By Alex Mitsiopoulos |
MIDDLETOWN – For years corporations have dominated the merchandising side of skateboarding. But lately skateboarders seem to be reclaiming the original spirit that gave the activity its character, by realizing they have the tools to print their skateboard graphics and sell them directly to customers.
Kevin Gorsegner, 25, of Red Bank, and Christian Richards, 25, of Middletown, are riding that wave. The friends and long-time skateboarders started their own skateboard company in October 2016 called Tension Collections. Recently they’ve been gaining some hype in the local skateboarding scene with designs on their decks and clothing reminiscent of the album artwork from 80’s punk bands like Black Flag.
Currently their products are selling at Pro Skateboard Shop in Belmar, Branded Surf and Skate in Long Branch, Classic Skate Shop in Woodbridge, and Feet First in Middletown, located in the Union Square Plaza on Route 35, where Gorsegner is a sales associate. The boards cost $45, hoodies cost $30, T- shirts cost $15, and tank tops cost $17, though discounted prices on last season’s items are common in order to make room for new products.
“It’s like starting a band. You never think that you’ll tour the world, you’re just doing it because you think that it’s cool, and you hope that other people think it’s cool too,” said Gorsegner, who has played the bass in bands his whole life.
At its inception, Tension Collections was nothing more than a small button press, making buttons for local bands to sell to their fans in hopes of gaining new listeners. The company would also become a place where local bands could press their cassette tapes, in assorted and limited colors, and make promotional stickers for cheap prices.
After three years of making accessories for local bands, the business never really took off. So, Tension Collections was put on the backburner until Richards proposed making skateboards.
What was once a faint idea in the back of the minds of two skateboarders has now transformed into a company that currently has four different American-made skateboards, all with different graphics depicting each local artists’ specific style.
One of the boards depicts a headless man pulling a severed head out of a grave in an ominous graveyard, with vibrant yellow and blue colors contrasting the black background. Another skate- board displays just the word ‘Tension’ spelled out in their signature font, which resembles the font of the punk band Suicidal Tendencies. That board is offered with ‘Tension’ printed in a variety of colors like pink, yellow, and green, all on a white background.
The company’s apparel sports graphics similar to that of the skateboards.
“One hundred percent of the money we make goes directly into making new stuff, we don’t make a dime, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Gorsegner.
Richards takes the two-to-three-hour drive, depending on traffic, to Chapman Skateboards headquarters in Deer Park, New York, where the skateboards are made, to personally pick them up. The cost of each batch varies depending on how many boards are ordered. The trip allows Richards to talk shop with the owners of Chapman, learn about the process, and improve the business.
Driving to Chapman also allows the duo to save money on shipping.
Chapman Skateboards, owned by Gregg Chapman and founded in 1991, has been the cornerstone for East Coast skateboarding over the past two decades. The company has produced quality skateboards for iconic New York-based skate- boarding companies like Zoo York and 5Boro.
“You wouldn’t have that same communication if you were working with a stranger on the phone. All those dudes skate, so they know exactly what’s cool and not cool,” said Gorsegner.
They also have local artists design their graphics.
Artists Sean Pryor, instructor at Colorest Art Supplies in Red Bank, and Christopher Smith, tattoo artist at Neptune Tattooville in Neptune, have both done artwork for Tension Collections. It is mutually beneficial to work with local artists, because they gain exposure, and so does Tension Collections.
Pryor brings his punk aesthetic into the graphics, having done work for various bands in the past, while Smith brings more of an American Traditional approach to his graphics, heavily influenced by his tattooing style.
“Everybody who’s done at least the decks so far have been personal good friends of mine. It’s cool to have everybody collectively build something,” said Gorsegner. “And it’s easier to yell at your friends if you don’t like their artwork,” he added with a laugh.
Gorsegner hopes to eventually expand Tension Collections products into skate shops in the Philadelphia and New York City areas. Because of the rich skateboarding culture in both cities, and the fact that both Gorsegner and Richards have friends who skate there, it seems like the next logical step.
But for now, Tension Collections will focus on their local demographic, and make sure locals in the area are excited about their new venture.
As of now, the company does not have an official “team,” as most skate companies do, but, according to Gorsegner, “If you have a Tension skateboard then you’re on the team.”
This article was first published in the May 25-June 1, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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