In skateboarding, the term GOAT isn’t thrown around as freely as it is amongst NBA or NFL fans. Show up to any skate shop in the world and start talking to the lurkers about the best to ever do it, though, and in between mentions of single-name icons like Gonz, Reynolds, and Koston, the name Ishod will no doubt come up sooner than later.
Entering his 10th year as a pro for Real Skateboards, Ishod Wair is something of a north star for the modern skateboard industry––you wanna know how to do things right? Look toward Ishod. The 30-year-old from Bordentown, New Jersey, made a name for himself splitting time between Philadelphia’s famed downtown plazas and the de facto centers of the skateboard industry in San Francisco and Los Angeles, leaving a lasting mark on skate spots and industry luminaries new and old. Equipped with a never-ending bag of tricks paired with an effortless style that translates seamlessly from curbs and bowl corners to bump-to-bars and handrails, Ishod’s skateboarding is equal parts powerful and dreamy.
These days, Wair is a full-time resident of Southern California with Thrasher’s 2013 Skater of the Year award on his mantel, a résumé packed with more video parts than most pro skaters could dream of producing in an entire career, and no signs of slowing down.
Adding to those accolades, the new year marked the release of Ishod’s debut signature shoe, the Nike SB Ishod. Ishod has been riding for Nike SB his entire career, previously releasing a highly sought after, personally crafted, slimmed down version of the Dunk SB Low, and more recently teaming up with Magnus Walker for a Porsche-inspired Dunk SB Hi colorway. This time around, Ishod worked with designers at the Swoosh to build a brand-new silhouette from the ground up, becoming the latest on a short list of Nike athletes with their own signature shoe.
The day before the Nike SB Ishod’s Jan. 7 release, we got on the phone with Ishod to find out more about his new shoe, the thought behind the design, collaborating during the Covid era, and more. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
When did you know you were getting a pro shoe?
Maybe three years ago. And then we’ve actually been doing the whole thing and making the shoe happen for a little more than two years.
What was your goal going into the design process?
I honestly just wanted it to be something different. People end up doing the same thing over and over with skate shoes, basically remaking the same shoe and I didn’t want to do that. That was my whole thing with the shoe, I didn’t want to redo anything, I wanted to be as original as possible. I hope people like it, but I already know it skates well, and for me, that’s the most important part.
Were you out in Portland at the campus a lot for the design work?
It was mostly a lot of FaceTime back and forth. Covid definitely messed with that, otherwise, I would have been out on the campus a lot more. But we had a lot of meetings. I wanted to be really hands-on with the whole process and have a say in every single component of the shoe. They really weren’t pushing me towards anything when it came to designing, so at every level, it was whatever I wanted to do.
Was it hard to have that kind of input without being on the campus?
FaceTime actually worked really well because we were tapped in so much. If I was traveling to the campus it would have been meetings once every couple of months, but instead, we were having FaceTime meetings every week and a half or two weeks, so that let me really communicate what I wanted.
How long have you been skating samples of the shoe?
I would say for about half the time we’ve been working on it, so probably about a year.
Did you ever FaceTime the design team while you were out skating because you realized something you had to tweak on the shoe?
Nah, nothing that immediate, I never hit them up while I was out skating. But I’m super particular about my shoes and setup when I’m skating so if I notice something about the tread pattern or the breathability of the mesh panel, it sticks with me and I’m not gonna forget about it. I definitely waited for the meetings though.
Did you have any specific sneaker inspiration in mind with your approach?
No, not any specific shoe. We just took the features that I like in a skate shoe and tried to create something new. Like, I wanted to make sure that if you wear your shoes loose that your foot would still be properly strapped down so we put a gilly in the middle for that support. It’s got a second hidden set of lace loops too because it sucks having dusty shoes and broken laces, so if you break a lot of laces skating you can use the hidden set, and if you don’t care about that you can use the regular ones.
I always break laces, so I love that.
