A lot of skaters are using no-brand blank decks to save money. But is that hurting skateboarding in general? Is it worth saving a few dollars? Let’s figure this out.
A lot of new skaters are young. They save up their allowance or cash from raking lawns, and they just want to stretch it as far as they can. Back when I was a kid, I bought tons of blank decks. In fact, I used blankdecks.com and bought them in bulk. If you got at least 10 at a time, they’d be 11 to 15 bucks each, as opposed to 50 or 60 for a pro deck.
And these blank decks are usually made with Canadian maple, and a lot of them are even made in the US. So, as far as the quality is concerned, they’re pretty much indistinguishable from a pro deck. Some say that the glue isn’t quite as good, but in my experience, I’ve had bad pro decks and bad blanks too. It doesn’t really seem to matter.
In fact, back in the day, sites like blankdecks would often heavily imply that these decks were made in the same plants as the pro decks, they were just sold off before the graphics were put on. And they would do this by naming their blanks stuff like “blanks that got pop”, playing off of the Shorty’s motto. So that would mean you’re getting the same build and, but also the same mold for the same shape as a pro deck.
What’s the downside? If big companies aren’t competing by making better products, then they don’t deserve my money. In fact, back then, I would even buy blanks out of principle, like I had to teach… World Industries or Element a lesson. But I’ve changed my views a little bit over the years.
So if you’re paying double or more for your deck, where does that money actually go? There are a few things.
First is pro paychecks. And this is important. For skateboarding to keep progressing and getting better, these guys have to be able to do it full time and not worry about other careers. If you saw my video about the death of inline skating, I mentioned a documentary called Barely Dead. In that video, they talked about how pro inline skaters making a few grand a year, at most. As talented bladers get older, they eventually have to quit skating and get a job outside of it. There are no high end professional videos, sponsors start going away, contests die out… So this is an important one.
The next thing you’re paying for is the art. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Unless you’re painting on your blank decks yourself, you’re missing out on having a nice looking board. It looks better on video, it’s easier to track when it’s flipping. And this is definitely worth a few dollars. Skateboarding is artistic at its heart, and some argue that a blank deck has no soul. No life. No spark.
Alright. What else are you paying for? Research and Development. Not every company is doing this, but you can check out my new technology series to see some of the cool stuff going on out there. You’ve got Plan B with their BLK ICE decks that have the slick layer on the bottom. You’ve got carbon fiber, lightweighting, and all that kind of stuff. Even if you aren’t buying those types of decks, the companies are taking your money and researching this stuff with it. BLK ICE took 2 years to develop before release. There’s research, testing, tooling and manufacturing. If we all bought nothing but blank decks, the industry would never evolve.
And this is the same with wheels and trucks too. Slide plates on wheels, non-slip axles, lighter materials… This stuff wouldn’t be researched and manufactured if we all bought cheap Chinese ripoffs of everything.
And the last thing you’re paying for, which is a little harder to quantify, is just supporting the industry. Companies will take your money and sponsor contests, sponsor new skaters, and generally promote skating. Sure, they’re ideally making money back off of these sponsorships, but it is a gamble. And they aren’t going to be making these bets if they aren’t making enough money to cover potential losses.
Another thing you’re missing out on is the opportunity to support a small company. Maybe there’s a cool local brand in your area, or just a small online company that’s trying something new, like vertical lamination, or other types of new tech. Or maybe they just have really good graphics.
Is it going to make any difference if you, personally, buy blank decks? No, probably not. It’s like anything else. One guy driving a Hummer isn’t going to destroy the environment by himself. But you’re also not doing anybody any good.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for this one. What do you think about blanks? Do you think you owe it to skateboarding to pay full price? Obviously, Andrew Reynolds can get by without your money. Do you need to support the big guys? How do you feel about that? Let me know in the comments.
2 thoughts on “Are Blank Decks DESTROYING Skateboarding? Should You Ever Buy Blank Decks?”
