“Swiss Made” means more than where it was manufactured. The term is generally associated with the highest level of quality on highly sought after items such as timepieces. Nestled in the Alps, is a small workshop that applies the tradition of extreme Swiss craftsmanship to longboards. Celebrating 10 years in operation, over the past decade they’ve built a reputation for developing great products. Daniel Iseli’s ROCKET Longboards operates differently than other brands in the skate universe, starting with the fact that every single board that leaves the shop is handmade by one of three people. We got to ask Daniel a few questions about his approach to building skateboards.
Tell us the story about how you discovered skating and how it led to the creation of ROCKET?
I got my first skateboard in 1988 when I was 8 years old. But I didn't really start skating until I was 16, when I bought my first slalom board. After a few fun but unsuccessful years as a street skater, I came to downhill in 2003. I liked the fact that you didn't have to practice tricks 1000 times, but could just skate down a hill. The equipment on the market at that time was still very basic. A board had to be long and low to keep the Randal trucks with stock bushings reasonably stable. Back then I was already more interested in improving my setup than my skills. When there was a big self-build movement in a German longboard forum, I decided to build my own board as well. In contrast to others, I started straight away with fiber-reinforced lightweight constructions. The flame was lit and one board became two, ten and finally hundreds.
"Rocket Man" aka Daniel Iseli
ROCKET is perhaps best known for cutting edge designs and extremely high quality build/craftsmanship. Explain your approach to developing a new deck and how it’s changed over the last 10 years?
Our approach was actually always the same, right from the start. The beginning of the development of a new board is always the thought that something is missing. When I started building boards, I developed the boards that I wanted to ride myself, but that weren't on the market yet. I always try to keep my finger on the pulse and see how the market is developing. I have no interest in making something that already exists. Firstly, I don't want to copy anyone and secondly, large companies can produce many things more cheaply. Our boards are handcrafted by us here in Switzerland. This means that they will always be more expensive than boards from the Far East or the US. We can only justify our higher price with a lot of innovation, better construction and our quality. The only difference from 10 years ago is that now more people like our team riders or factory members can help me develop a new board.
All hand made, all the time by a person like this dude.
ROCKET has a very diverse product line. Explain how you’re able to cater to customers in so many skateboarding niches? How has your product line grown over the last 10 years?
It all started with downhill boards because I was riding downhill at that time. Over time LDP, dancing and the Scout series have been added. We only cover areas of skateboarding that we do ourselves or get the right riders on board. Even if I don't ride huge distances myself, LDP has always fascinated me. This is mainly due to the very technical demands of the riders and their focus on the right material. Also because there is still so much potential for developments in gear. In my opinion there is still so much possible. And we're excited to see how far we can go.
Speaking of new decks, tell us about your 10th Anniversary line up?
For our anniversary we decided to revise our entire downhill line. All of these decks were developed over many years and had different generations of construction and graphics. Now we have given them a common look and worked on the details again on each board. The goal was to once again get the best out of each model and I think we've achieved that.
ROCKET launched a line of grip tape last year, do you have plans to offer any other types of products in the future?
We are currently working on a very specific project that focuses on a niche in a niche market. With the "gravity plates" we will soon be launching a weight that is attached to the bottom of the board behind the front axle. This facilitates stand up slides at high speeds on small modern race decks. No other projects are currently planned. In the end, such things mostly fail because of the time I have available. The development of new boards and products with us is mainly done by me. In addition, I have countless other tasks and continue to work in our production. I have to organize my time somehow very precisely. After all, I also look after our children one day a week. I definitely don't want to do without that. Rocket recently relaunched the Exodus. Tell us about the refinements made to this LDP platform.
Gravity plate protypes from the ROCKET R&D lab.
What’s different between V.1 & V.2 Exodus and why did you decide to redesign this highly respected platform?
The original decision to revise the Exodus came about for an external reason. The manufacturer of the balsa cores that we used had stopped production. So we had to find a new supplier and test new cores. Since we had to build a new mold for the new cores anyway, we had the opportunity to improve a few details. We had always had a lot of praise for the board. But there were a few people who found the concave on the edges to be too strong over very long distances. So we decided to make the new concave a little more relaxed and with less focus on the edges. In addition, the flex adjustment was easier with the new construction. That's why the flex I is less stiff than it used to be and is now more comfortable to ride.
The Exodus V2. One of the most respected LDP decks got even better.
Some readers may not know that ROCKET is a family enterprise. Tell us about the day-to-day team dynamic and how that fits into the DNA of the company?
Even when I was still doing ROCKET on my own, we always referred to our team as family. That's because it was always very important to me to have a family atmosphere with our team riders. When my wife Patrizia started working here, things naturally intensified. We are currently four people working here and we are all good friends. This means that the day does not start with the time clock, but with a coffee together. This exchange helps us a lot in developing new things. And working with good friends is just more fun.
Speaking of team - Tell us about the riders on Team ROCKET. Who should we be watching, any up and comers?
At the moment our team consists only of downhill riders and dancers. I don't want to single anyone out because I think they're all great riders and they all have their strengths and place in our team. However, we are currently looking for LDP riders who would like to represent our brand. So if you have read this far and would like to suggest yourself or someone else, you are very welcome to contact us.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 10 years ago while starting ROCKET, what would it be?
I'm in the fortunate position that I wouldn't do anything differently. I would tell myself 10 years ago that this is the way to go. At the time I was wondering if it was a good idea to start my own business after graduating from university. My studies had absolutely nothing to do with board building. Today I know that it was the right decision.
Enter to win a ROCKET Prize Pack With Moray Top Mount Deck
Our friends at ROCKET have partnered with us to get this top of the line topmount on the streets pronto! Head on over to Instagram to enter and maybe you'll have a new ride this summer when we announce a winner on 6/09/23. Good luck.
ROCKET is a brand partner of the IDSA
Edit by Scott Zee