Jon Fromm is a close friend of mine, and someone who's skating I've followed for a number of years now. From park rat, to rail rat, to professional skater. Come with us as we sit down with Jon and talk about his beginnings, what being a pro skater means to him, and what the future holds. - Photos by Sean Macgowan
Jon's Razor Pro edit. Watch it again!
Firstly, congrats on getting Pro.
JF: Aw, thanks man, I appreciate it.
I’ve been following your skating for a long time. I’ve seen you evolve from Valo’s and some of your first street profiles to the skater you are today. From what I can tell, even as a kid, you’ve always been out there ripping. I’m really glad to see a close friend of mine make that climb all the way to the top. With that said, what does it really mean to you to be a “pro skater”? What's the definition of “pro” that you’ve aspired to?
JF: First of all, it means everything to me. I kinda set a goal when I was younger. When I was first sponsored by Razors when things really started moving, I really started to push myself to make it to the top. I never went into it for the money or anything like that. It was really just me putting my mind to a goal and achieving it. So that in itself was a huge accomplishment for me.
To be pro now-a-days to many people, it doesn’t feel like that much or people don’t perceive it as that big of a deal. I even mentioned this when my section dropped, I feel like thats part of the problem currently with skating. Now, more than ever, we need more people acting like pros if we wanna get paid like pros. I know people will disagree with that statement, but you need to be respected and you really need to put a positive foot forward, and a professional foot forward before you can ever expect to gain any type of monetary or any type of respect in any industry I think. This is something I’ve always tried to apply to not only skating, but to life. I think that drive just come from my family. My parents have both taught me to put your best foot forward always, andit’s just how I try to approach things. I’m not saying that I’m the best skater ever, or will be the best skater ever, I’m just saying I put my best foot forward. I give it my all when I’m trying to film sections, I try to have fun with everyone when I’m out skating, I go to contests and skate the contest, I don’t just sit around and even know most contests, especially the European contests, I’m not going to be anywhere close to the podium. But I don’t care because I love skating, and I love having fun. I think when people see you doing what you love, and see the passion you have for it, I don’t think it matters if you end up getting first place or you end up getting eighth place, they see that passion and they get stoked and are stoked to be with you.
Looking at it as a whole, I kinda took the whole model after Dre Powell. Dre was always really good at that. He would just go to contests and talk to everyone and just skate no matter what. If he was hungover, or if he had a late flight, it didn’t matter. Dre always had his skates on when the contest came. It’s something I really admire from him. He never cared if he won and got first, or got last, he just always wanted to have fun. That’s kinda the way I approach it. I don’t approach it the exact same way he did, I can’t be as charismatic or easy going as Dre can, but I try to follow that same path. If people wanna talk to me, I always talk to them. I really try to connect to everyone. I try to remember as many faces as I can, it’s tough, but that’s always a goal.
That’s awesome Jon. It’s really awesome that you brought up Dre because at least in my mind, Dre has always been one the most “professional” rollerbladers I’ve ever met. He does his party stuff, but always kept it away from the kids. He always was great about remembering peoples names, and being a hype man. It’s a massive part of the industry that we’re missing right now. Its nice to see another person on Razors bringing that back.
JF: And that’s why he was pro as long as he was. He was pro before I started skating, pretty sure. So he was pro in like 2001 till recently, and that just shows that him being the person he was really kept him in the game long and kept him motivated. And that’s a big part of how I look at it. You gotta keep yourself hungry and you gotta enjoy what you do. Sometimes I just see some skaters and they just aren’t happy to be at some places, and I just think to myself your traveling the world, or you in some foreign country and you're not stoked? I just don’t understand. I just try to be grateful for every situation I’ve been involved in.
Taking a step back from what you just said, Dre’s been pro for longer than you’ve been skating, lets go back a bit. Where did skating start for you, what was your first trick, your first pair of skates. It’s a really cool segment to travel back to with you starting from nothing to becoming a professional in an industry of so few professionals.
