It’s 6 o’clock in the morning and I’m staring down at a somewhat overheated iPad charged from the night before. The truth is that I’ve gotten up super early because I felt an urgent need to write this piece.
The iPad is opened up to volume 10 number one of Concrete Wave published in 2011 summer. I’m looking at the fine print (which ran in small type at the front of the magazine) and reading words that I had written over a decade ago. I wrote “that statistically, only 10% of magazines make it to a 10th year.” Little did I know that within 7 years, everything I built would be gone.
The old expression “if I had only known then what I know now” comes to mind.
The truth is, you can never go back, and I can’t undo history. But before I write anymore, I want to first apologize to any reader of my magazine who felt a little discombobulated or upset when I pulled the plug back in 2018. I know it was a pretty quick retreat and it left many people puzzled. Since that time, I’ve kept a low profile.
The fact is, if you’re reading this now it’s been close to five years since I let go of Concrete Wave and I never went public as to why I sold the magazine.
My hope with this piece is to give you some insight as to why I made this decision. But above and beyond this goal is to let you know how delighted I am to be back and how freaking stoked I am for the future of this website.
I want to thank Billy James for doing what he does so brilliantly and for creating a skate beacon that brought me to his YouTube channel. If you take anything from this piece, know that the magazine is in good hands with Billy at the helm.
So, let me present an on the record account of what happened to me and Concrete Wave Magazine.
Publishing Concrete Wave Magazine and creating Longboarding for Peace was one of the most extraordinary experiences in my life. At some point, I will create a list of my top 10 moments as a publisher and editor. But for now, just imagine how it would feel to document the birth of a new movement. Imagine the feeling of your hobby becoming an actual job. Think about what it would feel like to be taken to the proverbial candy store and given an opportunity to not only go behind the scenes but eventually have yourself morph into some type of skateboarding Willy Wonka. I am not saying I was Wonka, but there were times when my imagination became reality and it was truly a magical experience.
It wasn’t just surreal being a part of change within skateboarding, it was really fulfilling both on a spiritual and intellectual level. It was also a huge amount of fun combined at times with absolute chaos. What an incredible combination!
My concrete wave journey actually started way back in 1994. I was at my parent’s home back in London, Ontario. My father show me this thing called the Internet which had been provided to him as he worked at Western University at the time.
I couldn’t believe what I saw on the screen. It was incredible! All this information was right at my fingertips. Hypertext was something to behold. This of course, was a time well before Google or even Altavista. If you wanted to find something on the internet, there were books and they had a list of websites. Thankfully, my father had one of these books and I looked up skateboarding. Sure enough, I found one called Dansworld and was immediately captivated.
I decided to write something for Dansworld so I put together a 20-year retrospective of my skate experiences which you can see here.
Just one thing to note – I actually started skating in 1975, not 1976 – but everything else in the piece is 100% legit.
I had attached an email to the Dansworld piece and this led to a tremendous amount of feedback from skaters around the world. It also gave me the idea to start my own skateboarding website. I called it the SkateGeezer Homepage. In 1995, with help from my brother Andrew along with Texas-based artist Mike Moore, we launched.
About a year later, I found myself working at Xerox, trying to sell photocopiers to book publishers. It was not an easy task, however, one publisher by the name of Nick Pitt decided to meet with me. I sat there in his office, explaining Xerox technology in the winter of 1996. I asked Nick if Warwick Publishing had a website. His response was “we’re working on it .“ Then I told him that I had a website and he asked what it was about. I told him it was on skateboarding. Nick then uttered the sentence that would change the direction of my life for the next 22 years. “That’s interesting. We’re thinking about doing a book on skateboarding. Would you be interested in putting together a book proposal?”
Within a month, I had a book contract and a $3000 advance. I quickly started to do the research for the book while at the same time trying to sell copiers. This was a time when “work from home” was a very new concept. I have to admit that I worked on my book quite a lot…from home!
The book hit in March 1999, and it coincided with a six-page story on Dogtown in Spin magazine. The book seemed to resonate with people and my publisher was excited to see all the sales. At the same time I had been bitten by the writing bug. I had gotten the longboard bug big time. I decided that the only thing left to do after writing a book was to publish a magazine on longboarding.
So I teamed up with Tom Browne, a former London local like myself. He was a graphic artist and together we created the world’s first longboard magazine.
