Skateboarding’s Roots and Innovative New Directions
By Sophia Chen
New York University
A few short decades ago, skateboarders were seen as do-nothing delinquents with negative connotations. “Skateboarding is not a crime” was a popular and necessary war cry for skaters who found a new way of channeling their creative energy into skateboarding, as their own communities tried to stop it.
Today, those same skaters have become innovative pioneers, using skateboarding as a platform for movements beyond the sport, affecting the lives of millions and reinvesting in the communities they were once rejected by.
Rich Moorhead and Bruce Boul are two such pioneers. Thanks to their companies, Art of Board and I Ride, I Recycle, skateboarding can now be associated with sustainable design and environmental responsibility.
I talked to Bruce about growing up in skate culture, the mission of these organizations and what it means to skate sustainably.
What was the skating scene like when you were growing up and how has it changed?
I was born in the 80s, so when I started skating there were no skate parks. You had to create your own. We’d skate in the city and use the architecture of buildings and stairs as our own skate spots. You had to be really creative back then and quick to dodge the police. It was more of an outlaw activity back then. I think that was one of the things that drew me to it, actually. It was one of those things where you had to be creative and look at everything as just another obstacle to overcome. I think a lot of skateboarders will say this also goes for the philosophy they have for life; whatever you want to create for yourself, you can.
Now, skating is a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone’s riding. Kids have access to skateparks and I see guys in their 40s out here in California skating around on the weekends. It’s awesome. I’m all for the culture of skateboarding. The X-Games really brought it into the public eye and media companies have gotten interested in it as well. I think what the kids see, on TV and in the magazines, inspires them. There was no such thing as “action sports” when I was a kid.
Images courtesy of I Ride, I Recycle
What are Art of Board and I Ride, I Recycle, and how did it all start?
Art of Board started with my business partner Rich Moorhead and I. We were both really passionate about action sports, art and design. We had all of these broken boards laying around and Rich came up with the idea to make something out of them. He has an extensive carpentry background and started making things with these broken boards: art, picture frames, different things. He was showing me what he was doing and I got excited to be involved. My background was in advertising and branding so I started on that. After awhile, the art was awesome but we wanted to make a bigger impact. That’s when Rich came up with the concept to cut tiles from the broken skateboards. This took us into the architecture and design world and we were both thrilled about that.
We started working with skate shops and collecting broken decks. We realized how much wood was going to waste. Each shop was throwing away tons of it! After calling shops around the country, we discovered they were doing the same thing.
We started I Ride I Recycle because we felt we could create a solution by doing something with all of the wood waste, turning it into good design and saving it from the landfills.
I Ride I Recycle is in shops all over the country now and we’ve saved almost 50,000 decks from landfills.
How do you hope I Ride, I Recycle will influence the skateboarding community at large?
We’re all about supporting local skate shops, that’s really the community that makes skateboarding what it is. I Ride I Recycle is our way to get more people into the local independent shops and also to get customers involved in the idea of recycling. Since we started in 2011, we found that I Ride I Recycle gives kids another way to support the shops, and it can also rally the community. Kids who have dozens of broken boards in their garage are now bringing them in to donate. We’re getting emails from people all over the world who want I Ride I Recycle in their skate shops, so we’re pretty proud of that.
Grassroots sustainability and recycling are something that communities are aware of now. People are consciously thinking about their wood waste and sustainability in general. I think now, more than when we first started, people are more inclined to do something because they know there’s a solution out there.
Beyond that, we think about how we can make an impact in everything we do. If a board comes to us and is still rideable, we’ll make sure it’s refurbished and we’ll get it to an underprivileged kid who might not be able to afford one.
It’s awesome for us to see that we can empower kids, build community and help the skate shops too. Our partnerships are also helping to get the word out on a global scale.
You’ve worked with Element Skateboards, Penny Skateboards, Odina Surf, Modasten, Coalatree and some exciting others. What is it about Art of Board that’s led to collaborating with so many people in so many mediums?
Our whole credo is “authenticity is not dead.” We want our company to be more than just a logo on some clothes. We’re telling a true, soulful story with tiles from someone’s own board and someone’s own story.
When we look for a partner, it has to be authentic for us. If a project promotes recycling and skateboarding, we’re interested in innovative things.
Born from early adversity and a drive for self-expression, skateboarding is still an evolving movement of innovation as unique as its basic elements: skateboards and skateboarders. Thanks to Art of Board and I Ride, I Recycle, those elements are carrying skateboarding into a new era of community empowerment and a sustainable future.