From Texas to Japan and back again, Tommy and his skateboard have been all over the world having fun. Now he’s in Vancouver doing rad stuff with Skoa Design. Enjoy this insightful snapshot of skate life.
Hello Tommy, how are you?
Doing well. I’m just sitting down with Uwe and getting the first coffee of the day going. He’s got an espresso machine here at his house (the office), so we can get caffeinated. Wow, I can’t believe I spelled that right.
Haha the coffee must be working well!
Sharpens the mind.
Who is Uwe?
Uwe is one of the main guys behind Skoa. He does most of the engineering work here, and is teaching me a ton about Solidworks as well as just being a general all around good guy.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from New York City, The Village, but my parents moved down to Austin, Texas when I was 4, so I did most of my growing up there.
Fun place to grow up?
Oh yeah. Music, nature, hills actually as well! No hate for the East Coast, but I’m glad I got to grow up in the more laid back environment that is Austin. It’s sort of like the Portland of Texas.
What’s special about Portland?
It’s really open. There’s laws that promote skateboarding, great craft beer, it’s close to the ocean, it’s super green. There’s good music, good food (and a lot of food carts). I don’t know, have you seen Portlandia? I haven’t spent all too much time in Portland, but from what I’ve seen it’s great.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
Oh man. This is a tough question and one that I actually think about a fair bit on my own… If I could only eat one style of food for the rest of my life, what would it be? It’s split between Japanese, Greek, and Sandwiches. Sandwiches just provide so much variety, you could even make Japanese or Greek sandwiches. Ha! Eating Japanese food isn’t always the most satisfying, but I always feel good afterwords and the spices in Greek food can’t be beat. If you ever make it to Chicago, you have to check out a restaurant called Sultan’s. They make the best falafel I’ve ever had at the best price. It’s a hard combo to beat.
What’s your favourite sandwich filling?
It totally changes depending on the day. Sometimes I’m just looking for a PB&Honey, other times I’m stacking basil, sprouts, spinach, turkey, ham, etc on some really nice bread.
Where did skateboarding find you?
Skateboarding originally found me when I was in elementary school. I picked up a street deck in 4th grade or so and could ollie regular, but push around goofy… and couldn’t nollie, so it wasn’t that awesome. I enjoyed pushing around but hard wheels weren’t great for that. I ended up putting the board down as I got in to other interests, but stumbled across longboarding in 10th grade. I really got in to it when I moved to Japan to study in 11th grade. I wanted a mode of transportation that I could take on trains and buses so I bought my first board before heading over there.
What was skating in Japan like?
Skating in Japan was interesting. I was really the only person around longboarding. I mean, there were some surfer blokes who were cruising around and what not, but not really commuting or bombing hills. I ended up stumbling across a video while I was skipping class of Martin Siegrist and Aki Von Glassow doing practice runs at Chill on a Swiss Hill. The video is still up with the original sound track on Vimeo under COASH, if you want to check it out.
Anyway, it’s this video that got me really excited about downhill. I didn’t know that it was possible to go down big hills on a board until I saw them, and they were even busting out slides before going into corners! I went out that day and made my first pair of slide gloves with a cutting board from a hyakuenya (dollar store) and a hand saw. The next day I was out trying to slide on my Sector9. Haha.
Did you meet Ayumi out there?
I was over in Shizuoka, Japan in 2007-2008, and there wasn’t even a mention of a scene online. There was a blog from a Gaijin that mentioned doing some skating around Tokyo, but nowhere near the presence that Japan has today. I actually met Ayumi and Fifer for the first time at Maryhill… last year I think.
Have you been back to Japan?
You know, surprisingly not. It’s been 5 years now and my Japanese is getting a little rusty. I really do want to head back though, especially after meeting Nori and the guys last summer and seeing all the cool things that are happening within the longboard scene there. I think it would be the perfect time to head back and see what’s up.
Who is Nori?
