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.
To keep up with the latest from Voxel Boards, drop them a follow on their Instagram here or keep an eye on their website here for the latest releases.
When you think of old school-styled cruiser boards made in Australia, it’s tough not to have the name Penny come to mind. However, the crew behind Victoria-based, Hunt Skateboards has a completely different project on their hands that combines modern versatility with the glory of 50s/60s skate nostalgia.
At first glance, these boards look similar to the Skee Skate by Tresco but with a contemporary, hand crafted finish and a set of trucks and wheels that look like they could handle far more than the metal wheeled contraptions of decades past. Nevertheless, Founder Alex Hunt claims that it was not one specific board that inspired their hallmark shape, but rather a general appreciation of skateboard manufacturers from that era that has given Hunt Skateboards their direction.
Speaking on the creative process, he told us, “The shape we ended up with actually evolved through trial and error when we were developing our concepts back in 2014. We had tried everything; every shape, style, type as a means of being innovative but we were always drawn back to the basics – the hardwood cruiser – I guess it has a nostalgic quality that can’t be tainted.”
With a tried and true model as the base, the allure of Hunt Skateboards stems from the updated maneuverability that these boards bring to the table. Upon first push, these boards are inherently easy to pick up and ride. As such, their style has been described as something in between a longboard and a Penny Skateboard. These things are designed with speed in mind and come with all the carving abilities to make it happen. They also handle with optimal responsiveness and are resistant to speed wobbles. For a casual cruiser, Hunt Skateboards check all the right boxes.
When it comes to those who have put their boards to the test, Hunt claims their customers range from hipsters to hardcore skaters to surfers to casual skaters of all ages. In line with their vision of creating an accessible ride for all – this is exactly the clientele that Hunt was shooting for. “When we were developing Hunt Skateboards, our primary focus was to develop not only a board that felt perfect under the feet, but also one that suited the broad spectrum of skaters, from beginners to advanced,” Hunt added.
As for the minds behind the brand, Alex Hunt and his partner, Caitlin Jostlear, interestingly ran the operation out of their van for the entirety of 2017. Equipped with a batch of blank decks, the pair set off on a 12 month road trip across the country, putting the finishing touches on boards and selling them as they went. Through their travels, they were able to remarkably get their boards under the feet of skaters in every state in Australia.
By the end of the excursion, van life had run it’s course as the Hunt Skateboards operation left the road with a head full of life lessons and a grip of common sense to continue their endeavors with. Now, instead of a lifestyle of long term travel, the team is about to settle into a sizable headquarters of their own. With half of the space dedicated to a workshop and the other half dedicated as a show room/hang out space, the plans for a new working environment sound like they’ll be the perfect place to further foster Hunt’s craftsmanship. Along with the new space, the team is also gearing up for the release of new hardware featuring the brand’s signature branding.
From there, the future of Hunt Skateboards will be driven by the pursuit of finding good times and celebrating the means of reaching them. To sum this vision up, Hunt concluded by telling us, “We are deeply engaged in what has always fueled the overall culture of skating/surfing and that is its creative, laid-back attitude to seeking a good time and release. With respect to the innovative, forward thinking skateboard manufacturers – to us, it is about keeping it simple and staying true to the core values of the industry. That is, as we have said to others before you, to the likes of when the skateboard was fist invented; it wasn’t about designing something new, rather finding an alternative to surfing when there were no waves. This is what we celebrate – a collective that is about enjoying life and appreciating something that allows one to do so.”
