Tom Hyser On Fiziks

This is an exclusive interview with Tom Hyser of the revolutionary frame company, Fiziks.

Please read the article regarding Fiziks going out of business here. Thanks.
: Hey Tom. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. You're one of those people that I consider to be truly dedicated to rollerblading and it's future. How long have you been skating and what's your career in rolling been like up until now?
Tom Hyser
: Thanks for the opportunity. I have been skating since I was 15, so 13 years now. I started off skateboarding when I was 12. Then I got exposed to rollerblading when my family moved to Wisconsin when I was 15. My neighbor was a hockey player. I wanted to play hockey, so that summer I got rollerblades and started to learn how to play hockey with the locals. I immediately wanted to jump stair sets and try and grind stuff. I just basically took what I knew from skateboarding and morphed it into my rollerblading. I know many kids are bummed on skateboarding, but the reality is, modern day rollerblading would not be what it is without skateboarding's influence. All the old schooler dudes like Arlo, B-love, etc. rode a skateboard at one time. In 1992, I got sponsored "flow gear" by Rollerblade and Hyper wheels. In 1995, I turned pro for K2, then Cozmo wheels, and the illest clothing company Rise Above. I rode for Senate for about 3 weeks, then Tom Fry asked me to skate for Cozmo, which had the raddest team at the time.
: When did you start Fiziks and briefly how did the concept and idea evolve?
Tom Hyser
: I started Fiziks up 3 years ago, in 2001. The concept has been around since around 1998. A guy named Keith Longino came up with the basic idea for the suspension system used in the Fiziks frame. This technology is called "Sprung suspensions". I used to skate and design skates for K2. Part of my job was to test out new ideas that inventers would bring to K2. Keith met with me and I skated his proto-type frame that was pretty sketchy. He left the skates with me for a few months, during that time I skated the frame several times, and ideas started to flow. I knew that with some work, we could make the suspension work for street skating. At first, the frames broke very easy and had many more parts to it. It was seriously complicated, even more then it is now. I started the Fiziks brand and licensed the "Sprung" technology for the frames.

: What did you think Fiziks would do for skating? What was the companies mission?
Tom Hyser
: I really thought that every skater would ride the frames and no one would ride a normal frame again. I was ignorant to think that. I really didn't realize how much marketing has to do with how good products sell. The majority of the buyers of skate products are 14 year kids. These kids just want to skate whatever Dustin Latimer or Alex Broscow skates. The team riders for Fiziks were newer pros, guys that were just developing their images and getting attention. The Fiziks team just skates different. I think it was all just ahead of its time. The skaters, the frame, the marketing, all that shit was just ahead of where most of the skaters who are buying stuff were at. Too many skaters are caught up in anti-rocker and even worse Free-style. That shit is just wack and holding back rollerblading. Today 98% of street skating is grinding, watch a typical section and it goes something like this (rail / ledge / rail / ledge / rail / ledge) For a while there no one even did lines anymore. That is why the Fiziks video is good to watch, we covered all bases. We even thought some vert in there. I respect all aspects of rollerblading. Street changes vert and vert changes street. If skating fast and in control mattered, then Fiziks frames would have sold better.
: When did it become clear that Fiziks wasn't going to succeed under the pressure of all the UFS frame competition?
Tom Hyser
: It was clear about 6 months into it. I was just trying to believe that it was not true. A fiziks frame cost about $38 to make. That is what I pay for each pair. A regular plastic toy frame costs $6-$8 per frame to make. The customer pays $35-60 for a normal frame. Fiziks frames started off selling for $150, which is were the priced had to be to make the correct margin and pay off our upstart costs. We had to drop the price to $99, because not enough frames were selling after 6 months. We also had issues with the plastic rocker arms breaking, which was very bad for our reputation at first. Then we made the xtpro frames and fixed the rocker arm issue, but that made my cost go up even higher. It was just too hard to educate shops, skaters, and pay for frames that cost me as much as what a kid can buy a normal frame at retail. The 50-50 team frame is like $35, a Fiziks frame cost me more then that to make, so........ bang its over.
: What do you see as the biggest contributor to the downfall of Fiziks?
Tom Hyser
: Anti-rocker skating, Free-style frames, skaters that don't realize what is good and what is just the same old shit. My cost to manufacture the frame was a big part of the problem too. All these things combined really jacked things up for the business.
: There were also rumors of Fiziks frames not being as strong and durable as other frames. Do you think this also contributed to poor sales and how did Fiziks react?
Tom Hyser
: It's true, the frames were not designed to be ridden anti-rocker and Free-style. If you skate the frame flat-rocker, they last good. My team riders rarely broke their frames, it's the T-doggers that rode without wheels in the middle that gave us a bad name. There is just no way to try and get everyone to change to flat-rocker. It was a fantasy, that we could change that up. Certain wheel companies didn't want it to happen either. They make money when kids skate anti-rocker and destroy their wheels every few weeks. Most kids think skating anti-rocker is cheaper, but in reality, you end up buying more wheels and frames.
: What's the future of the patent on the Fiziks frames? Will you be selling the rights or using the technology yourself in the future?
Tom Hyser
: I have the rights to "Sprung" technology for as long as I want to use it. The inventor of "Sprung" technology can make his own frames whenever he wants to. I have heard rumors he is going to do it, but question his ability to create good marketing and design. We will just have to see. I personally am waiting for the market to mature, before I try and give a suspension frame a try. Kizer has a free-style suspension frame out now and kids are not really that hyped on it. The cost is just too high, kids want a $50-60 frame with a big grind space, so that's what I am going to give them. I got so many rad ideas for frames. The new frame I have coming out, is going to freak people out all over again.
: So, you plan to stay involved in the frame business? Can we expect to see any more unique technology?
Tom Hyser
: Like I said before, I got a new company that is going to drop soon. I will stay involved with frame and skate design. I just have too many good ideas. It's my hobby to make new stuff. I have a workshop at my house that has some seriously cool stuff ready to make. I am just waiting on a good skate company that wants to pair up and make this stuff. The new frame is hot! Lets just say "split-system" is the future.
: Thanks for doing this short interview. Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
Tom Hyser
: Skate with an open mind. Create your own world, take ideas and styles from the masters of the game and make your own reality.

I'd like to thank Tom for doing this little interview with us and send a special thanks out to Fiziks. The company will be missed just as many others before it.

This is dedicated to Fiziks, Rise Above, FR, Cement, CDS Detroit, and all of the other companies that tried to do something positive for rolling. You will be remembered. We will not forget your contributions to the sport and art of rollerblading.