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Behind The Lines: Dusters California

Dusters California: Putting The Fun Back In Skateboarding

Dusters California is (from left to right) Eric Sentianin (product and R&D) Nano Nobrega (Creative Director) and Steve Douglas.

In a day and age when just about every brand has added longboards and/or cruisers to its catalog, it can be hard to stand out from the pack. For every new line, there comes a littany of shadow products that would make Xerox proud. But Dwindle Distribution’s brand of heritage cruisers, Dusters California, is bringing a fresh look and vibe to the table. Taking its name from the legendary ‘70s muscle car, the Plymouth Duster, skate legend and Dwindle’s Don of Business Development Steve Douglas sums up the brand in five words: “skateboarding, California, heritage, lifestyle, and fun.”

“I grew up in pools and ramps and was fortunate to turn pro back in the late ‘80s,” Douglas says. “During that time I had to progress doing some tricks that were not fun, but it was about getting that sequence for that ad. What I like about our Dusters program is it gets me back to the roots of why I fell in love with skating in the first place—fun. Just pushing, turning, grinding, and going fast.”

When talking with the Dusters team of Douglas, Eric Sentianin, and Nano Nobrega; the recurring theme is fun. Inclusive fun in a time when the pool of active skaters is shrinking. We caught up with the trio to learn more about Dusters and how they’re seeking to stand apart.

What sets these apart in the ballooning crop of cruisers?

Dusters is built by a core skate team that understands, in and out, the functionality of these boards with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. Throughout all these years of skateboarding and manufacturing we learned the importance of the fit and finishes of a skateboard and you can see that by analyzing every single details on Dusters boards.  Besides the core functionality, meticulous fit and finishes and the incredible price point compared to our competitors, Dusters California brings to all our riders out there the true heritage and lifestyle of skateboarding by portraying in its art direction, the same vintage looks and vibes as the beginning stages of skateboarding in Venice Beach, California, back in late ’60s and ’70s.

Check out Dusters’ Summer/Fall 2013 line and a look at some of its billboards around Southern California:

VIEW: THUMBS ENLARGE
(image 1 of 23)

Dusters Summer/Fall 2013

So  you guys are building these in house, Where’s your factory?

We design Dusters in El Segundo, California and manufacture in our overseas factory. You can get a real sense of the factory and how we manufacture skateboards from this video that we produced shortly after the factory was completed:

How does building your own boards help from a cost, delivery, and quality standpoint? What can you do to detail these that OEM’ers can’t? 

The main advantage of manufacturing our own boards is the ability to control the quality at every step. Not just from the point at pressing veneers, but from the arrival of the logs. Wood is an organic material and needs to be stored in very specific temperature and humidity controlled environments. By eliminating a middle man in the supply chain we have the ability to offer competitive prices at a higher quality and higher margin. This higher quality comes in terms of material choices, cosmetic treatments, and finishes.

Who is your target consumer for Dusters?

Skateboarders.  It’s a short answer… But we make great product for people who want to skate, whether it’s to bomb a hill of simply cruise to the corner store.  The line has a wide variety of boards to fit everyone’s needs from short board that fit in a school locker to medium size ripable cruisers to longboards, drop-throughs and drop downs. The product offering was developed to cater to every level of skater.

I’m stoked to see you guys are focusing on the ladies. I’ve been surprised that more skate companies aren’t making an effort there with cruisers and longboards. Do you see this as a strong spot for growth?

Most definitely! Women have always been part of the industry in and out of the skate parks and Dusters is just making sure they share the same spotlight as men do!

The fact that this is sort of an unexplored market in skateboarding, it opens up huge doors increasing the amount of skaters, followers and fans. That increase in the demand will just benefit the industry as a whole and will most likely make skate parks look a lot better with beautiful ladies skating instead of solely a bunch of sweaty guys!

Why did you decide to partner with GRO and how do you see this getting more girls on board?

We are always looking out for ways to help skateboarding grow bigger and more accessible, and with the latest collaboration Dusters did with old school pro rider Cindy Whitehead, we figure we could aim straight to the ladies.  So we looked for all sorts of nonprofit organizations that are somehow helping women and their rights and we found GRO, a nonprofit that works to inspire, educate and support girls through action sports. It couldn’t be a better fit for this collab.

Tell us a little about the vibe and construction of this line.

