Hard to believe that the Randal reverse-kingpin truck is now over four decades old. We had a chance to meet up with Jim Ball and his son Steven of Sure-Grip to catch up on things. Look for the Randal RIII truck hitting shops now.
For those who don’t know the history of Randal, can you give us a brief overview of the last few decades?
Jim Ball: Randy Fuller came to me when I was in located in Lynwood in 1975. [He] had this new design for a longboard truck. No one even knew of longboarding at the time, that is a fact. We helped him design the truck which became the Randal 1. He purchased about 500 units and drove back to Palo Alto. I did not hear much from him for about two years until he came back for more trucks. The longboard business started to grow. Randy was interested in lugeboarding in complete leathers. If there was a hall of fame for longboarding, Randy Fuller should be the first member. His design was revolutionary at the time and ALL longboard trucks have copied the design. No one deserves more credit than Randy. I know for a fact because we worked with him in 1975 and longboarding didn’t exist then.
What are some interesting things about Sure-Grip that most people in skateboarding don’t know?
We started making roller skate products in 1937 when my grandfather designed a wheel made out of phenolic [resin and fiberglass] with a rubber inlay center that provided more grip than standard wheels at the time – hence the name Sure-Grip. Aside from roller skates, we make all kinds of products here from lounge chairs to pool thermometers. Not our brands, of course, but brands for other people. My grandfather was a tool and die maker for the oil companies here in California, and he felt that he could make a better product for his favorite pastime, roller skating. Obviously we do skateboards as well, and we have been doing that since the ’70s. In the beginning we did have our own brands and our own team or riders; it was a very fun and interesting time. A few things changed and we got out of the business as a brand, but we continued to work with other companies making trucks. I’m sure we at some point worked with just about everyone in skateboarding in one way or another. Since 1937, and four generations later, we are still here, making products for kids and adults all over the world. We are vertical in the manufacturing process from casting the truck to injection molding the pivot cups. Everything is U.S.-made.
Randal trucks have an amazing legacy within the world of longboarding. What is your hope for the Randal RIII?
To continue that legacy for another 40 years. Continuing to develop the basic design. We would love to do the same as the VW Beetle: revolutionary design and keep improving. The design is very strong and ahead of its time; remember, everyone has copied the basic design.
What are some key things that you’ve improved upon for this new release?
Different cushions for a more stable ride, machined cushion sets, machined pivot pin and an all-around beefier design. Big difference compared to the Randal RI and RII.
Why did you purchase Randal Trucks?
We understand customer service, and quality. We are very proud of what we do. I’m very proud of Randal. We purchased Randal to preserve the history and the legacy. As the years go by, others will enter the market and leave the market, but Randal will stay Dollar for dollar there is no better longboard truck on the market today.
There has been a lot of talk about jobs lately, especially jobs returning from overseas back to America. What’s your take on this?
I don’t have the answers, but I can tell you based on my experiences. It will never happen without help from the government. The duty-free issues are causing the problems; we can’t compete in the U.S. with this type of structure. We can’t compete with the labor rates either. We need the government to slow down imports or at least support U.S. manufacturing with a reasonable duty structure. There’s a reason why the U.S. economy is not producing new jobs in the manufacturing sector. It’s not glamorous work by any means, but it’s what helped build this country, and it’s a shame we don’t have more of it. It’s good honest work.
What are some of your plans as it relates to sponsorship?
Steven: As of now we are taking a more grass-roots approach, starting small and seeing where this goes organically. I want our riders to determine where this goes. I want them to weigh in and make this something special again. I think so far we have done a great job, and I want to keep going in this direction, as I trust the people that we have in place.
Over the years Randal gained a following in many countries. What has been some of the best response you’ve encountered?
Steven: I think this has been the natural progression of things. We see it now more than ever with the help of the Internet. It’s awesome to travel and meet people that somehow know the back-story of Randal. I think that is very special. This is an iconic brand, and I think it still has a place in people’s minds. My only hope is that we can continue this journey and grow skating for many years to come. I don’t think many people know the entire history of Sure-Grip and how it relates to Randal, but I hope we can change that in the future. This brand holds a special place in our company’s history, and we want to keep it for years to come.
When it comes to manufacturing, what gives you the greatest satisfaction?
U.S.-made. We can still compete (it’s hard, but we still can) and proud of it. After being in business for over 75 years, we are so very proud. We stand behind everything we make.