Noriyuki Tamura is one of Japan’s shredders from the WIRED crew. He was over here this summer living with George Mackenzie and Tony Graves and also rides for Rayne Longboards. He’s got great style, shreds standups and helped me get better with Japanese.
What’s Japanese for skate?
スケートする/やる Ske-to suru/yaru, probably, but I’m no expert. I tend to throw a lot of english words straight in to my Japanese and hope people understand.
How did the COASH video inspire you?
It was totally different from anything that I had seen. When I looked at longboarding before, it was more bro-boarding in my mind. Haha. Martin and Aki showed me that there was a performance and competitive side of longboarding through that video; that you could push your own limits, and honestly it looked like a lot of fun!
Were you ever a bro-boarder?
Dude, let me grab a few pictures. You should even just look through the first pictures I ever posted on facebook. It’s funny to look back at now.
This is the first photo of me skateboarding ever! Sector 9 Secrets, gumballs from my downhill board, no helmet… classic. It’s funny looking at it now because I’m a big advocate for helmet safety. I’ve seen friends have their lives saved by helmets and still go to the hospital, and I’ve seen friends not wearing bleed a lot and also go the hospital. I’m one of the guys that you’ll see put a helmet on for a couple block skate to the store and back.
Would you have stuck around if there wasn’t a performance aspect to this?
I’m a pretty competitive person, and I find a lot of motivation in pushing myself to do better. There’s always room for improvement in longboarding, from freeriding to racing. To be honest, I also really like winning and since I’m not really doing that all too much, there’s a carrot to chase. Hopefully it’s not too far out of reach. I look at guys like Kevin and Dalua and get really inspired to train outside of skating. Sure there’s a lot to be gained from straight skating experience but when you look at other athletics, it starts to make sense to do some cross training. These guys were some of the first to realize that and you can see it in their performance. I mean, Dalua’s kick is legendary!
“I look at guys like Kevin and Dalua and get really inspired to train outside of skating… when you look at other athletics, it starts to make sense to do some cross training.
What sort of training gives the best results?
Haha, that I’m not too sure of. I’m working on my own mix right now in the off season and we’ll see how it goes in racing.
When did you get to go fast?
I got to go fast the first time I stepped on a longboard, haha. Of course, like any first timer, I thought that you just step on a board and go down a hill and everything is chill-shaka-brah-gaia-wind-in-hair radness. Fortunately for me, when the speed wobbles kicked in it was right at the far edge of my long legged running ability. Bounds later I yelled back at my friend (who owned the longboard) “What the hell was that?!?”… that’s when I learned the term “speed wobble”.
How did you pursue more DH fun?
When I got to Japan and got interested in downhill I started researching. In 2007 it was all about drop decks, split angles and the best downhill wheels were round lipped Abec 11s. I looked at getting my components from Australia, Cre8tive Sk8, actually (I’m stoked to see they’re still around), but the prices were nuts. I ended up getting a Kebbek Jon Caften from the only shop in Japan that was carrying longboards at the time, which I later learned sponsored Ian Comishin (owner of Kebbek) when he was doing his foreign exchange to Japan when he was about my age.
“…I was worried I’d broken my femur, but realized that that was ok… I thought I’d be walking away with just a big bruise. When I looked back at the guardrail and saw there was a giant bolt sticking out of it… I wondered why they would only grease the last two inches of that bolt?… but it was actually my blood and fat on there, and I had a six centimetre hole in the back of my leg.”
Have you had any other serendipitous experiences in life?
