“I feel Volcom is the embodiment of this irrational pursuit of passion,” Ryan Immegart, former Volcom athlete and present-day CMO, tells me as we wrap up a conversation about the future of the iconic boardsports brand. As a member of the Volcom family for over three decades, Ryan is uniquely poised to share some insight about what’s going on with the brand right now—specifically the exciting revival of Volcom Entertainment, an initiative he worked to start in the ‘90s. He and I caught up about his journey as a pro snowboarder, the pivot into the brand side at Volcom, and the future of the brand.
The Revival of Volcom Entertainment: A Conversation with CMO, Snowboarder and Punk Rocker Ryan Immegart
If you head east about three hours from LA (two without traffic, an impossibility), you’ll find yourself nestled in a small ski town called Big Bear Lake. This is where Ryan grew up, first a frequent skier until snowboarding was permitted on the mountain. His mother “ran the children’s ski school for 20 years,” he tells me.
Once the emerging sport was permitted on the mountain, “I started snowboarding, because I liked to skateboard. And that sort of led me down the path where I started meeting people. The industry was just starting at that point. It basically opened the door for everything that I was able to do in my career. I was the first sponsored snowboarder on Volcom when I was 15.”
Simultaneously, Richard Woolcott and Tucker Hall were working at Quiksilver. The two would later go on to found Volcom in 1991, but back then “they were coming up all the time to Big Bear. They were going snowboarding. This was really the first year snowboarding was allowed at the resorts.” A friend of Ryan’s mom, Marco Hendricksen (fun fact: his son is Olympian Dusty Hendricksen), started running the snowboard school, and connected him with a lot of the folks who were visiting the mountain to get involved with the burgeoning activity that essentially brought skating to the slopes. “They were all surfers and skaters. I was immediately like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be part of this energy.’ But they were much older than me at the time, so I just kept hanging out. All these people coming up from the beach or whatnot, they were like big brothers, uncle sort of types for me. And I ended up just becoming really good friends with the guys that eventually founded Volcom.”
Woolcott and Hall were at Quiksilver at the time, and soon Woolcott sponsored Ryan to ride for Quiksilver. “Shortly after, they were like, ‘Basically, we quit,’” Ryan chuckles to me, continuing: "The short version is, they basically went soul searching through their passion for snowboarding. Then at some point went to Tahoe on a snowboard trip where they were inspired to start this brand that really brought snowboarding, surfing, and skateboarding all together from the inception. Up to that point, you had a lot of surf brands or skate brands that were reverse engineering into snowboarding. There wasn't support of it from the start. So they thought that was amazing and back in the early 90s, that was enough to differentiate a brand in the market.”
Up to that point, you had a lot of surf brands or skate brands that were reverse engineering into snowboarding. There wasn't support of it from the start.
- Ryan Immegart
So they started Volcom in 1991. During a period when they were still primarily making t-shirts and stickers, they approached Ryan: “They were like, ‘Come ride for Volcom.’ And I was like, ‘Maybe… you don't make anything!’ But eventually, it didn't matter. I just connected with them and I liked the energy and I liked the vibe and I just wanted to be a part of it. I truly fell in love with it and ended up dropping my Quiksilver sponsorship to go ride for Volcom and became a part of that family.” Nearly 30 years later, Ryan is still a part of that family.
After graduating from high school in ‘94 and suffering some injuries, Ryan was focused on music. He and his band got a feature in a magazine at the time: “It had me playing music with my band theLINE, and it also had me snowboarding. It was this cool cultural thing. And I basically went to Richard Woolcott and said, ‘Hey, how about I put my photo incentive money in—what you owe me, into this pot—and you guys maybe could put some in and let's start a record label. And it can be part of our marketing strategy and we'll use my band as the first album.' It was really a collective vision; Richard Wolcott had a similar vision and we vibed on it.”
Sidenote: theLINE is still kicking and actually about to go on tour with Guttermouth this year.
Over the course of the next 5 years, they built Volcom Entertainment, which would go on to sell countless records to specialty boardshops, nab label deals with MCA and Warner Music Group, sign numerous bands and even host stages at Warped Tour.
Soon after, “the music industry sort of imploded a bit, and that all changed. Through that period I was doing a lot of brand marketing work through the Volcom Entertainment division at the company.” Eventually, following the departure of the then-EVP of Marketing of Volcom, Ryan was asked to take over the position in 2010.
Of that period, Ryan recalls: “I basically had five children up to that point—two of which were twins but one tragically died of SIDS at 7 days old. I had kids really young—my first kid when I was 20. And so I was always grounded by that and it motivated and just sort of pushed me along. It was an intense time in my life.”
