Some entrepreneurs throw in the towel come the first taste of failure. Rollaway Grip founders Darrell Norman and brothers Kris Brown and Jay Brown, however, toss in the towel when it's time, then dream up the next big thing. That thing launched in early 2014, and it blends handmade stencil art with the sport of skateboarding. The trio aptly named their new skateboard grip tape company after their mantra, and every idea and piece is made here in Huntington Beach.
The Rollaway trio bring a solid set of skills to the table, and all three grew up with skateboards in hand. Darrell, aka DRL, has been making art since he first learned to shred on four wheels in the 80s. Having welcomed free commissioned work for friends and shows for years, the Hawaii native finally decided to embrace payment in the form of dollar bills instead of high-fives. Kris, aka KRS, also lends his creative side to the project with more than 15 years of web design experience. His brother Jay—co-owner of HB-based Enlarge Media Group—carries the business and marketing chops to get their ideas rolling.
Hailing from Texas, the Brown brothers met DRL through a mutual friend more than a decade ago. At the time, the brothers were running their own skate apparel company, and DRL was rolling with his own skate shop in Hawthorne. DRL agreed to carry their brand, and with a love of skateboarding and HB, they knew one day they'd team up and build a company incorporating the two.
Enter the idea of Rollaway Grip in mid-2013. After a few months of brainstorming and development, they launched the company earlier this year and have been slinging their colorful grips to the local skateboarding community and beyond. What sets their product apart from other similar ventures is its handmade appeal. Pulling from his love of music, Star Wars and animation, DRL makes his multi-layered stencils by hand at his HB home using just two tools: manila folders and razor blades. Should you happen upon his front porch one afternoon, you'll likely catch him dusting his one-of-a-kind cuts in bright hues and fun. "Every day's Friday," he tells us on a Thursday evening. We like your style, DRL.
We also like the simplistic style of the spray-painted grip tape. Each hand-cut set comes with four interchangeable pieces, and the only required tools are a blade and a screwdriver. DRL shows fans how it's done in the below 7-minute video, appropriately cut to the tune of Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day."
Each design will live a limited life, with new ones rotating in monthly. "The inspiration is always there," says DRL, who's also found a creative way to showcase his colorful cuts. He signs and frames them, transforming his works into wall art for fans. Even his spray-paint cans are upcycled and sold as art pieces.
Says DRL, "I'm catering to the core market, the actual skateboarders and actual art aficionados. People who are going to appreciate it for what it is."
Currently, Rollaway Grip products are available online and at three local shops: Skatelab in Simi Valley, JJ's Skateboards & Threads in Hawthorne and The Garage Boardshop in East L.A. But with DRL's connections in the skate community as an artist, skater and Promotions Manager/SoCal Events MC of the California Amateur Skateboard League, paired with the Brown brothers' expansive network, the product will likely roll into all local skate shops and beyond. That's the big goal, along with creating a legacy within the skateboarding world.
"It's new and it's fresh and it will be big," says Jay, adding, "It's cool because everything around here's all surf. It's a little bit of a different vibe."