CHRIS GENTRY P.R.O. INTERVIEW
…you actually experience ‘the rip-off’. You gotta experience getting ripped off in the system and when you see the numbers on what the networks bring in and what the economical impact of our sports are and how much gets routed back to the athletes you know it’s pretty disgusting…
Your from Houston Texas?
Yup, born and raised in Houston Texas. I was born in 1974. I’m 32 years old and I’ve been skating for 24 years. I’ve been pro for 17 years.
What year did you go pro?
I went pro in 1991.
What was that like?
Turning pro was a very exciting time for me. I think I was in 10th grade, I turned pro and got into home study, my sponsors paid for my school and that allowed me to travel.
What was your first pro contest?
My first pro contest was in Norfolk Virginia, with bikes and skateboarding first time coming together. Matt Hoffman did a flair there before the flares were even a flair. It was the first pro contest that I was at.
How did you get started skating?
My neighbors built a ramp down the street. All the neighborhood kids were really into skateboarding and they built a ramp in their back yard and I helped them build it. Then I ended up just learning how to compress the first day, go back and forth, and I could do frontside grinds my first day. So it was like that was my calling. At that time what parks were around? Did you get around to parks? The skatepark I grew up in was the Skatepark of Houston. That’s where my stomping grounds were. Yea, me and Crum grew up at the skatepark of Houston and the Jeff Phillips Skatepark in Dallas. Then Crum got me on Vision in 89.
Back then who were the big name pro’s you were looking up to?
The big name pro’s were like, well Danny Way was even an amateur, but Brian Pennington, Dave Neilsen, Gene Hare, Troy Chasen, Ken Fillion, all the Texas guys, Craig Johnson, Jeff Phillips.
So when you started competing against them what did that feel like?
It was definitely a huge accomplishment in my life to be looking up to these guys in magazines then be on the ramp with them. It was exhilarating.
So now we are 17 years later, you just got 2nd place in the Huntington Beach Soul Bowl, how much competing are you doing?
I skate on the Dew Tour, the LG Tour, I’m banned from the X Games…So I am just trying to stay in shape as much as possible right now and skate when I can.
Do you do much skating outside of that arena?
Not really you know, I pretty much just work all the time on PRO Riders Organization and I very rarely skate and I still manage to stay up in the top 10 but I wish I could do more. It’s really hard work when I out there doing it because I don’t train everyday like I wish I could, but we’re getting there. Our sports are going to provide real soon.
Where are you living now?
I live in Houston Texas with my son, Micah and I live out here in California as well back and forth. Where do you mostly localize? I am locally everywhere. Houston is my home base. It’s where I go to see my son and that’s where my family is.
Have you ridden any of the new concrete parks out there?
Not really. I stop along the way and ride concrete when I’m out there in the field and it’s conveniently there but I’m usually all over the place and on time constraints cuz I’m in charge of a lot of people. It kind of takes away from having to go to a lot of parks but I enjoy all that concrete parks out there. There’s ton of them out there. Actually in probably the past 6 years I’ve gotten to experience all the parks just through working for companies and doing tours and really focusing on the parks. Now I’m on a whole nuther focus of the PRO Riders Organization and getting the riders what they deserve.
You sound really busy with all the competitions and PRO. Have you have to put your music interests aside?
I had a chance to do all that years ago and get some really good product out of the music. But since PRO started it’s kinda important to dedicate 100% to that right now because it is something that is needed. Me and Brian Manly, Tony Magnusson., and all the guys that are a part of it, it’s important to keep all the guys aligned so it takes away from my skating a lot, but I don’t mind.
Let’s talk about PRO from the top. It was about 3-4 years ago when I first witnessed you guys organizing and getting people behind it. Is it still the same group of people at the forefront of the organization.
Yea, definitely. Me, Brian Manly, Tony Magnusson and many others , we are the people that drive it now but it started out with me and Brian going door to door and signing up all the riders. He brings the Moto X element and I bring the skateboarding and bikes. Together we create this unity of riders and that is what PRO is really about is unity.
What was the reluctance early on or the biggest concern?
Well our sports are notorious for being individual sports and when you start trying to talk about Unions and organizing and all that it doesn’t ring a bell until you actually experience ‘the rip-off’. You gotta experience getting ripped off in the system and when you see the numbers on what the networks bring in and what the economical impact of our sports are and how much gets routed back to the athletes you know it’s pretty disgusting. It’s a void missing and we’re here to fill that void up in a very ‘Pro-divational’ way.
In the first year how many members did you have signed up?
In the first year me and Manly signed up 50 guys in 3 days, bikers, skaters, and Moto X’ers. We hit the whole west coast and then I was on the Matt Hoffman crazy freakin stunt show tour on the East coast and I flew over there and signed up a bunch of guys. We had about 50 guys at the start and now we have about 180 to 200 guys now. After this weekend we’ll pretty much have about everybody by the end of this year.
It was really like a Chris Gentry thing of wanting to do it with PRO, but PRO decided not to do it at the time. It showed that PRO is not owned by me, I don’t own PRO. PRO is an organization that is for the riders by the riders. It’s governed by the riders, it’s governed by bylaws,. There’s a way to act. There’s things that have to take place for it to be a community of one Voice. It’s set up that way. The non-profit is the side of the rules of the sport, the images of the riders and protecting the images. The ramps [guidelines] are this, the size of the , the regulation of the sport, the certification of product. The certification of corporations coming in and taking advantage of our sport. The Protection of it all. It’s the unified voice to grow action sports for the riders by the riders.
