Mike Sinclair has been supporting the skateboarding industry and has seen it all. Here he talks about Slappy, a truck company he started during the pandemic.
──MIKE SINCLAIR (ENGLISH)
[ JAPANESE / ENGLISH ]
Photos courtesy of Slappy Trucks
Special thanks_Advance Marketing
VHSMAG (V)： For those who don't know, could you give us your background in skateboarding?
Mike Sinclair (M)： I started skating around '86 or '87. One of my first jobs was working at Endless Grind, which is a skate shop that's still there in North Carolina. I was a sponsored skater for a little bit, and then I blew my knee out. Then I started working in the industry. I currently work for Toy Machine, Foundation, Pig, Nike SB, and I do some work for X Games. I came up with the Real Street series. And then I started a truck brand called Slappy during Covid. I was bored because I couldn't do any of my jobs so I started messing with my trucks.
V： What's the story behind the name Slappy?
M： It's a name that's been in skateboarding, so I just want it to be easy, memorable, and then also represent fun. That's kind of how it all tied together for me.
V： There are established truck brands out there. What was your mindset like when you decided to start Slappy? Did you ever get worried?
M： No, I just wanted to make a truck that I like. I've ridden all those other trucks for years. I wanted to build something that kind of resembled something that you've seen before that turns, grinds and has more clearance. Once you try it, you figure out if you like it or not because trucks are so personal. Everybody likes something different in a truck. If you ride them and if they speak to you, then you're hooked on them. That's how I picked up my trucks after I first started figuring out skateboarding.
V： How did people react? The economy was bad during the pandemic and it seems it's not exactly the best time to start a new brand.
M： Well, the most common reaction was like, "You're starting a truck company? You're crazy." It was something you laugh at, you know? Because I couldn't believe I was doing it either. It wasn't that I was doing it to prove a point or to take out another company. It was just like, "I'm just gonna try something and see what happens." I kept it a secret and when my friends saw the samples, they were like, "Whoa these things turn, these things are cool." That gave me a little bit of a booster. I knew I was onto something just because of their genuine reaction.
V： How did you keep it a secret when you're out there skating?
M: Mainly I spent a lot of time back east when Covid was going on, and everything was further apart so I could skate the trucks. But out here in California, I would see everybody so I had a couple setups. So like, if I was skating somewhere to just test them out, like at a spot and someone would show up in the car, I would pick up my board and just show the griptape side, go back to the car, take a swig of water, get the other board and come out. Secret style, you know. So no one ever caught on. It was like hiding a Christmas present or a wedding present. It was like, "I'm gonna try my best to keep this thing hidden until the time comes."
V： I'm sure you've done a lot of experimenting. How long did it take to get it right?
M： Probably about two years. I did most of the stuff going back and forth with the factory. They would send me the measurements and all the key ingredients. I would have the stuff in my hand and go off feel. I don't know all the crazy geometries and stuff. People were asking me when I first started, "How tall are your trucks?" I knew it but I didn't care because I got it how I wanted. And then I was like, "Wait, how tall are my trucks?" So you learn all the numbers from there. And it's crazy that people pay that much attention because I rode the same trucks for forever. I never knew how tall they were. They just felt right. So that's kind of what I did. I went off feel, and then after it felt right, then we did the measurements. I had all the other truck companies and all the other stuff, trucks with risers, trucks with no risers. I had so many setups. For example, you take a Thunder and you put a riser pad on it. It changes the truck completely. And I'm like, "Whoa." And I started going crazy like that.
V： How crazy did you get?
M： Well, I ride a 8.1 board. So I had 15 of the exact same 8.1 boards. Then I had 52 millimeter wheels, Swiss bearings and Mob Grip on all of them. It's the exact same board so it doesn't mess with your mind. I put three washers inside the wheel so it gives you a little bit of extra clearance, and you put the nut on and it's flush with the axle. So I did that across the board and put on different trucks. I think this is the best way to get a proper read on the truck. All you do is try to get them the same tightness.
V： What was most challenging while you were experimenting?
M: Most challenging was the bushings. They're so hard to get the one that feels right. It's like a shoe, it takes a while to break in. The bushing that I really like is that it's good to go as soon as you put them on. And the bushings with the trucks and the geometry that they are to me, I love them. So I'm proud of that. But like I said, everybody's different. Some people like lower trucks so I'm gonna work on them. So that's gonna be my next challenge.
