|ESPN.com: Skateboarding||[Print without images]|
Following in the footsteps of other mainstream athletic shoe companies like Nike, adidas and Converse, New Balance Numeric has officially announced its skate team.
The January 2012 announcement that New Balance, based out of Boston, was on deck to capture a piece of the skate market was the buzz of the Agenda trade show. The announcement of its skate team precedes the official July debut of NB# at core shops.
Earlier this spring, Boston native and professional skateboarder PJ Ladd was declared the first NB# team rider. Ladd, who is an incredibly proficient yet elusive pro, has been filming for the Plan B video, which will be his most anticipated part since "PJ Ladd's Wonderful Horrible Life" (2002), which pushed him into the spotlight over a decade ago.
Joining Ladd on the NB# roster is Flip Skateboards pro Arto Saari. Since the unexpected and rapid demise of his previous shoe sponsor, Gravis, Saari has been spotted wearing NB#. Now that the cat's out of the bag, he stated, "So far, riding for New Balance has been an amazing experience. All the shoes in the line are high-quality shoes that skate well."
Saari, who is a veteran of both the Gravis and etnies teams, has a wealth of experience to bring to the drawing board.
"Starting a program from scratch is always a lot of work, but at the same time very rewarding," he said. "Our team is very small and tight knit, as of now. It is better that way. We are all on the same page when working on projects."
Rounding out the NB# team are Element pro Levi Brown and Zero am Tom Karangelov. With a solid foundation of NB# sponsored skaters, it has picked up Zero pro John Rattray as team manager, a clever addition that has gotten as much press as the naming of the team.
Filmer Russell Houghton, who worked with Saari at Gravis, will be behind the lens for NB#, providing a steady output of footage and videos, like the one he made to announce the team, which was filmed in Los Angeles.
"Of course it is a business and it has to make money, but numbers aren't everything," Saari said. "New Balance wants to make proper skate shoes and build a legit skate team. I fully back that."
There's no word as to if any of these riders will get the privilege of getting New Balance's first signature skate shoe. NB# footwear will be available this summer, and Ladd, Saari, Brown and Karangelov will be supporting the two cupsole and two vulcanized models in the line.