Adam Baldwin of Skatement tells us all about his company and skating in Australia.
When did you start skating?
My first board was a plastic swirly thing from Toyworld. Similar to a cheap Penny type of board. But it actually started before then, I had a little Wooden trolley made to carry wooden blocks. I used to tick tack it up and down the hallway as a kid in grade 5. I was hinting to my parents to get me a skateboard as hard as I could.
You rode a trolley!
Yeah totally, I could get a bit of leverage at the back and tick tack down the green carpeted hall. It was like a timber box on wheels, little blue plastic wheels. The only problem was that the arm for the handle was still attached on one side and had a big screw sticking through it and I still have a scar just behind my knee now and I’m 37. So I’ll let you guess what happened.
Have you kept it up since then?
I always had a skateboard, but I was a lot more into surfing. I used a skateboard for transport mostly, at university I was known for carving down the biggest hills I could find just on a trick deck. One of my lecturers totally ripped me one day when I came in late, after missing the bus. Bag and board in tow, “sorry sir, transport troubles”. “Maybe you should find a better form of transport” he said! I had nothing, so I just sat down and got on with it.
There was a patch from about 28 to about 35 where I barely stood on a board with wheels, except for doing the odd ollie on my nephew’s boards or ones that the kids were not supposed to be riding in the school grounds.
What were you doing in a school Mister?
Maybe I should have mentioned that I am a high school teacher, so I was a work. It was after school with students getting ready to go travel to sport.
What was in like skating in Caloundra then?
I wasn’t in Caloundra growing up, my family lived on a property a little further out, we had horses, so we were always doing stuff with them, they take up SO much time and money. Hence the cheap Toyworld board. I had a back patio that was about 8 m by 6 m so I would scream around that in circles tick tacking and pumping to get as much speed as I could, then drop down the little two stairs onto one path or zoom down a little ramp onto the other path and then ride it out onto the grass.
What sort of riding were you doing back then?
I was just a little terror going as fast as I could in my little world. As I got into high school, I got a really poor quality “street warrior” deck. Everyone else was getting tony hawk models and I had this crappy number from “Toyworld” once again. So by that point it was ollies, bonelesses and bowls.
At Uni, I got a wider trick deck and started to skate parks, doing airs and grinds. Surfing had always been the main thing I was into.
How did a longboard change you?
It really opened my eyes, I had met one (and I mean one) kid from one of my biology classes who rode a longboard in 2009. I just loved the idea of it, he introduced me to Yvon Labarthe’s videos. Back when he was doing his unofficial report/documentary things, I can still remember seeing Mischo’s scoot, at the Graveyard Call and Yvon’s yellow converse, it was so cool, Scoot pre-drifting and Mischo foobreaking, and then Scoot just beating him over the line. Scoot stood up hugged everyone then went on about how he had nearly stacked it right at the end and was saying to himself “NOT TODAY” or something like that. I was so excited by it, I just really wanted to do it. But I had no spare money to buy a board so the second hand or scavenged stuff was the go.
How has your riding style evolved over the years?
Well now I tuck, haha. Being introduced to the concept of slide gloves has been a massive change, being able to get your hand on the ground and not rip it to shreds has been a revelation, being able to drift corners and slide to slow down is very cool.
These days I don’t ollie anymore either which is a bit of a bummer. I miss that feeling of rolling up to a traffic island as fast as you could push and just sailing over the top of it. I never learned how to kickflip but I loved to get airborne, 50-50 and rock n roll. (Mental note get started on that single kick mould).
Where do you skate now?
Mainly wherever I can find a road that has as little traffic as possible, nice slope and nice pavement. New estates on a hill, quiet residential areas, and sometimes some bigger hills.
Its a bit hard to find time around work, doing stuff around the house and making boards, now I always have orders so I don’t even have time to build a new deck for myself. Every time I start one that I plan to be for me, someone contacts me about a board and I end up selling it.
