When it comes to innovation in longboard development, there are endless possibilities for those who make it their mission to experiment with the combination of available building materials in unique ways. For the ones that succeed in creating a functionally distinct solution, the result is a ride unlike anything the community has ever experienced.
Between their adventurous blend of bamboo/maple/birch/fiberglass decks and their 3D printed foot stops and wheel cores, Voxel Boards is a prime example of an up and coming innovator in the Southern California longboarding scene. As the brainchild of Ventura County-based skater, Shawn Jones, Voxel Boards was born out of a desire to experiment beyond traditional street skateboards. Over the past three years, the operation has continued to develop and remains fueled by curiosity.
More recently, I ran into Jones sometime after midnight at one of The Gel Lab’s Downtown LA Sessions. Besides standing out as one of the most approachable people at the session, he also stood out as the only one who had personally hand crafted the board they were riding. To learn a bit more about the story and the mindset behind Voxel Boards, the two of us connected afterwards and chopped it up:
Let’s start from the top: where did your respective interests in longboarding and product development begin?
My interest in longboarding specifically came in 2015. I’ve always been a hands-on, creative sort of person and have a background in engineering and design. I had been into street skating when I was around 13 and spent that Summer by refurbishing and repainting decks that were donated to a skate club that I started at our local Boys and Girls Club. You could say there was a natural marriage of my curiosity to do more with my hands and the love of the sport that got me where I am today.
Between foot stops, wheel cores and decks, how do you separate/break down your efforts?
In a sense, everything is developed as it is required. A deck will design itself over time, so not quite as much attention is required after a design has some age behind it. Our footstop took an afternoon to design, and our wheel cores are being worked on tentatively. My greatest strength is my ability to cross-discipline, and I hope that one day my work will be looked at as a positive contribution to the community.
What was the response like when you gave out your foot stops at one of the following Gel Lab sessions?
That was actually one of my favorite Gel Lab sessions! I had arrived a little later than I usually do and missed a chunk of the session that night. But Ari “Shark” gave me a chance to show off what I had been cooking up and to give back to the community. People were stoked about the different colors and I got a lot of verbal encouragement and support that night. It’s honestly the most accepted I have felt in a given community. People roll up to sessions with my foot stops of their setups, and I’m happy to get so much positive feedback about them!
How do you think 3D printing technology can be adapted to the skateboarding world?
I’m not really the first one to bring this technology to the industry thankfully, so there’s been some things tried and groundwork laid. Landyachtz actually mentioned using 3D printed nose guards during the conception of their Triple Beam deck. I think for 3D printing to be integrated into our community, there has to be more well fit demonstrations of the technology. There seems to be an impression that 3D printed objects are “weak” and other usually negative misconceptions about their potential. I kind of saw potential within that natural skepticism. I realize my foot stop could be a person’s first experience with a 3D printed object, so I wanted to take that opportunity to show that not only could this technology be used for prototyping but for a full fledged products as well.
You mentioned getting into shops in the near future. Are we talking brick and mortar or online shops or some combination of the two?
I want to answer this one in a fun way. (See the image below. A man can dream!)
Definitely a combination of the two. We’re in a unique spot with our direct sales compared to Amazon, since they don’t typically cater to customers who want custom graphics.
What does 2019 hold for yourself and for Voxel Boards?
2018 marked roughly three years since I began. The biggest challenge in my fledgling career is making the transition between garage and shop quality. We’ve expanded into our own workshop, and I am currently in a golden age with our line up of artistic talent! I really want our artists to be a highlight of our brand. I’m currently working on getting new moulds CNC’d and have plans for an Alchemy 808 rework to start off our Spring. I have also been approached by way too many people who want me to make a dancer, so maybe that can be a summer release? I would need a lot of dedicated rider feedback to make something like that work. I want to invest in a laser cutter. Maybe by the end of next year? It would dramatically increase the sophistication of our manufacturing process.
I didn’t get to finish my wheel project this year’s, because I 100% didn’t expect to get a new workspace, and that definitely put a dent in our budget for the year as well as brought me back to square one in terms of setting up to build comfortably.