Jim how did you get involved with Powerﬂex?
Well like most 1970’s skate kids, I was blown away at how rad Powerflex wheels looked in their ads, on the skate shop shelves, and on any board I ever saw with the on. I desperately wanted a pair. We lived on the Westminster/Fountain Valley border which was just one town from Huntington Beach where they were made so we even rode our bikes over to their warehouse and went dumpster diving hoping for finds. I think we got a seconds Powerflex deck once. So like many my first desire was just to get my hands on anything Powerflex. Then, luckily for me, I was sponsored by them back in 1978/1979. I was around 15 or 16. I did demo’s with Gale Webb who was our team manager, and she was my early connection at Powerflex. Then the Powerflex partners had a dispute and it all went away and I was just a kid who had no idea what was going on, Gale told us she couldn’t get us product anymore, so I accepted offers from Inouye’s Pool Service, and eventually was asked by Steve Cathey to ride for G&S.
About 15 years ago, Powerflex founder Bob Ballou started popping into my Acme skateboard factory in Costa Mesa on a regular basis. He was interested in relaunching Powerflex and I liked him a lot, but having just licensed the brand of my other former sponsor G&S in the early 90’s and finding the skateboard market didn’t really care at the time, I never really considered offering to jump in and get involved realizing it wasn’t the time. Soon after that the Dogtown Movies came out which seemed to bring a new interest in skateboarding history and broke down that completely closed minded attitude. The next few years I watched kids skate styles changing and skateboarding was heading back to a place where skateboarding meant riding your skateboard on anything you feel like, and not just stunts on big rails. The social media boom exposed every kind of skateboarding the skate industry was trying to cover up and now skaters were seeing and trying everything, so skaters were changing, terrain was changing, attitudes were changing, and the skate industry was changing. So about 2 years ago, Bob Ballou came to me and said I want you to talk to my brother Rick, he wants to get involved and help me relaunch Powerflex and I will only do it if you run it. I said I will listen but didn’t really commit. Well, I liked Rick and his attitude and then he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse that didn’t involve harming my family hahaahaha.. So we formed Powerflex Skateboard LLC which is a partnership between myself and Bob, Rick, and Daivd Ballou. I am the managing partner and largest shareholder.
What was it about the seventies wheel formula that made those wheels so desirable?
Well, it was the latest high quality urethane formulation and Powerflex got it first. The desirability is the combination of speed, grip, slide etc…. and the fact that Powerflex had a line of products ranging in sizes that covered a wide spectrum and a full range of colors when most had one or two colors. I think the awesome colors got peoples attention and suddenly they could ride the color they liked, not just the one available. So let’s go with Quality, Color, and Options. They had they best line at the time and everybody wanted them, including me, and you!!
Jim, the new Powerﬂex wheels have a core in them, why go away from the old wheel design and what are the beneﬁts of the new design?
Well, Powerflex has a solid legacy and brand name from its roots in skateboarding, but I was by no means assuming we could survive just selling re-issue wheels as so many others have tried and failed. It was all about moving forward while honoring the roots and the history. First we remade and re-issued the Powerflex 5 which was Powerflex’s most successful wheel in its history. We also slightly modified the size to be more functional for today’s skating, but we did make lots of colors and keep the same general look with the sweet raised Powerflex letters. Those have gone over well and we have remade several batches over those. They are becoming the choice for the neighborhood cruiser with their buttery smooth but not spongy ride. The new Gumball core wheels have cores because I want Powerflex to enter the market again as a leader and not just another copycat brand following everyone else. I would not have done this if we were just going to use a house mold and pad print our name on a generic wheel, that’s done over and over by everyone, and Powerflex is an innovator and market leader, not a clone company. I am not a copycat by nature either. First thing the core makes for the most precise bearing seat you can make. Its made from injection molded urethane in a very expensive and precise mold. I have always liked how wheels spin with a core. We then engraved the Powerflex name into it to keep it in line with the original Powerflex line and avoid pad printing graphics that will rub off, and to brand the wheel for life. We are proud that people can see what kind of wheels you are riding for years to come. Most wheels today are unidentifiable after a few weeks of riding and scratching off the graphics making them look crappy and cheap, two things I don’t like. Next, the core when used properly opens up the opportunity to change the ride, and that we did. Most hard wheels are awesome because they roll faster but with that comes more noise, chatter, and a rougher ride. With our Gumball Cores we made the core at 55D which equates to about 95/97A which gives your bearing seat/bearing to axle connection a quieter smoother more shock absorbing ride without any effect on speed. The 83B which equates to the 101A wheels out there hardness wise gives you the speed you want, and the formula has an amazing grip/slide ratio. I’ve been so stoked that we made a wheel that rides all terrains well, not slipping easily on slippery surfaces and letting loose a nice slide when you want it even on rougher surfaces. It’s also damn near impossible to flatspot which adds great value especially for skaters who flatspot wheels regularly. It also gives us lots of variation possibilities with core and urethane combinations and we plan on making lots of combinations.