There is a hill we have on the sunshine coast that used to be a main highway, it is closed to traffic and is virtually a glorified walking track that holds a car rally annually and its a pretty fun mellow run, about 3 km and around 50-55 km/h. So I like that hill.
There used to be a hill we could skate we called “drifters paradise” it was a housing estate that was built on a very steep block and just before it went up for sale there was a landslip at the top, and the council put a stop to the developer selling the land. So for a few years it was empty! Perfect and so very skateable. But it got too much action, a little from skaters but mainly other people breaking in and trashing the place. Now the developer pays security to patrol it 24/7 and prosecutes anyone caught on the premises. So its empty and no one can skate it.
When did you start making boards?
I started to get ideas about making boards late 2009, the only longboard I had seen at that stage was the cheap pintail I had saved from the rubbish at work and a Glyde “Low Rider” which is like a nemesis with a 5 deg wedge dewedge kinda feel. I heard all the hype associated with the killswitch and I liked the idea of a drop through at that point so I set about building a ghetto type of press, converting all the imperial measurements to mm, and trying to build a version of the killswitch but drop through. Remember at that stage Kevin only had the top mount version. It had a 12mm concave, 6mm high W with a 6mm micro drop platform.
When I had finished it, I posted pics of it on ASRA and the crew loved the look of it. I even had Jacko complimenting me. Then he heard that I had never seen a production longboard like it in the flesh and had done it all from reading between the lines, so he and I hatched up a plan for me to make one for him to trade for a pair of his trucks.
So you birthed a drop AdamSwitch from your mind?
Pretty much, it was only made from poor quality plywood and good quality builders glue, but it’s still going strong. I used to lend it out to people while they were waiting for me to make them a board. So its a bit banged up.
What board did you end up making for Jacko?
I called it “the beast 2”. I was new to the process and didn’t really know what wheelbases were the rage at that point and it was heavy, strong and long. About 33 inch WB drop through with a 15mm drop, there are pics of it on my ASRA page.
What drove you towards building your own?
At the time it was a way to get a board similar to the ones I saw in the videos, as I couldn’t justify or afford to buy a board. It was the only way I could get something “good” instead of the “Toyworld” version of things. Now I just like to produce the nicest, strongest, slickest decks I can.
How did you build a board with no prior experience?
I’m just good. Haha, ASRA has a board builders group where hobbie board builders get together and share ideas, most people thought i was a nutter i said i was going to build an adamswitch. There were two main guys that helped me at the start; Pete Hill, from “Glyde longboards”; and Steve who now makes “Fat Pigeon longboards”, they both helped with a few rookie questions early on, both great guys.
Who do you skate with?
I’m a bit of a lone ranger, there are a few guys, I see at the odd event on a regular basis but it’s mainly little skates here and there around work, but not since the march 23rd this year when I busted my knee.
How did you damage your knee?
I was skating to work, there is this little path between the golf course and the industrial estate that had one little hill on it and at the bottom of the at hill there is a causeway. For the last year and a half I had been riding the same path with no hassles. This day there was after a recent flash flood and it was the first sunny day for weeks and I just had to skate. The flash flood had washed the layer of hot mix bitumen away from the concrete base layer of the causeway, I saw the damage too late, nothing I could do but try to ride through it.
At first all the doctor said there was no real damage because my knee was totally stable, but as the weeks went buy it started to get worse.
MRI scan revealed a snapped PCL, fractured patella, microfracture of the top of the tibia, and a complex tear of the medial meniscus. It was said in much more medical terms but needless to say it was a bummer.
I had surgery on the cartilage 11 days ago now, and it’s coming good. Rehab rehab rehab.
Is there anyone else in Australia building boards?
There are some great boards being built in Australia right now, and most of the crew are open to discussing ideas and are really supportive of each other. In no particular order here are the names I can think of; Glyde, Daddow, Fat Pigeon, FSU and more popping up here and there.
What’s your company called?