One in particular is another skateboarding accident; my worst one. There was an outlaw race up in Logan, Utah and I was doing my first practice run of the day. I had been to the road before but not skated it. Going fast is one of my strong points so I ended up in the front of the pack going in to the first turn that requires breaking: a decreasing radius, off camber lefty, that had gravel and dirt close to the yellow and a guardrail on the outside… I was in race mode, which is not the right mentality to be in when you’re riding an OPEN ROAD (even if it is an outlaw). I threw my pre-drift a little too late, or didn’t shed enough speed and ended up hitting the very first post of the guardrail with my legs. I made an involuntary “HUUH” sound on impact, which I remember thinking was funny as I was spinning through the dirt, and came to a stop. I was worried I’d broken my femur, but upon shaking my kneecap realized that that was ok. I was stoked, I thought I’d be skating down the rest of the run and walking away with what would turn out to be a big bruise, when I looked back at the guardrail and saw there was a giant bolt sticking out of it: about a foot long and an inch in diameter. “I wonder why they would only grease the last two inches of that bolt?” I thought to myself… but it was actually my blood and fat on there, and I had a six centimetre hole in the back of my leg.
I was actually really lucky. The wound went through the skin, fat and fascia, but stopped before doing muscle damage. Beyond that, I hadn’t taken that bolt to my throat, knee, spine, or abdomen. That would have been life changing or ending! I got away with 2 months off the board, and it was an eye opening experience for me. Never again have I skated without respect for the road and how dangerous what we do actually is, and it took me months afterwards to get back in the head-space to be able to trust my own abilities and go fast down hills.
How has that experience impacted your skating?
It certainly made me realize that even though what we’re doing is exhilarating, it’s that way because it is dangerous and it’s fun because we don’t get hurt all that badly most times, however each time we go down a hill it’s a coin toss and sometimes it doesn’t land in your favour. Everytime I skate on an open road now, I skate conservatively. Save the race mentality for when there’s something on the line besides you own health. An open road injury not only affects you, but the reputation of downhill skateboarding in the eyes of the public and could affect everyone’s ability to do it in the future. SKATE RESPONSIBLY!
“An open road injury not only affects you, but the reputation of downhill skateboarding in the eyes of the public and could affect everyone’s ability to do it in the future. SKATE RESPONSIBLY!”
Have you had any helmet breaking accidents?
I’ve been really lucky with dome-schwacks, not too many and not too bad when they do happen. My worst one was probably on this road. I highsided on one of the leftys, which is toeside for me, and went straight to my head. My Risch Ape did a really good job though and I just ended the day with a slight headache.
What was the highlight of your time in Japan?
The biggest thing that I got out of Japan was really getting more centered in myself. It sounds really cheesy, but I was one of three foreigners in my town and the only non-Japanese person at my school. I wasn’t that great at Japanese when I got there, and beyond that, all of the kids at my school were really invested in good grades and after-school activities. My priorities were more into surfing and getting better with the language, and Japan as a whole, so I spent a lot of time either hanging out with the surfers which really means being out in the ocean by yourself, or out exploring on my bike, which is also being alone. There was a lot of time to introspect and find what was important to me. That is something that I think I’ll apply to myself for the rest of my life; take time to look inwards and do a self audit every once in a while. What’s good? What’s bad? What do I want to keep and what do I want to change?
“…skating is a great stress reliever. It’s one of those things that empties your mind where you can let your training flow. Japanese call it Satori. It’s meditative to me, even just going out for a push, it’s nice to let your mind go blank and just go. ”
Does skating keep you centred?
I think that skating is a great stress reliever. It’s one of those things that empties your mind and where you can let your training flow. Japanese call it Satori. It’s meditative to me, even just going out for a push, it’s nice to let your mind go blank and just go. Other times it’s also a great way to be hyper-aware of your own body: what am I actually doing when I slide? How do my muscles work when I kick? How can I make that better?
Where did you skate after that?
After I got back from Japan, I was already hooked on downhill skateboarding. it turned out that there was actually a small but budding scene in Austin. I got my friend Dorian in to it and we started skating more and more. It was a couple months later that we competed in our first race, Bomb for Booze. I ended up coming 4th.
Who else was bombing hills in Japan?
