INDUSTRY INSIGHT | HELLA GRIP
Words by Addison McNaughton, Jonny Verducci, BK
Photography | Morgan Foster, 2B, Tyler Wheeland, Anton Abramson, David Coe
For those who might be still campin out at the skate-park, could you please give the audience a bit of a background as to when Hella Grip was formed, where it originated, who was involved, and what the mission is for the company?
The founders are the three of us: Addy, 2B, Beeks O’Kelley “BK” (not Brandon Kilbury, hahaha)... we all grew up together in the same Bay Area neighborhood. Before we started Hella Grip, we mainly focused on video production with our crew, The Over Show. We started Hella Grip in 2012 and moved to our current HQ in Oakland shortly after the first batch was completed. The mission was always to reach out to everyone who loves to shred and provide the gnarliest content to those who’ll have it. If we can achieve that with the help of The Homies, then we’re doing alright.
How did you come up with the name "Hella Grip?" I heard someone say it originated in the Epic Skatepark parking lot back in the day? Maybe that was Shotgun haha
Hahaha, nah, it wasn’t in a parking lot at Epic, but we can imagine how that might have been the origin story. We all love Shotgun, but we’ve learned it’s often necessary to corroborate his memory of things... y’all know what we’re talking about haaaaaaaa! Pretty sure it came up in a living room at the original Homie House in the suburbs before we moved to the current HQ. We’re not quite sure when the original idea to start a griptape company first came up, but 2B seemed to occasionally bring up the idea starting around 2009. Late 2010 was roughly the time that 2B threw out the name, Hella Grip. Addy and BK were 100% down at that moment.
How long was the design process when making the first sheet of griptape?
It was easy to figure out the sizing of the griptape. We worked out the “Hella Grip” logo font pretty quickly, maybe in just about a month. The OG Sloth logo took much longer though because we went through several design ideas. Overall, it was about six months until we had our first batch complete. BK knew a couple graphic designers from college, and they helped us through most of the logo design process. We still work with them to this day.
What has been the best/worst part about running the company?
Here are some major Best/Worst moments:
• WORST: The balancing act of working a day-job and managing the brand afterwards (after dinner, of course)
• BEST: Being able to stay involved in the scooter community and contribute to its evolution.
• WORST: Doing the whole managing profit/loss thing without losing sight of the original mission.
• BEST: Having the support of The Homies, and being able to support them in any way we can. It’s an ever-growing family that doesn’t have to worry about the state of scootering/companies all the time. They’re always enjoying the ride.
• BEST: When you see a kid riding a scooter and rocking a sheet of Hella Grip. Especially if we’re on a trip outside the US. It’s always great chattin’ it up with the grommes at the skatepark and listening to some of the funny random shit they say.
• WORST: When we get a hint that people think we’re a lot more financially successful than we actually are (as far as the personal income we receive from the company). Most funds go right back into keeping the company in production and creating new products for riders.
• BEST: People getting Hella Grip tattoos... it’s crazy... and super badass. That really helps us get through some of the darker days that are bound to happen.
HG is also apart of TGE Distribution consisting of PROTO & River Wheel Co. How is it being under a rider-owned distribution?
• It has its ups and downs (understandably, haha). But honestly, it’s an honor to be distributed alongside a brand like PROTO. It’s one of the first, if not THE FIRST, aftermarket scooter brands. It’s also a lot of fun to visit Andrew and the rest of the crew down at the TGE warehouse and see what they’ve got going on.
HG in collaboration with the SF Bay Area crew "Concrete Crew" released "Hella Good Stuff" back in August of 2016. The turnout at the SD10 Premiere was pretty huge.. Why did HG collaborate with the crew to make the DVD? How was that collaborative experience?
We’d seen the dudes at local events and jams and parks, so it kinda made sense to collaborate with them after riding together a handful of times. The Bay Area is quite a special place, so we wanted to represent the local community that supported us since the beginning (community as is “scooter community”, not the general people community who capped all our dope spots and called the cops on us for riding the skate parks...fuckers). But my memory of those days are kinda hazy cause 2016 might as well be 2006, which might as well be 1996, which might as well be 1986 and at that point I wasn’t even born yet...
“We wanted to represent the local community that supported us since the beginning (community as is “scooter community”, not the general people community who capped all our dope spots and called the cops on us for riding the skate parks...fuckers).”
How do you feel about the current state of the scootering community in the perspective of a brand in the industry? What are some ways you see we could improve?
We try to stay positive about how things are going in the community. There are always concerns about certain trends, but it seems like there’s also a lot of unnecessary gossip and panic. As far as our current concerns, we feel like there seems to be a growing disconnect between pro-level riders and your typical skatepark gromms (Yea, that’s a hot take). One of the most eye-opening things for us is when a group of kids at a skatepark reps all these brands but have no knowledge of the sponsored riders on those brands, yet they’re totally aware of the social media savvy personalities who don’t scooter for a living (Yea, we know that “influencers“ are, by their nature, more well known to the younger demographic). There’s certainly no rule that says you have to know your scooter history or be aware of the current pros, but we grew up craving that sort of knowledge because it was harder to access in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. There’s already this supposed disconnect between “young-park” and “old-street” riders, so those kinds of experiences with the skatepark kids makes the gap seem wider. That being said, we totally understand if we come off as out-of-touch or naive for having those opinions. Besides all of that, the other major concern is hella companies making completes and saturating the market with tons of similar parts instead focusing on a few quality parts. As far as improving, it’s a good idea to keep a positive communication network with riders of all demographics and not get overly frustrated about this new generation of content producers and content consumers. When it comes to brands saturating the market, we simply believe the solutions is that owners need to stay in their lane and not alter their vision. Being business savvy is inarguably a great tool for a brand owner, but the cocky owners who strive to flood the market with lower-quality, cookie-cutter products are going to succeed at the expense of the rest of community before they inevitably exit the scene.
What do you think about the rise of social media viewership and the decline of people filming video parts for YouTube? Do you think the sport will have to live through an app?
“Ride the wave and stay true to your vision”
Ride the wave and stay true to your vision. We’re still focused on making full-length videos in the long run because that’s what we grew up with. It would be self-defeating if we continued to assume that video parts are a permanent thing of the past and decide not to invest in them ever again. For us, we’re already living the dream because we get to go out on epic sessions with awesome riders, on the regular. That’s something an app can’t provide (yet!). Who gives a shit if someone got 100K views on a video of them riding a scooter to get a Slurpee at 7-11. We cherish our physical network of family and friends within the scooter community more than any digital social network. You don’t build our version of a family network when you focus solely on click-bait social media videos. They have their network of content producers, and that’s totally chill too. Who doesn’t love shredding with a Slurpee in hand?
“Who gives a shit if someone got 100K views on a video of them riding a scooter to get a Slurpee at 7-11. We cherish our physical network of family and friends within the scooter community more than any digital social network.”
HG has been one of the main griptape brands in the community pumping out unique signature grip tape for the homies. How long does that design process take?
It depends on each homie, the graphic designer (if it’s not designed by the homie), the complexity if the design, and whether we go through multiple sampling rounds. We completed one design in 12 hours, but another took a few months before it was finalized.
Any future plans for Hella Grip?
Future plans include more official homies, more signature griptape, more product for the riders, more footage for all the fans, badda-bing badda-boom!
To learn more and support Hella Grip visit | http://hellagrip.com/