do you still find time to skate?
Not as much, but I’m working on making sure to give (or make) myself time to do the things I love – skate, snowboard and play ultimate. I’ve been succeeding with that goal this winter and plan to stick to my guns when skate season rolls around.
Which skills put you in good stead for the IDF board?
I have substantial event organising experience, which I can lend to other organisers and the IDF in general to help ensure smoothly, professionally-run events across the board. I’ve got a strong work ethic and dedication to details, timeliness and safety, all of which is required for World Cup-caliber events. I care deeply about the ongoing success and growth of our community, which ultimately is a major goal of the IDF.
How far would you go to see DH racing win?
I think event organisers are most familiar with the idea of making sacrifices and working thanklessly for the growth of the community. As such my effort with the IDF would be an extension of this same drive – working hard when others won’t, don’t or can’t, to help ensure the success of DH racing.
Is Mike different from the other event organisers up for the vote?
I believe I have the longest and most successful track record organising events, as well as the largest sponsor fleet and biggest attendance. I think I provide a level of discipline, dependability and focus that other organisers may lack, plus a proven ability to bring riders and sponsors to the table.
What are you looking forward to getting involved with, if you get elected?
I would especially like to lend my experience and network to the organisers of the World Cup events, to help ensure strong attendance, marketing presence and support for every event. I pride myself on running events on schedule, and with strong safety measures, so I would like to help produce and officiate the events and assist organisers to keep their events running on track.
What are the biggest problems facing DH racing?
There has been an upward migration in prices, coinciding with the downward trend in participation rates, and no expansion or improvement of marketing, event quality or value. This leaves a smaller number of riders paying more for less. The overall diminishing size of the industry also sucks away overall interest. In order to “re-build the base,” I think the IDF can serve an advisory role to organisers to help them lower entry fees while improving the quality, marketing, rider and spectator attendance at their events. The brands are feeling pressure due to over saturation in a shrinking industry, so they can’t be relied upon for financial support – the effort and contribution has to come from the the riders and organisers themselves, with assistance from the IDF.
Where would you like to see the IDF in 4 years?
I think the IDF is in a unique position to help rebuild our industry into something stronger, bigger and more visible to the general public. We’ve been operating in somewhat of a bubble, visible only to ourselves. I think the IDF could be the voice of the downhill organization to the general public, the one that helps show the world exactly what downhill skateboarding is and portrays it in the most positive, legal and growth-trending light.
2024 Olympics – will we be racing on the big stage?
We’ll see. I do think downhill skateboarding has the capacity to be a very exciting televised event, but the immediate focus should be producing events of sufficient quality to be televised. We’re not quite there yet, but in a best case scenario I think there could be a good fit. The corresponding marketing would certainly be a good push back into growth.
Why should the undecided voter reading this, pick MG?
I care deeply about our industry and have been passionately involved since I started making my own video edits in 2007. I’ve demonstrated my desire and passion for the industry, which I’ve worked ceaselessly to enrich and grow via my work with events, in sales, and as an ambassador for Loaded Boards and Orangatang Wheels, since January 2011. I have a substantial network in the action sports industry, both within and beyond skateboarding, due to my sales position.
Does your work with brands conflict with your seat on the board?
Certainly not. Like I said, brands aren’t in a position to support events in any sort of strong financial way. Thus they wouldn’t play any major strategic role in my vision for the future of the IDF, or it’s path to success. Even if they were, I’ve always catered to a wide variety of brands at my events – the same would be even more true with the IDF.
What’s the solution for getting attendance back up?
There’s been a collective lack of quality, visible marketing that caters to first-time riders – the types of people who may enter the industry and eventually take an interest in racing. We’ve only focused on industry publications and sponsors, and have failed to cast our voice outside our existing audience.
Furthermore, organisers have increased prices without offering anything extra, inevitably squeezing out attendees. We need lower entry fees, more value at events (better overall productions, not just “show up, race and leave,”) better marketing and a strong backbone for smaller, grassroots regional events that cater to novice and intermediate riders. We need stepping stones from first time riders to advance upwards to the ranks of World Cup competition.
7 of the nominees are American, is that disproportionate?
Yes, it is. I do think it’s very important to have representatives around the world. For that reason I made sure to vote for candidates on each corner of the world. That said, with our skate population being the biggest, it does make sense that we’d have a larger share of representatives, but it should be more balanced than it is.
Is voting important?
Of course! If you don’t vote, you’re sacrificing your ability to have a say in the future of our industry. Given the uncertain future of said industry, every vote is particularly important right now. We’re truly at an inflection point in what will happen in the next few years, and the board will have a profound role in what these years looks like.
What’s your campaign slogan?
“Make Everyone Skate Again”
Who would you choose as president?
This is by far the quickest quickie ever. Great to talk to you and your moustache again. All the best for this weekend’s vote!
Great to talk with you as well, glad we got through it!
Any last words?
Don’t ask what skateboarding can do for you. Ask what you can do for skateboarding, and in turn, the IDF. No one is getting rich off of this – it’s a labour of love for everyone. If you want to see our community grow and thrive, take an active role, make a contribution, and don’t expect anything in return. Do it for the love of skateboarding, and don’t give up!
Check out all the candidates for the coming IDF election. Here: IDF Election Candidates