Skatement Speedboards, Jacko wanted me to give him a company name when I was making him a board and I just came up with it from somewhere, I wanted it to have ”skate” in it.
“Make a Thane Skatement” is my little line I guess. Its funny, groms think it is a big company but I’m just one guy with a shed, ideas, hand tools, some spare time and a super understanding and supportive partner. She does the custom artwork. When she does them we call them TMAD (combination of initials and names).
Do you sponsor any riders?
I have a few people riding on the “Skatement team”: Tim Skittles from Brisbane, Charlie Harris and Jup Jup from Adelaide. They seem to really like my decks, and they are all very keen and talented. Skittles came second to Landyachtz rider Adam Yates in a recent race on the Sunshine Coast. He regularly makes an impression in local outlaws around the place, and competed in his first IGSA race this year at Newtons Nation. Charlie is 14 and rides like a mini James Kelly cutting his teeth on some of Australia’s best, most technical hills in Adelaide, he and Jup Jup (also 14) have already been turning heads this year competing at both the Aussie IGSA races this year.
I have made boards for a few people who have moved on to bigger companies. HOPKIN rider Rob McWhinnie rode my board in qualifying at Newtons Nation last year and ended up being the fastest Aussie qualifier. Rob also rode his Rob Mcwhinnie model all over South America, he’s on it in most of his ”end of the world tour” videos, that’s really exciting.
Jayden Mitchell was riding one of my decks and representing Skatement but he was offered support from other great companies and he hasn’t looked back.
I even made a board for Haggy Strom, the president of the Australian Skateboard Racing Association and he rode it all over the place, I heard from him and through others that he really liked it, and that was only my 7th board.
How has it grown over the past 2 years?
My skills knowledge and techniques have definitely grown, the profile has as well. I’m getting a steady stream of orders, so its pretty good. When you have the organisers of Australia’s biggest charity freeride event “Beat The Bastard” asking you to make the signature board to be sold at auction and it sells for $1500 bucks, you’re doing something right.
1500! Did you hide narcotics in there?
No nothing like that, just an epic looking board with a classic custom artwork on it done by TMAD. It was a cartoon alien head of the man who runs the freeride event. Adrian from Cre8ive Sk8. He refused to let it leave the city, he wanted to display it in his shop so he just kept bidding.
Will you ever be more than just one man in a shed?
That’s a hard one, in a dream world: yes! But in reality, without some sort of financial windfall, dream magic investor, like the guy who helped “five mile” take the leap, it would be really hard. I still buy my materials in small lots and pay retail. If I could buy major orders of big drums of resin, large rolls of matting and cubic metres of veneer, I would be able to really get somewhere. That and employ a small army of spider monkeys to work for cocoa beans and kitchen scraps.
I dream of having space to set up multiple hydraulic presses, a CNC cutting machine, in a sealed room to contain all the dust and fibres. Right now everything is handmade, cutting out, impregnating resin, wheel wells, drilling truck mounts, marking out lines from cardboard templates. Each deck takes many hours.
Anything you’d like to say to someone reading this with some spare cash looking to invest?
If someone has a big shed, and some cash for welding together big presses, a big compressor, a CNC machine: I can do the rest. The set up cost would be considerable, my ideas for efficiency are bigger than my resources at the moment, so it could be really good. I know how to do it well now, but if I could get everything I wanted in tools, machines, and raw materials, I could produce a premium product on a bigger scale.
What boards do you currently have in your line up?
I make a few, mainly top mounts. There are a few variations on something I called the “Bird of Prey” directional topmount.
There is the “Palindrome” aka “Bipolar” symmetrical topmount. Kinda fitting that I can’t decide what it’s called. The “No name” a clean line sort of top mount. I have made one with big wheel cutouts called “The Beast” I just recently made up a new shape for Charlie Harris, and everyone is calling it “The Sheen”, tiger blood, winning.
Does it have white lines down the middle?
Funny. No, It is fluro green though.
