Few days ago various blading websites (and various bladers) posted photos of new Seba Street skate. As I expected, this is clearly carbon-fiber base, one piece, “softboot” skate. Or you could say – clone of USD Carbon II, with few features added.
Most striking feature are “ribs” on heel. It is not known yet what they are there for, but I bet not only for looks. Tom Ballard hinted on PB community that these might be idea borrowed from hockey skates, to increase forward flex. I’ve done quick search and indeed, some Bauer inline hockey skates have similar thing, called “X-rib” – it supposedly increases forward flex, and gives more support to the sides. Ribs might also serve as a reinforcement of heel, as on all USD Carbon iterations, this area is most prone to cracking (which is rare, but still, happens to some unlucky owners).
Skates have cuff very similar to FR series cuff, and overall, they look higher than both Carbon III and Adapt skates. This is good news for people who always wanted to have blades of this type, but found existing models too low cut for their likings. Small, additional bonus is slot to secure ratchet strap on one of cuff “wings” – feature that was abandoned in modern skates, but worked so good in Salomon STs. I hope cuff is made of better material than existing FR series cuff – knowing failure rate of them, and the fact aggressive skating is much more rough on equipment than freeskating.
Skates have plastic/rubber “bumper” on the side, but it is very minimalistic and from the way it fits with soulplate, I’d say it is probably still unfinished, and won’t make that much difference – Seba could simply raise soulplate wall here a bit to get the same effects.
Soulplate itself still looks prototypic and kind of reminds me first gen USD VII souls (the ones with raised heel) with its minimalistic backslide groove. I think final version will be much more fine-tuned and this one is only a temporary placeholder. Skates will probably be compatible with Carbon/VII/Xsjado/Symmetrics soulplates, so even if Seba soulplate shape is already set in concrete and won’t change, you will be able to choose ones better suited to your taste.
Frames mounted on these aren’t made by any popular brand and might as well be generic Chinese placeholders or some Seba prototypes. I bet second option, as it is more likely for Seba to release full setup with all parts with their own brand than any collaboration – currently only hardware that is not made by Seba and is sold with their skates are Twincam bearings. Even though company works close with Gyro wheels, and many of their pro-riders (slalom skaters!) use these wheels in competitions, they never released skate with Gyro wheels instead of stock ones. At least not outside of Asia (Seba releases all kinds of weird stuff in South Korea for example).
Velcro strap is mounted on screw – good thing, but nothing special, as new USD Carbon iterations already have this feature.
As for looks I would really like to think this design is not final one, but knowing Seba history of making horrible looking skates (from gold KSJ II, herring-silver Igors, Fisher-Price colored FRs, to 2011-2012 lineup full of skates with glossy, black skins and white stitching…) I bet final model will be very close to it …at best. At worst, it will be exactly the same. Also, front part of the boot is looking very similar to CII Kelso – Adapt at least choose different skin pattern to escape “carbon-copy” stigma.
Now, where these fit in? For sure Seba will find its niche on the market, as every boot fits differently and it’s good to have choice. Skates have some features that suggest they might be more supportive than existing carbon models, and if they really will be, I’m sure they’ll find audience.
But as for now, I think these will have rough start. Seba Street still looks a bit too “generic” for a Carbon skate. And knowing Seba pricing policy, they won’t be price-competitive with Carbons – I expect them to be closer to Adapts (real leather ones) cost-wise.
USD is hitting strong this years with Franky Morales and Mathieu Ledoux pro-models that managed to spark controversy and gain much attention. I’m on the “damn, they are ugly as hell” side of the fence, but I can see how these may appeal to some people. New, improved Carbon Frees are looking great and already managed to steal some audience of their carbon fiber based counterparts. And undoubtedly, there are more CFrees and Carbons coming this year, as we still have winter…
But real star this year is Adapt – they managed to create strong brand image during past few months and their skates are praised for most part. New, upgraded Vegan models look much better than first ones, are made of better materials, and have elegant lines. Be-Mag and Adapt collaboration skate is improvement over older Harmanus models too (even though it is much uglier, at least on the photos). Little, functional tweaks make both “bloody” and “pacifist” models better skates than their ancestors, and rollerbladers already get over “OMG SO EXPENSIVE” initial shock, maybe also thanks to USD that charges 300+ Euros for Franky Morales pro model.
Now it’s up to how Seba will manage their advertising campaign. They always had very little competition on freestyle slalom market, and not much more on freeskating one. Seba isn’t exactly known for releasing tons of edits or other materials – they build up their image using presence on events and sponsoring people who attend them (which is sometimes ridiculous – boys and girls, men and women, dressed from heads to toes in clothes with Seba logos, looking like Christmas trees. Damn, we all see what skates you guys wear).
But in aggressive, they will be only small fish in a pond where sharks swim – they might have CJ Wellsmore on their side, but it is not enough. Antony Pottier is definitely pro material, and good thing they picked him up, but let’s face it, he is not a name that will sell skates (yet!). As for now, they have two pro-skaters and one unfinished skate – clearly not enough to battle with likes of USD or Razors. Also, Seba desperately need at least one well known pro-skater in USA, and even better, a whole team of such, to appeal to that market.
I did not expected revolution, and I still do not see one coming. To put it simply, another brand entering aggressive market. I wish them luck, for sole reason I would like CJ to get paid well for what he is doing, but that doesn’t change the fact I will never buy any Seba product.