Reinventing the wheel with Kontrol
Article By: Marco Alvarez
Photos By: Brian Walnum
The birth of Kontrol Wheels took place back in 2003-04 when Dan Eger began working with a few engineers who had a new technology to mold urethane. The new urethane-molding process allowed them to manufacture a superior skateboard wheel while eliminating the aspect of physical labor as well as all the waste materials that come with conventional wheel manufacturing.
The companyâ€™s initial focus was to make a high quality, USA-made skateboard wheel; it wasnâ€™t necessarily to make the most eco-friendly one. Dan explained to me that the eco-friendliness aspect of the wheels was really a by-product, but it has nevertheless been a very important issue to him over the years. When I asked about the formation of Kontrol Wheels, Dan said, â€œAfter several years of testing and testing the wheels, they were ready for the market. I called my two best homies, Brent and Jason, and asked if they were down and it was on.â€
When I began discovering more about Kontrol Wheels, I felt a uniqueness in their approach to skating in general as well as in their wheels. Their wheels embody a purity, a conscientiousness in their development that shows a true love for skating.
The team pros are: Ronson Lambert, Andrew Pott, Jed Shooter, Kurtis Colamonico, and Jason Wussler.
The team ams are: Kyle Nicholson, Nate Principato, Alex Valdez, Spencer Brown, Oscar Meza, Diego Najera, Derek Simon, David McCray, and Joseph Mairena.
I delved a little deeper by interviewing Dan to get a further scoop on Kontrol Wheels as well as to introduce their latest design, the NUG Magazine X Kontrol wheelâ€¦
What distinguishes Kontrol Wheels from other skateboard wheels out there on the market?
Aside from the fact that they are injection molded, 100% USA-made, eco-friendly, more durable, have more rebound, flat-spot less, and are just plain better than almost any wheel on the market? â€“ Not muchâ€¦Oh and we actually make them. We donâ€™t just buy the same wheel everyone else has and put our name on it!
What do you think drew you to focus a company around wheels, rather than say, trucks or bearings or decks?
Well, the manufacturing process, the eco factor, the lack of really good urethane on the marketâ€¦It just sort of fell in my lap when I met these guys. I was working for another company and really had no intention of starting my own brand, but it just felt right.
I like the name because itâ€™s simple and straightforward and relates to the importance of controlling the wheel-making process and, thus, having more control when you skate. Did it always have that name?
Names are funny because they can have many meanings. Brent Wingen actually came up with the name after this band Skull Kontrol.Â We spelled it with a â€˜Kâ€™ because thatâ€™s how the band spelled it and itâ€™s Kool! And yes, the whole thing with controlling your board, plus controlling the manufacturing processâ€¦It just all worked!
Who did you look up to in the skate industry when starting to skate and then later when developing Kontrol Wheels? Inspirations?
I started skating about 23 years ago, so it was real different then; but my whole life, I wanted to be in the industry in some aspect. I was always an entrepreneur as a young lad. My first real board was an Alva Fred Smith III loud one model. I looked up to Steve Caballero, Hosoi, guys like that. Street skating was almost non-existent at the time, especially back in Pittsburgh, PA. Then later, it was Gonz, Jason Lee, Guy Marianoâ€¦Those dudes changed the game.
Businesswise is a very different question, but I guess one of the best in the biz has to be Jamie Thomas. He seems to be doing it right!!! Iâ€™m not in this to get rich. I love skateboarding period. Always have, always will. I just want to stay involved in the sport and maybe help some kids along the way.
Are any of your wheels designed specifically for street or vert, or are they all generally cross-functional?
We do have a new harder street formula available now. Most of the guys really like it, but in general, the wheels are great on all surfaces.
Does Kontrol Wheels have a video out or in progress?
Sort of!!!Â Itâ€™s always a process, but I would like to get one out eventually!
Are you always open to considering new riders for the team if they have what it takes?
Yes, we are always down for new talent. Send footy!
What trick doesnâ€™t get old for you? Something youâ€™re stuck on these days?
Tre flips. And Iâ€™ve always been stuck on Nollie flips!!!
Letâ€™s say youâ€™re in a game of skate and itâ€™s your turn, what do you do?
Well, it depends on who Iâ€™m playing and at what point in the game we are at. I can always break out a late shove-it or a backfoot flip or something, but you donâ€™t want to play those cards too early. Itâ€™s strategy, like a game of chess!
Did you ever try to use those old school rail guards on the bottom of your board? Heheâ€¦
Yea,Â I used those back in the day before we started waxing everything. I used rails, mini rails, lappers, copers, jaw bones, the whole nine. My board must have weighed 20 lbs. at one point!
Whatâ€™s one of the craziest things youâ€™ve ever seen done on a skateboard?
