Whether it be the Ballistyx retail store, Goin’ Ballistyx Snowboard Show, One of their many team riders or one of their many sponsored event, its hard to miss Ballistyx in Aussie snowboarding today. A team working together to keep snowboarding real, keep it accessible and make it for everyone. They continue to bring snowboarding to the masses and make it so damn fun along the way.
The name Ballistyx began as a store yet today represents so much more. We caught up with Steve from Ballistyx to get the inside word about all things that is, Ballistyx.
How did Ballistyx come about? What has been the key to your success?
I had been racing motorcycles for a living here in Oz and overseas when all of a sudden it came to a end (who would have figured!) and I had worked since a kid in motorbike shops and my other passions besides motorbikes were skating and playing Ice Hockey which I had done since I was about 8, so I started Ballistyx, we sold ice hockey gear, skateboards and rollerblades during the boom, but I learnt very quickly if you offered people quality at an affordable price you had half a chance of getting their business, if you offered consistent quality service you and sold them the right product for their needs then your chances go up even more. I was told by a very successful retailer at a young age, “it is the long term value of your customer that counts”
Ballistyx has branched into Internet, TV, Snowboarding Team and more now. How important is your retail store to everything you do now?
Our retail store is the heart beat, 20 years this year and I still love coming to work, I remember as a budding bike racer trying to get sponsorship and how hard it was, so having the retail store allowed us to be involved at all levels of the sport. I have always supported the young guys who are serious about what they are doing, we have some remarkable talent in Oz considering our limited snow culture and I look forward to the day when our riders can genuinely make a living out of what they love doing, without our retail store we couldn’t fund the things we do.
What’s your favourite product for the 2009 snowboard season? What can we expect to see more of in store this season at Ballistyx?
Without doubt the reverse camber boards, what have we been doing for the last 20 years? These things are going to make a lot of people have a lot more fun, a keep a lot more new people in the sport and riders will progress faster and hence enjoy the sport more and want to do it more..
Your thoughts on the ‘Import your gear from OS online’ vs. ‘Buy from a real store’ debate?
It is a massive issue, in fact the biggest single issue the industry has fronted, 7 stores in Melbourne disappeared last year, most blamed the Internet. Ballistyx have embraced it, I think everybody has the right to shop wherever they wish and for a shop to think that a customer should be loyal is farcical, you have to offer the person a lot more than an argument of support local shops. We have prepared for this for the last few years, we saw the demise of ice hockey/in-line hockey here in Victoria, everybody bought online, every shop disappeared, no support for teams, players etc, the whole sport went down the gurgler, ultimately if the same happened to snowboarding it would become a recreational sport that would disappear off the radar very quickly.
We would like to think we were the first shop to tackle the problem head on. We provide in every category product which is the same price as you can get online, not on all product but the range of product that we have that is price competitive is now enormous and getting better all the time, combine this with our service such as our guaranteed boot fit and other things we do, 95% of the time the customer will buy from Ballistyx rather than a overseas online store but the difficulty is getting the message out to the public with what we actually do for them. Our TV show, Team riders etc is all part of that message, our new website gets launched in July which will be the industry leader, we currently get around 1000 hits a day and growing daily. People will be able to buy online and have the satisfaction of warranty, quick exchange, returns etc, we have to make it easy for the customer and when making the decision to buy local or overseas then providing our offer is strong enough the money will stay in Oz.
Why did you start the Ballistyx Snowboard Team? How important is it to you to be involved the nurturing of the sport from the ground up?
We started the team in the early nineties with riders such as Matty Nance and Stuie Johnston, Craig Mitchell, back then a team rider was usually sponsored by one of the major wholesalers and was linked to a shop to promote their products and the shop, it was fairly limited, but because of my motorbike career I knew what was required to get sponsorship and how important value was to the sponsor, so changing the mindset of the riders and the industry was a challenge and we still have a way to go but I look at some of the things we have achieved for our riders I think we are on the right track.
Ballistyx because of our TV Show and retail store has been able to secure some great deals for its riders over the years, some riders who received a beanie or track suit pants were able to get on a contract and get paid, air travel and a lot more, a couple of riders have actually become full time professionals on a salary through deals we have negotiated. Some of the deals which the industry hadn’t seen before were very satisfying, Such as when we got Cheyne Southwells deal at Falls creek where he was the first “Resident Pro” he was paid a salary to reside at Falls Creek, promote their park much like the way a golf pro is at a golf course. It was a new idea which I think Falls Creek got great value out of. Cheyne had just won Stylewars and we had got him on the Ride Team and everything was happening for him, he was about to film with the International Ride Team which would have been his big chance internationally but he blew his knee out a couple of days before which was tragic for him, but to create that chance and his Falls Creek gig showed that the mountains and industry can think outside the square and this is what I believe sponsors in general should be trying to do for their riders, create opportunities, then the rest is up to the rider.
What you look for in a Ballistyx team rider?
Lots of different things, from a commercial perspective, being a centre of influence the Robbies and Mikeys are definitely that but with the young guys coming through to the main thing I look for is SPIRIT and discipline…. Got to have the want, I’ve seen so many talented riders without it, but if you don’t have the desire then it’s not going to happen. Jason Maxfield is great example, working two or three jobs as 15 year old, getting up at 6 in the morning to go to gym, he has got it. On the other side we see the talented kids who wants to just party, pop pills and drink, these days it is almost impossible for these kids to make it, he will be cool for five minutes. Societies attitudes are changing and sponsors need the deal to be a two way street.