If you got all the financial backing you could dream of, what would you like to do with Skatement?
It would be a dream to do it full time, and make it sustainable. The hardest part of that would be sourcing affordable veneers in large quantities. It would be cool to see more people riding my boards, gives me a kick to see that. Of course world domination would be nice.
Where would you like to be in 3 years?
In a bigger shed, skating hills, surfing. It would be good if I could manage to make a go of this and do it full time and manage to support my partner and pay the bills. Its hard to really see that in my head, but that is the dream I guess. Maybe more realistically I could teach part time and do boards the other part, and manage to set up a workshop where I can make things as efficient as possible.
How does one get a Skatement board?
I have a Facebook page and a Facebook group, both called “Skatement Speedboards”. On ASRA I have a page in the homegrown gear section, but if you just google Skatement Speedboards you can find them.
Do you ship internationally?
Not yet, I definitely could, our dollar is worth a lot compared to other currencies so it is difficult to consider export, but if you want a one of a kind board customised for you, it would be worth the wait and the extra expense. I’ll hook you up.
How much expense are we talking?
I ask for $200 AUD for a custom made deck, but in all seriousness, considering the amount of processes and the time I should charge more but I don’t. In Aussie shops a production deck sells anywhere from 160- 300 depending on the brand etc.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
We have renovated our house from top to bottom over the last year. Growing some food in the garden, making boards, exercise (lots of specific knee rehab lately). As I said to you earlier before the interview we are both right into eating as healthy as we can, so we spend time making our own food.
High bacon diet?
Lots of protein yes, but not much bacon. I can’t eat it, I love it but I just can’t handle it. It sounds stupid but I have an allergic reaction to bacon, which is a bit depressing.
Sounds like a serious disease is there medicine you can take for this allergy?
It’s easier to each chicken and other healthy veggies, that and homemade biscuits and stuff, you should try my oats and banana cookies. Haha.
What do you ride?
Right now I haven’t been riding anything, except the indo board (homemade of course). I have the first ever palindrome. Its birch and pine veneers with a combination of epoxy and carbon fibre. Its quite nice, 29.5 wheel base, 10” and a bit wide, fairly light and responsive.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-39.
25- Would you rather be a penguin stuck in a lions body, or a lion stuck in a penguin?
A penguin! Haven’t you seen happy feet? With moves like that the lion would never catch me.
16 – Do you have a blog/twitter?
No I have been thinking of setting up a blog, but as yet it hasn’t happened, a blog of “food and epic boards, renovation tips and kitchen gardening gems”. Now that would make millions. World domination here I come.
4 – Who is the best person you’ve seen skating?
That’s a hard one. Hopkin riders Rob McWhinnie, fast, tech, effortless switch, top guy to boot and Benbro Hay, silent assassin the definition of easy steezy, never looks like he’s trying, always happy to give advice and help out, there are so many. Jacko, Yatesy, Minglish, Crash Gnarmatige, Matthys van Lille, Cam Kite, I could be here all day, sorry anyone I forgot you all shred.
Internationally, I would have to say Yvon Labarthe cause he does it all stand up, luge classic and street, and Louie P, how can you not love his skating.
I think the main thing I like to see in a skater is stoke. People being stoked skating and spreading the stoke to others. On any given day my favourite skater might be the 8 year old daughter of a close friend who I have just made a deck for. Her look of complete excitement as she holds her new board makes her my favourite skater.
It’s been great talking to you Adam, hope to see skatement on our shores one day! Heal fast and eat more bacons!
Me too, maybe there is one there right now! You never know. I know a few have made it to South America for extended stays and at least one has passed through American air space.
Any thank yous?
I need to thank Ado from Cre8ive sk8 he has helped me out here and there, he supports races and the scene really well, anyone who has ever ridden a Skatement, Steve, Pete, Grits and last of all my artistic design consultant from TMAD.
A big Thankyou to you for taking the time to talk to me. See you on a hill somewhere.
Call ado for great gear