Will there be Powerﬂex decks in nude maple in the near future?
Well when you put it that way why wait… hahaha We will eventually do some fully Nude re-issues etc.. But, I really realized we really would be more focused and effective to be a wheel brand first and making decks changes that a bit so our primary plans are to stick to wheels for the time being. Decks are never off the table, just not really our focus, and there are too many decks on the market now, so high tech wheels is our focus for now. We are Number #3 and climbing!! Knowing that keeps our focus on the targets.
Will Powerﬂex have a wheel for all of the forms of skateboarding?
We intend to be a major source for high quality skateboard wheels so we will be targeting all skateboarding markets. I like to skate everything, so I want a powerflex wheel to do just that. We started with the new Powerflex 5. This reissue carried forth the legacy of the brand and is made for the neighborhood cruiser/ditch/old school park rider wheel needs. The recently release Gumball Core ranging starting in 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60mm covers most street, park, pool, ramp and pipe riding needs. The Powerflex 7 will be our downhill and longboard wheel and that is in development. Pretty amazing when you consider the best selling longboard wheels forty years later have very similar shapes to the Powerflex 7 in its original form designed in the late 1970’s.. We will make slight modifications to its original shape to make the bearings placed a little more centered etc… but the basic Powerflex 7 shape will remain and fit a good portion of the longboard market. And not something to be overlooked is these wheels are made in the USA with the highest quality urethane you can use.
Will the original Powerﬂex Team Riders put out a skate video?
We will share and or film anything we find from our riders or from our history, but since most original Powerflex riders are in their 50’s a new video of them doesn’t really make much sense. You will see a lot of footage of the people of all ages that are riding the new and Re-Issue Powerflex wheels. You will also continue to see posts of historical pics and or video on our Facebook page, Instagram, and Website. We have had interest from some filmmakers about documenting the company history… so who knows where things will go, but as far as the brand and video in general just expect to see some historical stuff to celebrate the history and some new stuff of new products moving forward. “Powerflex Team Riders Jerry Valdez and Darrel Miller really shook up the early skate scene with their advent garde tricks.”
Whom are your main team riders currently?
First Official Team Riders were Sky Siljeg and Lonnie Hiramoto. Lonnie is an Original Powerflex teamrider from the 70’s who still rips today and is an amazing human that I am happy to have ride them and give me feedback. Sky, I used to sponsor him when I made Acme Skateboards right up until the end and he is one of the most versatile riders on earth who skates and rips all terrain, does it with style, a unique approach and definitely puts product to the test which is really important to me. My goal with Powerflex is to grow it in an Organic manner and let it form into what it’s supposed to be. I’ve given most wheels to friends and people I trust to try and give me feedback. Guys I’ve known for 30 years like Marty “Jinx” Jimenez, guys like Gershon Mosely I used to sponsor on Standard Trucks and who is a pure skating machine, great guys for feedback and honest opinions. I’ve given dozens of OG Powerflex 5 wheels to friends like Spidey, Salba, Bill Billing, Jessie Martinez and that list is really really long. Just happy to see the smile on peoples face when they first see them after so many years, and they have all loved them which makes me even happier. I’ve got guys like Ryan Stewart at So Cal Skate shop who has been testing and torturing like crazy, Daniel Cuervo blasting airs down in San Diego, and have been introduced to new young rippers like Tony Marle from Ryan Endo who worked with us for a while. I hooked my local ripper Nic Rivera that I’ve watched grow up ripping Costa Mesa and he asked about hooking up his roommate Andrew Miller and that’s just how it flows. Tony, Nic and Andrew all placed top 5 in this years Basic Bowl with Andrew winning shortly after all these little connections fell into place.. The amateur bowl winner at that same event Colby Franz who I’ve known since he was like 7 years old wanted to ride our wheels, so I was stoked on that and it just keeps flowing. Got some wheels to pro skater Tosh Townend another lifelong ripper who started Good Skateboards and now I’ve got Tosh, his Partner Tommy, and a couple of their riders Brent Strittmater and Riley Stevens ripping on them. Same with Ned Hadden from Assualt Skateboards, sent him a few sets and he and several team riders have been loving them and giving me positive feedback. Basically I am hitting every angle that involves honest testing, skaters that have fun, and making sure the wheels are as good as they can be. The team will fall into place and bigger names will continue to show interest as they have been. I will not be chasing, undermining other companies by aggressively stealing their riders, or chasing some fantasy that some super big name will make our wheels better. What I will be doing is making sure we make better wheels than what is out there, and the rest of that will fall into place. Amongst the great skateboarders of this world are many riders who always want the best, so as long as that’s what we make, we will have plenty of access to amazing team riders and product testers.