Dusters’ focus is on creating great looking product using premium components at a fair price. We can do this by having our own factory and cutting out cost and passing on the savings to them.

It’s really about the finishing details of the board; using wood branding for the Dusters logo, incorporating v-ply veneers into the construction, or using unconventional wood inlays. The graphics are 70s retro inspired infusing the beach and surf lifestyle. While the artwork and feel of the brand is throwback, the constructions and shapes of the Dusters line remain authentic as well as progressive, especially when it comes to the drop-through and drop-down constructions. These types of longboards are made for bombing down hills.

The completes feature ABEC-7 bearings with Slant trucks or Slant Inverted trucks. The slant inverted trucks are reversible. They can be used in either a 50-degree or a 54-degree configuration to adjust your turning radius depending on wheel base or preferred turning geometry  .

What trucks and wheels are you using on these and what do price points for completes look like? 

We use our proprietary truck brand Slant. Slant have developed a unique Reversible truck with a special hanger that offers 2 angles for different riding styles. We will be re-introducing Kryptonics wheels (the original ‘Star Trac’ styles) on some models stating in Fall which we are really excited about I rode these wheel in the 70’s and they were a game changer, currently we use our own Dusters formula urethane. We use Dusters Abec 7 Ultimate Cruising High Performance bearing for all our Dusters models. Our compact cruisers (Ace) start retailing at $100, with most of our best-selling cruisers (Keen, Cazh, Flashback & Kosher) retailing around $110 – $120.  We have great price points for our longboards,  Demo & Summer models starting at $130 with our premium longboards retailing between $160 and $230 for our top end models. One comment we repeatedly hear is how great our build quality, fit & finish is compared to some other brands, it really helps when you have your own factory. We live eat and breath skateboarding and our Customers notice and appreciate all the extra details.

We’re digging the Hendrix and Doors models. How difficult was it to set partner with those guys from a rights standpoint?

Definitely working through lawyers to get all the contractual items can be a lot of back and forth, however once the legalese was behind us I would have to say it’s been great working with these groups.  They have both been excited about the opportunity and our ability to really work with their assets in different ways to make some really great looking boards!  Going into this I’m not sure they really understood what we are capable of producing now days as they were pretty excited when we were able to show them samples.    I must also say that the Doors management have been especially open and proactive in supporting the marketing efforts to promote this product.

Any concerns on eroding Dwindle’s brand equity with core street skaters by adding the Dusters brand? 

If we had started Dusters in the dark days of 1992 I would say yes, but today not at all, most brands have cruisers and long boards so a brand focusing on that can live right beside a core brand, at the end of the day its about having a healthy diverse business that focuses on Skateboarding. In a recent retail run to core skate stores on the east coast—95% of all shops I went to had longboards and cruisers. That’s great, we need healthy skate shops.

What’s your take on the cruiser market? You think it’s a fad or here to stay?

I think its healthy for everyone, its definitely not a fad, people love skateboarding for what it is—fun. Some people just like to roll and others like to learn tricks and others just like to go fast etc. What is so great about skateboarding today is that whatever you are into as far as skateboarding  its all going on at the same time. From downhill, to slalom to street skating, to the mega ramp, and everything in between—people love to  roll. I believe the act of skateboarding is the healthiest it has ever been.

How have orders been on these and what types of shops are they mostly going in? 

Our Dusters sales have continued to grow rapidly, and are now one of our top brands at Dwindle. Our Jimi Hendrix and The Doors collabs that are being released now have helped open people’s eyes to the brand. We have also expanded our longboard range as this is where we see most of the current demand. Dusters is carried by our core customers – the ones that are open to cruiser/longboard sales. We also do very well with Zumiez, CCS, and Vans stores and we are opening up new stores all the time. The shops that have Dusters in stock are selling them well above class average so we know when they get on the shelves, in our dusters rack, that they sell and sell well.

Best session you’ve had on a Duster(answered by Steve Douglas)  I grew up in pools & ramps and was fortunate to turn pro back in the late 80’s, during that time I had to progress my skating doing some tricks that were not fun but it was about progressing and getting that sequence for that add. What I like about our Dusters program is gets me back to the roots of why I fell in love skating in the first place in the70’s, FUN. Just pushing, turning, grinding and going fast, so my best session is every session I step on my board.