With a name like this, the product is everything. No bullshit, just exactly what it says on the bag. It’s simple really.
I got in touch with Sami, who runs FSWC with Tony and Dennis, and suggested we meet at Parlour back when the DC Special Delivery Tour was in London so I could find out more. That night over a few too many beers, we talked about the wheels, his plans for the company, the rest of the team and a lot of other stuff I can’t really remember. He kindly hooked me up with a set of 52mm’s and I’ve been rolling on the fresh white ever since. We exchanged emails because Sami was moving to Barcelona the following week.
My favourite email of the whole exchange was a Google map screenshot, taken from somewhere in the Southwest of France with the caption, “we’re in a bus! Haha. With a fuck up force major missed our flight… All flights were so expensive we jumped on a 25 hour bus ride. Sore ass. Haha! But hey we are going. Slow but sure.” We let it sit for a while as a lot was happening with his move. The week after Shitfootmongoland we caught up on Skype and ended up talking for around two hours, the result of which is the interview you can read below.
The funny thing about that coach ride to Barcelona is that it kind of sums up the Fast Wheel Skateboard Company. They’re not trying to rush anything or force it. Sure, the wheels are fast, but they’re taking it slow. It’s a brand that is growing organically, trying to make the right moves, and supporting the skaters, shops and other dudes that have helped them before. Put simply, the Fast Skateboard Wheel Company makes a damn good product, one that they can stand behind and back with everything they have. There are few people I’ve met who are as stoked about skateboarding as Sami is right now.
The wheels are the best I’ve ever ridden, and I’m comfortable with that statement because Barney Page and Albert Nyberg were the first two members of the Fast Team, so they know. The wheels are fast, noisy, the shape feels really stable underfoot and they’re super fun when you push them around. The product does all the talking, and I have a feeling you’ll be hearing about FSWC in a lot of languages over the next few years. If you want Fast Wheels, you know what to get.
So Sami, you just got back from Shitfootmongoland in Berlin. How was it?
Fucking hell it was so cool, like I was so happy about it, it feels like there is a true renaissance going on right now, you know? With the European skating, and actually skating in general, it’s really cool, like there’s not just new companies who are feeding from it, but there’s so many new kids who are skating amazing and just being down, there’s just so much energy, instead of just trying to be cool or disillusioned or whatever. At least that’s how I feel about it. It’s really on. Super good.
With the Mongoland it was really good for us as well. And I got to say Alex and Sean and everyone else who was in the mix had done such a good job in putting the show together. There were rad shops and distributors too. The ones you wanna see. It’s so dope to see things getting back to the roots and having the good old raw feel into it. Proper blast!
It was the same time as Bright Tradeshow right?
Yeah, I actually went to Bright on one of the mornings, I was so stoked not to be there [Laughs]. Shitfoot was the raw thing that everyone was looking into. For us it was really funny, we weren’t even selling anything, there was no pressure, there were a lot of cool people backing us. It was nice. It was my first trade show in like two and a half years, so it was good to see a lot of old faces and get like, super hammered. I was so fucked up I don’t even want to tell. Five super solid party days and nights. Good connections and business too.
Tell me about the Sour Premier. How did that go down? It was with the Free Skate Magazine launch as well right?
That night was fucking ace, the video is insane too. It’s so raw, there’s some amazing skating in it and so many Fast men too. The whole night with the Free party was brilliant. I was talking to Sam Ashley the next day and we both agreed it was one of the best nights out ever. It was just so good, so raw, and everybody was just really having it. The vibe was just really positive. Desert Crew and some other fools on the decks – just funny music and nobody seemed to take themselves too seriously. Sour had a great premier in Copenhagen on Saturday too. Bjorn just sent me a few clips from that. I’m actually here in the Sour office just now sending off some orders and doing all the Fast stuff.
So you and the Sour crew share an office in Barcelona then?
Yeah, I guess we do. But it’s more than that. I’m helping Bjorn with everything and he is helping us… and it’s just a good fit you know. We got something really rad brewing here. Maybe it’s a distribution hub, or an agency, or all of that and everything else in between. The office has definitely become a place for all to meet and work and see what’s up. When Bjorn got this place it was like a cave, really rotten, but now it’s so nice. What they’ve done with the space is amazing. Bjorn had always wanted to have a fast miniramp. The miniramp was the first thing that got built actually. Everything else is around it. It’s cool they have this setup. The feeling is great, now we have this space. No bullshit.
You recently moved to Barcelona. How is that? How does that affect Fast?
Yeah I did, to El Masnou to be exact. A nice 10 miles up the coast. I’m really happy to be outside of the city, cycle in to the office or take a quick train. It’s pretty chill with really good skate spots. I had a skate at the Premia de Mar old ghetto park this morning. Then a swim. Then sweating in the Sour office at Poble Sec.
