Our homie Max, team manager at Arbor Skateboards, tells us about the golden days of skating in UCSB, following his skate dream and some brand new Arbor products!
Hey Max, how are you?
Doing well, rocking it at the desk right now, putting some final look overs on an excel sheet.
Did you have a good Christmas?
Definitely. I went to Louisville, KY where my fiance is from. Saw lots of my friends, and got to skate the park. It’s huge. And the full pipe is treacherously filled with potholes.
Was that your local park growing up?
It wasn’t. I grew up just outside of Santa Barbara, CA. We didn’t have a park in my town until middle school, so my first experiences skating were sans smooth concrete.
What led you to skating?
Shit, I don’t even remember. I got a bad ass Toys R Us plastic board when I was real young, and then upgraded to a legit Santa Cruz deck shortly after. Following that, I bought a homemade longboard made from a Sims snowboard from a kid down the street. It was super flexy, and at that point, I didn’t see the coolness of having my first board being a homemade Sims board, the same way Tom did it.
Have you ever quit?
I’ve skated more frequently at times of my life than others. I loved mini ramps and approachable transition when I was a kid, but I spent more time than anything doing the straight hill bombs in my neighbourhood on that sketchy snowboard thing. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever stopped entirely though.
When did you find a skate gang?
I skated with my buddies growing up, but in terms of downhill skating, not until college. My buddy Eric Singer had never stepped on a board until his freshman year. We rode a lot, slashing driveways, etc. and then figured out you could bomb hills in a real serious fashion. That’s when we looked east of us, to the mountains 10 minutes away, and found some of the best terrain ever. We skated with the only other guy interested in it, Dave Casterman, and I learned to do it all on a pretty infamous
What makes that hill notorious?
A while after we started skating it, they made what is perhaps the most popular viral longboard video there.
Carving the mountains?
Nope, even earlier than that. January 2010. It was a Loaded video.
Were you ready for it without prior tutelage?
Dave showed us in person, that it’s realistic to charge down a hill into corners at full speed. We learned to drift as it started to become a feasible thing that people were doing. Skatehouse was in its early stages, and James and Louis and other characters would come to SB to skate, and we would go down to Malibu to get broke off.
Do you still skate with Dave and Eric?
Eric is one of my best friends and started on the Arbor team when I did. It baffles my mind that he had never touched a board, and got sponsored a year later. He learned real fast. Now he’s a home owner, a chemist, and living the dream. Dave moved back up to NorCal, and now I think he lifts weights and drives cars real fast. He was always about speed, and thought sliding was stupid.
How did you feel hitting those runs?
It was insane to think we could control our speed the way we learned how to. Stand up slides were becoming popular at that time, and to us, the pinnacle of riding was doing it stand up. We learned from the big name dudes as they were learning it to.
Who were the local OGs?
Shit, I guess we were. Tyler Howell was the first guy we met that was actually FROM SB to start skating the hills, and now he, Jack, Dave, and Tom hold it down hard. You can of course never forget the guys that were doing it on hard wheels decades ago. Skate One is based out of SB, and there’s great footage of “the downhill slide” as taught by Cliff in a few of their videos.
What dream is Eric living?
THE dream. He quit his job as a chemist recently to do anything he wants, because he makes enough income on his home, but before he did, he would surf in the morning, get paid as a chemist, and go home to skate. He was just doing it right. Currently he lives on a skateboard oriented farm community in a green house. Like a badass.
Dude! A skate commune?
It’s called the Orchid. They grow their own food, have a bitching ramp, and can walk to the ocean in mere minutes.
What’s your dream?
Shit, I was actually talking about this with my fiance yesterday. I don’t think it’s a long term goal, but rather a lifestyle I want to have and a collection of experiences. Skating has given me the huge opportunity to travel a lot, but I want to do it more. I want to own a home, and I want to live in a place where I have my close friends accessible.
What is Arbor?
The Arbor Collective is the company I work for. It’s a collective of 3 brands, Skate, Snowboards, and Apparel.
How long after you started riding did you find each other?
I actually got linked up with Arbor through Josh Hunt and Jimmy Riha. Josh put the good word in for us as they were starting their team and making the logical progression towards more performance oriented downhill boards. Thanks Josh!
What did you bring to the table?
