Updated: Jul 11, 2021
This question comes up all the time in longboarding...as a rider and owner of Faceplant Boardriders, I have the perspective from both sides and want to share them with you so we can all level up and progress the sport we love. This article is specifically targeted at longboarding but can be applied to any boardsport for initial sponsorship knowledge and how to keep your spot on the team.
How do I get sponsored?
The simple answer is... be really good and ride everyday. If you really are at the level of a sponsored professional rider then the companies will find you... eventually. Beyond talent, there is drive and motivation which can get you very far. Then there is being a cool person, if people don't want to hang out with you they are not going to want to sponsor you. But, if you're not blessed with amazing natural talent, or tired of waiting to be discovered there are plenty of ways to get sponsored right now.
Be a student of the sport, watch all the videos you can. Learn how to do tricks this way and see what styles you like and don't like. Watch the old videos, the history of your boardsport and work your way up to the present. By watching videos, you learn where the high level is at, what tricks are being thrown down so you know where you need to be.
Every boardsport has different niches, in longboarding there's downhill, freeride, dance, push and freestyle. In skateboarding, there's street and vert. In snowboarding, you have slopestyle, half pipe, street and big mountain. Find out what you're the best at and focus on that niche because that will help you stand out.
Top Left to right: CenMass blasting a stalefish, CenMass Boston Globe Newspaper Cover, Dirt Spray Judges at Skate for Peace
Bottom Left to right: Steezy Canadian Bacon at Slide Jam, $300 cash prize for 1st at Uncle Funky Style Session, Rosa Duarte TV segment for Bethlehem Slide Jam
Sponsor Me emails...
Be professional when sending your "Sponsor Me"emails. I get so many emails asking "Will you sponsor me" without any videos, pictures, competition results and basically no reasons why I should sponsor you. When you send an email to a potential sponsor, the first impression is everything. Don't waste their time, send an email that says exactly what you're looking for, why they should sponsor you and how you're going to help sell more products for them.
Understand that when a company gives you a product, they expect to earn it back and then some. Educate yourself on your sponsored brand. It drives me crazy when riders don't even know all the products they represent. Be able to talk about your favorite products and how you use them.
Start with a local boardshop or small company for sponsorship. Talk to every Rep that comes in the boardshop, nobody knows who you are yet so you have to market yourself. Small companies are looking for passionate and talented riders all the time. It's a great opportunity to prove yourself and work your way up the ranks.
Get some friends together and make a skate video or take good photos. If you don't know how to take pictures or videos then you better make a photographer your best friend. If you don't have a crew then get a tripod and practice reviewing products and explaining trick tips. Getting content is not easy, it takes practice just like learning new tricks. If you can make your own high quality content then you have a huge advantage. When making videos, show your personality, brands are going to be marketing you, if you're quiet, shy or lame no one will want to buy your pro model.
Jarrid Lopez and myself leading the pack into a wet Skate the Cape crash corner.
You need to Compete! Competitions and events are a great way to network and size you up against the local riders. Plus this is where a lot of the companies will be. It's a great way to get you in front of those sponsors' eyes and don't be afraid to introduce yourself, especially if you just crushed it. Boardsports are all about seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. That's why you need to practice to be physically and mentally prepared for these opportunities.
I love to compete and found that I have the most success at Slide Jams, so I focused on that. I have been competing in Slide Jams for longboarding since 2009. I would practice my runs over and over to make sure my tricks were dialed in so when it came time to compete and perform, I was ready to go. I wanted to show off my versatility of tricks from flatland at the top to fast big slides at the bottom and sick combos in between.
Freestyle and Slide Jams are judged events which can be very subjective. When you compete, you want to leave it all out there so there is no doubt in your mind that you tried your best and no doubt in the judges mind that you are killing it on all levels. You want to be having the most fun out there and skating so good that you inspire the judges to go out and skate after the comp. If you do that, you will be standing on the podium!
Nothing better than sharing the podium with your friends (Zach Longacre, Myself and Jarrid Lopez at Skate the Cape)
Be creative and think of new ways to help your sponsor, like organize and host events, make a cool video part and do a product review. The more you can think outside the box and stay ahead of the curve the more valuable you will be to your sponsor. Stay on the grind and keep progressing your riding. Expand your skills beyond just riding, like marketing, video editing and filming. Ask your sponsor where else you can help in the business. Most important...HAVE FUN and spread the stoke!
Interview with Jarrid Lopez...
I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite longboarders (not associated with Faceplant Boardriders) and who I think is one of the most professional riders in longboarding... Mr. Jarrid Lopez!
I first met Jarrid at 2012 Virginia Tech Surf the Streets (longboard competition). He was killing it of course and did the longest manual downhill I had ever seen... and he almost hit the Faceplant van doing it! Later that year he reached out to me for sponsorship on our new WheelRZ Wheels team. The rest is history and it has been so much fun watching this guy longboard, creating new tricks every year and just being a great ambassador for our sport.
R: Jarrid, who do you ride for right now?
J: "Moonshine Mfg, Orangatang wheels, Arsenal trucks , Riptide sports, Far out sunglasses, Gform , S1 helmet co & Muirskate"
R: Why did you want to be a longboarder and fully pursue this as a career?
J: "I wanted to be a Longboarder because I needed a sport to do when I first started college. Then it just evolved into one giant, dude wouldn’t it be cool if... type of adventure."
R: What are some of the steps you took early in your career to get your foot in the door?
