Interview by Daniel Nodzak
Photography by Lawrence Ingraham
Lawerence Ingraham may be best known these days for his hardware reviews and podcasts on BackToBlading.com but the blade vlogging father from North Carolina recently turned the blading world upside down with the announcement that he would be reviving his company, 50/50 frames, and rereleasing the popular Balance model. I caught up with him to talk about this project and he was nice enough to provide some pictures of the brand new 50/50 frames.
Hey Lawrence, so you broke the internet yesterday when you released your teaser video to announce that you've had a new set of 50/50 Balance frames made. In that teaser you gave us the short version of getting in touch with Jess and reaching out to the original manufacturer but can you tell us a little more about how this all came to be?
Lawrence: Sure! Jess and I have been friends for 20 years now. When I told him I was interested in bringing back 50/50 he was very supportive. He’s got a busy life but offered to help however he can. I’ve been wondering about whether we could produce frames again for a while. We’ve always owned the molds, so as long as they’re still in good shape they should work. It’s been eight years since they’ve been used though, and I had no idea where they were, so thankfully Jess was able to help me out.
Okay, so Jess Dyrenforth got you back in touch with the original frame manufacturer, when did that happen?
Lawrence: We had been chatting a bit last summer about the idea, then at my visit in October we came up with a plan. Thankfully we’ve been with the same manufacturer since 2000, so it was pretty easy to get the ball rolling.
You mentioned it took several months, I'm curious what happened in that time.
Lawrence: So when dealing with a manufacturer, especially with one in China, the time zone really messes up the communication. We were chatting over email, so it was one day at a time. They also had to find some time in their schedule to test the mold, they’re a busy factory and we were pretty low on the list of priorities.
They found some time for us in early January, and had a few sets of frames and Juice Blocks produced. They sent us a picture of both sizes of frames laid out on carpet and I freaked out! Was a pretty great day. They sent them to me a week or so later which is the unboxing you see in the video.
I can't imagine what it must've felt like to unbox those. Which brings me to my next question... For as long as rollerblading forums have existed there's been endless discussion about bringing back X company or Y contest and it's reached a fever pitch in recent years. Yet you're the only person crazy enough to do it.* What's your goal with relaunching 50/50?
Lawrence: Honestly, I just want to have more frames to skate. I had a few pair I kept but they’re so old I don’t trust the material. I just love the way the Balance frame rides. I’m not alone either, I’ve heard from a ton of skaters who are still riding the old frames. I figured if I could find a way to make frames again, I could have a supply for myself and offer them back to the community if anyone wanted to skate them again.
So you got the first pairs of Balance frames in your hands at the beginning of the month. How are they feeling?
Lawrence: They feel good in the hands, but I haven’t had a chance to skate them yet! It’s tough finding time to skate having a full time job and kids, living in a rainy climate. I’m going to take them out this week for a quick session Thursday with Long from my local shop Oak City to get some feedback and some video of them in action.
Yeah the weather hasn't been cooperating in North Carolina recently. Cold and snowy one week, 65 but rainy the next. Will you be testing these with anyone else in the Oak City crew? There's a lot of talent in the area so I'm sure you'll be able to get some solid feedback from people that can put them through some abuse.
Lawrence: Not yet. I only have two pair right now so it’s a bit limited. I’ve got a few friends in mind who are incredible though, I will see if I can get them to skate them next session.
So going into this revival it wasn't as much a business venture for you as it is a way to keep yourself riding the frames you like. I can dig that! I'm not alone in asking this, so, how can we get involved? And do you have any long term goals?
Lawrence: My goal with this project is to keep frames available for anyone who wants them for as long as I can. There will be a crowd funding campaign in March to get things going with some T-shirt’s and stickers and some unique items for people who want to support. All the proceeds will go back to ordering more inventory. Eventually I hope to have enough where 50/50 can start sponsoring events and give back to the sport.
There's two reasons I'm going with crowd funding. The first is that I have no idea how many frames to order. Based on today's response to the news it could be much more than I planned. I don't want anyone to be without frames that wants them. On the flip side, the factory has minimum order quantities to start production, which I have to pay for up front for them to begin. I wish I had the money to start production without any help, but it's just me this time. Once this first run is done, and the frames get sold, I'll be able to reorder frames without any help.
I've been watching this news blow up all over the internet today and I'd love to hear about the response from your perspective.
Lawrence: Today was incredibly emotional. I posted the video at 7:30am and took off for work. As soon as I hit the road my phone started blowing up with notifications. I wasn’t prepared for that. I got messages from a ton of amazing people offering their support and more than a dozen shops around the world wanting to carry the frames. What really hit me was all the people who knew me from my videos, many of which are subscribed and comment regularly, who had no idea about my past. It was incredible.
Do you have an idea of what the turn around time would be after the crowdfunding campaign to the average rollerblader being able to bolt on some brand new Balance frames?
Lawrence: I’m still waiting to hear back from the factory on production times, but in an ideal world we should have frames in stock in early June.
It's been a long time since the Balance era, so for anyone new to the sport or just getting back to blading that missed these frames entirely, what are the advantages of the Balance frame?
Lawrence: Balance frames were my favorite of all the 50/50 frames. They’re lightweight but super solid. The split is wide but not too wide with a nice groove to eliminate the break in period. Most of all, the Juice Bumps on the sides make souls faster and topside tricks lock on more solid.
Well thanks for taking the time to chat over the last two nights, Law. We're all very excited to see what the future holds for 50/50. Before I let you go do you have any shoutouts?
Lawrence: Thanks for the opportunity! Of course I have to thank Jess for starting 50/50 way back in 1994, and for inviting me to work with him back in the days. Thanks to all the 50/50 riders over the years who made the brand what it was and to the skaters who supported us over the years, even when we were gone. This community is amazing, I’m proud to be part of it.
EDITORS NOTE: part of this interview was done on 2/13/18. Reign had not yet released their revival teaser on instagram.*