If skaters reading this can’t ﬁnd the new Powerﬂex Wheels at their local skate shop, what’s the best way for them to shop for a set?
Well, we are having good success with online stores like SoCal Skateshop, Tactics, and have the product available at www.powerflexskateboards.com so wheels will always be available no matter what. We certainly do want anyone who has a local skate shop to give them the business and support, and ask skaters to ask their local skate shops to carry the Powerflex Wheels if they do not. We realize it’s really easy for shops to get tired of the onslaught of the same old copycat products disguised as new and that makes it challenging to get on shelves at times, as you get lumped into that category until you show them you are different. So, we encourage shops to check out brands that are investing in quality and technology and not just following a very played out trend, and one by one are breaking those doors down. And for skaters as a general statement, please always share with your local shop the products you would like to see and let them know you’d rather buy it from them than someone you don’t know, but keep them from getting lazy, by letting them know you will buy what you want from where you must if they are lazy and just sell the same old stuff. Everyone needs to keep everyone honest in the new world, or choices get very limited, but you are a lucky generation who cannot be kept from getting what you want, and that’s an awesome power.
How many sets of wheels did you go through during the testing process?
Well, I’ve gone through different formulas, hardness of cores and wheels, as well as width’s, heights etc….. so I don’t think I could really give you a number. I have at least 15 boards with Powerflex wheels on them around my shop and boxes with samples of cores, ridden wheels, wheels cut in half and so on and so forth. The testing process is never ending, and to keep it creative never should be. Even after you have perfect formulas and such, you can test shapes, colors, packaging and all sorts of different wheels for different terrains. I want to be testing wheels forever.
Any shout outs at this time?
Well first and foremost to Bob Ballou, founder of Powerflex and his brothers for helping it get back off the ground and having faith in me. All the team guys and testers mentioned above and the many I am sure I forgot to mention, the people who build awesome skate terrain for me and everyone else to enjoy, all those I’ve grown up skating with from Skate parks, to contests, to demos, to backyard ramps, to private backyard concrete setups, photographers, writers, editors, and everyone who has ever worked alongside of me. I am honored to have been able to skate with almost every influencer and innovator in skateboarding from the 70’s to the present, and I appreciate all the vast experience that gives me, both in understanding people, talent, perspective, and how that factors into skateboard products. I have been fortunate to have had the most wide ranging history in skateboarding. I have been a pro rider, manufacturer of millions of boards and wheels and everything in between, a sponsor to hundred of riders, an industry spokesman and bullshit caller, advocate of skateboarding and skateparks, as well as a provider of products and support for people and companies. I appreciate the part everyone played in helping me, guiding me, educating me, and even the assholes who backstabbed, lied, and tried to undermine me. You have all taught me and shared something valuable with me. Most of you know exactly where you stand with me, whether its hugs for life in most cases, and the few who always wonder when I am gonna punch them in the mouth in some other cases, but without any doubt, I am pretty much the luckiest guy in skateboarding and I am proud of all that I’ve done and all the friends I have made.