From the man who brought us Skatepile and Fiziks, blade tech guru Tom Hyser has been working with Rollerblade over the past few years to create his own hardware brand called Blank.
Introduction & Interview by Kevin Chow
Photography by Rollerblade
Blank brand is relatively new to the aggressive rollerblade scene, can you please tell us how it was formed and who is involved?
Blank was formed in order to produce something new that reflected the artistic style of Myself, Rob Guerrero, and David Sizemore. We got the support from Rollerblade to do this project, so we went for it. Blank products are simple, stylish and highly functional. The Tecnica group backs us. The Tecnica group owns Nordica, Tecnica, Blizzard, and Rollerblade. They have years of ski boot liner experience. This is why Blank liners are so good. I've been involved with skate design for 18 years. 5 of those where at K2, 8 years running skatepile.com/ Fiziks, and now at RB for the past 5. I've designed or co-designed the following products: K2 Fatty skates and frame, Fiziks suspension frames, Epoch (sold design and owners never produced the frames), and now the Blank frames. I'm always making prototype skates to ride, so Blank is the outlet to make these products reality. Currently Blank supports David Sizemore, Robert Guerrero, Sean Keane, Cody Porche, and Nemo.
David Sizemore told our readers in the last print issue that it’s been an organic growth period. Lots of people are doing different things with Blank, what is your role with the brand?
My role is the boss and product designer. I work with our team dudes and get their feedback to make the product. I manage the budget and business end of things with the home offices in USA/Italy. I work full time at Rollerblade as a product marketing manager. I'm very busy working with the entire RB skate collection. David is the art director.
Please tell us what products you currently have available to bladers.
Currently we have liners and frames. The liners have become hard to get recently. The word is out on how good they are. The latest version of the frames are available on the Rollerblade RG2 skates. Blank frames just came out and should be available at your favorite skate shop. The frame comes stock on RB Troopers, RB RG2's and the RB Sven Boekhorst Pro skate.
What makes Blank different than other after market companies?
The years of experience behind the product design, our creative team riders, and the support of a major skate company.
You’re associated with Rollerblade, a big corporation. There’s been so much put into “skater owned” recently. What’s your take on it?
Rollerblade is not a big corporation. RB USA hasn't been a "big corporation" for a LONG time. Today it is a family owned company run by a small group of people who skate all the time - and all of them started out either street or free skating back in the day. As I said before the Tecnica Group owns RB. We're owned by an Italian family that's been producing footwear for over 50 years. RB was owned by the Benetton family, which is a huge clothing company. That was when Farmer, Broskow, Morales, etc. skated for RB. Now it's a whole new ownership and management. I feel it's an advantage to work with RB/ Tecnica Group. I've learned so much by watching what other product mangers are doing with footwear, ski boots and materials to make skis. Skater owned companies aren't able to produce as high quality products at the same price point. It's just too expensive to constantly evolve products to match the skating progression. I know both sides of the fence. I owned Skatepile.com and Fiziks frames. 8 years of running skate companies. I'd rather get my product designs made by the best in the business and know that I've got support when things get rough.
When Rob G was here in Barcelona last year, he was skating a Blank frame prototype, with a 64mm wheel max. Why did you decide to go with this size?
What’s the science behind this kind of grinding frame? As I said before, I've messed around with all kinds of frame/wheel sizes. I've got 5 different skate set-ups myself. The team guys and me have been rolling around on the RB Fusion GM 84's and loved the feeling of skating fast and smooth. We wanted to find a balance with the max wheel size that also works well for grinding, so max wheel size is 64mm. The current Blank frame is designed to grind yet still allow a decent size wheel for a smooth and fast rolling experience. The bigger the wheel, the more you have to give up for grinding, cess sliding, etc. I've slowly watched wheel sizes get bigger over the years. It's clear they are only going to get bigger.
Freeskate is starting to make a comeback. Will we see a freeskate/aggressive frame from Blank in the near future? If so, how soon, and if not, why not?
Freeskate, powerblading, etc. is funny. That kind of skating has been going on forever. As aggressive skating wheels got smaller, so did the amount of people skating. The same exact thing happened to skateboarding in the 90's. Rolling around sucks with small wheels. It's too much work and peoples style suffer because they struggle to get speed. When style suffers they sport looks wack to outsiders. Skating from spot to spot is a nightmare on 57mm wheels. Now that the sport is so small people have realized it's time for something new. Watch the Asian X Games footage; it looks like it's in slow motion compared to other sports. So, I'd say yes. One day Blank will make a frame designed to roll more than grind. I'm not sure exactly when though. We just came out with our grinding frames.
What drives Blank to continue to make quality products? Are there other products besides a frame and a liner in the future?
The team and I like our skates to perform and feel comfortable, that's what drives the quality and design. For now Blank will stick to making frames and liners.
Who’s currently on your team?
Robert Guerrero, David Sizemore, Sean Keane, and Cody Porche.
Why should customers decide to try out Blank?
The product works better. Skate in more comfort with the liners and grind easier on the frames.
My wife Erin, Rob, David, Sean, Cody. All the people at Tecnica/RB, Mark Shays for getting me hooked up with my first job in the industry when I was 18, Andy Kruse, Myles Sparrow, Dylan Goodspeed, Jared Toon, All the ATL dudes, Kevin Dowling, Miguel Graves, The Riggler, Ariel Surun. Anyone who has bought Blank products now or in the future.
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