International Longboarder ran for three years from the summer of 1999 to the summer of 2002. I’m proud of the work that we did. But I knew that I wanted to cover more than just longboarding and so I made the decision to launch Concrete Wave inside International Longboarder. The response was incredible and in June 2002, the first issue of Concrete Wave Magazine hit. I was down in Folly Beach South Carolina at a slalom contest when the first issue arrived. It felt surreal.
Over time, the advertising grew and eventually in October 2003, I quit the day job to work on the magazine full-time. This was a pretty huge risk because I had a family of three to support, and my wife only worked part-time.
It really felt that I was helping to both document and foment change within skateboarding. It was not an easy path trying to convince fellow skaters that variety was an important element within skateboarding. Ghandi’s words rang in my ears daily…”first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.”
It was a struggle convincing many people in the skate industry that longboarding was a viable genre. Eventually money won people over (especially those reticent skate shops) and those people who ignored the sea of change did so at their own risk. A vast number of former detractors suddenly became enthusiastic copiers and supporters!
For me it was all about spreading the joy and stoke of skateboarding. I figure I must have given over one million copies of the magazine. I want to thank the many advertisers who supported Concrete Wave over the years. Without them the magazine would not have happened.
I also want to thank subscribers whose patience would wear pretty thin, especially those living outside of North America. Sometimes it took a while for the magazine to arrive.
Five years ago in January 2018, I came to the realization that things were not going well. Financially, the magazine had seen its revenue decimated. Many advertisers pulled out due to a combination of new media to advertise on (hello Google and Facebook!) along with less demand from the public.
Truthfully, it was hard for many magazine publishers to weather the digital storm. Ad rates in a magazine are a lot more per thousand than on the web. I tried to pivot, desperately trying to figure out a way forward, but nothing seemed to gel.
It all became very frustrating and my wife and children wondered why I was so upset all the time. I felt stuck and slowly but surely developed a horrendous case of writer’s block.
I remember sitting at my keyboard, wondering what to write about next. It was a puzzle. I created two publications in 2018. Both were 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 – literally half the size of the original magazine. For the January 2018 issue, we had the magazine at three events: Shred Expo and ISPO in Germany and Agenda in Long Beach.
The response was interesting – people could see that the magazine was changing, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference and most advertisers still stayed away.
I came up with an April issue that featured a very glossy cover and some pretty cool material inside – but the magic seemed to have vanished.
It was in April when I decided that I needed a complete change of direction. My last memory is giving away copies at the annual Roarrockit swap meet and then heading out.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, but I knew one thing and that was the magazine was going to spiral down further if I didn’t let go of it.
So, I made a decision to sell the magazine to a fellow skater. He is a very talented designer and he partnered up with another skater. Together, they embarked on a mission to try and make Concrete Wave Magazine 2.0 work.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out and my sense is that they found the experience quite frustrating.
In May of 2018, I started volunteering at my wife’s school. About two months later, I found work at a funeral home as a funeral director’s assistant. Ironically enough, it was this job that helped me wipe out my writer’s block. I teamed up with an Australian skater named Nathan Ho and we co-wrote “The Endless Wave – skateboarding, death and spirituality. You can download it for free here.
After I completed the book, I started to think “maybe I still have a bit of gas in the tank?” It felt like my mind and my sense of creativity had become unfrozen. But it took time.
Over these past 5 years, I kept skating, but I was off social media. In the spring of 2022, I wound up going down the rabbit hole of surfskate videos on YouTube. Although I met Neil Carver in 1998 and was a huge fan of the carving system that he created, I never really explored the C7 truck.
For those of you unfamiliar with the C7, it’s a completely different beast than the CX truck. The C7 turns like crazy!
I ordered a board on a whim and was immediately hooked.
Eventually, I wound up emailing Billy over at Shred Shack. Thankfully he responded to my email and we started a discussion. Our talks led to some pretty cool things happening. We worked on some videos and over time, realized that he is the best person to take over the management of Concrete Waves – in all its forms. I see him as the keeper of Concrete Waves.
In this role, Billy will be free to experiment and work on whatever he wants. But the one thing really won’t do is get writer’s block because I’ll be there to remind him of my journey!
It feels truly great to be working with Billy, and it feels great to be writing about skateboarding again. I’m filled with passion. I just want to spread the joy of skateboarding to the world once again.
But then again, as they used to say in the fine print, if you’ve read this far, you probably already knew that.