Kevin Reimer: 80 Miles p/h on a Skateboard While Building a Company
BY CHELSEA CATANIA
Kevin Reimer is a professional downhill skateboarder, former owner and founder of Aera Trucks and currently works in Product Development of Longboard Products at Skate One — which recently acquired Aera Trucks. An impact maker in the sport of downhill skateboarding, he’s won multiple world championships, developed a popular skateboard brand, and is both a role model and mentor to young riders.
What is downhill skateboarding?
Downhill skateboarding is the simple activity of riding a skateboard down a hill. At a certain level, you learn how to control your board by drifting to break as you go down the hill. Oftentimes, we have races where there are two, four, six or eight people on a hill racing to the bottom at the same time.
What’s the fastest speed you’ve reached on a skateboard?
The fastest would be 80 miles per hour, more or less.
How did you get into downhill skateboarding?
Growing up in Vancouver, I was surrounded by small hills. No matter what mode of transportation you chose to use, you’d have to become proficient at using it on hills. It just so happened that after going through all the types of wheeled options, I found skateboards to be the most interesting. In order for me to use skateboards to commute, I had to learn how to skate down hills. After a while, I found out there was a local community of people who downhill skateboarded in and around British Columbia — especially in the two places that I’ve spent significant time — Sunshine Coast and Vancouver.
The first time I got on a skateboard I was about 7 or 8 years old. I couldn’t figure out how to jump and have the board come with me like I saw other people do. I became frustrated and disinterested. When I was about 13, I picked up that same skateboard that had been sitting in the basement and tried to learn how to ollie. Shortly after, I tried longboarding by the beach; it combined the skateboard with the speed of a bicycle. That’s when I knew I was going to get into it.
I got into racing after seeing my first live skateboard race, when I was 13 or 14 years old. During that race, I saw a lot of people crashing around the corner and thought that it didn’t look that hard. I could make it around that corner and I wouldn’t crash.
So, throughout the year I tried to skate as much downhill as possible so that the next time the race would come up I would be ready for it. It was a local race and it happened to be in an area I frequented, so I saw the flyers. That was the only way I knew there was a skateboard race going on.
After competing in my first race, I wanted to do better. Since there was already a local downhill skateboarding community, races were happening frequently and there was somewhat of a local circuit. I became a part of the community and started going to more of those races. I realized shortly thereafter that there was a world-wide circuit you could attend if you worked really hard.
How did Aera Trucks come about?
I was surrounded by skateboard businesses in Vancouver and I was involved with one of them. It was the only longboard company in Vancouver and I was involved with a “light-duty” sponsorship.
After being involved with that company, I became sort of disenfranchised and wasn’t all that satisfied but I learned the inner workings of how the company ran. Later on, I was involved with a smaller brand that eventually grew — which I was part of for a few years.
From these experiences, it was clear that I could make a living off skateboarding. So, in 2009 I started my company. At that point I was 21 years old. I wanted to start the company because I was unsatisfied with the trucks on the market. I had to have multiple boards if I wanted to do different things. I wanted to make something for exactly how I wanted my board to feel.
What have you learned from starting your own company?
One of the things that I’ve learned — and that I believe — is that to make something really special, you have to be a part of the market that you’re selling to. But the other thing that is really important to take away from owning my own business is that it’s eventually more about management than it is about the thing that you made or designed in the first place.
So, now you work at Skate One. What brands are you involved with and what do you do now?
Aera Trucks is definitely my number one interest at Skate One, but I also spend time helping out with wheel testing because of my experience with a large number of products. I can accurately tell the feel of something new; if it’s a new formula or if it’s a new shape, and often I’ll have an idea about how to improve it.
There are many different formulas of wheels to test and they can vary greatly. I can feel the differences. Typically, throughout the week I will spend several hours out on a hill testing wheels. There are times when I’ll need to spend more days out on the hill, but mainly, brand management is the what I do now. I spend more time doing that than skateboarding.
Who has been your largest impact maker?
I would say the largest impact maker in my skateboard career was Thomas Edstrand. He was the owner of a large, million-dollar longboard brand in Vancouver and has been successful with this brand for nearly 20 years.
Tom was a multi-time world champion skateboarder. Aspiring to do what he did in both a racing sense and in a business sense created a big impact on my life. I’ve always wanted to emulate what he did with his successful business and in racing.
What’s next? In business, skateboarding, and the sport of downhill?
In business, it’s growing Aera Trucks as a brand at Skate One. I think that there’s more to be done in product innovation and I would love to develop. I’ll also continue with developing the wheel formulas at Skate One.
With professional skateboarding, I’d like to spend more time developing the skills of other riders — change my role to be more like running a clinic.
Downhill skateboarding has a stable community, it’s here to stay. I think we have a chance to become more popular in a lot of different places, it just depends on how it is marketed to the world at large.
The major issue with downhill skateboarding is that it’s illegal. Santa Barbara, California just passed laws that prevent downhill skateboarding on all our best hills. But, this gives me hope that we will eventually have purposefully made venues for this.
How do you mentor young skateboarders and what message do you hope to portray to them?
As a mentor, being able to coach someone one-on-one while you’re skateboarding with them can help improve their experience. Helping people with this, I hope they can be involved more with the community. To be a good role model, you should present opportunities or represent opportunities that exist within skateboarding.
I want to show the younger generation that they can stay involved if they are really passionate about it. There are opportunities to continue skateboarding.
For more information and videos of Kevin Reimer going downhill at 60 miles an hour and Reimer exchanging a high five with a motorcyclist on a 4000 m mountain pass in Peru: Aera Precision Skateboard Trucks.
Photograph by Max Erwin.