Name: Kevin Thomas Porter
Location: Long Beach
Through the years, Kevin Porter has made himself the poster child for the brands he represents. KP shows his stripes proudly and he has always attempted to align himself with the slightly alternative choice and strays a bit differently down the sponsorship path. Always out there promoting, pushing, and shining a light onto the people and projects he’s repping, if KP believes in it, he backs it 100%. Same was the case for Duffs for the past two and a half years–up until last September. After the departure of team manager Brian Osborne as well as Alex Magallan and Jake Seeley, Kevin Porter and Jimmy Levan stayed aboard, hopefully letting the ship keep its course. For these guys, the stakes were obviously a bit higher–both had signature products through the footwear brand established early in the 90s. Unfortunately for Porter, monthly support and other compensation stopped rolling in.
Kevin had been talking for a while about considering making an actual announcement about the situation with Duffs. I figured it was the perfect time to talk about what exactly went down, how Duffs was for him as a rider, Brian Osborne’s revered brand building skills, Kevin’s loyalty and commitment to family-style brands, his take on working with rider owned companies, and more.
Explain your current situation with Duffs Footwear.
I left Orchid to go ride for Duffs with a new, larger opportunity to reach a different demographic of riders and skaters. Orchid was obviously strictly into BMX, which I was down with. But, I am a big fan of skaters and at the time I had a coffee shop and we did a lot of skateboard stuff; interacted with the local skateboarders a lot. So I thought it would be cool if I could reach out to them with a signature shoe.
The deal with Duffs gave me a signature shoe. There were a lot of stipulations and hoops to jump through to get my shoe into the skateboard wold. I took my own name off of the shoe and named it the Tierra, since in the BMX world that is already linked to me. Originally I planned for the shoe to look a lot like my bike; have a lot of similarities. We tried to make it look seamless, which is really similar to the investment cast on my bike. I worked for a year with a former pro skateboarder who designs Duffs’ shoes, who is a really nice guy. We did a lot of back and forth, and pumped out a shoe. While there were some issues with the initial batch, we addressed those issues and the shoe came out, and actually did really well. So it was out for a year and then around September I stopped hearing from them. It’s almost as if I’ve disappeared. The year prior I had spent really promoting the shoe and the brand.
Let’s talk about Brian Osborne for a minute. He was the main factor in getting you back on Duffs and really got the BMX side of things going…
Brian, he worked really closely with the owner and he did a lot of work to get Duffs back on the map. You know, this is a really old company in skateboarding and BMX. So Brian saw a lot of opportunity to give the brand a rebirth basically.
And he had a prior relationship with Duffs before.
Yeah, he had an identity there. He had his own shoe company going for a second there that ended up falling through and he came back to Duffs, which is similar to what I did. I had a previous history with Duffs in the late 90s, early 2000s before I got on Orchid. And Brian saw an opportunity for me…I think Brian put me onto the team because I would not only ride, but do a bunch of promotions with other companies, and not just BMX. So together we worked together to get checks for all the riders and just grow the company, so there was more to give back to BMX. And I was super down for the cause especially since we were able to pull some money from skateboarding. Anyway, Brian had high intentions on building the brand and I respect him dearly for that. At the time, I was working on the coffee shop and fading from BMX a little bit, still hanging onto what I had, but really not focusing as hard. So when I detached myself from the coffee shop, he saw another opportunity for me to sort of rebirth myself and my BMX career, and get it back on track and I think he was right on par with that. I worked hard for two years, produced a shoe that sold for a minute…unfortunately there was a lot of miscommunication between Brian and the owner and I think he saw a greater opportunity with iPath which I felt was a very good move.
After word got out that Osborne had left, I heard you were aiming for the team manager position.
We did a trip to Houston and he left me in charge of it. I made the best out of what I had. It was the cheapest trip I’ve ever been on…our budget was tiny. I worked with Walter Pieringer and the team really hard, I tried to work with other companies that the riders were involved with, with the thought of, “Hey, maybe if we can help out this small BMX program that’s going, maybe they can get going to the point where they can invest more in the riders in the long run.” That was the most I’ve ever gotten out of a trip for what we used. I’ve always assumed that Brian knew that if he left, he could leave the team with me.
So you had some drive to take on a larger position with more responsibility out of anyone?
Yeah, and I gotten on the phone with the owner, briefly. He was worried about BMX surviving at all and pulling the plug on BMX totally. He had just been in remission with what was going on with the distributors and the logistics of everything so it led me up until today where I’m still wondering what’s going on. My signature shoe is still being sold, but I haven’t seen shoes, I haven’t seen royalties, I haven’t seen any of that. And I was down to still push the company, which may be foolish on my part.
Did you stop getting paychecks before or after Osborne left?