I really just wanted to make a shoe that performs as well as possible. Obviously, you want it to look good and in its own unique way, but really I just wanted a really good skate shoe. It’s a cupsole shoe that feels vulcanized. It’s got the flick of a vulc shoe but the catch and comfort of a cupsole. It’s comfortable out the box and contorts to your foot really well. That was the main thing that people who’ve been skating it early said, that it was just really comfortable.
The insole of your shoe uses React cushioning. How did that come about?
The latest Bruin SB had React and I really liked the way that felt so I put that same insole in mine.
I know you hoop a little bit, have you played basketball in your shoes yet?
Yeah, a couple of days ago actually. They’re good. They’re a little low for me for playing basketball though.
These days pretty much the only people that get new pro model shoes are NBA players, rappers, pop stars, and pro skaters. Does it feel weird to be a member of that increasingly small group?
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs.] I’ve never really thought about that.
It’s a pretty exclusive club.
A lot of those people just have colorways, too. The number of people that have had actual signature shoes from Nike, and not just colorways—that list is pretty short. I think it’s under 40 or something, so yeah, that’s really special.
You’ve been on Nike for a long time, did having your own shoe ever feel like a possibility in the early days of your career?
In my earlier years, I didn’t really think about it too much. My mindset was, “I’m just gonna keep doing my thing and whatever happens, happens, and I’m not really tripping.” You can’t really expect shit—you just gotta keep up the vibes. [Laughs.]
Your first pro shoe on Nike was a slimmed-down version of the Dunk, the Dunk Pro IW. How did that first come about?
Three years before the IW Dunk came out, I was in a huge Nike meeting and I just spoke up and basically said, “The Dunks are great but can we thin them out a little bit?” Because at that time all the shoes were thinner like the Janoski, and honestly, I don’t like a big, bulky shoe.
Then randomly a few years later they approached me and brought the idea back up and asked if I wanted to do my take on the Dunk and I said yeah, and we just ran with it.
The IW Dunks came out in an era between the insane rounds of sneakerhead Dunk hype, but with it coming back around last year some of your colorways shot up in price again. Did you notice that some of your older pro model Dunks pop up on resale sites selling for almost $1,000?
There’s a couple of pairs that are still going wild. I’ll look up the “Blue Sparks” every once in a while because that was my favorite pair of Dunks I ever did—they’ve got a white patent leather Swoosh and they’re blue and white with a pink insole. Those are going for like $600 on StockX.
Do you have any collaborations or specific colorways or materials you’re excited about working into the new shoe in 2022 and beyond?
I didn’t do any collaborations for this year—everything is done pretty much two years in advance so we’ve got the colorways for the whole year already set. I’m stoked for an upcoming pair of all-blue ones with a frosted sole and then a Sixers colorway that is pretty cool. There’s a bunch of really good ones. I just can’t wait to get samples. I want to be skating the ones that no one has yet.
I’ve seen tons of skaters on Instagram posting their early pairs and skating them—were there any people outside of skating that you made sure got a pair? Did DJ Khaled get his?
I was supposed to give them a seeding list, but there’s been a ton of stuff going on over the last month that I got overwhelmed and didn’t even do it. From Thanksgiving, I was traveling back home to stay with my mom and family for the holidays and then I just got back home last night from six days straight of snowboarding for New Years. From a marketing standpoint, I definitely should have been on that, but I’ve just been thinking about family, my dog, skating, and other shit, and not really if DJ Khaled got the shoe. [Laughs.]
Is there any skate footage coming out with the release of the shoe?
Yeah, I’ve got a full part dropping really soon. It was supposed to have come out already but it got delayed because the music rights didn’t clear. Now at this point, I’m low-key more excited for the part to come out than the shoe. I mean, now people have already seen the shoe. It will be crazy to see random people skating it and wearing it around, but the shoe isn’t a surprise anymore. No one really knows I’ve got a new part coming and that shit is way more blood, sweat, and tears. I’m really busting my ass and hurting myself for this part… A lot of people don’t really understand what goes into a skate part. There wouldn’t be any shoe without the skating and the footage.