Oli Benet interview by Jamie Reid
Powerblading has taken off in a big way in the past year or so, and in that time it’s built up a strong and committed following all around the world. I wanted to pick the brains of one of the people that’s made it all happen.
Right then formalities first. Name, Age, where you live, where you’re from, years skating, Brands you represent, job titles.
My name is Oriol “Oli” Benet, I live in Barcelona and am 31 years old, I have been skating for over 22 years and am currently self employed, but dedicated to Powerslide in Germany. I work for a number of their brands and segments including Kizer, USD, Xsjado, Undercover, FSK, and Doop etc. Job titles are even more numerous, but my passion is marketing.
What got you into skating back in the day and what events lead you to being in the position you’re in now?
I started skating when I was handed down quad skates from my cousins at the age of 8 (Bauer Turbo). I got my first inline skates in 1997, some Roces LAX, and shortly after my first aggressive skates, Roces 5th Elements. After a few years of hardcore skating in London, I moved to Barcelona, Spain, where I won a few contests in a row and gained sponsorship from Razors and their sub-brands. Shortly after I released a full length skate film, featuring skating from all over Spain and the UK, called Los Elegidos. I was never comfortable in Razors skates, so I purchased some Deshi skates from Ignition. I fell in love with them and contacted Deshi, offering to help them find distribution in Spain. Mark Korte put me on a trial sponsorship in around 2004, and I put 100% passion into promoting the brand. The more effort and feedback I gave, the more I became involved in Conference projects. Eventually I was asked to start a clothing brand (Stygma) which eventually led on to brand management with the other brands, thanks to the success of Stygma, but the realisation that clothing for the inline skate market was a really tough avenue. I was allowed a lot of freedom in my work, and 9 years later we continue to enjoy an incredible relationship which I am thankful for every day!
I have jokingly referred to the movement as the Powerblading army, with you as its General. Surely there must be a fair bit of pressure and responsibility to keep both the skaters and your employers happy?
Powerslide, a skater owned company, loves the idea behind Powerblading. It’s incredibly addictive, and it shares the passion that early aggressive skating had, before all the hate and fashion made it a strange sport to be involved in. It’s 100% a hobby for me, and not part of my job description, which means that the only pressure I am under is the fact that the Powerblading project has eaten up what little spare time I had before its existence. When you love something though, it’s no chore!
What is your current setup?
Xsjado 2.0 Souls with Kizer level 2 frames, 76mm UC PB wheels, ILQ9 bearings and Doop cuff and padding.
After months, or even years of watching people arguing on skate sites about USA Vs Europe, Spin to Win and other pointless arguments, I realised that we were a little bit stuck. What is left to attract new skaters into the sport, whether a 720 royale is good or “stupid and French”? It was all so ridiculous to me. Most people don’t become Aggressive skaters from skateboarding or biking, they come from Fitness and Freeskate. I looked at commercial Fitness and Freeskate products and thought “no wonder we’re not getting anywhere!”. I believe that skating is one of the most incredible experiences a human being can have without huge investment, and I want more people to skate, it’s as simple as that. Maybe for the industry, maybe for Aggressive, maybe Powerblading…I don’t know doesn’t matter to me, I respect all disciplines of skating, I just think the world would be a better place if more people skated, so I decided to put full effort into creating something to present to Powerslide…my vision of something that could help return blading into the public eye, something attractive and high quality, with real marketing and image, attractive to young people and fitness enthusiasts. Doop is my idea of the perfect skate to help recreate the golden age of skating. What’s more the skate is compatible with Freeskate and Aggressive parts, so it’s a perfect skate to get into skating with…
And now you are opening your own concept store for Doop?
Part of our original marketing plan was creating a simple, clear online store for Doop that would attract new people to the sport rather than confuse or scare them. Powerslide wasn’t ready to do this, so I realised it was in my hands to find someone or do it myself. I decided after all these years in the game I was perfectly placed to take the next step in my career as a blader. I wanted to create a simple, attractive store with only the products I believe necessary. I don’t want to stock 200 brands and options, I want the best options when considering quality/price ratio. This is also aimed at attracting people from outside the skate scene. It’s simple. You want quality skates? Doop. You want faster wheels, or different colours to match your skate? We have them. You want 6 different brands of Abec bearings, and 8 brands of skate wheels poured in the same factory? We don’t have that…http://thedoopstore.com
So the Thedoopstore.com is skater Owned then?
