Rayne – The Les Robertson Interview
We had the immense pleasure the other day of sitting down with Rayne Longboards Team/Sales/PR/everything Manager, Mr. Les Robertson. If you’ve been on the Rayne Facebook page, or really dealt with the company atall, you probably know and love him. Read on to see what he had to say about working at Rayne, products from the company, and the future of longboarding!
A-F - Aight, Les – let’s start with you. Who are you? Give us your resume – I understand you have some impressive degrees under your belt.
Les – Ha, impressive. My degrees don’t make me – I just get bored easy and enjoy book learnin’. Suffice to say, I have a lot of expensive paper hanging on my wall. I usually value the stamps in my passport more than the letters after my name. But then I lost my passport in Puerto Rico a couple years ago… so I need to start all over with the stamps.
A-F – For sure. Well, just for the sake of getting to know you, what’s up there?
Les – I have some undergrad from University of Victoria, Certificates from Vancouver Film School and British Columbia Institute of Technology, and a Masters from the University of British Columbia/Copenhagen Business School.
A-F – Awesome. Going into all that, did you ever think you would be applying any of that to skateboarding? When did you start getting into skateboarding/longboarding?
Les – Well, maybe not skateboarding, but I have played sports my whole life and working in the outdoors and in sports was the stretch goal. I worked for a few big sports teams, both internally and as a consultant, but they’re corporations and I am far from being “corpo”.
I’ve been “into” skate my whole life. I remember just drooling as a kid watching some of the older kids… but I was more into BMX. Something about my foot-eye coordination just wasn’t there for street skate and longboarding was not really around in the ‘80s as we know it today.
Anyways, BMX was fun, but I was a power hitter in baseball, a solid football linebacker, and I skied competitively into high school. I eventually chose football over anything and played that into college, where book learning and women were more interesting then contusions and concussions…
A-F – For sure. How did you end up working for Rayne?
Les – I got in with Rayne when I met Graham in like 2004 or so. He was making boards on the East Side of Vancouver, a few blocks from where I was managing a scrap metal company. I liked business and was more interested in skateboards than metal. He gave me a new board and I offered some business support. Graham moved Rayne to North Van and we kept hanging out, and when I left my old job to go back to school, he let me use Rayne for a lot of my Masters work.
A-F – Very cool. Graham is an awesome guy. When I caught up with him at the Catalina Classic, I was super impressed with his enthusiasm and just overall level of stoke for the scene and the products you guys are making.
Les – Totally, Graham is great. Incredible vision, hardworking, and he takes a skirplush really well.
A-F – Hahaha forsure. I hear the boys up at Switchback know a thing or two about the infamous skirplush (kersploosh?). Anyways, what is your current job title with Rayne, and what are your responsibilities?
Les – Wow… my current job title… we don’t really have them… haha. I was hired to manage marketing and sponsorship. Now I manage sales as well. Rayne is life, life is Rayne. Hard to need or want hobbies when I have Rayne. Video editing – Rayne. Photography – Rayne. That’s not a complaint, that’s a brag. Sometimes the ruby slippers cut, but for the most part there’s no place like home.
A-F – Sounds like a lot. It definitely seems like you’re the go-to guy over there.
Speaking of sponsorship, let’s move on to the team. Who are some of your favorite riders and why? Let’s hear some shoutouts or funny stories about these guys.
Les – At Rayne, sponsorship is about giving back to the community and being a great person. Being a good skater is something almost anyone can do if they work at it. At the same time, if we don’t appreciate the person, we don’t sponsor either. Not to say we only sponsor our friends, but when you get a sponsorship, you interact with your sponsor – races, road trips, product development. If we can’t sleep in Tiffany (the Rayne RV) with you for a weekend, we’re probably not going to want to sponsor you. This is as much a family as it is a partnership.
Hard to pick favorites and make shout outs. These are people we truly admire and appreciate. I’ll try:
Robin Sandberg – Busted back and low on stoke – send him some love and let’s get that guy back at events and working in the sport! (Maybe IGSA could use a rider rep to help smooth things out?)
Kevin Reimer – Busted-ass ankle last year and still such a competitor. He came back early and is fighting hard every race to get back on top.
Daniel Hawes – The perpetual nomad skater, he’s all around the world all the time, but no matter where he is, he is setting up events and spreading the stoke. He also sends me the longest emails with the most detailed ideas and request. Keeps me on my toes.
Luke Melo – Always a smile. Always thinking smart thoughts. Killing it with the Oracle! First World Cup podium in Europe, YEAH LUKE!
Aidan Lynds – Just solid. Aidan kills it on his board, in the office, at events, in the community. I mean, watch it, he’ll slap the crap out of you if you get out of line, but otherwise chillasfunk.
Funny stories are many and endless. I feel guilty already for my shoutout selections. I have something to say in appreciation of each person we sponsor, for real.
