It’s been a while since a move shocked the skate industry, but just the other day, the announcement of Louie Barletta leaving enjoi hit a lot of 2000s skate babies in the gut. After years of being one of the key and influential figures of the company, Louie surprisingly dipped out on the brand he’s called home for decades.
For people who are a little more in the know, though, the move may not come as big of a surprise. There have been whispers of enjoi’s business being rocky after it changed ownership in 2019, but it’s safe to say nobody expected it to result in the unraveling of one of their most beloved brands.
Curious to get to the bottom of it all, we hit up Louie to see if he’d be willing to share a little insight on what exactly went down and to answer some of your questions.
Let’s start with the most pressing question, Is enjoi dead?
That’s for the fans to decide. The destiny of the brand is in the hands of the buying power of the fans that built the brand.
Ok, so if it isn’t dead, why did you quit?
When Marc Johnson started enjoi in 2000 it was all about the team and friendships. The last few months have been horrible. Team riders were not getting paid, and the response was always the same, “We didn’t hit our sales targets this week, this month… etc.” I get it, the economy is tough, but it was just weighing so heavy on my chest, every week how nobody was going to get paid. Every morning I was getting a text from a videographer or artist or one of our team riders, “Lou when are we going to get paid? Have you heard anything about pay yet?” I just couldn’t take it any longer, we were based on fun and friendships, and I felt everyone was just hanging on because they believed in me. I guess I just stopped believing in the company.
Eventually, I sent a text to the enjoi group chat to everybody that I love them all and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I wrote that Instagram post, pushed send, put my phone down, and I started crying. It was like dude, it’s 23 years of my life. It’s friends and relationships that have come and gone, and you just think about all of these epic times and what being part of it all was like. When I pushed send on Instagram, all of that was done.
I left with the idea that everybody else was going to stay with enjoi and do their own thing. I actually told some of the riders, if I end up quitting it will be their chance to leverage the company and try to get their back pay in order for them to stay. So it was very crazy to see everybody else quitting too. Seeing my post, reposting it, and quitting and stuff. It was pretty trippy, dude. That wasn’t the intention. I just personally hit the very end. It was a weight lifted off of my shoulders and once I crossed over. That was kind of it, dude.
Can you finally get a new haircut now that your contract is up?
[Laughs] I tried to cut my hair. I went to Supercuts and just got a normal haircut and the crappy thing was that I walked out and I was still Louie Barletta. I genuinely thought I could get a haircut and move on. I still have the same humor, the same music taste. It’s not a haircut, it’s a lifestyle man.
“I THOUGHT PEOPLE WERE GONNA BE SO FUCKING BUMMED ON ME.”
Are you happy that other enjoi riders quit after you?
Well first off, I didn’t reach out to any of the guys and tell them to quit when I did. I didn’t even speak to them about me quitting. As the leader, I tried my hardest to not complain to the gang. I will say though, I was very transparent with everyone. When Bod Boyle [former president of Dwindle, Enjoi’s parent company] quit in the fall I had a team Zoom meeting. I told the guys that Bod left, and I said I don’t see things getting better any time soon, and there is no talk of anyone getting paid yet.
I told everyone that if they had a place to go please don’t stay. Zack [Wallin] and I had already spoken and he was ready to quit. So I used him as the example and said to the guys, leave if you have a spot that is going to pay you. I’m going to stay, and if we turn this thing around, no hard feelings, you can come back!
I ended that Zoom meeting with three reasons why I was going to stick it out. One, because I had already been through several company presidents leaving and it didn’t necessarily mean the end. Maybe the new president had a new angle or a better plan to get us all paid. Two, I knew our current owners already had a strong program with Walmart and big box stores. I wanted to stay to ensure enjoi would never be a big box store brand. I would do my best to stave off any ideas or plans for that. And three, fuck it. I was there at the beginning of enjoi, and I didn’t want to see it die at the hands of the corporation.
But to answer your question, seeing everybody else quit didn’t make me feel good dude. It made me feel like I was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was so worried and concerned… There’s all these skaters that have enjoi tattoos and fuck, we’re ending this fucking thing that everybody thought was so rad and so fucking cool and I don’t want people to blame me. I thought people were gonna be so fucking bummed on me.