With Fast its cool as Tony and Dennis are in London and they are taking care of all the UK shops and the scene. I can focus here to take the company to Spain and onwards. We have hooked up a cool Fast Spain HQ for everyone to come, skate and hang out. And with Skype and all the technology and experience available we can keep it tight.
Can you tell me the story of how the Fast Skateboard Wheel Company was born?
Yeah, as everything cool in this universe it was just a natural coincidence. Something was about to pop out. Tony called me up and said he wants to start a company called Fast Skateboard Wheel Company – I just started to laugh and said I know exactly where Fast Wheels are made cause I had been riding these sick ass samples for months without a flat spot and they were just FAST. They came through a mad connection and now we got a factory totally backing us up.
I vaguely remember you saying that the Greyhound logo on the wheels is a picture of Tony’s dog, is that true?
Yeah, it’s a picture of Tony’s whippet. Well the outlines of his whippet. The whippet runs the E17. We always had an idea of the company look and feel and our friend Lucas from 243 fame helped us to smooth our ideas and get it all looking sharp and tidy.
I have to say, the wheels are amazing. It’s good to focus everything on the wheels, you’re the Fast Skateboard Wheel Company, and it makes sense.
Yeah man cheers. We just focus on putting the best wheels out there. When it comes to the wheels and the urethane, and actually any of the products, it’s just the stuff we want to have. Like, none of us would skate colour wheels, so we don’t make them. It’s really simple actually. [Laughs]
Everything is about focus. For the first year, we just wanted to have three sizes so people get used to the urethane and the shape of the wheel.
Even with the four tee-shirt designs, black and white, long and short sleeve, when we were sold out and needed to get some more we were just like ok, our favourite is the black long sleeve, so we’re only going to do that one for this run, maybe a white short sleeve for next month, and so on.
And with limited resources you have to make the right moves, of course you make fuck ups, but I don’t think you need to do all the different stuff just to get the sales numbers up. You can simply do the thing that you think is the best thing out there and what you stand for and that’s it.
Of course this is only the start. For next year we are working on more sizes and signature wheels and so on. But in the end, what we really try to do is put the best wheels out there with the best possible price for everyone to enjoy.
You can spend more time focussing on what you want to do, rather than what you think people might want.
There are a lot of wheels out there you know. These are the Fast wheels. If you want to skate Fast wheels, you know what you’re getting.
Could you explain a bit more about the wheels, and what it is that makes them so fast?
What makes the wheels so fast is the urethane compound. 83B is really hard compound with a high rebound. We also love the square shape that gives the wheels more momentum and gives you a faster solid ride. The compound is flatspot resistant too. They’re just the best wheels that I’ve ridden. They have a weird grip once you got them settled. But you can slide as much as you want. They got this real good control. They feel different. They feel fast.
We agreed that we didn’t want to go too much into your personal background, but what is it like starting up something on your own?
It’s cool. I used to work for a big skate company and it was great. I learned so much and I hope I managed to pump some energy back into it. I am so grateful I had that chance. I travelled the world and met all the good people and made all the connections. Then after 5-6 years I just had to take a break and live my own life.
When I quit my job I was kind of scared. For half a year I was like what the fuck am I gonna do? How am I gonna pay my rent? What’s gonna happen when my savings run out? What’s gonna bla bla bla… then I told myself, shut the fuck up, you promised yourself a break, so fucking have a break, just shut up. So that half year became a year, I was just doing random shit, playing music, being a hippy, writing songs, skating a lot again. When the idea for Fast came up, my mind was open and fresh to new ideas, I was like bang! Full of inspiration.
And I guess with your own projects – if that is what you want to do and if it feels right – you should always have the balls to take the dive. Wait for the inspiration, and then when it comes, you just have to throw yourself into it and follow your instincts. Sometimes it sucks, and it is challenging, but you have to go with it and grow with it and be prepared to fight the problems.
You will also have to be prepared for a financial slump and work other jobs to make the numbers meet. With Fast we all agreed straight away that every single penny we made from this would go back into the company and for the next three or four years that’s how it will be, otherwise we’ll have absolutely no fucking chance in making this work. So you’ve got to be ready to be skint and pick up other jobs on the side too. But that’s actually cool. There is way more to life than having money, or spending it. It’s easy to preach, but it’s so much more rewarding, even in the tough times.
Also, Tony and Dennis and I are all old friends, so it’s super sick to have a project that brings us all together again, it’s the best excuse to hang out and go to skate, figure out the business, and sometimes go to Berlin and get fucked up for five days. It has many sides to it.
The team you’ve put together is sick, how did that come about?
It’s amazing. But it’s not even a team that we’re putting together; it’s putting itself together. It’s forming organically.