JF: So I was in 5th grade and all these kids were talking about this indoor skatepark that was in Pompano Beach…
Is this Ramp 48?
JF: Yeah, you know it! Haha. Florida represent! So when I first heard of this place, I just thought it was one giant ramp. I didn’t know what a skatepark was, I just kept hearing Ramp 48, Ramp 48. I was like “why do they call it that? Is it the 48th ramp or is it 48 feet wide? I donno”. So I went there, and I went there with my rec skates, and I sucked. I could barely skate the kiddy course, but there was something about it and I wanted to keep going back. So my dad would take me over on Saturday’s and let me skate for like 3 hours, and I slowly was able to ride all the ramps, and I would continually see all these kids with aggressive skates. I didn’t know what that were really, but they explained all about them, and you can grind with them, and I was just hooked.
I remember talking to my dad, and he said we’d have to wait for my birthday which was still like a few months away. I kinda just kept nagging my dad, and I was doing all these chores for my mom, and one day he just took me to this skate shop. This is back when even your local skateboard shop sold skates. They had a pair of K2 80 Minis. He bought me those and ever since then, they just have never left my feet since I was 12 years old.
So growing up in Florida personally, I know that it had a really good scene, especially in Southern Florida. Were you part of the Franky Morales crew and skating Derek’s ramp? Or did you have a different crew?
JF: So Franky’s original crew, no. They used to goto this park, Brian Piccolo that was way down south for me. I would goto that skatepark once I got a car, but when I was younger, it was just too far for my parents. I never really saw Franky that much. I saw his brother Larry once in a while, and he was super good back in the day. So I’d skate with him once in a while, and see him at Ramp 48. I really just had my crew of little friends who would goto Ramp 48 every Friday. That’s actually how I met my friend Rob Squire, just going to FNS every weekend. Robbie was part of this crew called T2E. T2E was like…well, Alex Broskow was a part of it, so this was a pretty big Florida crew. They made this video, At All Costs, which is still one of the most famous South Florida videos. So I really just started skating with those guys. Most of them would just call me a park rat since I wasn’t skating street really. They would usually make fun of me or whatever, which was true, because all I would skate is Ramp 48, it was all I was really good at.
Robbie really started taking me under his wing. He started picking me up, taking me to street spots, and over time I really started to progress and move away from just skating Ramp 48. So about 3-4 years after I started skating, Cody Porsche moved to South Florida and I instantly became best friends with him. So it was Me, Robbie, Cody, and we then met Dustin Spengler, and this other guy Jeff Levy who was really more of a filmer than a big skater, but was still good on the blades too. He filmed us a lot though. And that was really the crew for like the next 3-4 years. We always be hanging out, staying at each others houses, traveling to Florida contests, you name it. Looking back, thats really where my progression began. It’s were I really felt like I was getting decent at skating. And those guys are who I really owe all the credit too. Those guys really pushed me and made me a much better skater.
So after that, I went off to college and the crew really broke up. Dustin moved to Georgia, Jeff moved to North Carolina, and I moved to Orlando. So I guess I had a new crew, but I never really developed any close bonds with anyone. So this is right around the time when Joey Chase and them were filming that Tough Stuff video. Those guys were cool, like Joey is for sure a good friend of mine, but we just didn’t mesh. I wasn’t into just going out and partying all night…
He’s a completely different type of animal for sure.
JF: Totally, and that crew was just a little too crazy for me. I wound up a lot of time on weekends just driving home and staying with my parents, and skating with Rob and my buddy George. So I started skating with those guys more and more and more and just started to question why am I up here going to college when I’m just miserable? Why don’t I just goto a college in South Florida with the same reputation and just be happier? So basically after 2 years I just told my dad that I’m going to this School and just move back home, so I hope you don’t mind. Of course he had no problem with it as long as I was going to school and had my own stuff taken care of, he didn’t care.
