If you're a skateboarder, you might have already seen a video or heard about Braille Skateboard, the YouTube channel created by Aaron Kyro.
"My name is Aaron Kyro [AK], and I am a sponsored skateboarder from the San Francisco Bay Area."
This is the line that AK uses to start countless videos.
Braille Skateboarding is an action sports media company founded by Aaron Kyro.
It all started on December 8, 2005, when he uploaded his first video on YouTube, an online video-sharing platform that had made his debut ten months earlier.
But let's take a step back.
Falling in Love With Skateboarding
Aaron Kyro was born on September 10, 1983, in Denver, Colorado.
At the age of six, he peered out of the car window as his family was driving through town and saw three kids riding skateboards.
Aaron knew at that exact moment that he wanted to be a skateboarder.
"I am not sure what it was about those kids - maybe the friendship, joy, and freedom they seemed to be experiencing - but I wanted to be just like them," Kyro wrote in his book "How to Get a Billion Views on YouTube."
"I begged my parents for a board and did extra chores to help pay for it. The second I got my first skateboard, I was hooked."
"I spent countless hours teaching myself to ride in any empty parking lots I could find in the harsh Montana weather."
Kyro grew up in Red Lodge, a small town in Montana, where he raised funds for the construction of a local skatepark in 2002.
"When I was 18 years old, I found out a specific piece of land owned by the city and asked if there was any way we could get the money," Kyro once explained.
"Amazingly enough, the city ended up giving both the land and $25,000. We put a slab there and built a skatepark."
The skatepark stood the test of time, and later Kyro raised $200,000 to revamp, rebuild and improve Red Lodge Montana Skatepark.
But the young skater had another passion.
"Skateboarding videos got me interested in making my own videos and got me started on the path of eventually learning how to film and edit," the entrepreneur wrote.
"I was 100 percent self-taught before the days of video tutorials, and I blindly felt my way through the process."
Skateboarding, University, or Something In-Between?
So, by the time Aaron Kyro was 18 years old, he was - like many kids straight out of high school - tasked with a life-changing decision.
Should he go to University like everyone else or venture off in pursuit of his childhood passion of becoming a professional skateboarder?
AK admits he was scared and not sure that he could make it as a pro skater, so he took the easier and simpler route of going to University.
"I chose the school that had a good film program and an area with a good skate scene," recalls Kyro.
In 2001, AK moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and took some General Education and film classes - the original plan was to major in film making.
"The film classes taught me nothing, and I spent most of my time riding my skateboard," summarizes Kyro.
"The classes I took were all about the idea of filmmaking but didn't go over the practical application of how you go about doing it."
"In other words, we just watched films and talked about them rather than making them."
Kyo only lasted one year in University.
Nevertheless, that year, while not necessarily educational from an academic standpoint, taught him a lot about himself and what he really did want to do with his life.
Off to San Francisco
One year later, Aaron felt he was wasting valuable time and decided to drop out and give professional skateboarding a go.
He started making "sponsor me" videos on VHS tapes and mailing them to companies he admired.
On most occasions, he'd never get a reply.
"These companies I loved and would do anything to ride for were completely ignoring me. In the end, I was able to gather up a few sponsors but was never paid a dime," states Kyro.
"I saw no real future there in terms of an actual career. However, I knew I would never forgive myself for not trying. I felt this was the make or break point of my life."
So, Kyro packed his bags and went off to San Francisco, "the only place I had been to in California, and I knew of some good skate spots there."
The young man got a job at KB Toys for $8 an hour and skated every free minute he had. He could barely pay the rent and would call his mother in Montana to buy him pizzas when he couldn't afford to eat.
Meanwhile, Aaron Kyro got acquainted with the local skateboard scene.
He also met two filmmakers at skate spots and started shooting for two different full-length video parts.
After months of riding as much as he could, his luck seemed to finally turn around.
"I picked up a very good local board sponsor who provided me with new skateboard equipment. But I still never made a dime," emphasizes Kyro.
"I struggled every day financially, but I tried to make the best of it. I was excited to be sponsored, and I just focused on perfecting my skill as a skater."
Aaron was struggling, and he was not sure he would pull through it.
