Tao Te LBS

Andre the Giant has a snowboard posse

On the same time frame as when i bought my first twin shaped snowboard (which completely revolutionized what we could do on the slopes, after years of riding directional boards) i also sent a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to a guy in art school for one of his stickers. While skating around Boston friends and i started seeing these stickers of Andre the Giant popping up, especially around the best places to skate (we too, were maybe putting up some stickers of our own… or maybe not… depends on who’s asking… if you’re a cop you have to tell us, right?!?!). In some ‘zine i was reading i saw an PO box address to mail the artist to get one of his stickers… so i did. A few weeks later i received my envelope back with a sticker and a manifesto about what this social experiment was. Andre the Giant has a posse! i take stickers very seriously, always have. So i put this sticker on the most valuable possession i had as a teenager: my first ever modern shaped snowboard!

The artist’s name is Shepard Fairey, and i remain a fan of his work to this day. His art now graces some of the walls of my home and helped lead to a bizarre series of events that culminated in me getting my mother to come to a Henry Rollins show! For Christmas i bought my wife the ornament that is a recreation of the Earth orb Shepard Fairey displayed hanging from the Eiffel Tower. In the shipping box his company Obey Giant added several stickers, including one re-print of that first iconic posse sticker. So now, decades later, my most recent snowboard - from the snowboard shop i own, has that same sticker gracing it. We have to grow older but we don’t have to ever grow up. Andre the Giant has a posse!


Re-issue of Real Kelch Flyer

Getting to live out a dream and own your own skate shop has a lot of great and emotional moments, as i’m sure you can imagine. Almost 7 years in now, i’ve had quite a few but recently i had a top experience that i knew was coming, but still caused a level of joy that i was not expecting.


A few months ago i received the email from Deluxe that they were going to re-issue the Real Kelch Flyer deck, and that they were offering pre-books (pre-orders) so that us shops could ensure we had them for the release date. This made me quite excited, and then i saw that they were also including the option of the original shape in a slick - which the early 90’s version was. This made me ecstatic! i imagine this deserves a bit of explanation...

The Kelch Flyer was the board i was riding during an emotional high point in my skateboarding life. It’s the board where i really transitioned in trick selection from what we’d now call old skool to new skool. Shuvits, pressure flips, nose-slide EVERYTHING (because it had a full nose as big as it’s tail), and the kind of technical things that smaller wheels, a thinner symmetrical board, and a slick bottom would allow you to do. It’s also the first board i purchased while in college which is when skateboarding took on an even deeper and personal emotional bond for me.

Skateboarding had already saved my life by then, and the love was there since day one, but in college i was finally in a life situation where my time was more my own. On that flyer deck i started a skate regiment that still is my preferred mode today - solo midnight sessions! Sure, going to school in Massachusetts meant that quick train rides started my love affair with Copley Plaza, alongside the fantastic new skateboarding friends i made there (many of which i’m still friends with today). Sure i now no longer had parental outfit inspection before leaving every day. But even with all those quality of life improvements, nothing… NOTHING warmed the cockles of my heart the way that self-exploration on a board under the darkness of night when it felt like the rest of the world was settled in for the night. Pushing through the streets, sliding those ledges, flipping those manhole covers, all alone and on that Flyer.

And then something else magical happened. When i’d take a breather, or while lying on the ground from a failed attempt i started hear it… that sound… my favorite sound… the sound of skateboard bearings rolling. Someone else was out here too?!?! Elusive and solo, around the midnight hour, staking a claim on the world when everyone else had left it for tomorrow. i started referring to him as Phantom Skater. Emotionally torn as to whether i should try to find him or if i should leave him be, i seemed to shuffle back and forth, depending on the night and depending on how much alone time i myself required.

Of course we eventually ran into each other at a spot and he quickly became my favorite person to ever skate with. No conversations, just his random comments muttered from a half-open mouth, or a recommendation for a spot we should hit. Rare silent car rides to said spots, accelerating to 90 mph for this one spot in the road where his truck could get air - and his double giggle (he-he) subtly squeezed out every time we hit it. He’d watch Jason Lee parts and try to recreate those tricks (often successfully). It was like getting to skate by yourself, but with someone else. We didn’t skate together every night, just periodically. To be able to feed of someone else’s stoke and energy, but without all those social pleasantries and baggage.

i loved skating with Phantom Skater and he fully embraced my nickname for him, sneaking a tight half-grin when i’d say it out loud. All those nights on that Kelch Flyer. i skated it until the ‘slick’ layer had completely come off the nose and i had a boardslide groove in the center worn all the way to the wood. Those were the nights where i was discovering who i really was. Those were the nights where i got to skate with my favorite skater, pro or otherwise. Those were nights of pure joy where skateboarding once again was saving my life.

