Vert Attack 9!
We have been avid followers of the Vert Attack vert contest in Stockholm, Sweden for the last few years. It routinely brings together the best vert skaters to compete on a small-ish ramp and have a blast. It has a similar feel to the Tampa Pro events back in the 90's. It's a core contest for core skaters. It's reputation among the vert skating community has grown each year until now it is possibly the highest regarded event on the vert calendar.
We had the opportunity to make a splash at VA9 with team riders. I'd been in discussions with some old friends over there, who decided they would ride for Half Dead in the contest. Patric Backlund, Hans Puttis Jacobson and Tony Jansson were (and are) powerhouses in Swedish skating. Having them representing the half Dead was a major coup. Add in our UK team rider, Neil Danns who was planning on going and we had a great presence at the contest. Things were looking great!
About two weeks before the contest, Neil broke his wrist skating and so couldn't go. Tony also checked out a few days before with injuries, leaving Patric and Puttis carrying the flag. They did brilliantly, riding strong in the masters qualifiers but couldn't quite get to the finals. The field was so strong with names such as Tony Hawk, Neil Hendrix and Mike Frazier riding - it was tough to compete.
But compete they did! Here's some of the pics from the event.
We couldn't be prouder of these guys, and look forward to supporting them in more events in the future!
Setting up a skate company is tough enough when you're doing it in your own country.
Try doing that in another country too. It's a minefield of hidden charges, quality problems, government approved numbering schemes and eroding margins. In December 2014 we decided to take the plunge and set up operations in the UK in response to increasing demand for our boards there.
We looked at this as a learning experience first and foremost. An opportunity to get the supply chain dialed. I'd been researching freight possibilities for a couple of months and finally came across one that didn't want ridiculous money to ship boards to London. After doing the calculations and getting the green light from Finance, we put the order in for boards and our journey of discovery commenced.
Our manufacturer pulled out all the stops and met their deadline wonderfully, making sure the shipment left their dock on the right day and time. We were then put in touch with the shipper, who told us the original sailing date of the container our boards were in was going to be 4 days later than we'd been promised. Now at this point I should mention that I'd already booked flights to the UK to meet this shipment and ferry it through all the necessary steps to get it available for sale to shops. Flights don't like being moved around (without money changing hands anyways) and so the safety margin I'd built in started to dwindle down.
One discovery was that there are many hands along the chain, all who do different things but all somehow need paying. Customs documentation fees, shipment release fees, customs clearance fees, VAT - the list of extra charges grew longer and longer as the shipment made its way across the Atlantic. I was eventually put in contact with a shipping agent in the UK who bombarded me with incomprehensible questions. Chief among these was my lack of VAT recognition, or UK entity to receive the boards. Apparently I needed something called an EORI number, and fast! Quickly crafted begging emails followed and four days later the EORI number appeared! Way to go UK.gov. This was important because by now the original arrival date for the shipment had long passed, and the revised arrival date (barely within my time in the UK) had also passed. I was back in the USA, trying to coordinate things remotely with a process I didn't know and a lot at stake.
Enter into this wonderful maelstrom Dave, my friendly shipping agent. Turns out Dave was a skater from way back, and dug what we were trying to do. He pulled strings, eased furrowed brows and generally smoothed the pathway for our boards to make it through customs and to the warehouse for pickup. He went above and beyond and I know we'll be working together in the future.
Boxes of skateboards (or anything for that matter) residing in a bonded warehouse after clearing customs have a limited time in which to be picked up. Any time after that is charged storage fees, so we had 7 days after clearing to get these boards picked up. My old friend Stewart had agreed to take his van down there and pick them up, although there were a couple of delays which meant he couldn't pick them up until 6 of those 7 days had expired. He pulled through though and then we had boards in a van!
We'd agreed to split the shipment into two segments, for North and South and this meant the two friends had to meet and transfer boards somewhere in the middle of the country. Luckily Stewart was heading north and s about a week later, the two segments of the shipment were in the places we'd expected them to be. Time to get selling!
From there, the sales process began, contacting shops and placing boards. Most of our dealers have been nothing but supportive while we find out feet in the specific nuances of the UK market in 2015. Thank you for that! We're now in 8 UK shops, with more in the pipeline and are now looking for a distributor to handle the logistics of future shipments.
It's not for the faint of heart, but it's worth it. Half Dead is all about supporting older skaters, and there are lots of them in the UK and Europe. We're going to continue to develop the market there and grow.