Perched atop a switch box, precarious, the mini JBL pours out a high octane mix of rap and rock. More than a dozen friends are shouting to each other, working the halfpipe and bowl at Mound’s Zero Gravity Skate Park. Somewhere in all this activity, moving with ease from end to end of that curving concrete, are two young entrepreneurs, cargo pant-clad and trick-chasing, who decided to start something from the vantage of a board, not a boardroom.
Brian Williams and Zack Beardsley are the pair of Westonka sophomores behind BZ Skateboarding, and their vision for the brand is one staked at the juncture of everyday life and “skate culture.” Now, that’s rad.
Under the pavilion, someone turns down the volume and the music fades beneath the background chatter. A board has to have good pop, explains Brian, demonstrating how a kick to the tail of it should make the board jump high. That’s the big first thing for doing most tricks, he says. It’s also the thing missing from a lot of the cheaper boards.
As a brand, BZ Skateboarding is still in its early years, but the boys have found a supplier and manufacturer and say they have a friend in mind they’d like to commission for artwork—a bit of flash, a bit of “steeze” (that’s “style with ease” in skateboarding lingo) for the underside of the deck.
But right now, the boards are a clean white on Canadian maple, the stenciled graphic proclaiming that skaters of the BZ brand know their place in the world: “It’s a Life Style.”
Not just the steeze that shows up in layered colors and long hair under knit hats, but also the defiant attitude that rebels against the notion that skate culture is synonymous with trouble.
The boys and their friends donated boards to Western Communities Action Network (WeCAN) last year, and they’re routinely involved in the civics of their sport: Brian and his mother, Monica Hanssen, had led the push last fall for the Mound skatepark’s rework that saw the halfpipe transformed, lights installed, the water mister and fountain repaired and the security cameras upgraded. Monica is also a regular at Zero Gravity—and hailed as such by the boys’ friends, who have taken her into the fold.
Both Brian and Zack say they picked up the sport after trying multiple others, discarding these when none of them elicited the rush or the joy that was instantaneous with that first run on wheels. Brian got on his first board when he was 7 (a cheap board, without that sought-after “pop”); Zack started dabblig when he was 8, though it was only in the past couple of years that he’s immersed himself in the sport.
For the two friends, who have known each other for about as long as they’ve been skating, the appeal lies in the variability of tricks offered up by this most simple contraption and in the way the sport can be both highly individualistic and super competitive.
It also attracted them as a welcoming sport. The two fell in easily with those they met along the way, and it’s this camaraderie that has been the big driver behind BZ as a brand. From a small few who gathered at Zero Gravity to a close-knit bunch of some 15 kids, the common link has been strong as the axle between the wheels.
Apart from being co-founder of BZ and now pursuing with Zack original designs for the brand, Brian offers skateboarding lessons to anyone who wants them, and he counts all the area’s skateparks as his milieu, from his home turf at Zero Gravity to Eden Prairie’s outdoor park at Round Lake and the indoor 3rd Lair in Golden Valley.
In skateboarding, as in other sports, brands are often the tickets to the big time through sponsorships. For Brian and Zack, the dream is a two-way street: sponsor and be sponsored. Whichever happens first, either would be pretty sick.
You stoked? You can find BZ on Facebook—and inquire about snagging a board or a lesson—under a search for “BZ Skateboards.”