The Follow Up: Mariano and Koston Talk "Numbers"
Two of the most influential skaters of all time started a new board brand this week. We caught up with Guy and Eric to talk Da Vinci Code, too much hugging and the surprising source of their company's name. –Michael Burnett
So what's the name of this thing? Numbers Edition?
Guy: Just Numbers.
Eric: Edition. You’ll see as the brand rolls out, but it is Numbers Edition.
Ok, so I’ve already seen some secret numbers on the print ad. Are those the years that you guys each started skating or something?
Guy: 31 is how long I’ve been skating.
Eric: 1913. I’ve been skating since then. No.
Guy: Actually 31 is my birthday and it is just my favorite number.
That was my follow up question: what's your favorite number?
Guy: 31. It is.
It’s surprising you didn't call it "69 Skates"
Eric: Or 4:20? No.
Guy: I’ve actually won some money in Vegas on that number.
Eric: But yeah, they’re numbers. Everyone chose one that has some sort of significance to the individual on the team. The company is called Numbers, you know? We’re gonna use some numbers on this thing.
Guy: Yeah. You know one thing we did want to stay away from is like giving it numbers like an athlete, like it’s gonna be your number number.
Is it your stair count?
Eric: Yeah. 13 is the biggest I’ve ollied. Mine’s 13 so.
Guy: I wish mine 31!
So you guys are starting a hard goods company in 2016. Which of you is more the George Powell and which of you is more the Stacy Peralta?
Guy: I think, actually like I would say you’re Stacy.
Eric: You think I’m the Stacy?
Are you more the creative visionary? You’re more the products guy?
Guy: Well I would just say this – I’m seriously impressed by how involved Eric is on every little thing. Eric is a perfectionist. I’ve known that my whole life. It shows in his skating and other things he’s done. We play basketball, he’s competitive, he’s just good at everything, golf, whatever. With this brand it’s been no different and you know we were chasing this artist, because it’s a little art based, and we wanted to reach out to different people. But Eric has jumped on a plane to New York to wait at an artist's doorsteps to try to get graphics, like with Mark Gonzales, you know what I mean? How he’s jumped on this and attacked it. A lot of people might think that things just always fall into Eric’s lap because he’s Koston. But he’s worked really hard on this and we’ve already spent some sleepless nights and done a lot of just grinding on this thing. Which I didn’t personally know how much we were gonna get into and Eric has just came through and been great with it.
Yeah, you have several businesses, Eric. But is this your first job, Guy?
Guy: It’s my first job.
Eric: No, Fourstar was, but still. It was a job for us, remember that.
Guy: It’s strategic and Eric is good at playing King of the Road.
He's a master strategist. Eric off the top on KOTR 2004 Photo: Burnett
He’s very good.
Guy: And so, you know, it’s one of the most strategic games out there, starting a company.
Eric: I’m a gamesman, you know? I just love to game. We knew it was gonna be hard. We’re a small brand, you know? But what’s been challenging is being on Nike and watching a big machine operate. It’s tough trying to operate because we have the experience now to try to roll things out the way a bigger company would but we’re like four dudes doing it. So that’s the kick to the nuts that really sinks in where you’re like, “Fuck man, it’s gonna be hard.” We’re a straight up garage company.
Guy: Like I imagined our first launch being very easy and calm and then next thing you know we're fumbling around with the phones like, “Is the thing going live? Is the link there?” Music’s not getting cleared and I’m just like…
Eric: Yeah, we had some things.
Guy: It’s real.
Eric: But I don’t think… that shit never stops I feel like. That’s just how it happens with everything. Like I was fuckin' panicked, we haven’t slept, just a lot of anxiety but then you gotta also remember it’s like, "Why am I putting that much pressure on myself?"
That’s my question too! You guys are both made men. Why is a board company important to you?
Eric: Because that’s like the essence of being a fuckin' pro. It’s still a benchmark, you know what I mean?
Guy: It’s still the foundation.
Eric: It’s still the foundation, yeah. And also it’s a creative outlet for all the dudes to display their personality, the guys alongside the brand. That’s another way to push creativity. It’s not just trying to come up with new tricks. 'Cause that’s hard too. Everything’s hard, you know? But I think we’re just sick in that way, we want to torture ourselves. You just constantly try to push.
