The following interview was a piece that I wrote for The Hundreds’ Fall/Winter 2014 Magazine, available now at The Hundreds’ flagship locations and in the ONLINE SHOP. Snag one. It’s our biggest issue yet, and we’re really proud of it.
Birthed out of a passion for skateboarding as a pre-teen, Torey Pudwill had no idea what he was getting into when he began making skate wax out of his friend’s mom’s steel chocolate molds, and using metal cutouts to craft unique griptape for his crew. Years later, this little thing he played around with would end up being a multi-million dollar supplement to his already-burgeoning skate career.
Like many Valley kids in the ‘90s, Torey cut his teeth at Skatelab, selling his first product there, and ultimately using the skills he honed in that Simi Valley skate park to springboard his successful professional skate career. When we approached the Founder of Grizzly Griptape, Torey, and Brand Manager, Sean Apgar, this seemed like the perfect setting to dig into their roots.
Scotty and I took a trip out to the Ventura County proving grounds to sit down with the hometown hero and the man that recognized his talent.
MAC: Can you tell us more about the origins of the company? How did it start and how did skateboarding lead you here?
TOREY: With Grizzly, it didn’t start as griptape, it started with wax. It was called Grizzly Grease and it was just a complete kid thing, we were really young doing it and it was fun. We called it Grizzly from the shape of the mold, which was a bear. Hayden’s mom would bake things and she had this chocolate mold of a bear holding a honeycomb. My dad drew up the logo [by hand].
I was just a skate park kid and Skatelab was my second home. I was 11 years old and would go to the skate park every single day, hang out, watch everyone grip their boards, buy griptape, [and] be stoked on it. We wanted to just do it ourselves, so we just started making griptape. Just the cutout, real ghetto – bending steel and placing it on [laughs] a thin block of wood and basically grinding it to make it sharp, and then laying the grip on it and hammering it out. That’s how we made Grizzly Griptape… and I got all the griptape for free from Arcade Skateboards at the time. I would just go in there and they would hook me up with rolls and grip. It was so sick ‘cause we would just cut the grip up in squares and punch one thing out, package it, staple the header on, and fully sell it to the Skatelab, [and] sell it to Val Surf. Just locally. We couldn’t sell more than a batch of ten sheets of grip at a time since we weren’t supplied with hundreds of sheets of grip. We were 12 years old and I could only ask for one roll of grip a month, you know, and that was the company right there. That was our stock, our inventory.
Mac: A lot of 12 year olds have kind of half-baked ambitions to start a business and a lot of the time it doesn’t actually come to fruition as well as Grizzly did.
Torey: Well, it was totally not a business at all, it was a complete hustle. And at 12 years old, my buddies were 16 years old. We[didn’t have] jobs yet, I couldn’t even get a job and wasn’t even thinking about getting a job. There was no way for me to make money, so that was my way to get cash. I was a skater, I wasn’t doing drugs, I wasn’t hanging around the wrong people or none of that, and I was just skateboarding. My parents would buy me boards here and there but they wouldn’t just give me money. When skating got serious, I got sponsored by Shorty’s and I just completely stopped Grizzly... The company just really fizzled out to the point where I stopped hooking up my homies, I didn’t even ride it – like here and there, maybe once a year, I would make a cut out for myself just for shits and giggles. It completely just vanished. And then I slowly started bringing it back because people were hyping it up. I kinda started making it again just for the homies. A little bit here and there, people were like, “Hey, let me get a sheet of Grizzly!” And I’d be like, “Alright, let me get some grip and stamp it out.” Not thinking anything about trying to start a company. None of that was ever a plan.
Mac: What was the gap in time between becoming a professional skateboarder and taking that time off with Grizzly before getting back into it? A couple years?
Torey: Age 12 to 14 is when I was really just having fun with it, hooking people up. When I was 14, that’s when it all stopped and [I]started traveling. 19, that’s when we got back in it right?
SCOTTY: Yeah ‘cause that was our five-year anniversary when you turned pro. I remember that, you brought me a board.
Torey: I remember that! I was there, I was hanging. It was a big gap – about five years. From just a little fun idea to just having that. Sitting on the idea for that long.
SEAN: And then I put you on the team for Diamond.
Torey: When I met Sean, Grizzly wasn’t even around. When we were doing all that stuff with Active, he was helping me out, trying to get me hype and out there and skating and sponsored. I was sleeping on his couch for a few years! [laughs] There wasn’t talk of Grizzly. Nothing. No one even knew about it. I wasn’t the Grizzly guy then. I was just me. I was Torey from Simi Valley, dude.
Mac: So what was the moment that you decided you were gonna bring it back and actually make it official—a legitimate company?