Let’s talk about it then. First it was Barney and Albert, how did you know those dudes and how did you decide to hook them up?
One thing leads to another. Barney is the man. From the first point when we started to develop the company I wanted to have him on. He pretty much epitomises what FSWC is all about. He’s a rad, laid back dude and he skates fucking amazing and solid and fast. I always trip out when I’m on a spot with him. He’s a good friend and a loose cannon. Barney is the VP Team Manager too! It can be though as he is always on a tour or soaking in the sun in Thailand or something. So you never reach him, but he is on it. At the time when Fast came about Barney was in Cali with Albert and he just said Albert wants to ride for Fast too. I was so hyped. Albert is an amazing skater. So gnarly too, way gnarlier than people give him credit for and a great guy. Just a pleasure to hang and skate with. So fuck yeah.
From there shit developed pretty automatically. Hanging out in Spain with Nisse (Ingemarsson), Ulph (Andersson) and the whole Sour crew. The whole Sour crew man, we’re super tight with those guys and what they do is amazing. Ulph is a legend and he is a SMOD boy like Dennis. So yeah! You want some SMOD blood in your system. Nisse is the boss. Julian Kimura is a total Fast man. We’d been skating with him and then we were all drunk at the Desert premier. I got to know Ville (Wester) through Julian and now he is on. We’re infiltrating Denmark. Those Danish kids are totally Fast. Desert Crew are Fast.
There are great guys at Mile End too – like Kyle and Sam. That whole London scene is important to us cause that’s where we are from. We want to support that scene as best as we can. And there are plenty of homies with Fast underneath them so we will see what will happen. But at the same time we go easy on it and see what fits and what feels right. Not pushing it at all but seeing when it clicks. It’s totally to do with the homies.
On the other hand we’re developing the product with the team so it’s pretty important who is on in that sense. In the future all new products and signature stuff is gonna be made around the riders and what they actually ride and prefer and come up with.
It’s cool that you started out just stocking the shops, to help spread the word I guess. Any shops you want to give a shout out to?
The shops have been truly awesome. And on the sales side the shops always come first. We’ll try to take good care of them and develop Fast together with all the right shops. That’s why it’s important to keep it all focused and tight. A big shout out goes to all of them.
Parlour has been absolutely killing it for us in East London, that’s our local shop, they’ve been doing good. Ideal has been great in Birmingham. Native has been super good in Newcastle. Forty-two has been awesome, like a proper hardware shop. Note, Welcome, Tom’s, Focus, Skate Pharmacy, One. Palomino is in the ring too with some others coming into the play… All good shit…. Creative up in Scotland, big shout out to those guys. I’ve heard crazy stories, some of the shops have said that half of their wheel sales is now Fast and the other half is for the rest. That’s pretty insane. Creative said their whole town loves the Fast Wheels. Haha! Of course it’s just the few shops but its good to have your hot spots.
Also – you’ve got to remember that for the shops it’s a bit of a challenge. We are a new company and you really have to get the merchandise out and work on your display. If you do it right, they really sell. But you have to make the effort and play with the Fast bags and put the wheels out on show. Nobody is gonna buy a paper bag, without seeing the wheels or sampling the urethane. It’s as simple as that. We’re so unknown that people will not know our name, and they won’t look at a bag and think oh there’s a sick set of wheels in there. But when it works it works and the shops have been really supportive and cool and nice. It’s a good feeling. Big up!
Even so, I remember you said you sold out of the first run really fast.
Yeah that was something crazy like three weeks, two and a half weeks. But the nice thing is that they’ve all been selling through the shops too. We also just opened a web store to serve the world. Especially in Sweden and Denmark there is a lot of interest – but no shops yet. So it makes sense to give everyone a chance.
How about growing the company now that there is more demand?
At the moment we are just trying to build everything solid for the future. We’re just keeping calm heads and trying to do the right moves to grow the company solid for us and for the team and everyone else who is involved. You don’t want to outstretch yourself – but we are not primadonnas. What makes sense on the long run… we’ll try to do that. But now we’re calm on it.
With the move to Barcelona, have you got your eyes on any shops there that you want to stock your wheels?
Yeah for sure. In Spain we want to be in the right shops just like in the UK. You can already get them in FTC Barcelona. There are some shops here that I would like to have us in. Like the Welcome dudes are super tight in Madrid. But we will need to keep it manageable and tight. We’ll see how it goes and grows. Also in Berlin there were some real cool shops from across Europe with the nicest people so we shall see where the Fast Wheels will fly.
In the end it’s a family effort. Riders, shops, fans, groupies, Fast men. We are all in the same shit.
Words: Will Sleigh
Photos: Ricardo Muñoz Carter @ricardomuca