Actually, there was a kid who reached out to me and he showed me his tattoo and was like, “Dude, enjoi is the best thing ever, the era when you were there,” and this and that. He was so positive about the situation and he was saying, “When I get down or I get bummed I look at my panda tattoo and it reminds me of having fun and a good time, thank you for that.” That helped me a lot.
Can you tell us a little bit of backstory behind enjoi and what happened to it over the last several years with the ownership?
enjoi was owned by Globe for many years, up until 2019. People used to knock that it was owned by a “corporation” this and that, but I popped into the Globe offices unannounced in Australia once and one of the Hill brothers [owners of Globe] was walking out of the mini ramp area, sweating and was like, “Louie, ah mate, I didn’t know you were coming by. I skate the ramp on my lunch breaks. I wish I knew you were coming by, we could’ve sessioned together.” It blew my mind. Here was the “corpo” guy and he was having a solo session on the mini during his lunch break!
Fast forward several years and we got bought by an actual corporation in 2019 and you see what they can actually do to a brand. So for me, it was bittersweet. I don’t owe those Globe dudes anything, but I just want that story to be told because it was always upsetting that some skaters talked shit about Globe being a corporation. We went through some heavy, heavy years around 2008-2010 when we lost tons of money. I was sitting in a meeting with Gary Valentine [the Chief Financial Officer], we were going over budgets for the year or something, and we were arguing a bit over the budget. Gary said, “Louie, we are giving you this budget because we love enjoi, and because we believe in skateboarding. If we were just businessmen we would have just pulled the plug on the brand.” And I’ll be honest, we survived those years, at the lowest, making less than what we made this last year forcing this corporation to stop paying everyone and stop production.
“WHEN THE NEW CORPORATION BOUGHT US, IT WAS LIKE, WE WERE ALL JUST NUMBERS”
How did enjoi have to change once it traded hands and it became ran by a new big company in 2019?
When the new corporation bought us, it was like, we were all just numbers. The best example I can give is this: Last spring, we did the “High Wire” demo tour, a little over two weeks on the road, demos were full of people energy was high. We made a rad edit, Thrasher article, the whole works. We get home, that next Friday they fire our team manager Jeff Davis. I called Bod [Boyle] straight away to complain and he was gutted. The call came from above him, and their reasoning was, “There was nobody filling that position when we acquired the business,” so that was their justification for firing him.
Also, everything was just sales and forecast driven. When Globe owned us, putting out rad content was priority number one. With our new owners, it was all about hitting sales targets. The best way to sum it up is this: In November, we had a pre-Black Friday sale, a Black Friday sale, and then a Cyber Monday sale. We crushed it in November. From all the sales, plus the holiday shopping, we made a ridiculous amount that month. Well, guess what, they made the December sales goal target the same as November. Super unattainable. And since we didn’t hit the sales goal in December, guess what, nobody on the team got paid!
So did Bod Boyle quit once people above him were telling him who to fire?
Yeah, so back in the fall we had a horrible meeting with our new owners. I listened as Bod tried to explain how we could get out of our troubles and set up a plan and everything, but it fell on deaf ears. The bosses really didn’t even listen to him. I think they came to Bod after that meeting and told him he had to fire a bunch of us. People he had worked with for 17+ years were just “costs” to the owners. I think that was the final straw for him, and he resigned rather than fire his friends. After Bod left they had another meeting with us all, but it didn’t seem like there was a plan or answers to any questions we had. Someone even asked about team rider pay in which I heard an executive say, “That’s an unfortunate byproduct of the skateboarding industry.” It was such a rude awakening for all of us.
I felt like enjoi was doing so well though, especially with the documentary and the AM videos. I imagine good board sales throughout the pandemic too.
We were doing really fucking good, dude. Pre-covid, our board sales were doing way better than they had historically ever done. Then covid hit and sales spiked up even more. But we relied heavily on our clothing too, and with the fader denim and some new cut-and-sew items we had serious traction starting on the softgoods [clothing] side.
The unfortunate thing was, I was seeing what we were selling and none of it was coming back to us, and that’s the part that was draining my soul. That money was going out of enjoi and not getting invested back into our riders or any of us. I can’t answer where it was going… We were selling good, but the money wasn’t going back into the brand, so obviously something else, somewhere else, needed the money.
I do think there were a lot of issues with production and delivery of goods, because of Covid, shipping was delayed and we had times when there was no product to sell and then all of a sudden there was a ton of stock, but then you’re not paying anyone to promote it? A perfect storm that made no sense.