Guy: I just watched you get interviewed, Burnett. It would be like someone asking you, "If digital is so big, why are you still making the mag?" It’s because it’s the first love. I think that anything that’s happened to us in our careers came from our board brands, you know what I mean? It happened with me from Stacy Peralta at the beginning and then it transferred over into Mark Gonzales and Jason Lee and onto Girl skateboards. Now this will be me and Eric’s thing and hopefully we’ll carry on those same traditions and principles and do the same things that they did for us we can do for Miles, Rodrigo and Antonio. I really do believe these guys are super special. I think Miles is gonna go on to get a SOTY. Antonio is super special, I fell in love with Antonio. Rodrigo is more razor sharper than ever and I want to do good by these guys. I don’t wanna let them down. Even with this video that we dropped I think it was very special and very different and it’s the type of stuff I want to do for them. And for myself, but I don’t know why I get more of a kick out of it being for them.
Guy, frontside half-Cab kickflip. 2005 Photo: Reda
What are some of the board brands that really inspire you right now in 2016 that make you think, “Man, if we can just do it as good as these guys”?
Eric: I guess you just look at the ones that are newer and pushing things in some way that’s just a little bit different. It’s easy to say FA.
Guy: That’s the closest to me – FA/Hockey.
Eric: WKND even, you know? They’re still a small brand but it’s fun to watch that because I’m close friends with Grant and watching that place operate is cool.
Guy: It’s some of the best content. It makes me laugh, it’s great, the fingerboard stuff. I love WKND.
Eric: Yeah. What else?
Guy: Yeah, if we’re talking content I think Primitive does a great job with content. Content king. One thing that they do really well too, I always tell other people this, they embrace each other a lot. I think in skateboarding there’s not a lot of embracing each other – everyone’s beating on their own chest.
We get a lot of criticism that there’s too much hugging. Too much hugging after the trick.
Eric: Yeah I know. But we do that man. We want to high five each other and give each other pounds and hugs.
Guy: We’ve seen a rough edit of this edit that we just did and there was like all these pounds or whatever and we’re like, “Hey, we’ve got to cut some of these hugs out because we look crazy.” You know but it is, it’s real!
What were some runner up names? What was the number two name thrown out with the bath water?
Eric: Dude. I don’t know. I honestly can’t even think.
Eric, frontside air. 2004 Photo: Burnett
Was GuyKo ever a consideration?
Eric: Oh no, but that’s a good one.
Guy: There’s a skate shop in LA called LA Skates, he’s already got that one. And a board. It’s a mail logo with the name Guy on it. Wait Eric tell them the story about the name.
Eric: We did go back and forth on names and I can’t even remember. Like we weren’t battling back and forth like, “Nah that sucks, what about this? Yeah, but it’s too close to that.” And you end up smashing your head into the wall. And we were like, "Dude, we need some help with this!" and so we’re like, "Who’s the best at this shit that we know?" and that’s Mark Gonzales. So I call up Mark and I’m like, “Hey dude, so we’re starting this board brand and I want you to just fire off some weird ideas. I know you’re good at this.” And ideally not ones that would jab at our former sponsors, which he’s super good at, but we didn’t want to go that angle although he did suggest some of those. This was his ipad days. So he started rifling off stuff – stuff that made no sense at all but it was really entertaining to read. So then, something else you’ll notice is the 12:45. You’ll see that time of day. So it was 12:45 on the East coast. So like I said these were his ipad days and you’ll see that screengrab sitting on our site. He sent that to me and I forwarded it to Guy like, "Dude." It was 12:45 and he was using that app where he can just doodle with his finger. He drew a three and just wrote "Numbers" really quickly and sent it to me. I saw it and I was like, "Woah, that sounds weird," but it was really intriguing too at the same time. I was like, “Dude, how come no one’s done Numbers?” And I sent him back something like, “It’s brilliant.” Everything in skateboarding is about numbers – stair count, how high can you ollie, board sizes, all the specs, everything. You’ll start to notice everything revolves around them and everything’s about numbers. We’re crazy obsessed with numbers. So I call Mark back and I tell him all of this, I was like, “Dude, it’s genius, why’d you think of that?” And he’s like, “I don’t know.” Then I told him all of this stuff because I immediately got obsessed with it and I was like it’s such a great name. It was genius.
