More Propeller Hype: Interview With Vans’ Geoff Rowley

More fuel to the Propeller hype: As part of the media get-together before the Berlin premier of Vans’ excellent first ever skateboarding video Propeller we did also get a chance to sit down for a chat with Geoff Rowley to talk media formats, dedicated part filming and a Tony Alva state of mind…

Hey Geoff, let’s dive into it straight away: Do you think Propeller is going to save the full-length video format?

Well, “save” is a pretty heavy word, right? These videos are big, big projects; we’ve filmed world wide to get ten or 15 guys three to five minute parts! It’s a lot of work. People think: “Four years – that’s a long time! They should be able to do it in six months!” However, it’s not really about how prolific you are on a board – take Rowan (Zorilla), he filmed most his stuff in nine months! Within the four years of filming, I’ve skated for about two years as of all the injuries. So, to get back to your question: I wouldn’t say it’s going to save it, but the video sure is a nod in the right direction! We want videos that are all about just skateboarding to keep coming out. The fact that a brand the size of Vans sees that as valuable is really important, it’s promoting professional skateboarding. Because if we lose that we’re going to K-mart for our skateboards.

So, I take it as a very good sign you guys still believe in a world where people’s attention spans haven’t dropped down to bite-size footage chops. Do you think we will see some kind of resurrection of the full-length then?

I think we still have all of this; it’s maybe just a bit tougher right now. Generally we get the videos from the skateboard companies, and like I said these things cost a lot of money to make – and times are tough! You can see it in many ways. Mags are struggling…


I know! And Sidewalk too! And it’s no different in the united states. All of us are thankful that we’re still skating and are able to be figuring out a job in there… but I think even more so it’s important we support these full-length videos. And, to answer your question whether Propeller in a long format is going to hit the mark online: I think it might. It’s refreshing, it’s – I hate to use the word – authentic, but it is! It’s really natural that it’s presented that way. It’s not trying to be anything. It’s just showing the riders of Vans and what they are about. And I think that especially is going to transcend to younger people and to all the generations. And so it’s definitely supporting the full-length format, that’s for sure. But making this video we also recognised we needed to do a lot more now around it than in videos of the past, because of that online presence. You going to see a lot of videos coming out during or after the Propeller release that are all supporting it just to keep the ball rolling.

Making best use of left-overs?

Yeah, that stuff, but also actually full-on video projects on the sides of Propeller. That’s a lot more work.

So, right now you are doing this premier tour, and what’s going to happen after? The iTunses release? What else?

Yeah, it comes out on iTunes May 5th, the DVD’s with a book are available late June. So you will be able to get hard copies of it not too far into the future.

And after that all you guys can really focus on your instagram careers, yeah?


I don’t know, I can’t speak for everybody on the team. It sure isn’t what I want to do. I like to go out and film stuff and be able to look at it 20 or 30 years down the line with everything still available and accessible versus it’s just gone, eaten up and swallowed up by the world wide web. I guess it’s up to your personal opinion. But you know – and this goes to the print photo/film topic as well – we’ve seen these shifts happen before, in the late 90’s when skating picked up again. The people that didn’t want to do it 110% started doing other stuff. So… no easy answer.

Yeah, interesting times. But getting back to Propeller, are you stoked on your part?

Yeah. You know, I have to be. Any video you finish – generally it’s the death of something. There is this moment of: Wow, we’ve worked pretty heavy on this and now, here you go: done! Working on the Vans video especially felt pretty surreal, just because it’s such an old brand. There is so much history and therefore people expect so much. Greg an I talked about that really early on when he got hired. I told him: Don’t take that on! Just do what needs to be done, don’t try to please everybody. Do what’s right for the team and the riders, and that in turn will be what’s right for skateboarding and the brand. But for my part, I’m stoked on it. I had to deal with some injuries, which was tough for me. It just so happens that for a lot of those Flip videos I was injured early on. But I had filmed so hard that by the end I was pretty much done with my part about six months to a year before most of the other dudes. I was never fighting for footage. I wasn’t fighting for my Propeller part but I filmed right until the very end, because of all the injuries; last year I took a gnarly slam and had a bad internal bleeding and almost died.

What trick was this on? Is it in the video?

It’s in a bonus part. We didn’t put it in the film because you can’t see where I land. But that’s just what happens. You know, you break your ankle and you can only skate so much for a little while… so, I’m stoked on my part. And I can say I had much more fun filming this one than on any other parts I have done in the past. To really enjoy it like that is an achievement. So, on the one hand people might say: “Oh, these guys must have been going nuts for this…!” – And we were, but in the same light we were just having fun with it. And that says a lot about Greg and it says a lot about the Vans team and Steve Van Doren. And that’s maybe the biggest thing I’m stoked on making this video: That we finally gave Steve Van Doren’s family a full-length skateboard video – they’ve been supporting skateboarding for 49 years! – And they really have: Just look at Vans – almost a three billion dollar company – and the logo is a skateboard! If you’re a skateboarder that’s pretty rad. So being involved in this video for everyone is quite an achievement.

What else do you think you guys have achieved with Propeller?

Let me tell you one thing: We’ve got the best soundtrack! Which really says something. It’s rad, rad music in this video. Energy filled music that helps the flow of everyone’s skating. From very early on we knew the importance of classic music that would add to the production and be timeless. They’ve really put a lot of effort and resources into it.

As you say Vans is a lot about the many generations of skaters involved. Would you say something is inherited from one Vans generation to the next? Is there something like a red line throughout the video, something that gets passed on?

Well, I think when you see the video and the flow of it, you’ll notice it’s not about how old you are or where you’re from, where you’re at, what you do – it’s about the people that are in the brand and how they represent Vans and what base they have with Vans. I think that’s going to be really refreshing for people to see because I don’t think there ever has been a video that’s done this. If you just started skating right now, as some kid, you’d be like: Wow, Tony Alva, who’s this?! But then you went and looked: Man, he’s been around for that long!?! For me, I grew up skating with a guy twelve years older then me, so I was schooled with this Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Santa Monica vibe from early on and that has definitely influenced my skating from day one; even in the 90’s when everyone was wearing baggy gear, in my had I was slashing like those guys – even when I just wasn’t! (Laughs)

Thanks Geoff.

Intro & interview: Jan Kliewer

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