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What happens when a furniture woodworker with a love of skateboarding moves from Georgia to Oregon? A small business that handcrafts beautiful boards is born. Phillip Stone launched Southpaw Board Co. from a basement in Portland six years ago.
Often associated with grunge, skateboarding aesthetics tend to be loud and cluttered. But, Southpaw builds a bridge between classic cool and modern minimalism to bring skateboarders an everyday adventure on four wheels.
From Georgia to Oregon
Stone speaks about the attitude toward skateboarding in Georgia like a remake of “Footloose.”
“I’ve always been fascinated by the culture, the activity itself,” says Stone. “I grew up in Georgia, and [skateboarding is] like this taboo thing that people think only drug dealers [do.] I just think it’s crazy that a piece of wood with four wheels and the people who ride on it [can create] so many conspiracy theories […] I think skateboarding is so cool and so simple.”
Stone takes the simplicity of the sport and reflects that in his designs. “I started the company from a woodworking perspective more than anything,” says Stone. “I’ve been making furniture for about seven years. I love boarding, and I wanted something that was more of a high-end aesthetic.
“I think the aesthetic of the culture is a little busy. A lot of dragons and flames, etc. I’d been making minimalist furniture, and I liked the idea of using really premium hardwoods alongside the same minimalist furniture crafting skills […] to make something that was simpler [and] beautiful in a different way.”
The Southpaw aesthetic
Stone looked to the skateboarding culture of the 1950s and 60s for inspiration. Southpaw Board Co. builds two types of boards: pintails and cruisers. Though the product line originally included mini cruisers, those will most likely be discontinued, as they’re impractical from a production standpoint.
“There’s a lot of classic shapes from that time period that I thought worked really well with what I was trying to accomplish,” says Stone. “I tried to bring those two together. The cruiser was the first and then I liked pintails. It’s got a surfer kind of shape.”
For those unfamiliar with these terms, pintails and cruisers have distinct shapes and riding experiences. Southpaw’s pintails measure 36 inches by 8 inches. Built for stability, they have a longer deck, longer trucks and larger wheels. If you want to cruise and carve down a beach boardwalk, a bike lane or a forest highway, this board is for you, regardless of your riding level. The cruisers measure 28 inches by 7.5 inches. The shorter and narrower deck allows for sharp turns, while the tail kick enables you to curb hop. Commuting to work or school in the city? This board is for you. Keep in mind that cruisers offer less stability, especially for beginners.
If you’re wondering about the name and the logo, Stone gave us a bit of insight into how he used this decision as a way to differentiate his company from the other skateboarding companies in the United States.
“I was reading a lot of novels about boxing in the 1920s,” says Stone. “I think I was reading ‘The Professional.’ It’s about this heavyweight boxer and he’s a southpaw, which is a left-handed fighter. I’m not left-handed, but I was reading that book and it was talking about how difficult it is to fight a left-handed fighter because it’s a whole different way of doing things, and they fight in a much more innovative way.”
Artist collaborations and giving back
When exploring Southpaw Board Co.’s website, you’ll find a variety of sleek, sustainably sourced hardwoods, like white maple and dark walnut. Unlike most skateboards, they don’t have black grip tape.
“The idea was that the wood grain is beautiful enough to display as the art itself, which is why one side has the clear grip,” explains Stone. “The prototype had black grip tape, which covered up all the wood […] so I did a lot of research and invented this clear grip that we paint on so you can see the wood grain on both sides.”
The white maple boards sometimes sport work from independent artists contracted by Stone to bring a new perspective to boarding culture. Southpaw has collaborated with a number of high-caliber artists to create limited edition boards in sets of 15, including Timothy Vonn, Matteo Nangeroni, Lisa Congdon and Daren Thomas Magee.
“I’m not the artist, I’m the woodworker, so I give them complete control over what goes on the board,” says Stone.
Californian artist and founder of Real Fun, Wow! Magee chose his piece “Arching Hands” for Southpaw’s white maple cruiser. “[Magee] is a whole different level of fame than we are, so it’s really exciting to work with him,” says Stone. “It was pretty simple […] He sends the digital file over to us, and we make the boards. And then there’s a screen printing company here in Portland that’s been around for I think 40 years called DC Silkscreening. She’s a pro. She’s done all of our screen printing, from the logos to all of the artistic designs. I wouldn’t go with anyone else because these are really high quality artists that are trusting our company with doing their work justice on these boards.”
With each of the artist collaborations, Southpaw Board Co. donates 20% of the profits to a different charity. For Magee’s board, the company donated to the National Congress of American Indians, a Native American and Alaska Native rights organization.
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