At the time, no one. Haha, I was just out solo seshing in neighborhoods and hiking in to the mountains trying to find roads without cars. Luckily, I never ran into the police, but I did have one incident where I totally forgot that they drive on the other side of the road… That driver wasn’t too happy. すみませんでした！
Did you have a sensei out there?
I spent a lot of time on silverfish. I mean a lot of time. Any of the classes I didn’t understand, I would just skip and head down to the computer lab and research skating. I was probably spending 3-4 hours a day on silverfish and youtube, looking at downhill skateboarding videos and reading threads on technique, how to tuck and what the best gear was.
How strong a warrior were you?
Not as strong as Aidan Lynds. I haven’t feasted on the bull penis. Aidan got his black belt over in Korea, and apparently it’s traditional to eat a bit of bull penis after that achievement. I’ve always wondered if they just made him do it because he was white.
Are you a Raynerd?
Rayne fanboy from inception. The graphics and design have always been top notch in my book. It’s been really cool to get to know everyone at the company slowly over time. I actually rode for Rayne for a little bit back when I was running my skateshop Sundae Skates, but after that I started doing runs with Graham at races, then talking to him and the team a bit more, then I started working there last year doing sales. There’s awesome people throughout that company. Tivohn holds it down for the sales team, Rafa makes it happen in Shipping. The R&D team is headed by Graham and has had fungis like Andrew and Alex there, and then Nick and Garth make it happen for manufacturing.
What was your first Rayne board?
I actually still have it on my wall. Its an ‘07 carbon Hellcat that I got from the Boxing Day sale in 2008. I was too scared to ride it when I got it, since it was so beautiful; I ended up selling it to my friend Kyle. Luckily I was able to get it back from him last year!
When did you get to join the family?
I first got on Rayne back when I was running Sundae Skates. I didn’t really know anyone there at all, and only really talked to Tivohn to buy skateboards from them. He got me in contact with Andrew Monaghan and I told him a little bit about what I had done race wise and that I wanted to rep them, but I really got to join the family when Les brought me on board in August, 2013 and I did my first trip in Tiffany with Levi, Aidan, and Les from Maryhill to Menlo.
Why did you close the shop?
2009-10 was a pretty bad stretch economically. The shop had started off online only with all of the stock being held in my friend Dorian’s apartment in Texas. He literally had his bed surrounded by shelves of wheels, and decks, trucks and everything else spread out through the rest of his house. I’d head over there every day, and we’d pack orders and get things over to UPS or the Post Office. It was definitely a garage operation.
We moved it over to Salt Lake City and got the shop it’s own space. It was still online only, but we had locals coming by to make pick-ups or sometimes doing purchases there as well. It was making enough money to support itself but we had been doing it for two years already as a volunteer project and didn’t have a horizon for when we would start getting paid. Dorian wanted to go back to school and I wanted to change things up. Sometimes, working with what you love can turn what you love doing in to a job. That happened a bit as well and so we sold off our inventory and closed down.
As a side note, I am hyped to say that I once sponsored James Kelly.
“As a side note, I am hyped to say that I once sponsored James Kelly.”
What led you into dealing?
At the time, there wasn’t a lot of longboard specific shops, especially in Texas. Muir had just started up, but really your choices were either Daddies or direct. We wanted to make it easier for skaters in Texas to get the gear they needed all in one place as well as to foster a good environment for scene growth.
Is Texas skate home for you?
Yeah, I wouldn’t be here without the positivity of the people I skated with in Texas. The Austin Longboard Club was such a good place to meet people and learn, as well as push (both literally) and in garages and down hills. Shout outs to Eddy Martinez for the Sizzler and my first set of precisions, Borto and the Texas Outlaws for keeping slalom alive, Kurt Smith for being out there shredding daily, and Grant, Adam, Dixon, Kyle and everyone else that made downhill skateboarding fun for me and everyone else. I miss skating with you guys.
“If you’re writing in, enquiring about sponsorship, PLEASE, at the very least, spell correctly.”
Was getting sponkored an objective for you?