J: "The first steps I took into my career, was make a sponsor-me-video for a local longboard shop/company called XVD Longboards. Afterwards, I joined the ODU Longboard club to get a local glimpse of the longboard community."
R: Jarrid, you really impressed my brother and I back in 2012 when you sent your skate resume to be sponsored by WheelRZ Wheels. Do you still have a longboard resume and how do you put together a skate resume?
J: "Hahaha... I do have a longboard resume, but I haven’t updated it in years. But it should contain the following info:
Social media links
Event attendance (especially if you make podium)
R: What longboard disciplines do you do and how has focusing on certain disciplines helped you stand out?
J: "I try my very best to master all the categories of Longboarding, which is sadly a dying ambition in the industry these days. But to the very brave few who spend the time, sweat, and blood practicing all of the disciplines, I salute you. For that is the highest skill level a longboarder could possibly achieve."
R: What longboard discipline is your favorite and which have you had the most success with?
J: Sliding is definitely my favorite category. I’m most successful in Technical freeriding.
R: How did competing at events help you get sponsorship? How important is competing today?
J: "Competing in events is not only a good way to build street cred in the community, but it’s a VERY necessary reality check of where you stand skill-wise in the community. I think competing is important today, due to the fact that a lot of big name Longboarders build a huge reputation for themselves in the industry without going through the righteous passage of competition. In other words, people be cutting corners up in this joint."
R: "I can say that the majority of team riders on Faceplant Boardriders, I met at events or competitions, especially from our event Skate the Cape."
R: Do you have any pre-event routines? Do you practice your slide jam runs leading up to an event or just improvise?
J: "I do have a few pre-event rituals before a big event. I get myself a big jar of gherkin pickles. I drink only water, no fast food, no candy. Depending on which type of competition, I’ll start training at least one month in advance. I try to get my big tricks dialed in before competition, but I would have certain lines in my head ahead of time."
R: "So that's the secret! Hahahaha, I had to look up what the hell a Gherkin was...so, gherkins are pickles but pickles are not gherkins (just pickled cucumbers). It takes four or five hours to pickle a cucumber, but to pickle a gherkin - it could take up to 30 days."
R: Today, it is easier to self promote. How important is it to use social media and how do you use it to elevate your status as a professional longboarder?
J: "I think social media is definitely a tool to help promote yourself and show a profile to other brands what kind of media you put out there. Personally I was against using social media in the very beginning, but after years of peer pressure, I finally gave it a try. Besides Twitter, I don’t regret using it, because it provided a gateway to meeting new people, gain new sponsors considering a lot of them look at your number of followers, and keep up-to-date on what other longboarders are up to."
R: What was your breakout moment as a professional longboarder?
J: "My breakout moment would be when I made my welcome to the team video edit for moonshine Mfg in fall of 2015. The response was explosive, the next thing I know I’m getting an invite to go on a skate tour."
R: Do you make money from your sponsors? How do you make money in longboarding?
J: "I do make money in Longboarding, but I assure you, not me or any pro longboarder in the whole industry is a millionaire, this isn’t the skateboard industry. (Insert sad face) but there are different ways to make money in this game. You can produce media for companies, make podium at events, or be an employee with a longboard company."
R: What advice do you have to a young grom trying to get where you're at?
J: "Start small, then go bigger. Unless you have mad connections in the industry, start with a small brand. Because smaller brands are always looking for talented and passionate riders, as long as you’re willing to put in the work, it’ll pay off in the long run."
R: You have been on top of your game for the past decade, each year you have a new mind blowing trick. Once you're sponsored, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
J: "That’s an easy one. Just look at what everyone else is doing, then go in the opposite direction. It can be a bit scary and a lot of extra work. But I promise you, the pay off is huge."
R: Skateboarding is in the Olympics this year...why isn't longboarding?
J: "Well, in my opinion, I think Longboarding just isn’t quite there yet, as far as popularity or public interest. It would definitely be cool to see Longboarding in the Olympics. Perhaps downhill, dance, and maybe long distance push would make it into the games."
R: "Downhill Longboard Racing used to be in the Xgames and the first discipline of skateboarding was downhill racing! Somehow skating became cooler, more popular and way more marketable. I think the whole longboard industry needs to chill out on downhill racing and come together to create regional, national and international events for other longboarding disciplines like Slide Jam (Freeride+Freestyle), Dance and LDP (long distance push racing). I think those disciplines are more approachable and marketable to the masses than downhill racing right now. Also, I think all the longboarders out there need to take more pride in being a longboarder, its RAD, you're RAD, we're all RAD! We've built an awesome community and it's just as cool as skateboarding...not below it."
R: What's going to save longboarding or at least boost more participation?
J: "I think having more events and inviting new riders to the sport is the move right now. Because Corona sort of hit the reset button for the whole industry. With people getting cabin fever in their homes for a whole year, they wanted to go outside and skate. Bringing this new wave of riders, looking to learn new tricks and techniques. So if we give these new riders a place to go such as events, clinics, message boards, or trick tip tutorials, it can make a big impact on the community."
R: Last question, what can we expect from J. Lo in the next couple years in regards to longboarding?
J: "In the next couple of years, I will still be skating and inventing new tricks/combos. But at the same time, I’ll be leaning more towards administrative roles within the community. As much as I love competing at events, the main goal is to spread the stoke of the sport, showing people how awesome and welcoming the community can be."