My fiancé and I have created the marketing plan behind Doop, and I have created the store with my own investment. I skate, so does she, but then again so does my boss…everything is skater owned in this industry, but I don’t know how many tricks you have to be able to do before you are classed as a skater in this industry!
It seems like you’re always busy doing something skating related, whether it be running multiple online forums, Facebook pages, travelling and holding it down at The Conference. When you do get some time to chill what do you like to do?
It sounds terrible, but I don’t chill anymore. I used to DJ, but I don’t have time for that right now. I skate…that’s what I do in my free time, but it’s never really free time, 99% of the time I’m skating I’m testing new products, whether it be for the Conference, Powerslide FSK or doop…I’m never really getting comfortable on a product before another one arrives to test, but I’m not complaining. I do feel the stress though, more so than ever lately – but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
It’s safe to say that Powerblading is kind of your baby, so how did it all start and then grow into what it is today?
I wouldn’t call it my baby, it was a joint vision, but it all started when I moved to Barcelona City. I was running a number of tours through the city, but had sold my car. To keep the budget down, and my own expenses down, I set up Xsjado skates with Powerblading FSK frames and wheels. After over 10 years of aggressive skating on small wheels, I was absolutely blown away by the actual feeling of rolling. Skating to sessions and switching to an Aggressive setup became more and more frustrating, killing the enjoyment of what has always felt to me like “urban skiing”. When Richie and Dustin came to Barcelona, I lent them my skates as they wanted to explore Barcelona. They were hooked immediately, so we sat down to really analize what it was about rolling that we loved. We began to realize that aggressive was often forgetting the key element of rolling. While Freeskating was a real style of skating at the time, it was never going to satisfy the hardcore skaters that we were, and neither was the hardware.
Where do you want to see Powerblading going from here?
I believe that Powerblading is an evolution of skating. It really is possible to do every trick you do on a freestyle 54mm setup as it is to do on a flat 76mm setup. It’s not freeskating, and it’s not aggressive skating, it’s the best of both worlds, and once the Level 2 come out I believe a lot is going to change.
If Powerblading didn’t get hate, it wouldn’t be what it is. Some Freeskaters hate that people can now grind on 80mm setups, rendering a poor level of skating no longer impressive, but for the most part I have found freeskaters very positive towards Powerblading. Aggressive skaters are upset because it opens the door to Fitness skaters to use excuses for not being able to do tricks. At the end of the day, every genre of skating has levels of skill, and Powerblading is no different – see Greg Breger for example. Aside from this, Powerblading has had a bunch of bad press from a number of brands, it can be a bit of a shock, when things change…
Soul at Montjuic
I came up with the original idea of coming to Barcelona to skate with some other Powerbladers some months ago, and that idea has now turned into the Wax&Bombing event, orchestrated by yourself and Álex.
Wax&Bombing…I wanted to do something that invited any level of skater to enjoy the experience of a tour. I have done numerous tours around Europe and the world, and I’m not comfortable with people coming out city by city to watch “Pro-skaters”. I wanted to create an event that welcomed anyone and everyone to skate together, every day, and I wanted brands to support this idea – so I have to give big thanks to Roll Line Skill, Grindhouse, Undercover, Kizer and Inercia for supporting this idea.
Edit by Tony Cheetah
There’s a “core group” of Powerbladers around the world, who talk to each other via the Facebook pages and have even met up and made friends with one another. How much of an impact has this had on Powerblading, and associated products?
People have genuinely found something that makes them happy with Powerblading, myself included, and this immediately forms a bond between those that practice it. It’s simply an amazing way to enjoy your skates. I know a number of old school greats from the Aggressive haydays have got back on skates thanks to Powerblading, with people like Alex Miranda, Jason Marshall and Josh Petty rolling on PB’s to name a few. Furthermore, the Level 2 frame was designed by someone from the Powerblading Community, Mark Sundell, and it’s probably the best piece of skate hardware I have ever rolled on!
If you had one sentence to explain Powerblading to both skaters and non-skaters alike, what would you say?
Urban Ninja Skiing
Final words / shout outs.
I want to thank my fiancé for being my inspiration, Alex Rahali and PALCO, the Premiere Powerblading Crew, Jamie Reid for being the first person in years to ask me interesting questions and for being such an influence in this game, Alex Miro, Xavier Wiros and Tony Cheetah and UrbanEye for the material and everyone (you know who you are) at Powerslide for everything.
“Beach” by Tony Cheetah