Fuuuuuck. You have no idea how many emails I’ve read with ”sponsorship” misspelled from working at different companies. Side note, in this day and age of technology, spell check is a minimum to show that you care about how you present yourself to a company. If you’re writing in inquiring about sponsorship, PLEASE, at the very least, spell it correctly.
I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t at one point. It’s really nice to feel validated and like you’ve accomplished something, which I think sponsorship does to a certain extent. What I’ve learned over the years though is that sponsorship is in no means a measurement of success or talent. There are plenty of skaters out there who are amazing and who don’t have sponsors, and plenty of under-talented people who do. Riding should be done for riding’s sake and you should work with the people you like to work with who want to develope things with you to make cool stuff. My friend Nick Breton has an amazing article in Skate Slate titled ”Stay Gold” that touches on this topic.
“…sponsorship is by no means a measurement of success or talent. There are plenty of skaters out there who are amazing and who don’t have sponsors, and plenty of under-talented people who do.”
Who are your other sponsors?
I’m currently riding for Rayne Longboards, Skoa Trucks, Rayne Wheels, and Vicious Griptape. I also really appreciate the help that Stephan Risch has given me over the years and the beautiful helmets he makes.
When did you and Mr Risch first cross paths?
I’ve never actually met Stephan, though I hear very good things from those who have, and especially Uwe, who’s known him for a good while. I first got in contact with him though to purchase an Aerolid in ‘08 or ‘09. A Wave, which is still in use! Danny Carlson has it right now and it still has the sick paint job that my friend Tanner Leaser, from Bombsquad Longboarding, put on it.
What helmets are you rocking right now?
I switch back and forth between my Risch Rosemary and my Predator DH-6. It depends a bit on the course I’m riding and how comfortable I feel. Aerolids are sick, but my chin and nose are always in contact with the fibreglass, so I’m not too stoked to hit my face in one; I have a very large head. Most helmets don’t fit me. I actually can’t even fit a Triple 8 on my head! I’m looking forward to the new Rosemary as it looks to have a larger chin area.
What do you think about Martin’s TSG?
I’d need to see it in person and try it on, but Martin is a great designer with a ton of experience. I don’t think he would put his name on, or put time in to a sub-par helmet. I also like the ninja nose piece. It’s one of my favourite design features on the helmets I have had from Risch.
People talk very fondly about Wes and Tanner’s work. Is it that good?
You haven’t seen pinstriping until you see the work that Tanner does, and you probably won’t appreciate it enough until you see him do it in person. The man does everything by hand, left or right, and the amount of symmetry he gets is unreal. It’s an art for sure, and Tanner is an artist. Wes is more on the graphics vinyl side, but Bombsquad is based out of the Custom Classics shop that Wes’ dad started. They’ve both been involved with motorsports for along time.
When did you start competing?
I started competing the summer after I started longboarding, in 2008 at the Maryhill Festival of Speed, and I haven’t missed one since! It was really cool.
In 2008, Dorian and I decided to head there. He was enrolled in college (before dropping out to start Sundae) and was going to be missing the first week of school for this event. Since we were too young to rent a car we decided to hitch-hike from The Dalles (the closest greyhound stop to Maryhill) and hitch hike the rest of the way. We gave ourselves an extra 3 days to make it in case we had to walk the whole way.
We shlepped our leathers, wheels, and other gear along with us and pushed on the side of the road for a good bit. Finally, we got a ride with an awesome train conductor who happened to be from Texas. The second ride we got that took us all the way in to Goldendale (which is the town everyone stays in for the race) was a little less pleasant. That one was with a very racist, pretty angry woman with a pitbull in the back seat… Still, thanks for the ride!
Would you have walked the whole way?
Absolutely! I had my best friend with me, a board under my feet, the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge around me and the stoke of a 5 day race ahead of me!
What did you expect from the event?