Torey: There was a point where I was like – just chilling one day and I was like, “Fuck dude, what am I doing man? I’m just, like–skating and that’s it? I’m gonna start Grizzly back up, but just for the homies. I’m gonna make 20 shirts and just hook up the homies as a surprise and have a little crew and just get the logo out there.” So I went to the local T Mart down the street from my house and I was like, “Here’s the logo, dude, I’m just trying to get black and white shirts. Like ten of them made, what do you think you can do?” I mocked it up on my computer with some budget-ass program that wasn’t even a T-shirt program but I rigged it somehow. I still got the file, dude. It’s so ghetto, man. And I was just so pumped and then I didn’t even get shirts made or nothing!
I was just chilling and Andy Netkin from Primitive was like, “Yo, are you trying to go to this Andre Nickatina show?” So I fuckin’ rolled and I see Nick [Diamond] there. I didn’t know Nick too well at the time, I had just got on Diamond because Sean put me on.
Sean: I put him on before I was the team manager. Before I even worked at Diamond I called Nick and told him to put [Torey] on the team. That was during Active days. [He] came out with a sequence in Thrasher and [he was] wearing a Diamond shirt, and I was like, “Let’s put him on.”
Torey: I was at the show and I seen Nick there and I was like, “Yo, what up Nick?” And he came up to me and he was like, “Yo dude, what do you think about doing a signature bolt with Diamond?” I was pumped. And I was like, “Well, what do you think about doing my company Grizzly Griptape out of Diamond?” I showed him my logo, I showed him the bear and he was like, “Oh, that’s sick! Yeah, for sure let’s do it!” I didn’t think it was real at that time, I just thought, you know, he’s just messing around. At that point it was like when you’re chilling and you meet the idol of your life and they give you their phone number and some shit and you’re like, “Really dude? You’re giving me your phone number?!”
Sean: That was when Diamond was really starting to take off too, so Nick saw the potential. When we helped Nick restructure his brand it was a perfect time just to throw that in the mix. We made a small catalogue, a couple sheets of grip.
Torey: Giving us that chance was a real big deal. Just to have a chance. And before we knew it, we were going full force trying to start a brand from the ground.
Sean: No plans at all.
Torey: I basically brought my stamp in into the Diamond store ‘cause that’s all there was at the time. Just the store and a little-ass office space right above where The Hundreds store was. That’s where we started, dude. I remember we went to the Transworld Awards one night when I had a video part and these dudes surprised me with T-shirts they got made last second. That was the first Grizzly shirt ever. I thought, “Damn, it’s official.” These dudes made sure. I was so surprised. And then we just started working on getting our griptape samples made and getting the right formula down and just doing shit real.
Mac: So from day one, Sean, you were brand manager?
Sean: I guess so, yeah. Nick was real busy with Diamond and I didn’t really want him at the office at that time. So I just kind of took it into my own hands to develop everything. Right now it’s full time. I had to stop doing a couple of other things at Diamond so I could focus on the brand.
Torey: With Sean doing what he was doing with Diamond and Nick beginning to really design stuff for us, then me out skating and stuff, we started developing pretty slowly. We took it slow, we took it easy.
Mac: So the main marketing was just having the best skaters out there riding on it.
Sean: A lot of it’s that and a lot of it’s like how close Torey is with the team.
Torey: We’ve always just kind of handpicked the dudes that we’ve wanted, that we’ve seen fit the brand, and that want to be a part of us.
Sean: Bit of a family aesthetic.
Scotty: Second coming of the Valley.
Torey: It’s crazy ‘cause [there’s] the whole Valley posse of all my homies and then it’s all the pros I look up to, and then you got the OGs, and then you got your up-and-comer kids. We got dudes on the team that are just up and coming and we’re trying to help them out. We’re trying to be there for them and be more than just a brand selling shit and making shit. We actually focus on the kids coming up and keep it core and keep it real and true to the roots that I grew up in. And that’s my whole side of it. I just try to keep focused on the whole skate society and just get the community to come together and build the Grizzly Gang hype.
Scotty: You guys now have the same chance to give the kids the same opportunities that you were given 10, 12 years ago from Shorty’s and Arcade…
Torey: Oh, for sure, dude! I mean, I just see dudes getting inspired man. It gets me stoked because it makes me realize that that’s exactly how I was when I was a kid.
Mac: A lot of people who are buying streetwear nowadays – especially The Hundreds fans – are really aspirational. They’re always looking for advice on how to run their brand, they’re always approaching Bob with those ideas. I think that skateboarding progression, getting better each time with practice, is kind of similar to running a business. I just wanted to hear maybe your thoughts on how those things might align.
Torey: Yeah, straight up. Each season, for a line, you’ve gotta progress, you gotta be coming out with the times. With skating it’s like each year you gotta step it up. You’ve gotta really be taking out tricks that have been seen too much and you gotta do tricks that haven’t been done yet and keep it going. You’ve gotta keep being seen, open eyes, and be in the magazines or you’ll get forgotten about real quick. If you’re a clothing company just running the same old shit, they’ll buy it for a little bit but then they’re gonna get tired of it and eventually you’re just gonna fall off. I never thought of it, but those definitely go hand in hand.