After about 16 months of planning, Ryan and Volcom—now acquired by Authentic Brands Group—are reviving Volcom Entertainment. “It’s just the right time for Volcom to bring back the entertainment division. Back in the early days, we were one of first clothing brands to bring a music label into our marketing mix. So coming out of Covid, we were starting to talk about all these ways that music brings people together,” he explains.
The goal of the entertainment division is to truly contribute to the creative community around Volcom: “It's just straight up about community. The genre isn't important anymore. What is important is connecting enthusiastic fans worldwide with rising musicians across all genres and beats.” They’re releasing clothing collections (like a recent collab with Pepper) and conducting other activations to celebrate some of the legacy Volcom bands while also bringing on emerging talent: “We're doing all kinds of experimental things. Taking UGC to the next level and integrating across digital and physical channels. It's been inspiring working with both emerging bands and more established bands. It's a powerful concoction.
The very first band Volcom partnered with for the relaunch is called RAUE, and they just got a major record deal. As part of the collaboration, Volcom Entertainment produced a music video for them—inspired by "Smells Like Teen Spirit"—in the brand's skate park.
It's just straight up about community. The genre isn't important anymore. What is important is connecting enthusiastic fans worldwide with rising musicians across all genres and beats.
- Ryan Immegart
“We feel now that it's a way for us to bring the Volcom voice into more conversations. Let's actually have a community and engage with these people. We spend a lot of time on Twitch, and a lot of time on Discord, trying to foster this community, and it definitely has started to pay off. So through there, we were like, this is the right time to bring a music inspired collection back to the market, and deepen our investment in this community.”
Ryan is also excited about how they are beginning to involve some of the riders into the mix: “Now we’re bringing our team riders into it. So we have a lot of existing surfers and skaters and snowboarders who are musicians who are in bands, legit bands. So we're working with them to show a different side of them. There's a surfer called Noa Deane who has this band called Blister, and we have a collection coming out around him in the next couple of months. Shortly after that, we're dropping a three way collab with hip hop artist Run The Jewels and the always iconic Hot Wheels.”
There are more than just music opportunities for Volcom Entertainment: “We’ve expanded beyond just music, and we're actually producing a show. It's called Camp Ramp, and it's a media partnership with Thrasher. Michael Sieben, who's the managing editor of Thrasher Magazine, is one of the co-writers. He's also one of the co-stars. Along with our creative director Mike Aho, myself, and our team, we were inspired by this internet show called Internet Shack that we did with Thrasher probably 10 years ago, sort of a cult classic in some circles.
"We wanted to modernize it, make it different, make it more engaging and put it through the Volcom Entertainment lens.” Fat Tony stars in the show; skater, DJ, artist—and star of HBO's Betty—DeDe Lovelace helped put together some artwork for the project; wrestler Darby Allin portrays the villain. Camp Ramp will release in October.
When Ryan and I talk about his favorite aspects of the job, he opines a bit about how it’s certainly been a transition to go from snowboarding every day to sitting behind a desk, but he ultimately lands on gratitude. “I have to always constantly take a step back and look around and just appreciate that I've been able to create this career. I didn't go to college. I went to a continuation school. I grew up in a shitty small mountain town. I liked to snowboard and it led me to music, which led me to this amazing career. It introduced me to all these people. I just feel like I've been so blessed that I could never—I can't pity party myself ever because I have a lot of work that I don't like doing now,” he laughs, before adding:
“Fucking A, the best thing about my job is just literally pretty much everything about it. Just being able to come into this building and work with these people and still be a part of it. Getting to talk about things that you actually give a shit about. That's probably my favorite part.”
True to This
Volcom’s tagline is “True to This.” As we wrap up our conversation, Ryan starts to open up about the “this,” and how it can be different for everybody. “We've said Volcom means something different to everybody, depending on what you're into and what your cultural references are."
The proliferation of some of the key sports special to Volcom is allowing the ethos to reach more and more people, even outside of skateboarding, surfing or snowboarding.
If you are true to your passion and you do it—it's the first thing you think about when you get up, and it's the last thing you think about when you go to bed, that's Volcom.
- Ryan Immegart
“I feel like with surfing and skateboarding finally going to the Olympics, on top of the continuous energy coming from the new youth movement around board sports, we're seeing this level of talent just blow up. That, to me, is what this irrational pursuit of passion is truly about,” he reflects, continuing: “Being true to ‘this.’ ‘This’ represents your passion. It can be a passion for fitness, you can be a foodie, a yoga instructor, you can be a snowboarder, skateboarder, but if you are true to your passion and you do it—it's the first thing you think about when you get up, and it's the last thing you think about when you go to bed, that's Volcom.”
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