I don’t like to expect things, I think it sets one up for disappointment, but I was hoping for a good time and to skate with good riders. I really wanted to see how I stacked up against the international competition because I was winning the races in Texas consistently at the time.
”The secret to happiness is low expectations” – Barry Schwartz.
Not sure who Barry is, but I think he’s on to something. I don’t mean to never have expectations. That can lead to a lack of motivation, but don’t be too attached to expectation. I think disappointment is an unfortunate emotion to feel especially with something as fun as skateboarding. Turn it in to motivation, but don’t get hung up on it.
What’s the Texas race scene like?
I can’t really tell you what it’s like now, I’ve been out for a few years. You’d probably want to talk to Zac Sharp or Chubbs about that one, but I can tell you what it was like when I lived there.
It was a small group of guys, sometimes races were only 20 people in number, but we were glad to be out with other people who enjoyed the sport and compete for bragging rights, I guess. I’d still really like to win the bottle of crown from Bomb for Booze. It’s like the Texas equivalent of Danger Bay.
When I moved out of the state, we threw a race called Water Tower duel. We had about 40 people at that race, and at the time it was the most technical race course in Texas. A steep kick in to a left hand hairpin (yep, we’ve got them in Texas) that you grip through. Then a chicane left/right that continues in to a 90* right that you have to slow down for, then a straight away to the finish. That right is pretty tricky but if you blow it you just fly down a grassy hill. It’s a really fun place to skate, and the one-vs-one format is great as well. That race continued as an event whenever I came back and then by itself for a bit before the final event which had 150 participants! It’s now super blown out but I’m proud of the amount of people who are skating in Texas and where it’s going.
What other races did you do after Maryhill?
The next bit of racing I did was up in Canada. Dorian and I headed up to race Danger Bay, which was one of those times where I didn’t get what I expected! That’s a party with some skating at the end. Very coast style, and very fun, if you’re into it. After that we did a last minute trip to the Paskapoo Downhill Rodeo, which I couldn’t be more happy to have attended. The most runs ever, great races, and great energy. I hope that race comes back! On the way back, I missed my flight to Texas and the closest I could get was Salt Lake City. I stayed with Connor Wagner and skated with Baca, Micah Green and that crew (who I’d met at that first Maryhill I attended). It’s that trip that made me realize I needed mountains in my life and brought me up out of the motherland.
Who is Micah?
Micah Green is probably the best known skater from SLC. He does SL,UT City Skating and has done really well at international races like Newton’s Nation. He’s riding for Sector9 and Gullwing and is a great guy to skate with. He keeps a level head and doesn’t have anything to prove on open roads. He definitely saves it for races, which is sick! I like riding with fast guys who can keep it relaxed. Scoot Smith is another good guy to ride with for that reason.
What has been your favourite year of skating?
Man, it all blends together a little bit. I think that my favourite year of skating would have to be 2013. That’s the year that Chubbs and I did the Carve/Downhill and Trill tour. I don’t think I can really explain how good it was, but I ended up sleeping at the top of Maryhill, waking up and skating down, so…. Anyway, you can see some of the skating we did here:
I can’t give enough thanks to Chubbs for putting the effort in to making that happen. I still owe you!
Who else was on the tour?
A few people were in and out, but Kelly Carter, Ishtar Backlund, Marisa Nunez, Alex Ameen, Kole Galbraith, Zac and Jake Sharp, and a slew of other people were there.
Where did you hit?
I wasn’t on the first leg of the tour, but the bus went from Texas to Ditch Slap then up to Utah and through BC. The Tour continued to Maryhill and over to California, but I bailed after Maryhill to head back to SLC.
Who are your closest skate friends?
My closest skate friends are probably the people I connect with off the skating level. I’m really glad to have met Ken Lee Smith, and Jeff Radomsky early on. I think they were the Canadian equivalent of the ambiguous homosexuality that Dorian and I had going on. There are a ton more people as well, too many to list!
Where else did you skate last year?