So that’s what I did, moved back home, and we kinda started a new crew. Rob moved in with George, and they had a new roommate Matt which kinda started the SoFlo thing. SoFlo was Me, Rob, George Holmquist, Omar Rodriguez, Safe Journey, Buck, and Kenrick. So it was just the group of us, and it was super motivating. We just started skating together every weekend. You didn’t even have to call, everyone just knew to show up at 9am every Saturday at the SoFlo house.
So that really brought me to when I graduated college. At that point I really started to travel a bunch, and then Omar moved away, Safe Journey moved away, and I got a job in Atlanta. SoFlo was never really dismantled, but those days of going every weekend, and always being together really came to a close. And that really where my Florida tenure ended.
So speaking of school, you’ve now graduated college and thats not something that seems to be super common in Rollerblading’s past. What was your degree for and what was your major?
JF: My major was electrical engineering. I took my path from my dad. My dad has his bachelors in electrical engineering, his masters in electrical engineering, his masters in computer engineering, and has has an MBA. He’s quite an accomplished guy, so I kinda took it from him. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do out of high school, but I did have a rough idea. My dad was a corporate CEO and that never really called to me. I liked technology and I liked seeing how things work. Specifically different types of energy and was really into aviation. I'm still really into aviation, haha. I never really specialized. I guess if I did it was in renewable energy. What happened was while I was in school I did an internship with my dad’s company. So I went to their sales office which was based in Grand Rapids Michigan. So I moved to Michigan for 5 months and that was more of a inside sales based role. I really spent some time learning the ins and outs of sales, peer to peer marketing, B2B marketing, everything.
When I was done with school I didn’t want to just be an engineer, I kinda wanted do something a little more involved, so I became a sales engineer. That’s what I currently do for work, and I’m still technically involved, but I’m not the guys who only designs things. But I can talk tech all day, and thats really the basics of what I do. I not the guys creating gimmicks or trying to up-sell everything, I’m the guys who’s there to ensure the engineers and project developers who were working with that the project, that the project is actually going to work.
And on the flip side of all this, I really felt like the sales end of this really helped my skating as well. I helped me be more personable, more marketable, learn how to carry myself. It was a huge thing for me. Some people think Michigan was just some crummy summer job for me, and I just skated all summer, though I did skate a lot and actually made a whole section up there, but I got a lot more benefit from that summer than just skating.
So your current role is the sales guy, and from what I know, you cover the whole west coast by yourself? Is that correct?
JF: My current role is an Outside Sales Engineer at Seimens. I actually cover the retail side of it. My biggest customers are Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, and HD Supply. My day in and day out is visiting these stores, and mostly Home Depot. Since Home Depot sells a lot of our products, like almost a whole aisle of just our stuff. Other days of the week I’m going to job sites and configuring and doing measurements and quoting for our customers. A typical customer will buy our products, but buy them through Home Depot. Why do they do it that way? Home Depot offers better credit terms then a electrical supply house or dealing with Seimens directly.
So when I stepped in, they didn’t have a project side of the retail world. I’ve stepped in and we’ve got a huge footprint in the retail world now with a substantial revenue coming in now. It’s been interesting, and it’s definitely been a challenge every day.
It’s really cool to see someone who’s progressed so far in a personal career, but on the other side really pushed as far as you have on the professional rollerblade side of it.
JF: Haha, thanks. That’s kinda like what we were talking on earlier about achieving a goal. That was another goal of mine. When I was younger, especially my mid twenties…well i’m kinda still in my mid twenties, haha. People were just telling me that you need to just quit school and just skate, or you need to not skate so much and just do school. Everyone just kept telling me that and I just kept telling myself it was bullshit. I don’t need to quit doing either of these things, I just need to do me. And that’s really what I did. I didn’t just become a skater, and I really don’t wanna ruffle any feathers here but it seems to me like most bladers are happy just working at a bar, or working a grocery store, and not really caring about the next 5 years. And I don’t mean it’s a bad thing, I just wanted a future for myself and wanted to make sure I was taken care of. I told myself I’m gonna do both, and thats how I went after it, and well it just kinda happened.