Guy: When we took that name and we kind of like looked at our brand identity and how we were gonna be releasing and collaborating with people it’s sort of gonna be like we’ll get into Numbers Edition. It’s gonna be like an artist print – like one out of a hundred, you know what I mean? And everything we do – videos, board series, collaborations will be editions.
Eric: That’s why the box with the slash that you see sort of delineates the two – the brand and whatever we’d be working with. It could be like a doughnut edition, who knows?
Guy: But also it is just a cool name. We’re not gonna get to elaborate on it like we’re spitting code at you.
Eric: But there’s a lot of thinking we put into it. The box which is sort of the window.
Always full of good/weird ideas. Gonz in '93 Photo: Kanights
Some Da Vinci Code shit.
Eric: It is some Da Vinci Code shit. It is sort of the window into how we want the brand to be portrayed and you have the slash going through it. There’s a lot of meaning. We went pretty Da Vinci Code with everything.
Guy: I love the icon, the little box with the slash.
Just for the conspiracy theorists, so this is not an in-house Berrics brand like Friendship or SVRN?
Eric: No. There was a lot of stuff. People thought it was gonna be a Nike brand. There’s gonna be your naysayers or conspiracy guys and it’s gonna be this and this and one thing we’re trying to do is make sure that whatever those guys think we’ll never fuckin' do that. It’s gonna be unexpected at times and very expected but we want to keep people on their toes a bit. But we are operating on our own and pretty small.
Guy: I think there’s a lot of things, even like distributions that we could have plugged into and had a really easy start with this thing and just been part of another brand, but this is something that we wanted to do on our own terms and now we’re paying the price. Sleepless nights.
Eric: Waking up with anxiety attacks and all sorts of fun stuff.
Eric, frontside bluntslide. 2004 Photo: Burnett
Shrink wrapping wheels with a single tear running down your cheek?
Guy: You know what’s funny? You told me that story. It’s fuckin' hilarious. Have you heard that one?
Eric: Which one?
Guy: Lance Mountain. When he started The Firm. All he wanted to do was create his brand or whatever and the next thing he knows he’s stuck his garage shrink-wrapping wheels and wanting to skate.
Jason Dill made hay recently saying that he needed to kill FA off within seven years because all the best companies only lasted that long. What’s your view on the long term prospects of your brand? Do you want to see it do twenty years? Do you want it to be a Santa Cruz or a Powell? What’s your opinion on that matter? The longevity of a board brand?
Guy: If it’s still fun after those years then continue it.
Eric: I would say the same thing, yeah and just build that up for other people, bring that opportunity and let the younger generation come in and utilize that as a platform as their creative outlet. The way it should be, you know? We’re not thinking buy low sell high in a couple years. We’re lifers.
Guy: I just think that the brand needs to evolve, you know what I mean? As long as you’ve got the team evolving and new people. I think Andrew Reynolds does a good job with that. And it keeps it fresh and it takes on a new tradition but still with the same principles. I think he does probably one of the best jobs at that.
What’s your outlook on getting team riders? Because you’ve been the pros, you’ve been the hot new guys, you’ve switched teams in good ways and maybe in not so good ways when you were younger. What’s your outlook as far as like getting new guys on the team? What’s the perfect scenario for getting a team rider?
Guy: My perfect scenario is like that he’s really young and unknown and he grows with the brand.
Eric: Yeah. Trying to find a guy that’s not not totally known but then there’s the obvious choices so I’m not gonna say I wouldn’t want a certain dude that is very established either because if it’s somebody that we’re super into as a skateboarder and we would want that to represent the brand then you know, we’re not gonna put any sort of limitations on that. But that is an ideal scenario. You don’t want to go stealing people, but some people you want to steal.
Guy: We don’t want to steal, but there is a lot of brands that are struggling right now and people are getting let go. Really good skaters are getting let go. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with trying to help them out especially if you’re a big fan of that person.
Alright, so your first video definitely seems like kind of a bros-out-skating-and-having-fun kind of feel. Do you have an appetite for meatier projects for this brand or is that just too far in the future to even think about?
Eric: I mean, we’re gonna always be having to create some sort of video content you know? So It’s gonna change up. With this launch piece we did want to get that sort of message across. We didn’t want to come super in your face and tricks pouring down your throat. We didn't want trick porn. Because it’s out there and that’s happening on an hourly basis. New new new new new! That’s why like I was saying we really wanted to say, "Slow it down a little bit everyone." Like let's actually fuckin' appreciate it a little bit.