If it was working ideally at this time where would it stand? What kind of revenue balance would be ideal for the organizion to thrive and for the sports to thrive do you think?
I think the ideal balance is just kind of like you have an agent and a manager when they represent an athlete. They get usually 15 – 20% of your revenues for doing all the work they do. As a riders organization I feel it’s necessary to get 10-20% of total revenues from any network that has merchandise, licensing products, licensing deals. Because if the riders are risking their life for products and for other people to capitalize on why not work a deal out where you break of 20% or you become your own brand and do your own thing and distribute it your own way and that’s kinda what PRO is about, we’re here to work with everybody. It’s time for the networks to pay up because every other sport has done it. Every other sport has done it. Every player sport, baller sport, roller sport. Here we are as riders and we haven’t done it yet. It’s due time. When your taken advantage of as much as we are statistically just look at the facts and you’ll see it’s very necessary for what we’re doing and being unified.
Is PRO taking any actions in helping the women athletes?
Oh, of course. All rider athletes, girls guys, PRO is going to be eventually the hub for everybody to promote their product, brand, stuff, our industry. We wanna be the hub, like one big mall, that promotes itself. We all got products. There’s all these big companies out there like Big 5 that own everything and the athletes are the ones that don’t have health insurance plans they don’t get a cut of the companies they represent. They get a salary, and you know as soon as they get hurt and they can’t ride anymore they get cut. Their contract is done, they don’t get no benefits, you got no insurance or 401k plan. You don’t have none of that. PRO is also a brand that is strictly a brand just to sell merchandise and make numbers. Ours is to nourish the sport and sell a brand that is going to fund the sport. You need gas for a generator. The merch and the licensing and all that stuff that comes with PRO, 60% of that is going back to the people that make that happen. That’s like no other system, that is second to none.
What do you think of a lot of the Am contests giving out pro money?
Who is giving out $ to Am?
All kinds am best trick contests…
I think it’s like the wild wild west right now. It aint regulated.
How will PRO define a PRO?
PRO will define a pro by the committee. The riders vote on a committee to run their sport. The bikers have a committee, the Moto X’ers have a committee, and the skaters have a committee. There’s a street committee and a vert committee. There’s a dirt committee, there’s a bike vert committee and a moto committee that consists of 3 people for each discipline. Out of those 3 people, one person sits on the executive board. So there is one person from bike, one person from skate and there is one person from moto and one person for our attorney’s and CPA’s. So that is the executive board. The officers club. The officers and executive board control the sport. They control the decisions of all the riders. They go to the riders and ask what do you need?
What if like 10 different riders come to you guys and say hey I wanna be in the organization, but it’s not clear that they are professional skateboarders?
It will go through the committee. It will have to through a ‘hey, here’s this guys and here’s his history, he wants to be PRO, should we certify him?’ It’s a committee thing. It’s a committee of that discipline.
We haven’t even set that up yet. When and how, that’s the thing. Pro is like a land that’s the Wild West and we got every piece of lumber to build what ever we want to build and however we want to build it. If we say we want to get paid on Dec. 1, we get paid on Dec. 1st. ‘Is everybody cool with that? Does everybody want to have a good Christmas?’, alright boom, stamped, signed on, ok next step. You know we are building this organization on what everybody wants so it’s kind of a work in progress. If there’s an issue we talk about it right then and we sign on it, everybody agrees, and it’s signed on. Once you signify something that’s it. It’s done and that’s what it is. It’s all about that ink and paper.
How long until you think the organization will be upright?
Well I think this year is going to be really good for us. We have a debit card coming out in a few weeks where your going to be able to swipe a debit card. You’ll be able to use Kush Cash through your phone. You can go there and upload a program to your phone where you can transfer funds, like having Western Union in your phone, which PRO get proceeds off of for each transaction. We have a merchandise line coming out of clothes, jerseys, hats like the NFL does. It’s not a clothing company but it makes clothes and jerseys where the proceeds go back to the riders. Memberships, there are going to be riders signing up to get information. So all these revenue streams that we do have coming in is fed back to the riders is what is creating the unity and the power to get what we deserve.
How many levels of members does PRO have?
There’s associate members and then there’s riders members.
Are you actively seeking endorsement deals from companies to help?
We’d love to get our website to a point where its getting so many hits that we can sell sponsorships on that. [We’d like to] buy our own ramps, get our own insurance, and get our riders the things that they need. That’s the first thing we’re going to do. We need to keep our generator fed so we can keep building. So that’s the plan. Create ways to generate revenue to feed the riders industries. Because every rider needs a foam pit in there back yard. Every rider needs a vert ramp in their backyard. The sports would progress tremendously if every rider had 20 or 30 acres themselves and have a training facility. You know football players, golfers, basketball players have it, and all those sports, no offense, but my kid can do them all. Not everybody can do what the riders do. They are risking there lives and they are putting it all on the line, they are gambling and if they get hurt they are out. You better have insurance. 1/2 these guys don’t have insurance. There has been no unified voice until PRO came about. Each sport tried to do it alone. Each sport can’t stand alone. The 3 industries alone can’t support themselves to where you could make a healthy living. X Games showed us that when you put 3 sports together you create ‘this’. And what do we all have in common? We all ride. We’re pros, we ride and we’re organized. We are PRO’s!
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