My shop is almost 3yrs old so I’ve learned alot & still learning about owning & running a business. I agree w/some of your points. I’ve been skating for more than 40yrs,personally I do like graphics on my decks but not a whole lot graphics out there grab my eye. So it does make things tuff when buying & that I got to buy what sales & what i can afford to keep my doors open as a mom & pops business. The most i have sold w/in the last 3 months have been blank decks. Some ppl prefer them,some thatz all they can afford,some kids like to make it their own by buying packs of stickers. Right now but almost there my shop does not totally pay for itself. Only recently these last few months the money I make pays to restock the bare necessities. I don’t carry soft goods,jus skateboard goods. And if it wasn’t for my connections to some major companies that give me deals directly which I think is business smart,I wouldn’t have too many pro model decks on my wall. Some of the companies I got friends that skate for them,some companies I know the owners so I’m fortunate that way. What would be good is if companies reached out & gave me a deal,the distributors don’t do that w/mom & pops shops. I know they do in other industries,you get a bulk deal & freebies,have sales & push that brand. I was the 2nd buyer for a big natural food grocery store,so I got to see my Rasta mentor in action w/sales reps. My job for 22yrs up until recently has paid for my shop. So I believe some mom & pops aren’t getting the big deals like a Zumiez. I have ppl come in all the time from other cities that rather come to me then Zumiez. They say that to me. I do occasionally get the dad w/the kid that have the look of disgust cause I’m not the sterile conservative mall shop. So those customers want the most perfect lookin board & the clothes/shoes so they can atleast look the part @ skool/skating. I have had kids come in skating on a really used up board that their neighbor gave them,they can’t even afford a sk8 tool. I jus wanta keep my shop open,have it pay for itself & try to have a wide range of everything. Boards that kids can afford & be stoke out there skating. Ya never know the kid you help could be the next legendary skater. I’m hoping @least for kids that can’t afford skateboards I can build up some used skate goods from friends & others,I know there are groups already doin that. I think the industry is changing for many diff reasons but I can feel it when I’m doin my buying. Some things I want are not as available to me as a mom & pops shop,I have to spend my money wisely or make it myself. I’ve always been the DIY surfer/skater. i made my own surfboard yrs ago because i could spend under $200 & make xactly what i liked instead of $500 for some conservative lookin board. The deck companies need to be a bit more creative w/their graphics like Dark Star,sometimes Primative,Creature are good. Some tho I look @ like come on guys can’t you put some effort into it,anyone can get on a computer & copy a font from a natural soda company. I’m not goin to buy decks like that jus because,instead I’ll buy blanks cause they sale/cheaper. As far as supporting pros,I’ll support those who support me & right now itz my friends & the companies I personally know. When I rented this store front I did jus to have a place to move & store all my personal belongings,starting a business/skate shop started organically. I never had any intention of owning & running a skate shop if you had asked me 6yrs ago but here I am. The pros & companies have got to come up w/some new ways of promoting the pros. My friends that have their own decks & compete don’t jus survive on that,they got jobs ect. I think some skaters do succeed because they got their parents behind them & promoting them,getting them big sponsors,they are able to put their total focus on skating. Doesn’t mean the sk8R who doesn’t have that can’t succeed,jus means they have to work harder @ it. This person from Shark Tank said something the other day about believing in the dream & how hard are you willing to work for it. I can’t say I’m supporting all the pros but I am supporting the skate culture & my surrounding community by getting kids to skate. New skaters to me mean future customers. Distributors being exclusive w/some companies on behalf of mall stores is the shady side of business. It happened to me right from the get go w/the local distributor. Sales rep says after makin jump thru hoops for a month “I can’t sale to you cause I jus opened 2 shops there,call me bk in a couple yrs”. Guess who’s the last shop standing now? That distributor left a bitter taste w/me & did themselves a disservice,& as a sk8r from their city that was a slap in the face.
That sucks the way small business gets treated. I’m looking @ blanks but as an OEM doing in-house art so adding value and not diluting the market. The only way that’s sustainable is to give product away, start a team, develop a following, and sell the crap out of soft goods. It is hard to compete with the big guns who have their decks made in mass quantities and God help you if you use anything but Canadian maple and maybe a hybrid bamboo or composite.