I’ll be honest with you, when I was just skating, I wasn’t getting many places. It’s crazy to say that once I started working full-time, everything started to fall into place. I don’t know if it was just because my time management was off, or maybe I just needed to grow up. I was one of the biggest life lessons I’ve had. Me and my dad got into this huge argument one night. I was talking to him while I was living in Atlanta, and I was so fed up with the job I had, and he laid it out to me. Looking back it was exactly right, but at the time it was hard to digest. He basically said you can do whatever you want, you just need to apply yourself and you can do anything. So that just kinda what I did.
That’s awesome man. Do you feel more accomplished with the title of professional skater, or with the fact that you’ve graduated college and have the job you do currently? Or do you feel equal on both ends?
JF: Ummm…I feel equal. I don’t think that even though I’m a college graduate, I don’t think that college is for everyone, and I don’t think that getting a degree is a guarantee for any kind of success in life. However, for me personally, getting the degree I wanted and everything the way I did, I feel super accomplished, and both are huge accomplishments for me.
So what does the future hold for Jon Fromm? Where can you go from here? You seemingly made it to “the top” in both fields you’re involved in.
JF: Haha, I guess. Honestly, it’s always the same goal in mind. Continue to travel. Blading has so many outlets in so many countries, I just wanna continue to reach out to all of those. Like I just wanna go everywhere. I swear every time I look up a new place I just need to go there. I just wanna keep traveling.
One of the other things that I’d really like to do, and you’re like the first person who’s hearing this. I don’t know if you saw, but just recently there was the World Roller Games in China. The US didn’t have a team for it. We didn’t send anyone there, and I don’t know why we didn’t send anyone there. I kept seeing things like a post from Jan about someone not agreeing with the federation, but regardless and whatever the reason was I wanna help build a US team. I’m not saying I’m even going to be a rider for it, to be honest I’m not really even that great of a park skater. I just wanna at least help get the right skaters to those contests so they can represent our country just like the other guys got to represent theirs.
And lastly I’d love to keep progressing and make skating positive. Putting skating in a positive light, continue to film things correctly, help promote the right skaters, help promote the right people so our industry can get the right recognition and the respect that it deserves. I’m not saying I’m the cure all, I just wanna help. For example, I’m going to Korea for a few days, and you’ve seen those 2 young Korea kids who are like 10 and 12?
Yeah, the ones doing like flatspins and huge tricks?
JF: Yeah! I want those kids to be able, like when they are 20-25 years old, to be able to make money off skating. I want those kids to get the opportunities that I wasn’t able to get. It starts with people like us. The reality is that the people who are skating now are not going to make significant money. I’m not gonna make money to take care of a family some day, I’ve already made peace with that. But I definitely can help make the future brighter for these other skaters who deserve it. One step at a time.
Anything else to close this out before you go jump on your flight overseas?
JF: Shoutout to you guys at Blader Union. Thanks for the interview!
No way, thanks for supporting us and being a backer man!
JF: I’m really stoked on the work you guys are doing and really glad your doing the work you are. Shout out to all my sponsors, Razors, Ground Control, Sic Urethane, Asphalt Beach Skateshop, One Lux, and my family. My family has been super supportive and my girlfriend. She’s been super supportive too. And everyone in Florida. I’m really relieved right now because Florida just got hit by a giant hurricane, and I’m relieved to hear that my mom and dad are safe, and my house wasn’t destroyed, and all my friend are all safe. I’m feeling really really fortunate right now that everything worked out. Best Birthday wish I could of got was everyone being safe.
Well thanks for stopping in Jon. Have a safe flight, tell Dez hey, and keep killin’ it!
JF: Hopefully see you in Portland soon!
Want to help Jon continue his career forward? Give his Pro edit a watch at the top of the page, and follow along with his adventures on Instagram @jonfromm. For even more Jon Fromm material, check out the videos below.