“I WAS SEEING WHAT WE WERE SELLING AND NONE OF IT WAS COMING BACK TO US, AND THAT’S THE PART THAT WAS DRAINING MY SOUL.”
So you never owned enjoi, right? You were just an employee, correct?
Yeah, I’m a non-exclusive independent contractor. I was tasked to run enjoi and skate for enjoi and I could still work for other brands too. I still ride for Krux and I could work for these other distributions with wheel sponsors and bearing sponsors and all that stuff.
I have to ask this question, who came up with the controversial laundry tag back in the day? Do you regret doing it?
I never liked or understood that label, but I’ll answer it the best I can. I did not come up with that tag and wasn’t involved in a lot of the brand development during that period. I didn’t know anything about it until I saw it on a t-shirt.
For me, it didn’t represent what the vibe of enjoi was about at all. enjoi to me was all inclusive: gay, straight, boy girl, crappy at skating or a ripper, who cares, as long as you were having fun you were part of the crew. Actually, one of the first things I did when I took over brand management was to drop this from production. My guess is it was just trying to be a joke. But, for me, I see it as dangerous words that were targeted at impressionable kids. I still get the exact same upset feeling in my stomach now seeing it, just as I did the first time I saw it.
Some people have hypothesized that this new website and brand, Jacuzzi Unlimited is something you’re involved in. Is there any truth to that?
Well [laughs]. If somebody came to you and said, we have a beer, a hot tub, and all your buddies… Would you not want to be involved in that? Tell me that doesn’t sound like a good time [laughs].
It sounds like the best time. Unlimited!
[laughs]. The Jacuzzi thing honestly is just that perfect storm where Jeff Davis [former enjoi Team Manager] and I started working together. I’ve worked years with guys where ideas never come easy and we throw thoughts around and mash ideas together. But with Jeff, it’s always been like two perfectly synchronized gears that flow together. So much so that we are constantly wondering, is this really a good idea or are we both just idiots?! [laughs] The ideas, the team, it all just flowed together naturally!
Honestly, it feels like the early days of enjoi where we’re not owned by a corporation and where we have to adhere to any rules again. It’s pretty rad. Guys are already making their own tees and stickers. The genuine excitement is there! It’s not like we need a guy from this region, or whatever. Our dudes actually all skate together, they’re all homies, you know? I lived it once before… there’s something special with all these guys. There’s a vibe, there’s a connection with everybody. I’m not worried about anyone peeing in the pool.
As for how it actually started… when Jeff Davis got fired, he kinda focused on the Jacuzzi stuff. I can’t really take credit for much of it, other than like, Jeff came up with the name and we both came up with the idea that it’d be Unlimited, you know? [laughs]
Where does the name come from?
I would give credit to Cairo Foster and Ron Whaley cause I used to go on tour back in the day and bring these Dark Side of the Moon shorts, and after skating all day or whatever, if the hotel had a Jacuzzi or a hot tub, I would be like, “Yeah dude, I’m going to the Jacuzzi tonight!” Ron and Cairo started calling me “Jacuzzi Lou” so it would be one of those things where the tour would start and Cairo would be like, “Is Jacuzzi Lou coming out on this trip?” I’d be like, “Oh yeah! I got the Dark Side of the Moon swim shorts.”
So is this your new brand or a joke thing?
We got a team that is raring to go, dude. There are people that are fired up on it, so now that I am officially moving on, it’s definitely something that we’re gonna go full on with. We are not going garage style, we have been talking to some people so we can launch this thing properly. I don’t need a company so I can sleep at night knowing I’m still pro. Im going into this with the idea that we are going to make dreams real for the next wave of young rippers. And we ain’t gonna be able to do Jacuzzi Barcelona, or Jacuzzi Japan by doing this outta my garage, so there’s a lot back end stuff that I’m working on. I’m excited to get going on it.
“WE ARE GOING TO MAKE DREAMS REAL FOR THE NEXT WAVE OF YOUNG RIPPERS.”
Are you guys working on a video?
Yeah, absolutely! I’ve been filming and wanted to put out a part before I turn 21, so I think instead of a solo part we are gonna use it and throw it into the first Jacuzzi video!
You guys at enjoi and now Jacuzzi all share a sense of humor on life that’s very distinct. Where does that stem from, you think?