Five years ago AXS Longboard Retailer Magazine did a story on Facebook. I was puzzled by the power of social media and was quite taken with a book that laid things out in a vastly different perspective (more on that in a minute). You can read it here. Most of you have probably never even HEARD of this magazine, but it was my way of trying to bring another perspective to the market. It was a business to business publication. I think the piece still stands up but right now, I want to focus my thoughts on how Facebook is affecting folks who actually skate. Before I launch into this, I wanted to let you know about a book that I felt was probably way ahead of its time…or absolutely no where near its time. The book is called, wait for it, This book is 5 years old. It will either delight you or drive you crazy. I am not going to get into the nitty gritty details of some of the insanely passionate arguments that rage daily on FB. I am not going to blast those who spend hours defending their point of view or chastising their fellow skaters. The latest post to cause an explosion of heated debate concerns a video that features a skater destroying a helmet – both with a baseball bat and by actually jumping on it. Adding to this, the rider in the video skates down a hill without a helmet. WARNING: I am not going to get into a debate over helmets right now. Concrete Wave publishes photos with people wearing helmets and NOT wearing helmets. We will NEVER turn away a photo if a rider has a helmet on. I will save the helmet debate for another column. What I am most interested in is this: Is Facebook actually killing the stoke of skaters more than it is adding to their stoke? This is a very hard question to answer, but I sense that it’s not limited to longboarding. Have a peek at this column.I am not suggesting that you cut Facebook at of your life. I am merely suggesting that you start to personally examine whether or not Facebook stokes you out as a skater more than it depresses you. If you find yourself not really feeling stoked, then I believe it is time to critically examine why this is happening. I will admit this is something that has happened and continues to happen in my own life. I love Facebook and I hate Facebook. I know that Facebook has been a crucial way for many skate brands to grow their business. I also know that the skate business is cyclical and right now, the feelings of pure stoke often get drowned out by the drama. Don’t get me wrong, drama, debate and skateboarding have been woven together since Dogtown and Down South battled in the pages of SkateBoarder and beyond. The difference now of course is that it is 24-7 drama and debate, should you wish. And that really is the key. It’s what YOU wish. If you find that the most recent Facebook debate is not warming the cockles of your heart, perhaps it’s time for a temporary detox? Here’s a challenge to anyone reading this column: can you go 12 hours without posting anything on Facebook? Can you go 24? But beyond this, if Facebook destokes you and yet you continue to spend hours on it, could going for a skate solve the problem?
The post from Malakai Kingston on Facebook yesterday has stirred up quite an outpouring of shock and support. Malakai, along with Erik Basil grew Silverfish into an incredible website that supported dozens of skate communities. It had fans that spanned the world and literally millions of posts. Many skate brands got their start on the ‘Fish and it was great to see the interaction between owners and potential customers. Of course, there were literally dozens of keyboard wars between foes. I am not sure how Malakai and Erik had the strength to police things for all these years. I know that I would find that a thankless task. I remember when I first migrated from NCDSA to Silverfish. Of course, for a lot of folks reading this, the letters NCDSA won’t mean anything. Such is the world of digital. But the truth is that before Facebook, YouTube, smartphones etc, Silverfish set the standard and used its massive reach to influence a generation of skaters. Concrete Wave (and its predecessor, International Longboader Magazine) has strived to promote all types of skateboarding. Thanks to Silverfish, our message was spread wider than even we could have imagined. Longboarding grew up on the web and Silverfish was the undisputed leader in promoting a welcoming vibe. All of us who ride “different” types of skateboards should be extremely grateful for the tireless work that the Silverfish team put in. From what I can recall, there were some issues with the backup of data. As most of you know, I am not technical so I can’t explain what happened but somewhere along the way, a huge swath of SF data went kaput. I find this very unfortunate because I know that thousands of skaters contributed some very worthwhile comments and stories. Sadly, it would appear that most of the data is not available. The site is now dark and when I visited there this morning, it confused the hell out of my browser. Of all the memories I have of Silverfish, it’s the memories of meeting up with Erik and Malakai at an Irish pub after or during the Action Sports Retailer Show. Those meetups to discuss the industry and just decompress are something that I will never forget. If you had an opportunity to attend one of these events (especially the one where I brought Spike, the iguana), consider yourself truly fortunate. Erik and Malakai, the world of skateboarding owes you a tremendous amount of gratitude. You both have done so much to foster stoke and build a worldwide skate community. Erik Basil Malakai Kingston While many pixels will be spilled over the course of the next few days about the work that Erik and Malakai did, I think these words best sum up how many people feel. Silverfish may be gone, but it will never be forgotten. On behalf of skaters everywhere, THANK YOU.
Earlier this year, we collaborated with the crew over at Lume Cube to learn about what exactly went into the making of the world’s most versatile camera light. In short, we found out that a successful Kickstarter campaign was responsible for the creation of a device that packs a massive amount of light into a tiny, handheld block. With promises of lighting up skate spots forbidden by darkness without the use of elaborate lighting setups, we had to give it a shot once the Winter weather left NJ. Check it out: Check out some of the incredible photos taken with Lume Cube below. For more, take a peek here: