The longboards I’ve made

From left to right:

1) Maly’s 46″ spoon – I bought her a Tony Hawk “regular” skateboard at Walmart a month ago. One day she rode my 46″ Dregs pintail and really liked it (longboards are quite a bit stable compared to short boards). So I asked her if she wanted her own longboard. She said, “Yes, I want the shape of the Birdie board, with the color of your really long board and the wings like the Finklehopper board. And I want a purple stripe down the middle and pink stripes next to it.” Okay‚Ķ so I built her a board to her specifications (with a 1.5″ wing depth). I’ll do the pin striping this week, and I talked her into doing some glitter design and glitter pin striping as well. And she picked out hot pink wheels and chrome trucks.

2) Buster’s Rigid (not yet stained) – I built a standard (1/2″ thick) 46″ long spoon nose for Buster. He cracked it within a couple days of owning it. So I made him a new, custom, 4-ply 3/4″ spoon nose. This one is a solid tank. I’m be curious to see how it rides (flexes) after it’s all put together.

3) The 6-foot Pine Cabron – Why the hell not?! I wanted a 6-foot surfboard on wheels. I bought a 1″ solid piece of pine and stole the nose design from my Dregs board and curved and tapered the sides and end using a 1×2 bent by a come-along tie down. I wanted a subtle stain, so went with a “Natural” stain. I also wanted classic pin stripes and chose Bohemian Blue and Purple Wave. Wheels are 76mm blue Bigfoots. It was really bendy, and I thought I was going to crack it in half, so I built some tapered ribs with some spare plywood and pin striped those with the matching Purple Wave. It still has some flex and rides like a yacht. I need to put taller risers on it because the wheels bite the board on hard turns (even though the board doesn’t do much more than straight).

4) The Finklehopper (aka The Deuce) – This was my second board. I made my regular spoon nose, but cut out a 1″ triangle on the tail to make “wings.” I stained this one with Ipswitch Pine and made custom iron-on transfers of Finklehopper Frog (one of Maly’s and my favorite books). I mounted trucks that I custom painted with brown fireplace paint and put some black 76″ Luv Ya Mutha soy wheels on it. It has one of my better grip tape designs on the top, but the Finklehopper transfers on the bottom weren’t doing it for me. I sanded and scraped the bottom to try to get the transfers off, but I kind of messed up the surface of the wood. To try to cover it up, I masked the sides and the top of the board and just painted the bottom black. That didn’t really cover up the scratches, and there’s some remnant Finklehopper Frog designs on the bottom. I’m thinking about doing a cool rhinestone hibiscus design next to cover up and distract from the previous design “flaws.”

5) The Dropthrough (not yet stained) – “Dropthrough” boards, from what I’ve gathered, are designed for a low center of gravity and for “bombing” hills. The trucks are disassembled before mounted and are literally dropped through and mounted to the top of the board. I haven’t quite figured out how to shape and saw the openings at the front and tail to mount the trucks. Really I just wanted to design a dropthrough deck. I’ll finish it at some point. I’m a bit nervous that the nose and tail sections could easily break.

6) The Bird Board – This was the first skateboard I built. It’s a 46″ spoon nose. After owning a longboard for a couple days, I decided I wanted to build my own. I did quite a bit of research and built a longboard press out of 2×4’s. I drafted my design from aluminum mixing bowls and bending a long 1×2 piece of scrap lumber. The only stain I had was Red Mahogony and Maly convinced me to just use what I had available. Maly designed the 3 little birds sitting on a branch. It has green 70mm Luv Ya Mutha soy wheels and is my absolute favorite. It rides like a Cadillac.

Not pictured are Buster’s original spoon nose that broke, my 10-year-old neighbor’s custom designed deck that we’re working on together, and Buster’s son’s spoon nose that’s drying in the press right now. That’s 9 boards in 5 weeks!

I think I have an addiction. At least it’s a healthy one.

6-foot longboard

This thing rides like a yacht. Built from a 6′ plank of 1×12″ pine, stained a natural color with Bahama Blue and Purple Wave pinstripes, lots of semi-gloss polyurethane and Blue Bigfoot 76mm 78a durometer wheels.


Say hello to heaven

My Uncle J.L. died last night. He died of liver disease and while I don’t know if it’s documented, I’m sure it was caused by a life of imbibing and poor diet. Although he kind of dropped out of my life some 20 years ago, I have, and will continue to have fond memories of him. J.L. was “that” uncle in our family. I don’t mean the “that” that’s synonymous with bad. He was the uncle that was always cutting up and never took life too seriously. And that might be why he died, because he didn’t take his disease seriously enough early enough. My hopes are that he wasn’t in much pain. The doctors and hospice caretakers indicated to my mom that they’d keep him comfortable.

I didn’t say goodbye to my uncle in person. I still don’t think I’ve said goodbye to him. I never really knew where he went when he stopped coming around, and while I don’t think it really bothered me, I still wondered. Did he make road trips to Wyoming? Did he hole himself up in an old house somewhere out in his old stomping grounds in Houston? Did he have a woman in his life?

I remember my uncle coming to visit on the weekends when I was an adolescent. We’d get into his old, nondescript 1970’s orangish-goldish boat of a sedan and go to Crossroads for night crawlers. J.L. would invariably buy a six pack and slip me a comment about the cute twin daughters that worked the cash register. Then we’d go back to the pond at the house and spend a couple hours fishing. J.L. was the one who actually fished. I just kind of stood by as the trusty, doting sidekick and took in all of his stories and whatever else came out his mouth. I looked up to him because he had a long, bright yet dull orange biker ponytail and a deep, raspy tone in his voice that either told you he just didn’t give a shit, or that he loved you with all of his heart, depending on which hemisphere of his heart he kept you.