The following year Phantom Skater just didn’t return. It would have been his senior year, my sophomore year. No one knew why he didn’t return. i had no contact info for him away from school, just that his family lived in Michigan. Of course that Flyer deck eventually broke as well. But those nights were some of the best nights i’ve had on a skateboard, equal parts fun, therapy, and self-exploration. Getting to hold that board again floods me with emotions. Somehow it feels just like i remembered it did. So much so, i can’t quite bring myself to hang it in the shop yet. Every so often i just wander out back and hold it for a second, just to have a feel.

Not Worried about Skateboarding

As athletic shoe companies, fashion magazines, and the olympics are all trying to grab their piece of skateboarding i'm not worried about skateboarding at all. Your favorite brand, your local shop, your favorite skater... i'd be worried for them, but not for skateboarding. Skateboarding will be just fine. For every jock Koston there's a toothless Andy Roy balancing it all out. Skateboarding is an untamable wild animal that will never be successfully caged, but it is also a cannibal that will never reach a point of unity. 

Skateboarding lives in dog years. In 1 Earth calendar year, skateboarding has already lived 7 years. By the time the magazine cover with the skater wearing white sneakers has been delivered, black suede is already the look. As soon as games of SKATE rules establish no tricks where you put a foot on the ground, everyone's insta part has no-complies. Remember 3 years ago when that local hero did that thing down that rail? No. Because 2 new generations of skaters have started skating, that spot's a total bust now, 3 new parks have been built in the state, and 5 DIY spots have been demolished. Anything lasting 10 years in skateboarding is comparable to 70 years in any other setting - it has far exceeded it's life expectancy. That popular company that the local skate shop couldn't keep in stock 4 years ago is now out of business.

What makes skateboarding so great is also what makes it cannibalistic and self destructive: that unyielding sense of independence. The attitude that draws us all in to this creative art-form where all we need is ourselves and a board also leads to situations like now with everyone thinking they want their own deck company. So the market is inundated with countless board brands all fighting for the same sized community. Smaller pieces of pie means smaller profits for most, pros making less off signature decks, less company profits to put back into skateboarding like contributing to local parks and events and videos. Skateboarding blows itself up, and before the smoke has cleared there's already a new plant growing up through the cracks in the pavement. 

So i'm not worried about skateboarding. It can take care of itself. The olympics occur once every 28 skateboard years. The athletic companies' deep pockets only have a finite amount of money - but skateboarding's creativity is endless.


It really is that simple. Wood, metal, urethane... that's it. For all the hype, for all the trends, for all the opinions it is just the mix of three things. It's been those three things since i first stepped on one in the 1980's and it's still those three things in all the catalogs for next year's products from the manufacturing companies. 


Attach urethane to wood via metal and you will never be bored ever again. The cracked asphalt of a rest stop parking lot during a road trip stretch break. The curb in front of your grandmother's house. A parking block under a light post in the middle of the night. Sure skateparks and ramps are fun but with or without them, next year some kid is going to discover skateboarding and it's going to change their life. 

Warning: combining wood, metal, and urethane can cause an altered perception. Architecture suddenly takes on new perspectives and never looks the same again. Side effects include extreme bouts of creativity (sometimes lasting longer than four hours), personal insight, and occasionally a sense of accomplishment.  Continue use at your own risk.

Wood, metal, urethane... three ingredients, unlimited possibilities. 

LBS Team in CA

Every year we head out to Long Beach CA in January to see the coming year's skate gear and footwear. i'm not sure which part i enjoy more: geeking out over the new decks, wheels, sneakers, pros, or getting to actually walk around in a t-shirt in January eating Pizzanista.  After all the trade show activities were done the crew at Skate One (Bones and Powell Peralta) invited us up for a tour of their factory/headquarters and were kind enough to let us come skate their local indoor private park.

My 1st board was a Powell Peralta skull & sword and i have ridden more Bones bearings and wheels over the decades than i can count. Understandably i was too busy being a nerd watching the boards get pressed and the wheels get poured to take the camera so phase one - factory tour images are all Sarah's pics (below).

Since LBS team riders Tristan and Jake have moved out to the greater LA area they joined us for the tour. As luck would have it team rider Gabe was out visiting while we were there so Maine was rolling in force, including Tristan's roommate (and fellow Mainer) Eamon. The guys at Skate One generously gave everyone in the crew a new Flight board and a place to test them out: Orchid Skatepark. The lighting was low this rare rainy day in CA and i didn't have a flash but i'll just call them stylishly effected. So here are Tom's Pics (below).

Big thanks to the whole crew at Skate One! You guys are great!