Derek Brooks, a Riverdale High School graduate, has found unexpected success with his website promoting SOAP Shoes.
By Leon Lagerstam
Derek Brooks doesn't have a soap box to proclaim his support for SOAP Shoes. He has a website.
The Riverdale High School graduate, now a sophomore at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, describes the shoes that allow wearers to slide down handrails, ledges or benches without strapping on inline skates on his Web site at www.brooksfsw.com.
The shoes look like regular shoes, but have plastic sole inserts in the arches that make it possible to slide.
His Web site draws about 750 hits a day and has captured the attention of SOAP Shoe manufacturers and the British Broadcasting Corp. The BBC interviewed Mr. Brooks by phone earlier this year. An MP3 version of the interview is available on his website.
Mr. Brooks, 19, never expected so much attention. The web page started as an assignment for a Web design class he took at Cornell his freshman year.
"I didn't even have a computer until I got to college, and had no idea how to design Web pages," he said. "I'm shocked by how it took off. It's huge."
The Soap Shoe company was so impressed with the popularity of the Web site, it now sends Mr. Brooks a monthly check to compensate his web costs. "But I'm mostly rewarded by a lot of free stuff. I've got about 30 pairs of shoes and a lot of T-shirts," he said.
The www.soapshoes.com Web site has a direct link to Mr. Brooks' site.
He learned about SOAP Shoes when a friend showed him a pair a couple of years ago.
They were actually born in late 1997 by Chris Morris, a former inline skater who wanted something you can do anywhere, anytime," Mr. Brooks said. "You can't bring a skateboard into the mall, but with these shoes, if you find a nice ledge or something, you can go ahead and grind it."
Some people call it "freestyle walking," but Mr. Brooks prefers to call it "soaping."
He said he enjoys "soaping" down dinosaur statue tails at a restaurant and gas station near his college. College officials warned him not to slide down handrails, fearing he would fall and sue the school.
"I get a lot of mixed reactions from people," Mr. Brooks said. Some skaters believe he uses SOAP shoes because he can't skate, while others say "it's really cool and are impressed by what you can do with them."
'You can't bring a skateboard into the mall, but with these shoes, if you find a nice ledge or something, you can go ahead and grind it.'Derek Brooks, SOAP Shoes promoter
Mr. Brooks used to play inline hockey, but said he plans to continue soaping. "The founder of the company is in his late 30's and he's still soaping."
He said he was the first one soaping at Cornell, but now about 10 others do it. "It's really fun to try to promote this, since it's so small right now. But it's growing."
His website features articles on soaping, information on demonstrations, and encourages people to submit videos and photos related to soaping.
The shoe company gives him low rails he can use to give people a chance to try soaping. He's hoping to do a demonstration in the Quad Cities this summer.
"SOAP shoes began with an idea: Shoes that grind," The company's site says. "Soaps turn the street into your playground. You can slide down handrails, steps, benches, curbs...Skidmark's never looked so good."
The site also advertises SOAP shoes bearing names such as Flow, Broadside, Crowbar, Scorcher, Clean, Squeaky Clean, and Ordnance. They cost anywhere from $70 to $130.
"They're really comfortable shoes," Mr. Brooks said. "A lot of my friends don't soap but own SOAP shoes because they're so comfortable."