V： What do you look for in a truck?
M： The main thing is, do they function? And the most important thing for me is the turn. Second most important thing is, do they grind? Are they sticky? Are they soft? Are they hard? Do they sound weird? So I got that down to where I liked it. And then, something that's always bugged me about every truck I've ever tried, was the kingpin snag. When you slap into a smith grind, or when you slap into a hurricane or a front feeble, every skater knows what it feels like to get their kingpin caught on the curb or rail. It sucks, you know. So I wanted less friction, the less snag, the most clearance I could without making the truck look goofy.
V： So now Slappy is distributed through Sidewalk Distribution?
M： At first it was a hundred percent just me in my garage. Right now the only thing that's at my house is a little bit of inventory for a local sales rep to come and get, and then for me to give stuff to the team or to send to whoever wants to try. And then 98% of the trucks are at Sidewalk. I couldn't be more stoked because Sidewalk is run by Steve Douglas and Bod Boyle, legends in the industry. It wasn't a planned out thing, it just happened.
V： Who's on the team?
M： The team is very small. It's like up and comers. I wanted to start that way to get people talking about it and get people involved. What I'm running mostly is Instagram. The people on the hard posts are the ones that are on the team. Matt Bennett was one of the first ones because he's a good friend of mine and he's got his own signature trick, the Bennett Grind. And just because the kingpin's so low, I was like, "Dude, you could dip your Bennett Grind crazier than you've ever done it." He loved the trucks. We also have Georgia Martin, she rides for Toy Machine. Tania Cruz is in Barcelona. But the girl that won the X Games, Arisa Trew, I saw her a while ago and I was like, "I wanna get her trucks." And then she won the vert and the park, and I was like, "Oh my God. Please don't let the axle nut fall off!!" My job over the years was finding up and coming talent and getting them to the next level. So I kind of wanted to continue with that. I don't really wanna steal or try to pry anybody off of any teams. I want it to happen organically. I'm not trying to be something I'm not, you know what I mean? I'm lucky to be here. I'm stoked to be here. I got Bod and Steve supporting me. It means the world. I'm taking it slow. I just hope it does make it because I believe in it. And if other people believe in it too, it's just gonna mean that much more. You know?
V： Yeah, you said in the Jenkem interview that "this company will never go out of business. If I run out of money, we are just on pause."
M： Yeah. Let me update that quote. "The brand will never go out of business as long as I have another job (laughs)." Yeah, I'm stoked. It's doing better than I ever thought. Just to have people mention the other big brands and then put Slappy in there with them... I can't express how that feels. I just wanna be able to make different stuff. I love doing that. I like getting samples. I like messing with it. So it's been fun.
V： So how many models do you have?
M： There's four models, but it's all the same model. There's the ST1 Classic, which is just the normal kingpin. Then there's the ST1 Hollow, which is the same as the Classic but the axle and the kingpin are hollow. Then there's the inverted kingpin. And also a hollow inverted kingpin with a hollow axle. So the same truck, same size, just different kingpin options and different weights.
V： One thing I noticed, the size goes with the widths of the board. If the board is 8.5, the truck size is also 8.5. I've never seen a truck company do that kind of measurement.
M： I've worked in a shop for like a long time and it was like 5.0 or 139 or whatever. And I'm just trying to skate. I'm not trying to do math. It was simple to me because I just wanted to call it what it is. I don't know anybody that talks to me in millimeters except for wheel size (laughs). I want to keep the design classic. I wanted the sizing to be very easy to understand. I wanted the name to be something that you'll remember. And I want the trucks to work simply like, "Hey, they don't hang up on grinds." That's simple to me.
V： How do you feel now that you have your own truck that works for you and people are picking it up?
M： I'm blown away, but it doesn't feel real. It's now sold in Japan through Advance Marketing.. I think the first time it kicked in was when I saw a stranger riding them. And then the other time is when a really cool shop had the trucks. Just honored to be there, you know?
V： Any project you're working on right now with Slappy?
M： We released Christian Hall's video part. I'm gonna be sampling the lows soon and work on some different kingpins. I'm working on lighter elements, working on a ton of stuff all the way down to colors and everything. More experiments.
Born in North Carolina and currently residing in LA, he started working in the skate industry after riding for Blockhead, and runs Slappy Trucks while also working as a team manager for the Tum Yeto brands and Nike SB.