Last year was crazy. I was on the Rayne train and got to hit up Puerto Rico (my god), all the BC stuff, some USA, and my favourite trip was South Africa. Unbeatable hospitality and such natural beauty. It was awesome staying with the Baboons! I owe them if they ever come this side. South Africa has some really fast riders, great terrain, and a budding community of companies there as well. Boardyard is doing some cool things with aerolids there and there are some deck and truck companies there as well. If there’s one thing that South African’s like more than braaiing it’s supporting other local okes!
Other than that, I also ended up pulling off a 3rd place at Hot Heels to top things off!
Did you go with Justin and Dom?
I didn’t go with them specifically but I met up with them over there. My main goal in heading that way was to support Rayne’s new distributor Baboon Boards and get up to speed with the scene there.
Are there any Rayne people there?
After my trip there we started getting more involved in supporting Decio Laurenco. That guy is really fast and nice to be around. We shared some beers and late night bombs down the Big 5: 5 runs that start from one point between Cape Town and Haut Bay. He’s been winning everything in South Africa and Rides a Nemesis, with Rads and Aeras.
He’s known nationally as the Kloofnek Bomber, for his Spoofing the Camera video which he made it on to SA News channels with. It’s an intimidating road to see in person and you can tell Decio is a loke when you see him skate those runs. It was impossible for me to keep up.
Spoofing the Camera
I also want to mention Cam Adams. He’s a grom down there who’s shredding super hard. He doesn’t ride for Rayne, but rocks a Fortune with much style.
How does the riding in South Africa compare to other places you’ve skated?
It actually reminded me a lot of Texas. Speed is definitely the thing you get to work on most there. There’s some corners but not a lot of breaking required. Fast, sweepy, not super technical downhill, and good freeride spots.
How has your relationship in Rayne evolved over the years?
It’s certainly become more personal. I went from an outsider looking in to really being part of making Rayne. I’ve gotten to know more people on the team, the people involved in sales, R&D… everything. If there’s one thing that I really appreciate in life, it’s genuine experiences with people and I’ve gotten to have a lot of those with the family at Rayne.
What’s your role in the family now?
This year I’m planning on heading back to school in the fall. It’s been about 5 years now since I’ve been in school so there’s some catching up to do. I knew that I would be on a time crunch this year, so I bowed out of a job with them this year. I’ve learned a lot about business, and myself through my experiences with Rayne and I guess through the longboard industry as a whole. The thing I like to do most is to be involved with product development; building something tangible. That’s why I’m going back to school in the fall (if I can get everything sorted in time!) to study Mechanical Engineering, and that’s why I opted to take up a part time engineering apprenticeship with Skoa Design this year.
What were you racing on last year?
Haha, last year I don’t think that I rode the same board for any of the races I did… Where Vicious Grip and Rayne Wheels stayed the same, I changed it up between and Avenger and PNLs, an Amazon with Ronins, a Fortune with Stream 7s and a Symmetrical Avenger with Vapors. At Maryhill, I rode a Vandal and Vapors throughout practice and qualifying, but the night before race day I tried a Piranha for the first time and switched to that for racing… Rayne just makes really sick boards, and I can’t make up my mind as to which I like the most over every racing scenario. I think this year I might try to keep it more consistent. The Fortune, Savage and Reaper are my favourites right now.
What is a Skoa truck?
Well, that’s a truck that’s made by Skoa Design. Right now there are two: the Stream 7, and the Vapor, which Uwe and I actually developed together. It’s cool to be able to work in a CAD program, see how everything interfaces and make the changes you’d like to see happen right there in front of your eyes. Uwe also specializes in FEA and fatigue testing which means that we can make our trucks as light as possible without reducing strength.
What’s the difference?
Everything. The Stream 7 is really low. It’s got close to no axle offset (distance from the kingpin hole to the axle) and no rake (distance from the pivot axis to the axle). This makes it super responsive and grippy.
