Ryan Lay's second Welcome wind
A year ago, Welcome Skateboards am Ryan Lay had about as rough of a week career-wise as anyone could have (aside from quitting all your sponsors to become a rapper). Within days of each other, he was kicked off Enjoi and told that his new board sponsor, Welcome, was not legitimate enough for him to remain on Huf Footwear. In the blink of an eye, he went from being fully kitted out to delivering Chinese food. A lesser man would've cracked, but Ryan pulled himself up by his bootstraps, went back to college and started a program to help homeless and underprivileged kids, all while filming one hell of a welcome part for Welcome.
He's in a better place for it and happy to talk about it.
XGames.com: Tell me about the roughest week of your life.
Lay: A big reason I wanted to move back to Arizona from NYC was to be with family. I have had a slew of problems within my family due to drugs and alcohol and I've definitely been down the ringer with that. I have a brother who has his battles with mental illness and alcoholism and another with his own addictions. But if you're asking skate career-wise, I've had some misfortunes in the past year with sponsors, but I like to think that I landed on my feet properly and I'm happy for that. I've had some mentoring to try and find the light in all bad situations.
What's the real story with you getting kicked off of Enjoi and Huf?
We all had a meeting at Enjoi. Brand manager Matt Eversole was leaving and/or being forced out, and he was the life and blood of Enjoi, as most people know. Jerry [Hsu] said he was leaving, and I was under the assumption that we were all going to leave. I started to look for other options because it seemed like the company was destined to go out of business after Matt left. I went on a Europe trip with the dudes from Huf and I got back and I found out Jimmy Carlin was on, Cairo [Foster] was team manager and Louie [Barletta] was going to be brand manager. I was like, "Maybe this is going to be possible, maybe they can make Enjoi work?" Then Louie calls me like, "Hey, you're a great skater and great guy but you don't have a future here anymore." It was the last thing I was expecting.
Why was that?
I have no idea to this day. It was a bummer, but I didn't even talk to anyone on the team except Cairo because he's my good friend. I think it was that I was an outsider, I'm not from San Jose, I had no intention of moving there and I like doing things at my own pace. I don't think Louie really liked that. And having that meeting where I said I was going to quit after Matt and Jerry left he was probably like, "Let's just cut him already." Unfortunately that played into me talking to the team manager at Huf while I was talking to Jason at Welcome and I really wanted to ride for Welcome. I was in the mix at Huf where they were going to put me on the team, but instead the team manager said, "I don't think it's going to work out with you. Having a legitimate board sponsor is part of the criteria for riding for Huf." And I was like, "Okay, cool. Thanks. I'm going to go back to school." And I signed up for school that day.
They don't view Welcome as a legitimate board sponsor?
I guess not, which I thought was silly since Welcome is outselling most brands right now in core shops. But I understand, the have a pretty stacked team already and I'm not Dylan Rieder. I'm not going to be selling shoes. So in about a week, I was on track and filming for the Enjoi video and traveling with Huf to working a job delivering Chinese food and signing up for school.
How did Welcome come about and how did they take it that they weren't a real board sponsor?
I think Jason Celaya [Welcome Skateboards creator] was pretty annoyed, obviously, because he knows how well they're doing right now and is frustrated that no one really wants to recognize that. There's only a handful of companies right now that I thought were doing things that were really interesting. I really like the things that the guys at Magenta and Polar and Welcome are doing by not really subscribing to the ways other skateboard companies are.
You just put out a part for Welcome. Was that your pro part?
No, it's not. I would like to turn pro some time next year. I just talked to Jason about it. With them it's really interesting because they don't do things the typical way. They have a really loyal following and the kids who ride Welcome don't really care about skating outside of that. Like Chris Milic is wildly popular with the kids that ride Welcome and he doesn't have any other sponsors but I know he can sell a ton of boards. That goes for everyone on the team -- I think I'm the only one on the team who has other sponsors outside of Welcome.
How much more pink clothing did you have to start wearing once you got on Welcome?
Ha! Yeah, Jason sent me a pink hoody that I had to wrap around my waist and I was good to go. He told me, "Make sure you don't do so many hard switch tricks."
After losing Huf and Enjoi, were you tripping?
To my own fault, I've always been weary of putting both feet in the skate world. I'm always frightened of the idea of waking up and being 30 and making 15 grand a year. I feel really fortunate right now.