J.L. was the uncle who made fun of me for having Kiss albums, but was probably proud that I at least liked rock music. He was the uncle who was excited when I got the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. He was also the uncle who always went out of his way to remind me of how lucky I was to have parents who were smart, who loved me and wanted me to do something with my life.

I went through a phase in my pre-teens where having gelled and spiky hair was the trend. Whenever J.L. would come to visit, he’d always look at me and say, “now that’s a cool haircut!” in that giving and familiar voice that always trailed with his smoker’s chuckle. I’d blush with equal parts of embarrassment and flattery. Whenever he’d leave to go back home, he would always tell me that the next time I saw him, he’d have a haircut just like mine. He never did.

One of the last memories I have of my uncle J.L., 20 years later, is my mom giving him a haircut. At his request, she sheared off his ponytail and gave him a clean haircut. I was there for that haircut. That was the last time that I saw him.

I’ll miss you, J.L.


We’re sitting across the desk from John, who’s preparing our taxes. I’m afraid of the number he’s going to come up with, and I think he’s afraid for us as well. As we’d walked in, I told him that I opted for forbearance on tax deductions from my unemployment compensation, and that we had to cash in on some investments to survive the 9 months that I was unemployed. I think we all knew that we were going to owe the government some money.

After an hour, John put the number in front of us. And this number, to our surprise, was to our benefit. The first thought that my inner-consumerist could muster was, “Alright, we should go buy an iPad!” And before that thought could even complete itself, and for whatever reason, it was squashed with, “I’m going to buy skateboards for Maly and me.”

To this day, I still don’t know why skateboards popped into my head. The only explanation I can think of is that Maly has pretty much mastered the PlasmaCar, Razor scooter and her bicycle. I’d also much rather promote fresh air, physical activity and coordination over either her or I sitting on the couch with an iPad on our lap (we already do enough of that as is with either a laptop or just the TV). Teaching my daughter how to ride a skateboard just seemed like the next logical step in my head.

I wanted to introduce Maly to the world of skateboarding that I grew up knowing in the 80’s; big, thick boards with knobby wheels (compared to today’s skateboard wheels). After doing some research, I decided that my 4-year-old daughter probably wouldn’t get into skateboarding enough in the short-term to warrant my nostalgic penchant, so we decided to just go to WalMart and get her a “beginner” skateboard. She chose a Tony Hawk Birdhouse deck, complete with skull graphics. It was a proud moment for me.

As for me, I wanted a throwback board — something that would rekindle my youth and the way that I chose to ride when I was an adolescent. The other kids on the street were busy teaching themselves how to ollie and grind. While they were doing that, I was traveling from point A to point B. I cruised. So, 25 years later, I wanted to find a board that would suit my cruising ways. That meant a longboard. They didn’t have longboards when skateboarding gained popularity in the 80’s, so this was completely new territory, but essentially a no-brainer.

I did quite a bit of research on the shapes and styles of longboards and found what I thought I wanted on Austin’s craigslist: a 46″ Dregs Alpine pintail with 66mm wheels. It looked like a surfboard, and that’s what I wanted. Maly and I woke up early on a Saturday, met the seller at a restaurant downtown, handed him $75 and he handed me a practically brand new longboard.

And I’ve been trying to ride every day since. I still suck, but I try, and I’m having fun. Maly hasn’t taken the interest to skateboarding like I was hoping she would, but that’s her prerogative. I’m not going to push her, but I’ll encourage any interest and will gladly hold her hands while she practices getting her legs beneath herself and learns to lean.

I don’t think 24 hours had even passed after having owned my first longboard that I decided that I wanted to build my own longboard. I really liked my Dregs board, but I had an idea of what the “perfect” shape longboard was for me, and I couldn’t justify spending even another $75 on another board.

And so, thanks to YouTube, I learned that one must glue and press multiple layers of maple veneer or plywood to create the concave of a skateboard deck. So I built a skateboard press that I affectionately named the “Wood Maiden” and pressed my first skateboard. I carefully designed the shape of my longboard using a combination of aluminum mixing bowls and a long strip of scrap 1×2 to create the nose and curved shape for the sides of the board, and traced my design onto a long sheet of paper that I borrowed from Maly’s art easel. I then transferred the outline to my pressed wood and began sawing and sanding.

In a month, it’s kind of turned into an addiction. I’ve made myself two 46″ spoon nose boards, made a friend online who gave me his old longboard, made another spoon nose for a friend and am currently helping the 10-year-old neighbor boy build his own custom longboard (with a design that I’m thinking about trying out myself). I want to try my hand at making a “drop through” longboard and would ultimately like to see if I could maybe sell a few of my designs. I also made myself a custom “goof board.”

On weekend mornings, I get up before the sun and ride down parking garages on the west side of town. I love the quiet and still of the morning and having an entire, empty parking garage all to myself.

I’m really looking forward to getting Buster’s board done so he and I can go riding together. Next steps are to design a drop through deck, build a 5- or 6-foot-long deck, figure out a way to transfer photos to a longboard deck and learn to work with fiberglass. It’s been a fun ride so far!