Guy: You know Miles, like he just got done with another video project but we were asking him what his plans were and he was just like, “Well, we’re making this Numbers video right?” So with that type of attitude I think it is going down.
Eric: Of course we still want to show that side of skating. I’m not mad at trick porn either but sometimes you want to just change it up. Of course I think some meatier projects would definitely be in the pipeline.
Guy: I’m looking forward to reaching out to a lot of filmers and getting a lot of different kinds of video projects going. Maybe we don’t always have to have a staff filmer but there’s a couple people I really respect in this industry and I would love to do stuff with all of them. They’ve all gotten pretty big now and I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to afford them. I don’t know if we could even pay for Ty’s luggage at an airport! But Ty you better do a project for us, please!
Eric: Yeah that’s the thing, we’ve gone pretty far along in our careers so there’s a lot of people you want to work with that it’s not the same sort of routine thing you tend to see. We’ve got to mix it up because it keeps it exciting.
Guy: I want to travel with these dudes and I want to film with these dudes. I want to be inspired, I want to create something special and I want to capture it. I think, you know, Bill’s doing a good job launching videos that are done faster and not taking a lot of time – not taking three years worth of the brand not coming out with anything.
Guy, always on the streets. Bone up in 2014 Photo: Burnett
How much of your time can Numbers take up? You guys are busy. Are you guys gonna be the office guys?
Guy: I’m not gonna lie, this last month we spent a lot of time in the office.
Eric: I mean it’s gonna happen.
Guy: Right now it’s only four of us so it has to happen. There’s no one else to run it by. So until we find those pieces we will be in there.
Eric: Yeah, you know you do have to find the right people but you do have to delegate the workload to somebody that you trust and that takes time. We still want to skate but ...
Guy: Even just to answer that question, like I got a little scared on that first month, how much office time was spent. I want to be on my board more. I don’t know how long I’m gonna be around here and be able to skate at this level. Regardless, every Monday we’re meeting there and going over stuff but I want to spend most of my time skating right now.
Well, you guys must really want to do this because you've seen this from the inside and out and you know what an uphill battle it is.
Eric: Yeah, it’s totally not gonna be easy. And the juggling of family life and businesses and trying to skate is hard. But to get this thing the way we want it to look we have to put in the work and suffer a bit.
Guy: Eric is really good at it. He’s good.
Eric: I’ll lose my shit every once in awhile though.
Guy: There’s been a lot of times where it’s like you know I’m just like, “Damn, Eric’s stuck on this small detail, like why?” Why are you stressing this?" And then he gets it to a place where I’m like, “Fuck. I’m glad he fuckin' did that. It looks way better.” That’s who he is as a person.
Eric: Is that a good trait or a bad one?
Guy, wallie nosegrind. 2012 Photo: Colen
No that’s a good one. You have to have that. Ok, would you guys do funky board shapes for Numbers? Are you gonna do Hammerheads and notch noses?
Eric: Who knows? Maybe.
Glow in the dark paint? Are you gonna jump through hoops to sell these motherfuckers?
Guy: Is that what’s selling?
I think you just have to throw every trick in the book at it.
Eric: Well, if we did we make those shapes definitely have a fuckin' hall pass because we actually rode those! Thirty years of skateboarding.
Congratulations you guys, can’t wait to see it. And thanks for running an ad in Thrasher.
Eric: First one's free, right?
Guy: We’re already pushing for Miles SOTY 2017.
8/29/2017Sometimes it’s better just to list the dudes in a video and let that do all the talking. This raw edit features: Eric Koston, Grant Taylor, Cory Kennedy, Ishod Wair, Kevin Terpening, and others.
7/31/2017A fantasy grouping of the Nike team cruise around Argentina under the chaperone of The Butcher, himself. How's that for a campaign?
5/30/2017The latest visual broadcast from Numbers, who added a couple new hitters from across the pond to the team.
5/08/2017Nike and Pawnshop teamed up over the weekend to celebrate the release of Donovon’s new Blazer with one hell of a skate jam. Covina represent!
12/20/2016Tyler Bledsoe, Guy Mariano and Eric Koston's Numbers Edition, Steven Fernandez as Santa, Louie Lopez's "Bangin!" and more in today's episode of Skateline.