I would say the spirit of individuality was here early on with Marc Jonhson. In an era of big pants and small wheels, he was wearing tight dickies and white shirts. Marc really set the precedent of showing you can be successful by staying in your own lane. And Jerry [Hsu] came in and he was doing his thing. You can tell there’s a core of people who just want to be individuals and I really think that’s what enjoi was about. We were just a group of friends having fun and doing it in our own lane, you know? Tricks only last three seconds. You can’t be friends with that. You gotta be friends with the package deal.
Now that you are a free agent, would you ever consider riding for Sci-Fi Fantasy?
[laughs] I’m actually sitting on half of a part. I told Jerry Hsu [Owner of Sci-Fi], like, “I’m ready to ride for Sci-Fi but you guys don’t make 7.5s so we’re gonna just do our own thing” [laughs].
Were you offered to join any other brands in recent years?
I mean over the past 15 years I’ve gotten offers, but I never even entertained any of that because enjoi is my baby, my life. That’s everything to me. I never took any of that shit seriously and honestly when I quit last week, my thought was that I was gonna just chill and not do anything.
Wouldn’t you be bored if you did nothing after enjoi though?
How could I get bored of skating?
“WHEN I QUIT LAST WEEK, MY THOUGHT WAS THAT I WAS GONNA JUST CHILL AND NOT DO ANYTHING.”
Maybe “burnt out” is the right phrase?
Being burnt out only happens when you do the same thing over and over again. Skating with some of our AMs, even like Tony [Latham] who lives here in the Bay Area, there’s new spots I’ve never seen and you’re always evolving. I’m not training to skate rails, I’m skating small things, and it’s fun. Louie five years ago would have laughed at this version of Louie, like, “You’re pathetic, what are you doing?” But it’s fun, and you know what, I never look back, that’s what keeps you going.
So as long as you’re not doing the same thing over and over, skating theoretically should always be entertaining and fun?
For sure. I said this to a team rider cause we had this conversation a while back about aging. The second that I realized that I wasn’t in competition with anyone else whose name is on a skateboard, it made skateboarding so much more fun. You’re so stressed on being pro and trying to hold yourself to this standard and it drives people mad sometimes. I heard an old friend once say, “I’m getting too old to keep up!” I laughed and said skateboarding is something that you only age out of if you think you have to keep up with 15 year olds. Some days it’s a challenge for me to do kickflip backtails on a ledge. Some days it’s a challenge just to get outta bed. Sucks when shit doesn’t come naturally of course, but it’s always fun to challenge yourself!
Will there be a point when you finally reveal your real age?
Just tell me when Jenkem needs a really big bump, and then we’ll do an age reveal [laughs]
Let’s do a board graphic. Age reveal Jacuzzi Unlimited graphic.
But it’s a scratch-off!
That’s the ticket! [laughs] Ok, for now at least tell me your astrological sign [laughs]
Taurus of course! Im always full of bull!!
What would you say to someone that argues it’s good that a mass amount of enjoi riders left and it changed. That brands have a shelf life, and by running them too long, they eventually get stale and wack?
Well, I can’t comment about enjoi cause its too close to home, but to me, brands like 101 are so sick, because they were around for just a short flash of time, my childhood. Selfishly it’s mine and nobody will age and suck or ruin it or the memory of it. Then look at other brands that kept going after the core or heart of the brand left and those brands linger and rot. No offense to anyone that rides for brands “after the fact” but we all know deep down, they should die with dignity. I’m too close to enjoi though, to me I think maybe someone will come in and make it this super rad thing and then we can all be proud to say we rode for enjoi. I know that was one of my major motivations, to try to stay true to the brand and make it something ex-riders can still proudly say they rode for enjoi.
How are you feeling now after all these crazy changes in the last couple of weeks?
I was thinking about this last night laying in bed. Nobody gets to feel the admiration from their peers usually when they are alive. It takes you passing away for you to get this admiration that I’ve gotten the past few days, and I’m getting kinda choked up saying this… but it’s been fucking phenomenal to feel it.
I’ve been so blessed, it’s insane.
But what bummed me out was that I realized that when I die, somebody is gonna print my obituary, and they’re gonna know my real fucking age! [Laughs] So I was like, “Fuck, I guess I gotta keep on living, dude! Can’t let it go.”
Interview by: Ian Michna
Photos by: Jeff Davis
Intro: Alexis Castro
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