Nick Breton: Director of Product Development
Nick has worn a lot of different hats at Landyachtz over the years, from rider to Public Relations to Team Management. Since 2014 he has been working exclusively on developing the new products that we make as a company. As head of Product Development, Nick works with our team to design and fine-tune products across an incredibly broad spectrum of styles and types of skateboarding. From eking out tiny performance gains in high-end DH gear to improving the experience that someone gets out of their first cruiser complete, the breadth of what gets worked on in product development at a company like Landyachtz is pretty staggering and Nick has his hands in all of it.
Nick took over product development duties at Landyachtz during a time of huge change in downhill specifically and longboarding in general. A lot of the complexity intrinsic to DH gear of the past decade was being stripped away as riding techniques were evolving to a point where the simplicity of design was valued in a new way. Many of the products that Nick has had his hands on designing reflect this. The Canyon Arrow was one of the first boards that Nick introduced into the lineup and was our first foray into the type of simple, effective shapes that have been associated with Landyachtz downhill boards over the past 5 years under Nick’s oversight.
Around the same time, it became apparent that changes were also needed where our cruiser board offerings were concerned. For the first time ideas and things we had learned in the development of our newest downhill gear were passed down directly into the development of cruisers. The results were the first versions of the Dinghy and Fatty Hawgs as everyone knows them today. The benefits of testing and demanding performance out of cruiser boards similar to our DH gear were immediately apparent and the boards developed in this first push of development have been cornerstones of the lineup ever since.
As cities go, Vancouver is uniquely blessed with a variety of different types of skateable terrain. While we do our best to use everything our environment has to give us in the development of our boards, no single area has influenced our lineup over the past 5 years as deeply as the alleys of South Van. This neighbourhood of steep straights, banks, weird corner sets and hidden street spots demands a combination of capability and playfulness from a skateboard unlike anywhere else we’ve seen. If you can’t find somewhere to have fun on a skateboard in South Van, it probably needs some more work. Over time, the idea of one skateboard that can do a little bit of everything has fallen out of favour a bit and given way to boards designed to thrive in specific situations and terrain. We’ve been having a lot more fun as a result.
It’s no coincidence that the terrain in South Van suits Nick’s skating particularly well, and his ability to push all types of boards to their limit in this environment is essential to our development efforts. Coming from a downhill background, his record on the race track and in videos speaks for itself. He has always had a pretty well-rounded skillset on a skateboard though, and watching him navigate South Van, it’s clear that he’s comfortable on pretty much any board on any terrain you want to put in front of him. This probably has something to do with why he can take a Dinghy off the shelf and beat you down Maryhill on it.
Throughout 2019, there has been a huge push to update the DH part of the Landyachtz line-up to get up to speed with modern demands for downhill gear. As the boards and trucks that are used for DH skating have changed dramatically in the last couple years, we’ve been working with suppliers to push the boundaries of what is possible, especially with wheel construction. Developing gear right on the limits of performance is what allows us to find out what works well and is worth pursuing for mass production. The process has always been about finding the most performance possible in a new product and then finding new applications for it. When it came to developing our new race wheels, Nick’s pitch was “We’re going to make the best race wheels ever, it’s going to take a lot of investment and absolutely won’t make money.” We’ve since found other places to use what we’ve learned in the process but that focus on finding performance first is super important. While progress on developing technology that hasn’t been used before can be slow at times, it is essential to our efforts to get the best skateboards under the feet of the most people possible.
This approach to developing downhill gear today differs wildly from how it was done when Nick was coming up as a rider. While he was always tinkering with his skateboard as a kid and trying to figure out what worked best, the reality around early downhill gear was that people were generally sending super hard on whatever gear they could get their hands on, as gear and technique were being developed hand in hand. Talking to Nick about it, it’s clear that he has fond memories of these early years, laying the groundwork for what became conventional downhill skateboarding tech. Having been a part of the boom in technology and technique in the late 2000s while continuing to work through the increasingly specific performance demands of modern downhill gear is a huge part of what makes Nick such an important part of what we do at Landyachtz.
Talking to Nick about developing products, the one thing that becomes very clear is how long of a process it can be and how much work goes into each individual piece of skate gear that comes out. In Nick’s words, the problem is simple, “I get stuff wrong all the time, but being wrong is how we learn things.” A lot of times a specific update or development will seem like the obvious solution to a problem we’re having only to turn out to be two steps backwards. Other problems simply can’t be anticipated and can only be solved by continuing to grind through possible solutions until you hit the one thing that sticks.
Having the freedom to take risks and get things wrong lets us explore different possibilities and arrive at some pretty radical solutions. “We’re super fortunate to have the ability to do a lot of our prototyping in-house here, which lets us take some chances on ideas other people might not see as worth the risk.” This exhaustive search for more performance is a big part of everything we do at Landyachtz and will make your next board your best one yet.