Who are some of your riders to look out for in the 2009 season?
Robbie Walker, it is our ambition to make Robbie the first male household name in snowboarding in Australia. A great role model, if any parent wants to look to a rider for inspiration then it is Robbie. Ryan Tiene has just come onto the team. I love his energy. Lots of fun and a true example of what snowboarding is all about, Mike Williams since his switch to the DC Team, Mikey has got a renewed desire, you will see a lot more of Mikey this year. Him and Tiene will be doing stuff together on the TV show, these guys together are very funny!
But the young guys coming through, of course Scotty James, he is under the guidance of Benny Bright, WOW the talent this kid has, he is at a higher level than Shaun White at the same age, but locally Jason Maxfield if he stays in one piece and little Nic Wood, he is going to blow up, Robbie rates this kid highly, but lets hope that not too much expectation is placed on him to early. The list goes on, Kieren Mcluaghlin, long be touted as one of our most promising riders is no longer a kid, but look at his style, I think he has one of the best style in OZ and combined with his talent he has the chance to make it internationally, Kieren has had a rough couple of years with but now has got it all going on. If Kieren puts it together this year we will be pushing him hard for an international gig.
Also Jo Shaw, often forgotten, she is beating the Europeans at their own game, she is the sleeper for the Olympics, qualifying 1st and second against the worlds best, 4th place finishes in the world Cup, Jo had a few issues in believing in herself but has changed that now, she trains harder than anyone and committed as an Olympian should be, don’t be surprised to see her cause an upset at the Olympics.
The TV show, running since 2003 has gained a massive following in the community, and even secured a network TV spot on channel 10 last season. Are you surprised by the success? What has been the key to making such a great TV show?
It started as a bit of a joke and it was, but we had my nephew Richard Edwards who was a producer and my wife Natasha who is the host, both had been in TV for some years. The early days it was pretty ordinary but it was a platform which wasn’t available anywhere else. It became at that stage Channel 31s highest rating show ever with about 90,000 viewers per week in Melbourne alone, Nationally figures weren’t available but it bought snowboarding to the general public. We put in guidelines to start with, no drug or alcohol references or swearing. That was already catered for on programs on Fuel for example. I felt snowboarding had to be presented to the public in a way that appealed to the majority not the minority. We copped a lot of flax from a small group for not having pro snowboarders as our presenters, but our presenters were exactly that, great presenters and the general public agreed with us, the mums and dads didn’t want the heavy bro factor and in their eyes certainly didn’t want their kids growing up like that! The show was no offensive and appealed to the 90% not the 10% We are not surprised by its success, we had a plan to get onto network Television in four years we did that, we knew what was required and we stuck to our guns and we got there, I never actually believed that we wouldn’t. We are still look upon by many in the industry as a little channel 31 show but that is changing slowly. Some of the mountains are now embracing us as a genuine centre of influence.
Do you feel the show loses or gains anything from being on a commercial network?
It certainly doesn’t lose anything at all, our show is not hardcore, already catered for, it is the first snowboard series to make it to a National free to air Network anywhere in the world and there is pretty good reason for that as previously stated. Channel Ten were fully booked for air time when they decided to take the show on and moved things around to fit us in , Channel Ten did not promote the show, put it on in odd time slots, and said we will give it a go and see. We had faith in the product and knew if we could break through then many other doors would open. Even though it was shown out of season in November (ratings period) and December it won its time slot, in Sydney we had 37.5 % of the total viewing audience, in other capital cities it increased its viewership in every 15 minute segment, that was a rarity. Channel Ten were stoked on the show and high level of production reached and particularly impressed with the two host, they will both end up on other TV shows in the near future.
So being on a commercial network is better for everybody, Ten will be promoting the show this year. More people watch the show in one week than all the other print media combined throughout the year so it has added another very positive outlet for snowboarding, we are working together with Australian snowboarder and Transfer mags and having everybody working together as opposed to each other, this is going to make the pie bigger for everybody and the sport a lot stronger.
Will we see you back on the screens this year? Anything new to look out for?
The show will be on air this year during the season, starting in July, it will be shown mid week on the HD channel One (Correcton since interview – Now to be aired on GO! HD), so make sure you have got a top box, the show has been shot this year on the new P2 HD cameras and Oakly Reds so it is going to look sensational. We are auditioning at the moment for a couple of new roles which hopefully will give the chance for a media career for two more people in the industry, Tash and Dave will end up on other shows in the near future and we are developing two new shows for production later in the year which will create more opportunities.
This years show will be slightly different, last year we had very short post production time, this year we are so far ahead which will allow us to get the production standards to where we want. MindshareWorld one of the largest media groups in the world (winner last year of Global Media Group of the Year) is taken over the distribution of the show and it will be repackaged up and they intend on distributing the show globally, which is great news for Aussie snowboarding.
Thanks for your time Steve. Any last words for our readers?
We will have all the news on our website re the show, a big thanks to Rich, Staggy, Chris and everybody who has been involved in the journey for the last few years and remember snowboarding is not about how good you are, but about how big the smile is on your face!