Skateboard Rules (for the New Economy) 

This 17-year-old punk from the suburbs rides a skateboard, loves his mom, and uses the N-word. He'll probably make $80,000 next year.

Page 5 of 7

Last St. Patrick's Day, things weren't so cool. Corey was in Santa Rosa, and he agreed to go out with a photographer and videographer to a twenty-stair rail. The rail was gorgeous. It was easy to ride up to and had a nice landing area -- which is supremely important when riding rails. By the time a rider has reached the end of the ride, he's gathered screaming-fast speed. There was only one problem. The rail was made of aluminum, not steel. Aluminum is softer, and tends to stick to the skater's board. Corey decided to wax it down, which, at twenty stairs long was terribly risky. Wax generally makes the ride faster.

While he slicked the rail, Corey kept his reservations to himself. He'd always been strangely concerned with "wasting" a photographer's film. "After you get there with two other people, you just don't say no," he says.

Since there were no other skaters to warm up with, Corey found himself doing the stunt just for the cameras. Finally, Corey mustered the adrenaline, circled his wheels, sped toward his target, olleyed, landed on the top of the rail -- and watched his board stick beneath him. Corey's body kept going down the stairs. He fell into the rail crotch first, straddled it like a cowboy, and then flopped into an unstoppable roll down twenty stairs, tangling up with the rail a few times on the way down.

At the bottom of the fall, which was captured on video, Corey's body crumpled and looked dead. In the end, Corey broke his cheekbone, nose, and right collarbone. His hands were bloody. His scrotum was badly bruised black and blue. It later swelled to the size of a coconut, tore open, and had to be held together by butterfly Band-Aids. One of the photographers helped Corey up and gave him a ride to the hospital, and dropped him off.

Looking back, the pressure to succeed for film is always present, Corey says.

"You always want to skate your best when you've got photographers out there. Right now, it's getting so hard to one-up yourself. But if you wanna make it, you have to do it."

7. Create Market Demand

Earlier this year, Corey made it. Support from older skaters like Templeton and sponsors like Emerica's Regan earned him a place back in the industry. Initially, companies flowed Corey boards on the down-low, not wanting to openly support him. "Who would want to get behind him?" Templeton asks flatly. "Who wants to say that a racist is cool?"

Yet Templeton was one of those interested. His Toy Machine brand, along with other majors like Zero and Foundation, were all interested in Corey and flowing him decks. Templeton says the notion of Corey actually harboring racist feelings was bizarre, and one that few took seriously. "If Ed Templeton would put this guy on his team," Templeton says, "then everyone would know this kid was OK."

When riders accept goods for free, there's some expectation of loyalty to the brand. Templeton says he was ready to move things along with Corey, perhaps bump him up to pro by the end of the year, when suddenly he heard that Corey had jumped to Foundation Skateboards. Amateurs get to turn pro only after their sponsors believe there's enough demand for the skater's name to sell pro-model signature boards. "Everything was moving along fine," Templeton says. "But he's a young, antsy kid who really wants to get things going for him. I don't think he could wait, or at least couldn't communicate that he couldn't wait, in a mature way."

Corey says riding for Foundation has always been his dream, and that he and Templeton just crossed signals, and remain friends today. Ever since he was a kid, Corey says, Foundation was stocked with the gutsy riders he admired. The team is marketed as the "Glam Boys" of skateboarding, and there's an emphasis on individual flamboyance. And, of course, Foundation also offered to top any salary number that came Corey's way.

Foundation team manager Josh Beagle has known Corey for six years. "It took me a while to get the courage up to ask him to ride for me," Beagle says. "A lot of companies were skeptical of approaching him, for the obvious reasons. But all his true friends knew Corey got the short end of the stick. Of course it bothers me if somebody calls our company racists -- because we're the farthest thing from it. But we'll take a chance on Corey. He's worth it."

Beagle believes Corey has grown out of a spouting-off phase. "I'm not worried about him doing or saying anything that would embarrass himself or our company. I'm more worried about him hurting himself again, and not letting himself heal."

The kids are already calling Foundation, Beagle reports, asking when the Corey Duffel pro model will hit the shelves. Once Corey gets his pro model, he'll earn about $2 from every deck sold. Coupled with a handful of choice product endorsements, a first-year pro can easily earn $80,000. But Beagle and Corey aren't moving too quickly; the idea is to create buzz, and strike the market at the right moment. "I want to be in demand before I turn pro," Corey says. "I want the kids to think I'm amazing."

Corey answers all of his e-mail and shakes hands with all of his fans who approach him around town. "I want to have as many fans as I can. They're going to be the ones who support me down the line. I want them to say, 'Yeah, Duffel. We like you.' Not, 'Fuck Duffel. He's no good.' "

One day a few weeks ago, Foundation listed Corey's e-mail address on their Web site. As Corey sat at his home computer in Walnut Creek for just two minutes, not a moment went by when the sounds of an instant message didn't light up his monitor. Hundreds had arrived, from skaters in Arizona, New Zealand, and Brazil. Most just asked Corey how he was doing, or what it was like to be a skate star. One female fan sent her prom photo with her date's head cut out and Corey's filled in. Corey finally turned off the computer and said he'd answer all of them later.

On the same afternoon, Corey received a box from Foundation and spread out the spoils across his living room floor. At Corey's feet lay half a dozen new decks with the Foundation logo, bags of wheels, pants, stickers, patches, and T-shirts. Corey valued the goods at $650. Also in the loot, Beagle stashed two studded black leather belts. Corey took the belts out to the backyard and tossed them in the swimming pool. "The water will loosen the leather," he said.

The postman also delivered Strength magazine's "Readers' Poll Issue," the annual feature that asks kids to vote for their favorite skate pros. Corey was the only amateur to make the issue, and he wedged his way in as an editor's pick: "Skater Most Hated/Likely to Get Voted off the Island/To Ask Where Did My Career Go?"

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