Highly competitive with a gift for fluid motion, it’s no surprise that surfers crafted the first skateboards in the 1950’s out of a desire to “surf” on concrete. Clay wheels affixed to wood boards, these first skateboards were often homemade and highly dangerous, and in the 1960’s, support of the sport started to wane. In 1972, however, skateboarding got the shock of innovation it needed when Frank Nasworthy, founder of Cadillac Wheels, invented urethane wheels.
In the early to mid-Seventies skating grew in popularity thanks to well-publicized competitions, the Zephyr team and superstar skaters like Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta. But the 70’s were just the warm up act for the fever pitch popularity of skating in the 1980’s.
Skate parks, quality decks, slick wheels, Tony Hawk and shoulder-hugging ghetto blasters- THAT was skating in the 80’s. Punk rock, ska, video games and the introduction of the X Games helped elevate skating’s popularity well into the 90’s and far beyond. It’s safe to say that skateboarding is here to stay. Since the 1970’s, however, there hasn’t been a massive leap forward in terms of gear innovation. Yes, wheels are more durable, trucks better crafted and boards balanced and then elevated through graphic design, but game-changing new developments have stopped short of a revolution, that is until Sunset Skateboards came on to the Southern California skating scene.
Sunset Skateboards, with headquarters in Costa Mesa, CA innovated first with their high quality polycarbonate (PC) skate decks that are crystal clear, stand up to a beating and remain fade-free for the life of the board. Founders Jeremy Fissell & Scott Winn also turned the market for LED wheels upside down with the creation of Flare. Flare’s multi-colored motion-powered LED lights are battery free, glowing bright for up to 100,000 hours. Today, Sunset Skateboards has combined both product innovations to offer a variety of complete and build-your-own boards unlike any you’ve seen before. They’re not for wallflowers; Sunset’s skateboards capture the attention of admirers of all ages. Check out the pictures on this page and you can easily see why.
After ogling Sunset’s boards at my local skate shop, I was eager to connect with the innovators themselves to learn more about their products and the skate industry overall. Meet Jeremy Fissell, Scott Winn and their Sunset Skateboards team:
Sunset Skateboards has a killer innovation story. Can you tell us how the clear, PC skate decks and Flare wheels came to be?
Jeremy: Back in the early 90’s Scott and I attended college together in San Luis Obispo, California. I worked at a plastics company and built a 3/4″ thick transparent polycarbonate skateboard as a fun side project. We often used the clear plastic skateboard as transportation around the neighborhood. Scott and I stayed friends long after college and would often catch up with each other and discuss business ventures and ideas. One day, Scott phoned me to discuss the resurgence of 70’s styled skateboards in his Southern California neighborhood. We discussed making similar skateboards for our own boys so they could have cool, old school boards like we used to ride. While making our first 70’s style transparent skateboard samples I had an idea to make the skateboard’s wheels light up. I have a background in developing LED and light up products so we decided to develop some self-powered LED skateboard wheels.
As soon as the first LED wheel samples were completed and added to their transparent skateboard deck sample, we knew we had a hit on our hands. The first time I road mine through the neighborhood, I was mobbed by kids and adults asking where they could purchase them.
Where does Sunset Skateboard’s design inspiration come from?
Sunset: Our initial designs come from Jeremy. He’s really creative and has great ideas, visually. Our whole team then weighs in on the designs and brainstorms names, completes, graphics, etc. Our CEO, Ken, is dialed in the skate scene and keeps our ideas focused, but fun.
In the highly competitive skate/street sports industry, how do you connect with your core audience and inspire loyalty?
Sunset: We have been fortunate to have a strong crew of loyal customers. We also have an incredible rep team from the industry that connects regularly with local shops and skaters. Social media is one of the greatest ways we connect, because we can engage with skaters and Sunset fans across the globe. It is really fun to see kids in diverse cultures riding our wheels and completes, and we enjoy interacting with them in real time. We don’t just push content.
There’s magic in those Flare wheels- battery free with over 100,000 hours of skating. Tell us about perfecting the technology behind these LED skate wheels?
Jeremy: We went through numerous rounds of prototyping and testing to develop our skateboard wheels. The basic technology is quite simple: a special magnet remains stationary on the truck’s axle. As the wheel’s copper coil rotates around the axle’s magnet, a current is generated which powers a circuit board with several high intensity LEDs. The end result is a brightly glowing wheel that will never need batteries.
Jeremy & Scott, you started as friends and grew into business partners. What’s the secret to growing a friendship into a successful business relationship?
Jeremy: Each of us focuses on what we are best at and we each bring a unique set of skills to the company. I have a long background of product development, manufacturing and distribution, while Scott has years of business, marketing and finance experience. Having clearly defined rolls and responsibilities makes it easy for us to run our business and maintain our friendship.
Scott: We have also maintained a mutual respect for one another, often reaching out for business advice ever since college.
One of our best joint decisions we made was to involve a veteran skateboard, snowboard, and surf consultant, Ken Perkins, when we started. Ken is now Sunset Skateboards’ CEO. Ken adds a unique industry perspective and helps round out our team.
Do you think the negative stigma once associated with skating has finally begun to melt away?
Sunset: Absolutely. Skateboarding has been around a long time and is an integral part of many people’s lives. Also, the skateboarding community has been proactive in communities to promote safety, mentorship, and giving back, which has helped tremendously.
Love skating and can’t wait to get your hands on a Sunset Skateboard complete? Visit Sunset Skateboard’s website for boards, wheels and gear.