Cape Town native, Justin, tells us about making and riding all sorts of skateboards, the growth of the longboarding community in South Africa, SAGRA and his baby – Project Skateboards. Enjoy.
How was your week?
Busy… work during the day and workshop at night.
What are you making in the workshop?
Currently working on some side order longboards and a collaboration with a company in Mauritius, doing some creative cruisers.
Are there any longboarders in Mauritius?
There is a healthy street skating scene and there is a downhill scene both on Mauritius and Reunion Island. From what I have been told they have epic hills with smooth tar.
What is a Project Skateboard?
It’s a skateboard brand I started in 2003 when the bug bit and I got into pressing skateboards.
Where are you from?
Nice place to grow up?
Yes, love it here.
How did you get into skating?
Back in the late 80’s when neon colours were in and Thrashin was the shit. My brother used to skate and had his crew he used to roll with. Got a plastic yellow banana board as my first board.
What was skating in SA like back then?
Tons of fun hanging out with friends, missioning to Skate World that used to be at the waterfront.
Have you stayed in the game all this time?
Skated on and off through the late 80’s early 90’s and when I went to high school lost interest till I left and then got back into skating in the late 90’s and have not stopped.
What has kept you in?
Love for skateboarding.
How does she make you feel?
Awesome…that feeling when you jump on your board and start rolling.
What have been your favourite years of skating?
Definitely getting back into it in the late 90’s. Got all inspired and opened up a skate shop early 2001 called Revolution420 Skate shop and Street wear. It only lasted 10 months before it tanked but had a great time getting it going and the creative process of doing the interior. Unfortunately, with the 9/11 attacks the Rand tanked and the skate scene relied on equipment from the states. The cost price for a street deck shot up to what you would have sold it for and buying new equipment was difficult. Was a sad day when I had to go in there by myself and paint over all the artwork that had been spray painted by my friends and paint it white.
What is your favourite thing to do on your board?
Skate anything, anytime, anywhere. Just skate.
“Skate anything, anytime, anywhere. Just skate!”
Why did you decide to start making skateboards?
Myself and Anton Pratt where building a half-pipe in the back yard back in 2001, there was this off cut that was in a shape of a surfboard so we decided to shape it into a longboard. About a year of skating this plank Anton decided to press/laminate a longboard with 3mm pine ply using some metal rods and clamps. At the time we were super DIY (still are), building ramps, skate boxes and rails so naturally we were inquisitive as to how to press skateboards. In 2003, we came across Chris Chaputs website back in the day and saw some illustrations on pressing a low centre of gravity skateboard. The concept intrigued me, had this idea in my head how I could make a press , went out bought the materials and the rest is history.
Who is Anton?
Bestfriend, owner of Fat Ant Bushings, known him for years and have done a ton of stuff together.
Who would you be today if you had never made that first press?
Anything to do with creativity, designing or crafting and still skating.
Did the longer boards change skating for you?
Yes, it refined that adrenaline rush you get when bombing a hill.
What was the downhill scene like when you started?
Awesome, was super core and not as big as what it is today, was 2003.
Where is the core of the community?
At this moment in time I think cape Town is in the spotlight for skating in general. In the downhill scene it was definitely Cape Town but has spread all over SA.
Who put on the first events?
There were races happening before I even got into the downhill scene, guys were racing on Blackhill, Ou Kaapse Weg and the legendary Red Bull DHX.
What was the Red Bull DHX?
Going to say the best gravity race in the world with a combination of a awesome hill with challenging hairpins, sweepers and fasts straights. Huge crowd that grew from 10 000 to something like 20 000 in 2002 and Red Bull’s ability to put on a top class international event that I don’t think anyone has been able to beat.
What legacy did the older guys leave you?
Chris Chaput won the 2002 DHX at 40 odd, that says it all. In SA I never knew of any older guys, was just the young guns that were making an impression like Mickey Z and Stuart Bradburn, the scene was new and young.
Does age affect how much fun you can have on a skateboard?
