Is your middle name really Bob? Billy Bob?
No, its Evans. William Evans Morse V. I guess billybob just works as a nickname to balance out my real name. My dad’s the only one who’s ever called me that, but he started calling me Billybob when I was little and still does, I think it started because of Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back Carter, and that morphed into Billy Bobarino and stuck with Billy Bob.
Where's your workshop, where Flo Footstops are made?
I’m super excited about a new “real” location for FLO in a really cool space over in Westbrook at the mill. But right now, it’s still in our basement where my wife says that I now live; its my latest man cave. I’ve had a couple of pretty serious man caves since moving to Maine, but previously they’ve always been in the form of indoor, rock climbing wall, training rooms that have spared my sanity throughout the Maine winters.
FLO started on my workbench in the corner of the basement, and I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time down there, so the FLO workshop has inadvertently evolved into my latest space as I’ve expanded the workshop out around me more and more and worked here and there to sort of just overpower and drown out the basement atmosphere with one that I can enjoy working in as much as possible.
I like to call it the FLO Lab. You know, like me and Dr. Dre in the lab, but in reality its something closer to an early stage Breaking Bad meth cook lab. Actually, I have some pretty powerful exhaust fan systems at this point, so I am able to enjoy spending a lot less time wearing a respirator mask while working.
First with the business questions - Tell us about your ah-ha moment. When did you decide that this was missing from the market & that you were the guy to bring it to longboarders out there?
Within just a few months of getting my first longboard, after not having skated for over 20 years, I had already decided that bushings and simple vertical wall footstops were just not providing anywhere near the performance that a footstop could be designed to offer, and since nothing I own escapes the belt sander or the Dremel, I quickly went to work whittling down indoor rock climbing holds. At the time I was really exploring my own limits with cornering speed and using a kick-tail to improve cornering leverage when holding a good tuck. It wasn’t long before I was sculpting and molding my own shapes, experiencing major performance gains and thinking, wow, this is incredible, and there’s nothing like it out there.
Have you designed a product before or was this whole process brand new to you?
FLO is my first creation that has come to fruition. I’ve always been sort of nuts about modifying everything I own so that’s the part of me that created FLO. I have another product that I really want to create, but the timing hasn’t been right to make that business happen yet. Perhaps FLO will be the stepping-stone for that. I have an idea almost every day for something I’d like to invent, but its hard for me to imagine just deciding to start a business making something that you don’t have a passion for, or a passionate relationship with, just because you know you can make a living doing it. I’ve always been very driven to explore and push my limits as an athlete, but its almost impossible to do that in any sport and work full-time, and especially to be a parent, on top of that. I’ve been a rock climber for the past 20 years, but I’ve really just dropped climbing cold turkey in exchange for skating again, and I think one of the biggest reasons for that has been how easy it is to challenge myself with skateboarding, where as with climbing, it had come to the point that pushing my limit meant a level of devotion to it that the parameters of my life had a hard time tolerating on many levels. A few years ago, before I rediscovered my love for skating, I had a series of severe back-to-back concussions which has left me sort of ADHD and unable to focus on a lot of things or to be comfortable in a lot of situations, but that has brought out for me an ability to be hyper focused at the expense of more normal focusing, so things like skating and climbing offer a place for me to be in where I can enjoy being extremely focused in the present and distracted from my otherwise spacey and uncomfortable head, so I’d love more than anything to be able to just skate full time, but for now I feel really blessed that I’m able to take some of my intense passion and translate it through my work with FLO into something that skateboarders everywhere are so stoked on and that’s capable of enhancing people’s riding experience and performance just that much more.
Tell us about some of the places you've seen Flo already & some of the buzz you've been getting.
Just recently it has been so exciting to see and hear news each week from the IDF World Cup tour in Europe and see someone with a FLO on the podium or in the top ten on a regular basis all of a sudden. Getting an email with a pictures of guys like Jimmy Rhia and Connor Ferguson both rocking a Mr. Pink FLO, out in front at Perygudas Never Dies, is just so awesome. Its really nice to have confirmation that people are loving what you’ve put almost all of your energy into creating. I hadn’t even thought about the market in Europe a couple months ago, and now I get emails from all the time from people in Europe who are absolutely pumped about FLO Footstops.
You've made a lot of tweaks already to make the Flo Footstop perform, what are some of the changes you've made to make it the product it is today?
There has been one challenge after another throughout the design and testing. I’ve had to sort of embrace that as one of the coolest parts of this business, having to successfully problem solve, continually and often quickly. First it was just making them look professionally made, then it was making them smaller and more comfortable, then it was making them more versatile, then making them more efficiently and quickly, then making them stronger. Now, we’re just wrapping up having figured out how to offer them at a more reasonable price, so now I’m getting psyched up for the challenge of scrambling to grow and keep up with demand.
What set up are you skating right now?
After tinkering constantly with downhill setups all last year, I’ve fully got the freeride fever, so its been a long process this year of finding what really works best for me for standup slides. I’m going to knock on wood and say that I think I’ve finally got a setup for freeriding that I’m super stoked to just ride and not mess with now, but my personality just doesn’t allow me to not tinker with setup for long; I just love to try it all. So right now it's a carbon/kevlar fibered Omen Airship, with Aera 180mm 52/46 K4’s. I’m pretty curious to see if Aera’s, which only come as narrow as 170mm, are able to replace my 154mm 45/20 Ronins for downhill. Unfortunately, we’re so limited here, in terms of really good roads, that the opportunity to ride and enjoy a more downhill oriented setup is a bit limited and silly after a while.
What are a few of your favorite local spots to hit up?
Gilman Street has been a good find for me. To me it feels like the steepest and smoothest hill in Portland that has manageable traffic. Be careful there though. The hospital parking garage exit creates a huge amount of traffic at times that can materialize, literally on all sides of you, right there, so test out your wheels there, make sure you are skating well within your limits, and be cautious.
The roads off of Rt.85 in Raymond, mostly on the right as you go away from Portland, are by far the best that I’ve found in terms of a variety of riding styles within a close driving proximity of one another. They’re mostly relatively short and straight, but still longer than in town here, and there are some really nice incline angles and super smooth pavement for sliding, and there are also some pretty steep hills with really rough chip-sealed pavement that will really test your bombing skills and setup. Its crazy how fast 50mph feels on a super rough surface road.
What would be your dream spot to hit?
The California Bay Area for sure, especially Mt. Diablo. I grew up in the Oakland hills, and the roads around there are incredible. Back then in the 80’s, on my 16” Powell Peralta, I didn’t even consider that you would be able to ride the roads that I can’t wait to go back and ride now. At that time those roads represented motorcycle racing practice and awesome road cycling climbs for me.
Who has inspired you the most, in terms of skating?
Aaron Grulich’s “Aaron From the Block” video was for sure the first thing that really inspired me when I had just discovered longboarding. I love his sliding style, both his healside standups and his one hand toesides. Liam Morgan and James Kelly are two other guys who really inspire me with the way they have always pushed the limits of freeriding to such a mind-blowing level and somehow manage to continue doing so. For me, nothing will probably ever outshine the Skate House Media “Raw Run: Liam Morgan”.
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