Last week, Chris Cole announced that he's leaving his longtime sponsor Zero Skateboards, a company he's been aligned with for the past 13 years and whose brand he has inked onto his body.
"I have had so many amazing years on Zero," Cole wrote on his blog. "I can't explain to anyone how awesome these years have been. With a heavy heart, it is time for Zero and I to part ways. Hold tight to see what the future holds. ... Where we're going, we don't need roads."
Fans will remember Cole and the Zero team dominating Thrasher Magazine's King of the Road contest for three years running starting in 2004. Cole was representing Zero when he won Skater of the Year accolades from Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding in 2005, when he earned his first two X Games Skateboard Street gold medals in 2006 and 2007, and when he scored another SotY nod from Thrasher in 2009. By the time he collected his third X Games gold and his first Street League Skateboarding Super Crown in 2013, he was busy denying any suggestion that he would ever split with Zero.
All of that changed last week. Despite owning some stock in Zero from a 2011 partnership deal, he says the move isn't about getting paid or selling out.
"It was a long time coming and I didn't want to leave but there were just a lot of circumstances that made it impossible to stay," he told XGames.com on Wednesday. "I've been trying to get myself back into a less stressed-out space. When you find yourself skating to fulfill professional duties or for any reason other than love of skating, it's time to start analyzing your sponsorships and partnerships with people and do what is best."
So what's next? Cole says his future is unwritten.
"Everything's still up in the air," he says. "I can say this: It's going to be an entirely new chapter and it's going to be rad. The business part is exceptionally important to me, to take care of my duties as a grown man with a family, and there are also a lot of fans who have stuck with me for a really long time and I want to do them justice."
This week, his days will include spending some much-needed time with his family back home in Philadelphia, where he'll also be skating with old friends for the fun of it after a busy couple of months that included the Street League Skateboarding Pro Open, X Games Austin and the official first stop of the Street League World Tour in Chicago.
"For me to be a happy person and be the man that I am, I need skating," he says. "It's always been my reset button and right now I need that more than ever. For me the business stuff has to be in the background and lately it's been all up in the foreground, so clearing that up is the first priority. It's time to go skateboarding."
Cole has been paying close attention to his friend and competitor Paul Rodriguez and the Primitive Skateboards brand he launched earlier this year after leaving Plan B, a company he'd been as closely associated with as Cole was with Zero.
"I think at some point Paul figured out it wasn't about Plan B selling Paul Rodriguez skateboards anymore, it was about him selling Plan B, and that's the point where you start to realize you could be doing something more," Cole says.
Still, he's not entirely convinced that following P-Rod's lead is the answer. Cole has learned to take his time with any big business decisions after being forced to close his clothing company Omit in 2012 after just one year in business.
"If you have a dream of building a skateboard company then that's what you should go do and more power to you," Cole says, "but there's only so much room for big gigantic board brands and even some of those are struggling right now."
Cole says he and Zero founder, Jamie Thomas, a long-time friend of Cole's, are parting amicably. Thomas echoed the sentiment in a statement last Friday.
"It has been an absolute pleasure skating, traveling, and working on projects with Cole over the past 13 years and I wish him the absolute best with whatever his future holds," Thomas wrote.
A limited edition run of Cole's 13th anniversary signature board, his last with Zero, is on sale now.