A-F – Noble of you. I know Rayne’s sponsor list is long – it’s good to see you guys supporting the people who support you. It’s always good when people are sponsored for what they give back to the community, not just the way they ride.
I know you guys had some big news this year with P. Swiss joining the team. Tell us a little about how that went down?
A-F – Patrick has been involved with Vicious since early on and that’s all Graham Buksa too. Over time, I started managing Vicious sponsorship and marketing along with Rayne because it made sense and that brought Patrick and I together. He knew what we stood for, how we conducted ourselves, and what kind of design and production we are capable of and we saw a great fit. I know Patrick had a very hard time leaving Fullbag, they were awesome to him and make great product. Ultimately, the thing I think we offered that was attractive was the Rayne family. Money is a weak motivator and we’re not a big company, so Patrick could have found more cash likely elsewhere. We share the belief that for riders and the sport to develop, more outside sponsorship is needed, so money again was not the question. I like to think it was the bottle of maple syrup and pound of bacon we offered as a signing bonus that made it all happen. Or maybe all the amazing sushi in BC?
A-F - Hahaha I heard Patrick is pretty big on the bacon strips too. Solid.
Kind of a broad question, but what is next for Rayne? I know you guys are testing the waters and expanding into the wheel market. Are there any other new products we should look for soon?
Les – Dildos, epic w-concave, radial drop, urethane dildos? And speed cream. Or not. We’re still working on the Saviour. The Oracle kind of got in the way.
A-F – Dildos. (Dildoes? I’ve never had to pluralize “dildo” before. o.o) RIGHT. I’m gonna take that as there are lots of cool things under top-secret development. hahaha
Les - We’ll always be looking to innovate on our current lineup and look to the next generation – I think the Avenger coming out is a great example of that. I also see that as making a better work environment and planet, so Graham and I are working on a waste recovery project. You’ve seen some of this on the Next Level Risers – they’re made of our cutoff materials or “upcycled” scraps. We’re looking to expand the lineup of products we can make from our excess and we’re doing it with at-risk youth here in Vancouver. Skateboarders/ing is pretty accepting – we don’t wear business shirt collars, and swearing is accepted, so these youth have a great opportunity to earn money in an open work environment while we help teach them business and life skills. And they can do it on their own time without being tied to a schedule.
A-F – Awesome. Very admirable. It’s amazing to see skateboarding as a positive force in a community. I take it the Rayne Mini’s are another wing of that? Any more info to be shared on those?
Les – Minis are part of that, yes. We make minis from our production screwups – we don’t have many, which is why we don’t sell them right now. We’ve been hoarding them for a while (still sending them to events though) and we might be ready for a sale soon.
A-F – Anything else about the new Avenger’s development? I’ve noticed a lot of experimentation with 3-D concave. That’s some cool stuff.
Les – The Avenger is pretty sick in my opinion. It brings the pressed in 3D wheel wells from the Vandal over to the Avenger AND we’ve now got Fat Bottom technology. It’s essentially a taper core where the inside is fatter than the outside edges. Rigid, sturdy, and a ton of fun. And we took away the tow-hole, so the only thing that usually broke on the old Avenger is now gone.
A-F – Oh, the infamous tow-hook. A lot of people ended up chopping them anyways, so while it was a part of the Avenger from the start, I don’t know that it will be missed haha. Fat Bottom technology sounds much more appealing.
I read an interesting article that you wrote recently, mostly about the current state of legality of longboarding, and its future. Care to recap briefly? It was pretty spot-on.
Les – Basically, downhill IS illegal, unless you obey the rules of the road. In some places it is illegal entirely. There’s too much bitching about ‘legal skating’ – if you skate like a ninja and not like a pirate, then no one would ever be the wiser. The only other point I want to make is the bullshit complaining about groms and the “I’m longboarding because it’s popular” kooks and that kind of BS – pardon me, but shut the f**k up. Everyone has just as much right to skate as the next person and no one has a right to judge. Judging is weak and lazy. If you want to make a difference in your community, stop bitching about it and do something. Otherwise, head for the hills that aren’t five minutes from your house.
The less we welcome people, the more we’re our own greatest problem. I think my mom used to say, ‘you attract more bees with honey then with vinegar’. Well, for some skaters, they don’t actually want to attract anyone, so we won’t see them and they won’t be the problem. For everyone else – you are the problem. Accept everyone and self-regulate.
A-F – Boom, well said. It is the community’s obligation to police the community. That’s the only way this sport will continue to grow in a positive direction.
Anything else you want to say or to have the Adrenaline-Fueled readers know…?
Les - Not even sure what I’ve said already. haha Thanks to Adrenaline-Fueled for the interview. We’re keeping an eye on all the great stuff coming out of Socal here in BC!
A-F – Well thank you sir for sitting down with us. I’m sure we’ll be seeing many great things from Rayne Longboards in the near future, and we appreciate you sharing your time, your wisdom, and your stoke with us.
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