Oh man, this sounds like a job interview. They were opening up a shop in Santa Barbara soon, and wanted shop riders, but we got fast tracked to full team status. We were travelling to lots of events, meeting people, getting to new hills, and offering insight on product development. Beyond that, I think we had the ability to articulate our ideas in the development process.
What adventures did you have in your first season with them?
It’s hard for me to even keep track. We were making it happen for ourselves, travelling where we could. We got to MFOS which was cool. The first Menlo Park slide jam was rad, I think it set a lot of precedents in the world of organized slide jams. Sketchy D was one of the first guys to do it.
Was it hard, starting with a small team and getting the world about your skateboards out?
I mean, Arbor is a big company with a solid distribution. So getting the word out wasn’t that hard. The challenge was bringing legitimacy to our presence in this niche of skateboarding. Bob, the owner, is a smart guy, and approached it by trying to “own” his backyard. We had Josh and Jimmy in San Diego, myself and Eric in Santa Barbara, and Aaron Baygell and Kody Noble in Los Angeles. We focused on having a presence here in California. A while later, James came aboard. I think where we are now, is one of the best teams in terms of skill, but also the quality of the people involved.
What makes Arbor special?
I think there’s a lot of things. People see us as a big company, sold in Zumiez, etc. Truthfully, we have less than 10 people who work in house on the brand. It’s a family. And the fact that we have great distribution means that I get to send my team riders places and make it happen for them. Beyond that, we share a desire to create products that are environmentally conscious, but performance driven. If there’s an “eco” material, we’ll investigate it, and if it performs at the highest levels, we’ll pursue it. The idea is that we have to preserve the environment to enjoy the environment.
“(at Arobor) we share a desire to create products that are environmentally conscious, but performance driven. If there’s an “eco” material, we’ll investigate it, and if it performs at the highest levels, we’ll pursue it. The idea is that we have to preserve the environment to enjoy the environment.”
When was the first Menlo jam?
Summer 2010 maybe? I tripped up with Trevor Cunningham, Trevor Watkings, and Slippery Pete Eubank. The “raw do road trip”. It was awesome. Later that year I threw the first Santa Gnarbara slide jam.
Who was behind it?
David Hiltbrand, aka Totally In Control Dave, or Sketchy D. He’s one of the Sunset Sliders, and was making it happen then. Events in California at this point were so small and localized, this was one of the first huge ones.
What led you to organise the slide jam?
People wanted events, and we wanted to share our slice of heaven with people.
How did the event go?
It went awesome. Huge turn out for the time. Skate House came and did a video, I think that helped a lot.
What was the reception like?
People were amped. It’s hard not to be once you step foot in the mountains there. Definitely a demand for another.
Have you done any events since then?
We’ve done every year since. I didn’t organize all of them, but I was involved to some extent. There’s a race that goes along with it too.
What’s the typical Santa Gnarbara jam like?
Much like any other jam. It was about assembling people to skate together more than a contest. I made people do dirt ride races for the schwag. It’s extra special though because it’s in the mountains, not a neighbourhood or anything.
Ahhhhh yeah! Riding in the dirt. There’s a lot of natural burms in that area and mountain bike trails. Just throw down and go, and try to stay on your feet when you get pitched.
Do you throw any obstacles on the course?
Nope. Jump ramps weren’t cool at that point.
How have slide jams evolved since the early days?
They used to be about riding and getting a lot of people in one place, now I feel like it’s assembling a flier with a bunch of sponsor logos.
Is going sideways your favourite thing to do on your board?
One of them for sure. I enjoy all facets, and have really started to skate a lot more park. Dave Tannacci, of Sunset Slider fame, says it’s just like skating downhill, but vertical. It’s all about speed and lines. He went to UCSB as well, 2 years ahead of me, but at that point, they didn’t realize the hills that were on their doorstep and that you could skate them that way. I know one of his first experiences skating real downhill was when he came back to visit and ended up in the van with us. That’s a memory I’ve held onto, that first assembling of all the ragers at the time in Santa Barbara.
Did you choose to stay local for college so you could skate?
I chose to stay local because I was in love with the Central Coast of California. I grew up in a smaller town, it was intimidating going too far from it. I’ve had the opportunity to be on my own out in the world now though, but I’m glad I made the choice I did.
Did you skate a lot in college?