Mac: How else do you guys see Grizzly growing in the future? Next couple years?
Sean: We’re gonna keep it tight, we’ve kind of expanded a little bit quickly this year and it was a bit too much, I think, for our consumer, so I’m probably gonna keep it just around where it’s at right now. Just kind of keep it tight, I don’t wanna make too much product and over-saturate the shelves.
Mac: Quality over quantity.
Sean: Yeah, that type of thing. Kind of base it around [the] Stussy-type thing that’s been in business for a long time. I really don’t wanna blow it out and try to maintain control of it.
Torey: Yeah dude, and the thing with Grizzly is it’s its own thing, you know? We’re getting into our own stuff that’s just gonna be different from everyone else’s. We’re not trying to copy anyone, we’re just trying to be Grizzly. And what Grizzly does is what we need to do. And what Grizzly’s doing is what we need to do. And yeah dude. Fuckin’ shit. [Laughs]
Mac: I know you guys and Scotty have known each other for a long time, I just wanted to get a little bit of insight on how you got involved with The Hundreds and how this project is kind of natural for you guys.
Sean: Well, I was packing boxes... Scotty actually worked at Active with me and then he left to go work for The Hundreds.
Scotty: Sean helped us move into our first office... helped us move into Rosewood.
Sean: So I would just do it for clothes and just hang out and drink some beers and just cruise around there, you know? It was something new for me to get out of Valencia.
Scotty: And Sean and I lived together at the time that I was starting with The Hundreds. Torey was always around.
Torey: You hooked me up with some T-shirts. I remember I had that shirt that just said “HUGE” on the back. The Hundreds is huge. And dude, look at ‘em now. It’s gnarly just to see such a long way The Hundreds have come since the start.
Sean: That was kind of an inspiration for us too. Just watching a company like that grow out of nothing.
Torey: I think that was a pretty big impact on streetwear alone – was The Hundreds, dude.
Scotty: We talked about working together for a while and it all kind of worked out.
Torey: ‘Cause we’re homies we were like, we gotta do this Hundreds collab. I was always just messing around and this guy was just like, “Yeah, let’s do it, I’m down.” And it was just too easy where we just kind of had to wait for the right time. You couldn’t just throw something out. Collabs were even blowing up at that time, everyone was collabing with everyone and it just would’ve been wrong for us to just jump in ‘cause it’s just like... we’re this little company, Grizzly, over here on the side trying to come up. We can’t just think we’re able to collab with someone like The Hundreds, you know? Just being part of Diamond alone was like a dream come true. [It was a] once in a lifetime opportunity and that was a big deal so for us to collab with any other kind of company. It means so much to me, dude. Like damn, they’re down for us, that’s amazing!
Mac: It’s crazy how small the world is with streetwear and skate. Everybody’s, like, starting off years and years and years ago. You went to Skatelab, you met some people, you came up with an idea that fizzled out and you came back…
Torey: Yeah man, you just said it right there. That’s what brings us here today.
Scotty: Small world after all.
Mac: Was it a trip being back at Skatelab? Todd was saying you were the first person in line when they opened their doors.
Torey: Yeah dude, and Skatelab did a lot for me back then when I was a kid growing up. When I was just a little kid coming here, my parents would drop me off and I would just skate with my brother. They’ve done so much for me in that time. Got me my first hook ups with sponsors and all that and like I said, dude, if it wasn’t for this skate park, I definitely wouldn’t be the skater I am today at all. A lot of good people, a lot of pros I met here at a very young age were my inspiration. You know, my brother’s been working here since he was 16 years old – kills it for the Skatelab now as a passion. This place is my family. It’s Skatelab, it’s a part of me for sure. I’m definitely gonna get a Skatelab tat, now that I think about it. Why not dude? It’s the roots dude. Pure raw roots.
Mac: For a lot of people.
Torey: The new talent’s crazy too. On the rise. But times have changed, dude. Shit’s a lot different now so kids are growing up different. It’s not the same as when we were growing up. The progression of the world, dude. It’s insane. So I hope Grizzly fulfills its time and doesn’t be a quick phase, you know?
Sean: We’re just trying to come to the table with some new ideas. We got plastic razor blades coming out.
Torey: Yeah, dude! I invented that.
Scotty: Plastic razor blades? Sounds kind of sick.
Sean: That’s the innovation right there.
Torey: That’s the innovation. We’re a griptape company. We’re trying to bring new things into skateboarding – into the game. And straight up, mark my words, we are a skateboard company. When you see Grizzly, that’s a skate company. That’s simply what we are.
Be on the look-out for “The Hundreds X Grizzly Griptape,” coming soon.