Wowâ€¦I have seen a lot of crazy things done on skateboards over the years, from actual tricks to dudes riding around naked with socks on their junk, etc. For me personally, itâ€™s hard to say. I used to jump down some big stuff back in the day, but there is still no better feeling than just stepping on a board and cruising even if your days of â€œbangersâ€ are over!
So now that Iâ€™ve asked you questions about the broader picture of Kontrol Wheels as well as some random ones thrown in for good measure, let me ask you about the latest set of wheels you just released. How did the idea for the NUG Magazine X Kontrol Wheels collaboration come about?
My buddy who ownsÂ thediggeronehitter.comÂ put you guys on to Kontrol.Â After some discussion, we decided it would be a good idea as we both support the same cause â€“ the medicine!
What materials are used to make them? Is it mainly urethane and hemp?Â Does the hemp play into the durability of the wheel as well as the eco-friendliness?
Iâ€™m glad you asked these questionsâ€¦Iâ€™m going to set the record straight here and this will explain a great deal about the wheels. All of our wheels are eco-friendly because itâ€™s in the manufacturing process, not the urethane. The manufacturing process is also why our wheels are far more durable than any other wheel. Anyone else who tells you different is lying to you.Â All those guys out there saying they use hemp or soy oil â€“ itâ€™s all a gimmick. Those materials may be in the wheel, but it actually makes the quality worse because it interferes with the chemical bonds. Those wheels are still molded conventionally; thus, the waste material is still produced and still deposited into the landfills and it does not break downâ€¦EVER!Â So any hemp or soy they put in the wheels is not in any way helping the environment or making those wheels eco-friendly.
We donâ€™t have all that waste + We make wheels using new technology = Most eco-friendly wheel!
Are the NUG Magazine X Kontrol wheels available online as well as in skate shops? Have they hit the shelves yet?
By the time you read this article, the wheels should be available online and in shops while supplies last (only 420 sets were made).
I love the way these wheels look. They have our NUG Magazine logo beside the Kontrol Wheels black eco logo thatâ€™s imposed on an orange lighter; and I love the big bud below the line, â€œCannabis is not a Crime!â€ The NUG Magazine X Kontrol wheels represent such a dynamic synthesis of elements: a regard for the environment, a celebration of skateboarding, and an appreciation for cannabis. The graphics illustrate the idea of these interconnections.
What is it about skateboarding and cannabis that makes them blend so well together? Are they simply both countercultural?
Skateboarding, like anything, is expression and art.Â I think if you look back over time, you will see that artists have always used cannabis to help express themselves in one way or another.Â For me personally, it just makes the experience more enjoyable. It helps me to block out the mundane b/s of day-to-day life and focus on skateboarding and having fun.
Dude, I absolutely canâ€™t wait to try them on my setup. Having a wheel that functions excellently, is eco-friendly, and looks sick is as good as it gets! Whatâ€™s next for Kontrol Wheels?
We have lots in the works for Kontrol in the future. We have a few new wheel shapes coming out. New colors and better formulations to our current wheels. We also are about to release the firstÂ recycled core cruiser/filmer wheel. We can use our technology to take old wheels and mold new urethane over them. Itâ€™s a great way to utilize waste and keep it from hitting the landfills. We also have a longboard wheel coming out shortly that uses the same technology. 2011 is going to be a big year for Kontrol!
I would like to thank NUG Magazine, Marco Alvarez, the entire Kontrol team for all the support, especially Ronson Lambert, Andrew Pott, and Alex Valdez. Brian Walnum for always taking sick photos. John and PJ at the Kontrol Factory for making the wheels, Bill Dennis for the dope artwork, Jonny B @Â thediggeronehitter.com, Brent Wingen, Jason Reilly, and especially my wife for putting up with me all these years.
In addition to this exclusive interview with Dan, I was lucky enough to join some of the team on a photo shoot at some local spots. I got to help with a few of the snaps and even got to skate the spots with them! The downtown Embarcadero spot was so fun and the nearby ledges were a perfect complement. From there, we went to the coolest new spot Iâ€™ve seen lately, Snatch, a skatepark being built by skaters themselves. You can find this super down-low spot under a bridge by Qualcomm in Mission Valley.Â Some of my favorite tricks throughout the day were Ronson Lambertâ€™s half-cab crooks revert out, Alex Valdezâ€™s front blunt, and David McCrayâ€™s insane frontside wallride over a fat gap. These guys straight up killed it wherever we went! They kept it real and treated me like I was part of the team. Look out for the Kontrol team â€“ they bag some serious tricks that just make you go, â€œOhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!â€ You can check out more pics from the skate shoot online at www.nugmag.com!
For more information about their wheels and designs, or to place an order, scope out the Kontrol Wheels website at www.kontrolwheels.com, or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KontrolWheels. Theyâ€™re always giving out free wheels!