He had sponsors but kept losing them. And when he'd lose them, he'd feel like he'd lost his chance.
Only the love of skateboarding kept him going.
"One fateful day, I went into the shop and got word from my main sponsor - I was kicked off the team," explains Kyro.
"There was a budget cut, and half the team was let go. I went in to get new boards and walked out devastated."
"The one opportunity for the only thing I knew I wanted to do in life was stripped away. I can only describe this feeling as utter desolation."
Resilience Pays Off
Kyro kept skating.
He got another sponsor and was dropped again. And again. And again.
"I found out later the company went out of business. Instead of sitting there feeling bad for myself, I decided to work that much harder," says Kyro.
Around 2005, Kyro started revealing his skills on YouTube for the first time.
"In the skateboarding world, putting your video parts on YouTube was regarded as the lowest of low," stresses Kyro.
"The skateboard industry had decided it wasn't cool or appropriate."
"I knew that if I posted on YouTube, I would be killing my chances at a career. I wouldn't ever be featured in skate magazines which, at that time, was the make or break of your career."
"YouTube was the place where skateboarding footage went to die."
"No one who was anyone in the industry used YouTube at this time. It was absolutely flat-out looked down upon. If you put your footage on YouTube, you were a joke."
Enough is enough. After struggling to get new sponsorship deals, Aaron decided it was time to run his own show.
In a final act of desperation, Aaron took all the footage that he had been working on for the last two years, edited it together with a dramatic song from a "Lord of the Rings" soundtrack remix, and posted it to YouTube.
"The skating in the video was different, and the music was so different from anything else out there that it stuck out like a sore thumb. It was an odd little concoction that you just had to experience," revealed Kyro.
One week later, that video had 50,000 views, and not long after that, it peaked at 250,000 views.
A Building Wave of Hope
Aaron's first videos started gained traction and eventually went viral.
Kyro says it was a confusing time - he felt mixed emotions.
The good news was that a skateboard magazine put his video on the front page of their website and praised his skills.
Aaron Kyro had no sponsors, but there was a lot going on, and he was getting more recognition than he had ever had for anything in his life.
"I didn't pick up any new sponsors because of this or make any money at all. I got something far more valuable - hope. I will never forget that tiny glimmer of hope that shone in the darkest time of my life," notes Kyro.
Between 2005 and 2010, the skateboarder picked up and lost a few other sponsors and made zero videos.
He quit his job at KB Toys and started working in the city, valet parking cars at Wayfare Tavern, Tyler Florence's San Francisco restaurant.
One day, someone told him that YouTube was now paying video creators.
The news clicked on. Aaron had one video on YouTube that was up to 350,000 views by this time.
So, he logged back into his channel and started posting any videos he could think of to meet the minimum statistics required to monetize his channel.
By the end of 2010, AK was uploading one video per week.
His first video had only gained around 300 subscribers in five years, so it was time to boost the brand's awareness.
"I had not been answering comments or doing anything on the platform for five years, so it was basically a dead channel," explained Kyro.
Skateboard Video Series
In 2012, the passionate skater released two additional digital downloads - "Skateboarding Made Simple" (SMS), Volume 2 and 3 - and continued sharing knowledge with his YouTube videos.
In June 2013, Braille Skateboarding hit 100,000 subscribers. The channel had already produced around 100 "Skate Support" videos.
"I started making daily videos in May of 2014. Daily videos were a game-changer. I started growing significantly faster," reveals Kyro.
"I remember calling a friend and telling him, 'Dude, you have to start making daily videos.' He followed this suggestion and saw his channel grow fast."
The "Skateboarding Made Simple" volumes were an extra revenue source for Kyro, so he kept the series going and released volumes 5 and 6 in 2014.
In 2013, Aaron Kyro hired his friend Lance Silver to help him with all the video editing.
"This proved to be a pivotal moment in the growth of the company," adds the founder of Braille Skateboarding.
"Not only did Lance take some of the editing off my shoulders so I could focus on making better content, but he also gave me a good idea for a new series."
The duo kicked off the production of several videos that cover all the basic skateboarding tricks.
