By Fergus Odonnell
Having had a 35 year love affair with all things skateboarding, I was stoked beyond belief to recently have the opportunity to leave the U.K shores to go on a tour of the American northwest with a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night . The production was to tour for 9 weeks and included the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago.
Although I am passionate about my work as an actor and can’t deny I was excited at the prospect of playing Shakespeare in such great theatres, I couldn’t help but immediately think “I’m taking my skateboard!”
I was soon Googling skateparks in the cities I would be visiting and was very excited by what I saw. We have some great skateparks here in the U.K and I’m lucky enough to live a stone’s throw from some of the best. But to go stateside and witness firsthand what the home of skateboarding had to offer was quiet frankly a dream come true. The parks didn’t disappoint either!
From Boston’s Lynch Family Project with a bowl the scale of which I had never before witnessed to the final days of Love Park in Philadelphia and it’s new Paine’s Plaza skatepark with views of the Schuykill river and plug sockets for phones and speakers (a luxury we have yet to acquire in the U.K!)
Other parks included the Durham skate plaza in Durham, N.C, the Chelsea pier skatepark in NYC!(a personal favorite), and last but not least the Grant park skate plaza in Chicago! I did what I set out to do and got my fill of U.S concrete.
What I was struck by most on all my visits to these parks was how friendly and welcoming everyone was. It’s like that here in the U.K (on the whole) and was very pleased to find it the same across the pond. The international skateboarding community is full of peace and love! Skaters are friendly and supportive; once again it was confirmed to me that I am doing the right thing by continuing my love affair with this coolest of sports
We’ve got something new brewing.
As many of you know, Concrete Wave aims to promote all types of terrain and all kinds of riders.
Four years ago, we launched Longboarding for Peace. I am proud to say that the program has flourished. Building on this, we have created a new initiative called The Magic of Balance.
It’s an interactive workshop that combines the joy of skateboarding with the magic of balance.
We’re starting up in Toronto and NYC. Next up will be Denver and Southern California.
If you want to get involved in the program, let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More surprises to come; don’t forget to join us on July 25 – the International Magic of Balance Day,
Take 15 minutes to teach, learn and/or collaborate. Learn a new trick…Teach someone to stand on a board…Work together to spread stoke. If you go less than 15 minutes, no worries. If you go more than 15, no worries.
The good folks at Orangatang Wheels have just unleashed the Menopause. We had a chance to find out more.
What prompted you to bring on test participants for the launch of this wheel?
Product development is a very important part of Loaded and Orangatang. We’re here to build the best stuff we can, and see all of our products as a work in progress. While we believe that we have some good ideas and have developed a good strategic approach to product development, we obviously don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.
Creating Loaded Labs and opening up our doors to the community at large is something we’re excited about and we hope that it will allow us, and the industry in general, to keep pushing the limits of design and performance while also engaging in a fun and collaborative dialogue with our customers.
Were you a little concerned about this?
It’s very rare to see this in skate wheels. It’s unnerving and it feels like we’re lifting up our skirts a bit. But we know that we have a good wheel and want to make it a great wheel. Yes, more ideas and more feedback isn’t always better. But we’re only selling a limited amount of wheels with the Menopause project and feel that we have the systems in place to be able to decipher the feedback we receive. But we still don’t know how it will pan out.
We’re going to use this as a litmus test to try other projects of this nature. We’re still trying to think about how best to include shops and distributors in this type of interactive product development approach.
What has been the reaction so far?
We’ve sold through most of the wheels at this point. From what we can tell, people are super stoked. But we’re still waiting to hear feedback; it’ll probably take a few months before we really know how this project worked.
Who came up with the name?
Brian, it was totally Brian. I take no responsibility.
Actually, Brian did throw the name out, and it stuck. It’s one of those things where you say it so much internally that you forget the meaning. After we launched we turned to each other and said, “Did we really choose that name? How did that happen?”
Orangatang Wheels captured the hearts of riders over 6 years ago. Of all the things you’ve done, what initiative stands out in your mind as having the most impact?
While there are many things we’re proud of, I think that the Ambassador program (which exists in Loaded as well but was spearheaded through Orangatang) has been arguably the most exciting and important initiative for Orangatang. Gathering a diverse group of amazing humans and giving them the tools to spread the gospel of stoke has grown the community worldwide and fostered skateboard passion. It’s allowed us to create something that’s much larger than any one person.
Did you ever get the feeling that a certain TV show (Orange is the New Black) might have copied your idea?
Of course! I’ve had a fantasy of being in bondage surrounded by hundreds of women since I was a child. But I suspect that’s true for most of us. Actually, we’re currently in litigation with orange trees as we have a patent on specific shades of orange.
We’re finally getting some decent weather! Some will take to bikes, some will take scooters and some will grab a skateboard. Actually, some might grab a longboard and others will take their Penny.
You’ve got to be kidding. Those AREN’T real skateboards?! But what if I told you they were. And Penny will reward skateboarding in ways we can’t even conceive of believing.
You see, Penny is just a catalyst.
Let’s pretend for a moment you are have Rip Van Winkle and you’ve just woken up from a twenty-year slumber. You’ll find it incredible to see cell phones more powerful than NASA’s computers. You would also be amazed to see smartphones” have actually become part of the media. (You would also probably find it somewhat inconceivable to hear that Donald Trump was running for President. )
But as a skateboarder, you’d probably laugh your ass off to find that plastic skateboards are over 40% the market. Four years ago, Penny was just starting up in the USA.
This is the crazy thing about skateboarding – it teaches, sometimes very harshly, that there are truly ups and downs in life.
Skateboarding weaves in and out of the public’s consciousness. And Penny sure has kept skateboarding in the public’s consciousness.
Want to go further back? In 1976, I recall when I purchased my second skateboard. It was a Penny-like board made from plastic. I was so happy to get this board because it was an upgrade from the clay wheeled board I first received the year before. I loved that board, but by December 1976, I knew what I really wanted – a Gordon & Smith FibreFlex!
The seeds of my eventual full-time work in skateboarding can be traced back to a plastic board. That plastic board was a bridge from one world to the next. My parents didn’t want to spend any money on an upgraded skateboard without really knowing that I was truly into it.
I confess that I had a reputation for being somewhat impatient along with a tendency to break toys quickly. But something changed inside me when it came to skateboarding. That little plastic board was enough to carry me over to the next phase and eventually led to my receiving a FibreFlex.
It was a crucial seed that bridged the gaps. Many people in the 1970s had a chance to ride or own a plastic skateboard. Our generation of skaters turned out pretty well.
So the next time you spot someone on a plastic skateboard, take a moment to ask yourself, where could this lead to?
Could some people who start on a Penny wind up running a skateboard company one day? Yes – and that’s what led to the creation of Penny.
You see, before Ben Mackay began Penny, he was a skateboard manufacturer who made beautiful wooden decks in Australia. Before that he was a carpenter who had spent his entire youth skateboarding.
You have to respect someone’s roots – and Ben Mackay has some deep ones. He took this industry and changed it. Now, it’s about to change again – it’s going to be incredible to see where we’re at in 2020.