Definitely. It was hard to get sessions going, because it was myself and Eric mostly, along with 2-3 others, so when we could fill a car, we did it, regardless of class schedule. I even ditched a final review one time to drive to LA to have a board development meeting. I’m glad I did. It led to an internship after I graduated, and then my dream job.
US Colleges seem to have a lot of skate culture – did UCSB have a community?
Definitely a lot of flip flops and cruisers, which is important. It drives sales and keeps skate shops and and a lot of skate businesses going. It’s hard to survive if you’re too far in the niche. Beyond that, there was a more serious crowd too. Dancing was big at that time. There was a longboard club too, which is actually what first brought Lou and James up for an event.
How come there is so much local talent?
The geography. The accessibility of situations in which you can push your limits is all there.
Has getting a job in the industry always been the end game?
Not even. It just happened. I have people ask me a lot about how to do it, and sometimes I don’t know how to answer them. Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to be when people asked. I was content to go with the flow. Skating was the first thing I had a true passion for and it came so late in my life, so I followed it. Now I get to work with my friends, on things I care about. I’m incredibly fortunate. So fortunate.
“Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to be… I was content to go with the flow. Skating was the first thing I had a true passion for and it came so late in my life, so I followed it. Now I get to work with my friends, on things I care about. I’m incredibly fortunate.”
How was 2011?
It was good. I graduated early in the year, and did an internship with the owner of Arbor after that. I had started dating my future fiance, and planned to be a skate rat for a while, and sleep on distant and exotic couches. During the summer, Bob asked me to apply for the job that had opened at Arbor Skateboards, and truthfully, I was unsure I wanted to. I didn’t want obligations. I thought long and hard on it, reached out to people on it, and I ended up doing it, because how could you not, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Where would you be now if you had not taken that chance?
No fucking clue. I really don’t know. Skateboarding has given my life so much direction, that without it, I’m just not sure. Probably working a job I’m only moderately satisfied with. Probably doing a lot of soul searching. Like I said, I am incredibly fortunate to have this path that was put in front of me.
“Skateboarding has given my life so much direction, that without it… (I’d) probably be working a job I’m only moderately satisfied with… doing a lot of soul searching.”
Do you race?
I do. I used to be more competitive with it. Now I’m more interested in it because you get to skate a closed road with a big extended family. Washed up? Maybe. I’m most interested with preserving my body these days, and at this point, there’s a lot of people putting their own safety and others at risk to get to the next heat. I feel like my joints are 60 years old already, and I’d like to still be skating when I really am that age. But look at Jeff Budro, that dude kills it for way more reasons than I could put on this page, and he kills it at races.. Look at Victor, he did it right.
“Now I’m more interested in (racing) because you get to skate a closed road with a big extended family. Washed up? Maybe. I’m most interested with preserving my body these days, and at this point, there’s a lot of people putting their own safety and others at risk to get to the next heat.”
What was your favourite race season?
The first one, 2011 maybe 2010? It runs together at this point. It was all new and I learned something at every one. My first race was Danny Connor’s birthday race. The hill sucked, but I got to race next to my idols at that time. More than that, the community welcomed me into it. I think that is the coolest part. Like I said, events anymore are all about getting to skate with the extended family. I also went to Argentina in 2011 for the first Snake Skeleton race, and that was killer. That was also my first time skating in Hawaii, ALSO killer. Those dudes have got it down out there. Many mahalos in that direction. If you haven’t noticed, I’m awful at dates and keeping things in line.
What kind of tracks do you enjoy most?
Technical ones. I like having to shave speed and go rail to rail.
What was special about Argentina?
I think I was one of the first Americans down there. They treated me like I was way cooler than I am. I got to see a majority of the country. Very hospitable. Great track. My first opportunity to race Brazilians, those dudes are mega intimidating.
How was the local bacon?
Didn’t get any. They’re all about the ham. And mayonnaise. It’s pretty serious business. I had this one dish that was basically a pizza stuffed pizza. Called something like the “belt tightener”. It was insane. I didn’t realize forever that they were asking me if I wanted ham on my pizza, they pronounce it “jam”.
Jamon. I had the same problem in Spain. Bummer.
Exactly. However, I was welcomed into plenty of homes and had so many home cooked meals. I can’t be thankful enough for the people who helped me through that travel experience. You guys know who you are. Oh and I almost got busted for rolling a joint like an hour before my flight home. Fran got me out of that one. They thought I was some big western drug dealer. I was bummed.