After. He put in a good word that I’d work hard for the company for very little, and I would. To be honest, I’d rather push really hard for the industry to pick up shoes so that we could sponsor more riders…my main goal is to be at a jam and be throwing out product at a jam for free. When I was a kid, that was my favorite thing, was to just grab something that had some sort of name on it and be like, “Wow, I get this shirt, this is so cool!” I even know a lot of kids will catch a shirt at a contest and then go rolling around saying he’s hooked up by that company. I don’t have a job like that in BMX but I saw an opportunity for it to grow, even for next to nothing.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been sitting and thinking, “if I pull the plug now [in regards to officially leaving Duffs], they’ll probably just forget about me entirely. You know; income, anything that I’d been promised, it’s over.” And I held out really long where I’ve just gotten to the point where I’m over it.
Were there any sort of legal documents or contracts in regards to paychecks, royalties, etc.?
I had a verbal agreement over the phone with a couple of people as well as e-mails. That is partly my mistake. I felt like I didn’t want to push buttons, picking up a sponsor after not being seen for a little while, so it was sort of like, “I don’t want to push any buttons…if they say they’re going to give me a signature shoe, I’m sure they’ll take care of me…” Shoe royalties; it’s almost a bonus.
Were you given anything initially by Brian or anyone over there?
Brian used part of his budget to help me; he knew that I would work hard for what he had. My thing is, “If you can pay me that’s great, but if not, I’ll do what I can. I’m a BMXer from beginning to the end, so I do this anyways.” I don’t like to be taken advantage of–I’m a huge believer in karma. If I do something nice for you, I would hope that you’d do something nice for me. Hence why my relationship with Flybikes has been so beautiful for eight years because David [Quesada] is the same. He really likes when people are doing those types of things. I’m down to help him, he’s down to help me, and that’s how that kind of thing works.
So after all this time, you’re officially announcing that you’re off of Duffs. You don’t have anything lined up and haven’t really been pursuing anything. What are you rocking now?
Since I was seventeen years old I really haven’t purchased a pair of shoes, which I’m super grateful for. I’ve never had a hookup with Vans and I’d always been a fan of the Classic. Which, when I was on Orchid, was why you’d always see me rocking the Orchid casuals, because it was the closest thing to the Classic as you can get. Recently, I went out and bought a pair of Classics and I’m super gung-ho about ’em. I feel like I’m super behind on that, ’cause everyone’s walking around with the newest versions of them. They’re good for riding, not heavy riding since they’re so thin, but just down the street. Also, Tina and Tom from Empire did a shoe designed by Adam Roye. It’s a really nice shoe and they sent me a pair, so of course I’m excited about that. I feel like that shoe kind of has the form of the classic with the structure for riding.
You have been doing work lately at Quintin Co., helping out doing sales?
I have been working with Quintin and behind the scenes, they are awesome. They are totally in this for making a good thing happen. There’s a huge factory, there’s other things going on in this factory [outside of BMX], they’ve built this brand because they want to be down with BMX. The type of loyalty they have is so wonderful and I immediately fell in love with their family instincts.
Is this a company with a family vibe that you can see yourself trying to work with for a while, along the lines of Fly and Empire, which are much like family at this point?
Yeah, definitely. I took a job at Quintin because I knew those guys are super down. They’re going to help me, I’m going to help them; it’s going to be a growing position. I get to work with Mike Ardelean…he’s up here man! He’s notches above me. He has an educated mind when it comes to these things. He was a professional before I was, so when I’m in front of him, he educates me. I totally respect his vision and he’s worked with companies outside of BMX and he’s brought that influence to BMX which I wouldn’t mind doing someday. So I’m super stoked to work around him.
Throughout your career, you’ve worked with the more core, family style brands. Is that something you’ve always been drawn to or has it always sort of played out like that?
I’m a very natural person with my choices in life. So if I’m hanging out with a rider like Derek Adams and riding and bonding with him and he approaches me with an awesome deal, I’m obviously going to consider that. He was there when I was a kid, flipping a box in Road Fools and he was one of my heroes. So it’s really hard to turn down offers like that. But over time, Derek’s company had it’s difficulties, went up and down…I tried to be there, tried to promote as much as I could but in the end, it came down to me surviving so I was like “Man, I gotta make a choice here. I’d love to stick around but…” And Derek is still there! Still killing it. I would never talk trash about Derek. I wish he had more funding to be more creative in life with way more companies because he has such a good eye for things. I used to be so stoked on every shoe that’d come out of that place, but things change and things go by. I mean, even Van Homan rides for iPath now. I never thought I’d hear that. We were in sort of the same shoes–how could he leave his best friend? But in the end, Derek understands that if he can’t be there for you, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Last words, thanks?