Dennis Busenitz is one of the most universally respected skaters in the game. With an almost incomparable mix of power and finesse, he’s crushed everything in his way at break-neck speed. 2016 marks the tenth anniversary of his relationship with adidas, a union that grew to help define both Busenitz and adidas Skateboarding. We caught up with the man himself when the Away Days Tour hit Melbourne to take stock of Dennis’ decade of destruction.
Congratulations on the ten-year anniversary! When you first signed to adidas the skate program was tiny. What gave you the faith that joining the brand was going to work out?
There was no skate program really. I think they still had Gonz, Lance Mountain had just left. I don't think they were doing anything with it – It was just, kinda there. Bryce Kanights started working for them and he hit me up. He has a lot of experience in skateboarding and was somebody I respected. Also, Jim Thiebaud at DLX was really encouraging and told me it was a good idea to pursue it. At that time I was with DVS and they weren't going to give me the attention that adidas was going to.
It was definitely a solid move.
At the time, it didn't seem like that – and I got a lot of shit for it. It was at the time when corporate companies weren't really accepted in skateboarding. Nike has just got in and it was still kind of weird. I just went for it, I didn't expect it to work out this well!
Your first pro shoe came out in a period when Vulc shoes were the standard. Instead, you dropped a sneaker that not only had a cup sole but a soccer-inspired toe and a long tongue. Did it seem like a risk?
At first, it did. Towards the end when it was getting close to finished there was some talk about it being a little weird, and there were doubts if skaters would like it. It was different – but it was never a freak shoe, it didn’t stick out. At the end of the day, it was a shoe that I liked and I was gonna skate, so I was happy. If it would just last for a season, I'd skate it for a season – and that's that.
At the end of 2012 both the Busenitz Vulc and the ADV dropped. The Vulc took off, the ADV was great but it didn’t seem like it survived.
It was a little too expensive in stores, and people weren't buying it for that reason. I think it was close to a one hundred dollars in the States. That's a lot to ask, but it probably would have lasted a lot longer than most shoes.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that your pro models come out in so many colourways, but personally you seem to like classic adidas combos. What’s your favourite?
I always like the ones with the gum sole and just black with the white stripes – like the classic Samba colourway. I love that, and I'm convinced gum soles are grippier. Even though that's probably not true at all! I like the classic colours and I have a hard time with the wild ones. I used to be pretty against it, and would try to keep them boring. There are people out there who like the bright ones and it's not really fair to them to just play it safe. I always ask them to have just one or two basic colours in the line-up, and then I'll be happy and they'll be happy. [Laughs]
In Away Days you’re seen wearing a Samba-like shoe that I don’t think we’ve seen before. What’s the deal, is it something you’re working on?
It's my new shoe. I want something with like a t-toe or an anchor toe, because there's nothing in the skate line with that feature. I was hoping that we could do it without being a blatant bite of the Samba. We started from scratch and used the last from my Vulc shoe that I really like. There was some hesitation about it too, as t-toes have never really been that successful in skateboarding. But I like it and it looks really nice and skates well.
A pair of the Friends and Family Horween Leather Pros turned up at the office. The build quality is incredible. You must be stoked.
I’m really happy with them – and there are only 300 pairs.
You can sell them on eBay.
They'll know it's me! [laughs] I got the first ones, number one of 300.
You'll get more money for those!
I'll sign them too! [Laughs]
Are you stocking a few special models at home? Do you have some mementos that you’ll treasure when you’re an old man?
I don't try to collect things, which I kind of regret. I have my first board. Well, my brother has it actually. I don't have that much stuff – adidas wanted me to give them some things for the ten-year celebration. I started going through the closet and I don't have many items that are older than a couple of months.
I wish I would have kept those first samples of my first shoe. It would be kind of cool to show my kids at some point. I really didn't expect it to go this well so I'd just be like, ‘Oh, whatever.’ I'm going to hold on to those one of 300 though! I'm not gonna take those to the Salvation Army!
- Images from Melbourne Away Days tour by Andrew James Peters.