Practically a year ago to the day, skate shoe enthusiasts had to say goodbye to a staple personality of skateboarding: Benson Ka’ai and his videos from Tactics were a pillar of the skate shoe community. Whether it was because you found him informative or because he was an easy target to make fun of, you tuned in to hear what he had to say about the latest shoe updates.
Since leaving, Ross Druckrey has gone from being the guy who recorded Benson to being the new face of shoe reviews at Tactics. It’s been a full year since this transition took place, but I was still curious to find out what baggage, if any, comes with such a highly watched position.
Amongst the skate community, you’re known as the guy who’s filled in Benson’s shoes. How does it feel? And do you think people are making it a bigger deal than it actually is?
I don’t know. I think it’s really interesting. When it came up that he was moving on and they asked, “what do we do about the shoes?” I was like “Well, do I really want to be like the next Benson?” Even from talking to me, he’d always talk about how it was a blessing and a curse, because he didn’t want to be known as “Benson Ka’ai, the shoe guy”. With the reviews, I try to have my own perspective on it and try to give a little more feedback on what I appreciate in a good shoe. Thankfully we have our video wear tests, because no one just wants to watch me talk to a shoe.
Do people stop you and recognize you on the street? Do you have celebrity status yet?
Ummm…well, I actually have only been recognized once. I don’t know if that gives me any street cred or not. I’ve actually been recognized more for my downhill stuff.
Where did that happen?
It was just on a skate trip to Washington, but I do know that’s something that Benson would run into a fair amount of while he was still here. I remember a bunch of times where we’d be together and people would say “Hey, you’re the shoe guy!” and we’d be like “Ahhhhh!”
Was that strange for you, that one encounter?
I mean, I think it’s kinda cool. I’ve gotten used to it from other stuff. I mean, it’s kinda what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to give Tactics more personality. After all, we can’t be everyone’s local skate shop, so if we can connect with our customers online then that’s a good way for people to want to reach out to us.
Have you used your celebrity status to pick up chicks?
[Laughs] I don’t know if there’s anything attractive about talking about shoes. So no, I don’t think it’s ever helped me with chicks.
Do you have a girlfriend? If so, what does she think of it?
Yeah, I have a girl and she’s probably bragged about this more than I have [laughs].
Do you ever get bummed at the negative comments that you read?
Oh god, Youtube is a pretty cutthroat place. The one that’s stuck with me is “Man, you look real bored” [laughs]. First off, that video could be like the seventh video I’ve done today, and secondly, we’re not looking to trash any shoes because we’re obviously trying to sell the shoe. Sometimes I’ll see a shoe and have a hard time finding something special about it, and other times I’ll see one that I actually like and get excited.
With any job, it’ll be monotonous after awhile. Are there any days where you don’t want to talk about a shoe? Or be on camera?
Well, there are definitely certain days where you’ll not be into it. Normally, we have a week turnaround from our studio, so I’ll get in there and knock a bunch of them out.
What’s the toughest thing about your job that most people don’t know?
It’s a lot of multitasking. Just trying to stay on top of all these shoes, and everything else we do. Just trying to prioritize is a juggling act. Shoes is our bread and butter so we’re trying to build from that.
People say you’re socially awkward on camera. Do you ever consider studying yourself on camera?
I actually do watch some videos just to keep up on them and so I can improve. Sometimes when we’re filming, I just start talking. It’s kinda random sometimes. If you have something planned that you want to say, it’s way harder to pan out. So there have been times where I’ve just freestyled it, do your sign off, and before you realize it, you just blacked out. Kinda like how Will Ferrell did in Old School during the debate scene.
Tell me more about downhill skating. You mentioned it before and when I saw what you were talking about, I realized that it’s gnarly as fuck…
I grew up snowboarding, but where I grew up there’s a lot flatground. So, when I moved out west, I couldn’t make the trek to the mountains every day so I just started bombing neighborhood streets. For me, it’s just a different way to ride. Like, why limit myself to one type of skating? There’s no one right way to ride your skateboard.
But do you have tricks on a standard board though? Like ollie’s, kickflips, etc?
I don’t put a ton of time into flip tricks but ollie’s are super important. I don’t spend too much time on street obstacles or ledges, but you’ll more than likely find me in the bowl at any park.
What’s one video you look back on and cringe at all the time?
It’s always interesting when you go back because you can see how far we’ve come, with the studio set up, cameras, and product. As far as looking back and cringing, I remember there being a video with a guy who was only here for a couple of months and he was doing a video review on a longboard and at one point, he was just making stuff up [laughs]. Some of the funnier ones are when Benson was trying to grow out a mustache and I just remember kids in the comment section ripping on him. [laughs]
Best and worst thing about the skate industry that you’ve been exposed to?
I don’t know, it’s interesting. I’ll start with a positive because I think there are more positive’s than negatives: I love the community aspect of skateboarding. Yeah, it’s not necessarily about the industry, but I like that we’re all a part of something. That’s actually what we’re trying to accomplish with our #CatchARip contest. We’re just looking to celebrate whoever is out there having fun on their board and hit them with a package for doing what they should be doing.
As far as negative goes, there’s a lot of people who miss the whole community aspect. The only thing that’s ever turned me off about skateboarding is the cool guy factor. I’ve never been a cool guy, I try to stay pretty grounded because I know I’m not that cool to begin with.