Now it’s “haha”. When it happened I thought I was screwed.
Do you guys have any team members there?
No. We’re still all in the states. We have a small team and I try to keep it that way. I come from that background, so we try to focus on making it happen for the dudes we do have. I’m proud of what we put together. I think we have some of the most talented riders, and they are all good people.
Who’s on the team?
Myself, Tyler Howell, Brandon Tissen, James Kelly, Aaron Grulich, Eric Singer, Jasper Ohlson, Adam Crigler, Casey Morrow, Duke Degen, and the man himself, Josh Hunt. We have a couple cool announcements coming soon as well.
Products or personnel?
Well, I was talking personnel, but I guess both.
Did you have a fun 2013?
2013 was rad. I got to travel up the coast of the states to Whistler with all the homies, Pikes Peak, and plenty of other stuff. It was also very fulfilling professionally. I’m finally seeing the fruits of my labour in a new wheel line. Proprietary formula, proprietary shapes, and proprietary core. I’m really excited to start making it more public, and it should be happening soon. We also linked up with Brandon Stewart at Caliber. He’s doing our marketing now, which is huge, and we have some of the best trucks out there to fill up our completes. Premium boards, premium trucks, and now premium wheels. I’m excited for people to see the whole package.
Arbor make wheels?
Yep. Until this point it’s been for the purpose of going on our completes. But after my first two years dialing in every board in the line, creating a performance wheel line was the next piece of the puzzle. The urethane is great, and we designed a core and shapes to complement it. I’m proud that all of our product design comes from a skaters perspective first and we have an insane creative team that makes it look as good as it functions. Let’s just say that I’ve not seen any wheel last as many runs down that infamous one way run in Malibu as these do.
How are they different from all the new wheels with fancy cores and zingy thane?
To be honest, I don’t think there are many wheels with fancy cores. There’s been an oversaturation of stock options, from core to thane, in the market. These wheels were designed and tested by skaters to be what we want. The urethane is predictable and slides great, and is also incredibly durable. It’s an updated version of our sucrose based thane, so that means it’s based less in petroluem, and we’re putting less shit into our water tables. We started by getting the formula dialled, and designed cores and shapes from there, not the other way around.
“…our wheels were designed and tested by skaters to be what we want. The urethane is predictable and slides great, and is also incredibly durable… We started by getting the formula dialled, and designed cores and shapes from there, not the other way around.”
When will we see the race/freeride wheels on the market?
They’ll be dropping in about 2 months.
Are you going to have a new team for the wheels?
For the most part, yes. That’s the plan. I think once people get a chance to ride this product we’ll be getting an overwhelming amount of interest. You can expect them to perform in the top tier of what’s available.
How has your role in Arbor evolved over the years?
When I came in, I didn’t have the most amount of direction so I worked on doing what I learned in my internship, which is the line management. Since then, I think I’ve come into myself more as a team manager, granted. I’ve shipped some team boxes late, but like I said, I come from that background, so I always try to advocate for the boys when I can. I’ve learned about marketing, sourcing, product development, testing, human relations, etc. I’ve had to make heart breaking decisions, and I’ve enjoyed the successes of the company and our riders.
Will you be able to do this till you’re old and grey?
I sure hope so. Victor is.
What are you looking forward to this year?
More product development. There’s some things I can’t talk about yet, but I know the brand will keep growing and producing things for people to enjoy. I like knowing that nearly any kind of person can find a product in our line that will bring a smile to their face.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Drinking beer and talking shit. There’s a ton of craft breweries here in San Diego, and so I try to get to a lot of them. I also play a lot of FIFA on Xbox and enjoy doing all manner of things with my fiance and dog.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-18.
4, 2, and 17.
4 – do you have any recurring dreams?
I don’t dream. Ever since I was a kid. I get em here and there, but I can’t remember the last one.
2 – what weapons would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?
Walking Dead has taught me that a crossbow, any blunted object with good reach, and a shotgun are prime choices.
17 – What is Victoria’s secret?
Well, my fiance’s name is Victoria, so I suppose it would be how she manages to put up with me.
Haha. Max, it has been a really fun experience having this conversation with you. Thanks for the love, and thanks for sharing your story. Looking forward to spreading more stoke. Have a fun wedding!
Thanks Gbemi! I’m looking forward to an interview on you, I get the feeling you’re more interesting than all of us. Somebody get on it!