The Vapor is taller. It has a good amount of axle offset and minimal rake. The offset gives the rider more leverage over the bushing and the minimal rake gives the rider the option to flip the hanger to tune the ride. They also fit tall barrels and have a 47* plate, while coming in at 178mm at the narrowest. I like getting a lot of lean out of my trucks, tall bushings and more axle offset help with that. Positive rake gives the rider quick response and easier oversteer while negative rake delivers a slower response and more traction in my opinion. Regardless, the Vapors give you the ability to go with whatever fits your riding style. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stick with the signature I-Beam design of the Stream 7s with that flipability.
How are you helping out at Skoa?
I’m doing a bit of team management, a bit of web stuff… sort of Bruce-Cambell-ing it. What I’m most stoked on being involved in is being involved in design, not just in trucks and components, but for things outside the skateboarding world. The other day I got to design a mounting bracket for a train car from a blank sheet of paper to a full part in Solidworks. It’s really satisfying to me to do that sort of work.
How are your trucks different from the others on the market?
Well, Uwe’s engineering career and specialty in fatigue testing mean that we can use hard data to make the trucks stronger, lighter, and just generally optimize them. We then have a strong team for both racing and freeride that includes Mike Fitter, George Mackenzie, Matze Ebel and Connor Ferguson who provide feedback and give design input on how the trucks need to feel to perform best. We’ve also got Reinhold over in Germany who’s a CNC guru and also pours our pivot cups, among other badassery
Not many companies can say that they design their trucks with the input of top riders, engineer the design themselves in house, test via computer simulations in house, prototype again with world class riders, optimize the design in house, and then create the CAD programming in house, as well as our own pivot cups. The only thing we’re missing are kingpins, nuts, washers and bushings.
We really value understanding what we’re making and how a rider will interact with it, and we want to make sure that our trucks will be fun to ride and confidence inspiring on a race track or down your local street.
“We (Skoa Trucks) really value understanding what we’re making and how a rider will interact with it, and we want to make sure that our trucks will be fun to ride and confidence inspiring on a race track or down your local street.”
Who is racing on your trucks?
Locally, Uwe and I are working with George Mackenzie and Mike Fitter. It’s really convenient that we’re all in the same city and can sit down to make things better. Outside that we’ve got a really strong team overseas, including Matze Ebel, Alex Dehmel, and Stephan Risch in Germany as well as Steve Daddow and Connor Ferguson in Australia. The team is actually a bit bigger than that though. There’s a team section I’m working on on the site where everyone get’s to talk about themselves though sometimes it can be hard to coordinate getting information from everyone.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Ha, a ton! Work, Gym stuff, riding my bike. I’m trying to stretch more habitually and have better posture, though those aren’t really leisure activities. Yoga is cool when I can fit it in. I’ve also been really enjoying rock climbing with my girlfriend. Bouldering’s been good and we got in to top roping more recently. I’d like to get lead certified here soon and do some climbing trips this summer, or even do combo climbing and skating trips. There’s incredible terrain for both throughout BC. Also, climbing videos have been getting me stoked to skate. If you’re interested, check out anything from the Reel Rock tours.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-18.
2, 19, 10
2 – what weapons would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?
What’s important to me here is that:
1) the weapon does not run out of ammunition
2) provides sufficient range, and
3) reduces risk to the user.
Halbard, crow bar as my side arm, and I’d want a hand shield on my back.
19 – Who would be in your dream race heat?
Martin Siegrist, Dalua, James Kelly, Kevin Reimer, Adam Persson
Tommy Watson, it’s been so nice talking to you. Thank you for being awesome, maybe catch you somewhere sometime?
Gbemi, you’re a champion interviewer and Thane is lucky to have you. I hope we can run into each other in person!
Any last words?
Thanks to everyone who’s encouraged me along the way: parents, sponsors, friends. It wouldn’t be possible to be where I am without you guys. Mind over matter not matter over mind.