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What did you see in Jordan?
He was a little bit of a slow starter, and he had some injuries, and he’s not as gregarious of a personality like Daniel [Lutheran]. He’s a lot quieter. We saw something we liked; he has a lot of different moves. Some companies make the mistake of putting the same rider on over and over again. He has a different bag of tricks. It would be easy to put a rail chomper on. Kevin [Barnett], our filmer, was showing me a lot of stuff he was doing, and I liked what I was seeing.
I heard that Jordan only wanted to ride for Toy Machine. Is that true?
That’s something that I look for, too. It’s super distasteful to all companies when a kid sends out his footage to everyone and sees what sticks. The kid has an ideal sponsor but will use other sponsors as a stepping-stone to get to whoever he wants. You have to go through a ringer. Jordan sent us a number of tapes before we put him on flow. That was to make sure he wasn’t sending them out to everyone. Once we knew he was a dedicated Toy fan, we put him on flow.
What do you look for in an am?
First, talent. Over the years I’ve been pretty good at spotting the potential to go all the way. It’s a lot about how you fit with the team, so I look at attitude and personality as much as I look at talent. I like when I get the same amount of both.
Where do you find ams?
It’s all over the place these days: YouTube, we get footage from distributors all over the world, we still get unsolicited DVDs in the mail, we get a lot of links to our Facebook page. Riders also have extended bro networks—one bro gets good, then they use their connections to get it to the right people.
What does it take for an am to go all the way?
It really just takes hard work. There’s a little bit of luck involved in getting seen by the right people and getting a chance. Some sincere originality works. I look at someone like Daniel Lutheran, and it’s all hard work. Everyone can make that push, but it’s sustaining that push that makes you stay ahead. You can have a run of coverage and have a great video part, but it’s that second video part that’s hard to make. That’s what I’m looking for in people. That’s how you become pro, and that’s how you stay pro—by continuing to reinvent yourself.
Is it harder these days or back in your day to turn am?
For me, just geographically, it was easier to get seen than someone like Jamie Thomas who had to move to make it happen. That’s still true in a lot of ways. If you’re talented enough, you’ll get seen. The world is shrinking, so it’s easier to get seen. If you turn up to the right places and are truly talented, then you’re going to get snatched up. The cream rises to the top.
What are the most common mistakes an am or pro will make?
I’ve seen a lot of dudes not keep their eye on the prize. They think that because they earned the spot as am on the team it’s time to party. They start drinking and doing drugs, and everything slips because of that. Or they sit around being pro and don’t think about that next step. Your attitude, too—I can tell from going on one trip with somebody if they are going to make it or not. Your basic outlook, how they approach every aspect of their life. A lot of the time being a team manager is like being a therapist of psychoanalyst, so a lot of the time I’m profiling people as I go. It shocks me when guys blow it. You’ve got yourself into the dream job. All you have to do is use the talent that you’ve already got and skate. You go on tour, smile for the kids, put it down—that’s what you are getting paid to do. The rest of the year you can do what you want, film with your bro, do what you want. The requirements are minimal. If I have an am who’s a dick to kids and won’t skate a demo, I’m super weary of how far that am will go.