Beating Expectations: Voxel Boards

Beating Expectations: Voxel Boards

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.

FTC: Zombie Hawgs Wheel Review (Video)

FTC: Zombie Hawgs Wheel Review (Video)

From The [cw] Community:

Thanks to Nate Braks for submitting an awesome review of the Clear Zombie Hawgs wheels with some buttery slides from Boardworks Tech Shop team rider Ben Bartlett. Check it out:

Boardworks Tech Shop
Website: https://boardworkstechshop.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boardworkste...
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/boardworks_...

Rider: Ben Bartlett

Filmed by:
Kyle Martin

Edit By:
Nate Braks

Music:
“Rocket Luv”
Ben Bada Boom

Thane Store

Thane Store

When we received an email from Sam Wolff of the Thane Store, we had no idea that it would kick off a whole other discussion about how small brands can market their wares.
If you have a small skate company, or you are thinking about starting one, you might want to look at Direct PB.
 

What kind of role can Direct PB play for up and coming skate companies?

Sam Wolff: Thane Store, and our parent company Direct Premium Buys, put a lot of focus on new and small companies. We look for opportunities that others haven’t noticed, and we try to help them get noticed through our site and social media. Phil and I noticed early on as skaters that there is an endless sea of gear out there, and more brands coming out all the time. Despite that, all our friends were riding stuff from the same 4 or 5 brands. That’s not necessarily bad, those top American brands make great stuff, but eventually we saw many of the new companies going under before we got to try the gear. We saw an opportunity to make an impact and provide some resources to those skaters brave enough to act on their ideas and innovate.

Some of the resources that Direct Premium Buys can provide include wholesale, distribution, and fulfillment so that they can get onto even more shelves. Our idea is to create a market for the product in the US first, and then get it into the hands of retail stores around the country. We use our background in eCommerce and logistics to offer consulting, product photography, and marketing strategy services to these companies as well. 

 

 

Many people have great ideas for companies but find it challenging to get their product into shops – do you see your company as an incubator?

Getting into shops these days gets harder and harder as more people flock towards what’s popular. You have to have everything in place… trademarks, patents, shipping, branding, word-of-mouth exposure, consistent manufacturing. If anything is lacking, a shop that may see less than a hundred visitors a day couldn’t justify the risk of the initial investment. That’s where we come in. If you have a good product, we’ll store it, mail it, promote it, try it, review it, and show you what we know works for getting it into more skater’s hands. Granted, not every egg in the incubator hatches. But when a baby bird leaves the nest, it’s a great feeling.

 

What are some of your success stories?

I think our biggest accomplishments so far is our line up of international brands. Before, if a customer wanted to try a product from say, the UK, they would need to pay expensive shipping costs to get that product into the US. Needless to say, this discourages a lot of would-be customers. We’re giving these companies the ability to sell directly to the US market, without incurring high costs of shipping on their end, and to the customer as well. We’ve got wheels from places like Malaysia, South Africa, the UK, and Israel all under one roof, and to us, that’s a huge accomplishment. 

 

How do you determine what brands to carry? 

As much as we want to pick up every new brand we find and have a massive selection, it’s challenging logistically. Some brands have unreasonable expectations. We have to balance our safe bets with our risks like every other company, but we know our fan base is different and they’re down to try something out. So we look for what people are saying about the product. If we can get our hands on it, we try it out. If not, we assess what we can find out online, make an order and give a set to the team to pass around. Importing a box of wheels from across the world is expensive, and it doesn’t always sell right away, but we feel that it’s worth it if we can get our scene riding on new, underrated stuff and finding new ways to have fun skating.

 

 

What’s your current take on the overall skate market?

The skate market isn’t like other markets, as DPB has definitely learned. The same principles don’t apply, you have to think like a skater to sell to skaters. The market right now, as we’ve all noticed, it’s sort of plateauing after the explosion of downhill in the last 5 years. I think dramatic shifts like S9 changing hands and the whole Arbor thing have people a little nervous, but from what I can see, stoke is still high. It’s easier said than done, but the American scene especially needs more accessible events, safe places to skate like Kamloops, and riders that won’t judge you for riding a certain way or not being good enough. We need more skating for the sake of it, and less fiending for sponsorships and status. The companies that put their efforts into these areas while producing consistently great gear will make it through to the next huge wave of hype. It will come. Stay stoked.

An interview with founder Bently Anderson

An interview with founder Bently Anderson

 Bently contacted CW back in the fall of 2015 to let us know about Entitlement Urethane. A few weeks ago Entitlement brought out a new wheel called the Marina and we were interested to find out more. 

Why did you decide to start up a wheel company?

It has been a lifelong dream to start a wheel company. I have been a riding a Freebord for nearly ten years. Over this period of time I have tried several different types of wheels. Roughly 7 or 8 years ago Freebord the company decided to develop a custom mold and shape. After having the chance to prototype several different formulas, I became somewhat obsessed with urethane. ​

When I took on the identity of a team rider and videographer I slowly began to loose interest in the sport. My lack of interest was a combination of less than desirable politics and close friends who stopped riding. Around this time I met a local freeride oriented guy name Byron Essert. I was genuinely stoked to see a downhill skater ride something steep entirely stand up. Fast forward a number of years and Entitlement Urethane was born..

What have you been doing to try and have entitlement urethane stand out?

To fully enjoy the process of social media. I don’t want the ego of the company to outgrow the riders who represent Entitlement Urethane. I believe that a rider owned and operated company should be transparent via social media. 

I believe that the purpose of social media is ultimately for branding. It provides a platform for our riders to gain recognition among other companies and demonstrates the function of our products. No one would ever believe that a wheel used by freeborders would also perform on a longboard.

 

What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to deal with?

The current market. After talking with a number of sponsored riders and shop owners, it seems that the downhill skate industry is experiencing low tide. Beyond that we cater to a very niche market. Our products are designed to fit the needs of those who are interested in downhill freeride. It seems nearly impossible to compete with large corporations who can pay for subscribers, pay for events, and pay their riders but f**k it.. 

 

How has social media helped you?

I believe that the purpose of social media is ultimately for branding. It provides a platform for our riders to gain recognition among other companies and demonstrates the function of our products. No one would ever believe that a wheel used by freeborders would also perform on a longboard. 

I am assuming it increased the interest of the product ….but has this lead to sales?

 Honestly…. no. There is great amount of brand loyalty among downhill skaters. It could be driven by an individual’s hope to become sponsored by a specific brand, an individual looking to emulate a professional rider, or a specific wheel’s performance on a local hill.  I believe there is currently a big split between people looking for a wheel with the longest slide or a wheel that provides the most grip. Entitlement Urethane wheels are universal and will cater to the needs of a rider looking to progress his or her skills.