Not at all, just shows you how passionate skaters can be and how addictive skating is. When you’re hooked, there is no leaving it.
What has led to the recent growth of the scene?
Accessibility to equipment, late 90’s and early 2000 there were not many shops carrying equipment. As the scene grew internationally it then trickled into SA and slowly it has built up until 2010 which to me was the turning point. I remember Anton and myself hosting a race on Fair Cape in 2010 and there been so many skaters we were a bit taken back when it came to registration, was exciting to see it.
Who are the shops supporting the local scene?
Lots now, even ones that are not skate related like freaking hobby shops, that explains it all. The scene is hot, got to jump in on it lol.
Are there many races in SA now?
Yes compared to when myself, Anton and Iona Zietsman took over SAGRA in 2007 we did two races on the same hill which was Fair Cape and the other one was Hot Heels Africa, I think we did that for 2 or 3 years before the scene grew and we got other races on the calendar. Now there is a legit race series with just over 100 riders which is awesome. Riders have the opportunity to travel within SA and race in different provinces.
What is your favourite local run/event?
Hot Heels Africa without a doubt! Raced that event for 10yrs straight, it’s that one event that you would think about all year. You only have one opportunity to skate it so you make the best of it.
Why should people visit the upcoming one?
It’s a unique event with it’s own special vibe, we’ve never been super serious but serious at the same time. It’s a laidback vibe in this nature reserve, plenty of flora and fauna and there is a great camaraderie amongst all the riders at the event and also at the base camp, everyone is included.
What is your role in SAGRA?
Was…I’ve stepped off SAGRA this year and stepped away from organising events to concentrate all my time to building skateboards. It was an awesome 7yrs working with Anton and with Iona Zietsman, we worked hard to keep the race scene going when we took over and we loved doing it. The current team that has taken over has been doing an excellent job and have only made it even better. Candice Bouwer, Gabi Murray-Roberts, Eebin Van Den Bergh and Gerhard Nel have definitely stepped it up. Anton is still there as well.
What makes a perfect downhill board?
Clean lines and a good shape. That question is a vast one, there are so many answer to that.
What is Justin’s perfect board?
The Trooper for racing/freeriding, feeling super comfortable on it. The LCG for sliding and LDP and the latest street deck which you would call a beer board shape, having a lot of fun on that as a get around board in Cape Town.
Are there many people making skate stuff down there?
Over the years, there have been plenty of DIY skate builders that have come and gone. But then there are guys that have kept it going like Anton with his bushings, Kent Lingeveldt from Alpha Longboards, John Upham from Boardyard, the master with carbon fibre and Murray Chandler from MYi precision trucks which he has been working on meticulously for the past few years till now and they are ready for shredding.
How has Project Skateboards evolved over the years?
Growing and progressing, step by step building on my production line and adding machines over the years that making building boards so much better.
Will board building ever be more than a hobby?
It’s never been a hobby, more like this virus that has taken over my mind and turned me into a building zoombie haha. I eat, sleep and live it and continually looking at how I can better my building/crafting skills.
“…it’s never been a hobby, more like this virus that has taken over my mind and turned me into a board building zoombie haha.”
What makes your boards different?
Nothing, not going to try throw in some flashy marketing crap. They are straightforward Hard Rock Maple decks with all my veneer imported from the source, Maple country, in the Great Lakes, USA. I’ve worked with carbon fibre in the past but it’s a mission and gets you all itchy when it comes to cutting and sanding. I like simplicity but at the same time keep it creative. I hand silk screen all the graphic for the boards as well.
What have you got in your lineup this year?
Three new shapes, The Savage which is a Bro Pro model for Anton. He has supported Project Skateboards from day one, skated all the shapes and then came back with what he knew he wanted in a board and came up with The Savage. Then there is The Trooper and the Bsymmetrical which is a symmetrical board. Local Cape Town based artist Ben Winfield did the artwork for the three new shapes. Now I am working on my street decks, which I have been working on for the past 2 years now, tweaking the mould, getting skaters to skate the boards and then giving feedback. Another close friend of mine Justin Leslie who is a really good all round street skater has been helping me with the street decks. Now I am on my third mould which I’m really excited about and then looking at doing a bigger street deck styled more for tech-sliding, bowls, parks and street.
Which is your favourite?
I take the chance to skate all of them but probably the Project LCG, it’s been around the longest and is the most versatile out of all of them, still skate it and love using it as a sliding board.
Do locals support the local producers?
Yes and no… there are so many companies to choose from nowadays. Although that been said the riders do support local and they must keep supporting. This helps the local industry to grow. Guys who start brands put a lot of time and effort into making it happen and it’s important to support and give feedback so they can better their product for the riders.
Do you have more fun building or riding skateboards?
Both but at the moment I am having more fun in the workshop, there is lots to do and since I got more veneer there are more shapes that I want to get out.
Are the graphics on your boards important?
Extremely, I love the art side of skateboarding. I come from a time which was pre heat transfer and silk screening was the way you got your graphics on. Silk screening all my boards has been a love/hate relationship, you spend days/weeks working on boards and getting them finished for silk screening and then when the time comes and you make a mistake on a freshly finished board and the inks are super hardcore, if you mess up it’s permanent. But over the years of trial and error I have pretty much got my own technique down and there is definitely more love than hate.
How do you choose the artists to work with?
Being jealous of their work. There are so many great designers/artist in SA and to be able to have the opportunity to silk screen their work, it’s awesome. Means I can concentrate on the building process.
Do the graphics on your board tell a story?
In the past I used to just go with what I liked, for the latest three boards I wanted to go with a theme. Because the Bsymmetrical is a symmetrical board I was looking at it from a playing card style where you have the design mirroring each other on opposite ends. The Trooper has this broad front section that reminds me of a robot, so when I chatted to Ben I mentioned that I wanted a robot destroying Cape Town. The Savage was Antons baby, when I chatted to him about the graphic I kind of had an idea of this savaged doctor. Him and Ben have a similar style in art and I knew they would come up with something they both liked, which turned out to be this savaged indian styled witch doctor. So stoked on them!
How is your year going?
Great, been busy all year with my own work and doing work for other companies as well.
Other skate companies?
What does the future hold?
The skate scene in general is going to become more local product based. I don’t see it slowing down, there is more support going into building skate parks. There are new guys coming onto the downhill scene and doing events whether it be a race, slide jam or free ride events. There is more money being put into the street skating events like the Kimberly Diamond cup. It’s a great time to be a skateboarder and living that lifestyle.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Spend as much time with my daughter Gia and fiancee Sharon.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Keep progressing and working hard on building boards.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-20.
3, 7 and 15
3 – What impact has longboarding had on your life?
Huge! Given me the opportunity to work on so many creative levels, meet awesome people from around the world and locally, I’m blessed and stoked on how life has played out and I feel that there is still loads that can be done.
7 – What is your favourite meal?
Braaiing chops and boerie with a cold beer.
Bustin Joast! It’s been a ton of fun doing this with you. Thanks for your time and the insights into your life. See you at Hot Heels!
Bro…thank you for this and much respect for taking the time to chat to me. Going to be awesome to meet you at Hot Heels Africa!! And much love for doing such a great job with interviewing skaters from around the world!
Any last words?
To Sharon and Gia for their understanding and the huge amount of support they have given to me, standing by in tough times and good times. To my parents for their support as well, my brothers Warren and Marcel. Anton Pratt, Justin Leslie, Dave Hort, Glen Phillips, Russell Naude, Ruan “Saat” Saayman, Storm Reyneke, Andrew Hartle, Bernard Eppenberger, Pierre Van Der Spuy for his awesome photography, The VL’s and anyone that has played a part in helping me with Project Skateboards cause this list can go on and on. Everyone that has purchased a Project Skateboard and the shops that have supported my boards over the years.
Pierre Van Der Spuy
Sharon Le Grange