The new beginner skateboarder series was a success, and thousands of people starting sharing their comments on how these videos helped them land ollies and other tricks.
A New Era
Ten years later, after Kyro's first introduction to the world, Braille Skateboarding reached 500,000 subscribers on YouTube.
However, the best was yet to come.
In 2015, Kyro and his crew launched "Stupid Skate," a video series with crazy skate-related ideas, and then "Skate Everything," a video series where the team rides a skateboard everywhere on the face of the Earth.
When Kyro revealed the custom glass skateboard, his YouTube channel gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers and viewers.
The board didn't last long. After riding it around the skatepark, Kyro tried to drop in on a ramp, and the board instantly disintegrated.
Despite the inglorious outcome, the moment attracted millions of viewers, and the number of followers - skaters and non-skaters - soared.
The team continued to explore the success of the original glass skateboard and created several new videos featuring glass boards.
Since their first global hit, Braille Skateboarding started exploring the sport's entertainment side instead of focusing exclusively on skateboard tutorials and how-tos.
A Real Skateboarding Company
Braille Skateboarding was already a "real" company with three full-time professionals running the video editing, merchandising, and finance departments.
"I found myself running an actual company," says Kyro.
Through 2017 and 2018, Braille Skateboarding continued to create evergreen content and viral type content.
The media production business grew, and Aaron hired more people to help with the extra workload.
With around four million YouTube subscribers, the channel reached one billion views.
Today, Aaron Kyro runs a skateboarding empire that is mainly focused on media production and monetizing videos.
But Braille Skateboarding also sells branded apparel, skateboards, fingerboards, instructional DVDs, toys, and merchandising.
In 2020, the skateboard media company launched Braille Army, an interactive app that invites skateboarders to upload their video performances and help others improve their skills.
The smartphone app's premium membership also allows sidewalk surfers to download and watch all of the "Skateboarding Made Simple" tutorial videos.
Kyro insists that the purpose of his brand is to bring people into skateboarding. He believes his brand helped millions how to skateboard.
Braille Skateboarding grew exponentially, mainly through YouTube, until reaching over five million subscribers.
A Prolific Communicator
Kyro's success pretty much lies in making skateboarding accessible to everyone, boys and girls, men and women, young and old.
Braille Skateboarding videos are simple, straightforwards, intuitive, and easy to follow.
Also, the enthusiasm Aaron Kyro puts on every clip that is released on the brand's channel captivates all audiences, beginners and advanced skateboarders alike.
Since 2005, Braille Skateboarding has produced and uploaded over 4,200 videos featuring step-by-step tutorials, innovative tricks, tips and suggestions, dangerous stunts, and creative skateboard-related ideas.
There's also a Braille Skateboarding University, an online platform providing various digital courses, webinars, blog posts, and newsletters.
Kyro also wrote "How to get a Billion Views on YouTube," a book that reveals how he made a full-time career out of creating videos.
"I love the individuality that skateboarding brought me," Kyro wrote.
"No matter what was happening in my life, I could step onto my board, and all of life's problems would drop away. It brought me a feeling of freedom and a sense of individuality that I will never lose."
Aaron Kyro is Braille Skateboarding's main star.
He's a prolific skateboarder but, above all, he's a charismatic communicator that knows what people need and want.
Chasing a Longtime Dream
Kyro was able to find the perfect formula and balance between helping skateboarders improved their skills and keeping them entertained.
He's funny, positive, creative, and makes sure to partner with third parties to broaden the reach of his videos.
"My goal in life as a kid was to become a professional skateboarder, and if I could not do that, my fallback or second plan was to make videos or work in the film industry," Kyro revealed.
"As luck would have it, my career ended up being really a combination of both passions, and I could not be happier."
As with any other successful business or career, AK's growth and popularity were not universally acclaimed.
Some purists and old generation riders think that he doesn't represent skateboarding because he's responsible for the sport's over-commercialization.
Braille Skateboarding now has its own team of riders, and it's one of the fastest-growing skateboard companies on the planet.
Aaron Kyro is married to his high school girlfriend, Danielle.
They have a common interest, and it is not skateboarding - they met at a Scientology class and got married in 2010.