by: Annie Tran
photos by: Wendy Qiu
With a single swipe and a slight push with the foot, the longboard glides smoothly, swaying with the body weight as it courses in peaceful transitions. Longboarding is a popular trend for many youths dating back to the beginning of the century.
Seniors Eeway Hsu, Joseph Rohman and alumnus Shan Caressi have taken their love for the board to a new level by making their own longboards. “I first rode a longboard my freshman year, and I remember feeling like I was riding on a little cloud like Goku [from Dragon Ball Z],” Caressi said. “I’d ride the boards my friends bought every chance I got since they were so fun and comfortable to ride.”
Rohman’s passion for boards started at an early age and he has spent much of his life in a carpentry workshop. “An affinity for building things has always been in my blood, dating way back to my family in Italy,” he said. “The first time I rode the longboard in seventh grade though, was really nothing special to me. I later found the piece of wood on wheels both intriguing and common; so the thought of making something that I already use and love came very naturally.”
Hsu was first introduced to the longboard when she was at a skateshop, and bought her first one when she was 12. “I actually started out learning how to ride a skateboard in fifth grade,” she said. “When I went to a place to buy a skateboard, I decided to buy a longboard instead since it coasted a lot better.”
However, there is a price to everything, and like most things, high quality longboards don’t come cheap. A typical longboard, complete with the works (including wheels, bearing, and trucks), often averages to about $200. Higher-end brands can cost as much as $500. It comes as no surprise that these three students welcomed the chance to study the board-making process and save money by making their own boards.
After trying out different kinds of boards for five years, Hsu decided that she wanted to make her own longboards by experimenting with different shapes and materials. “I wanted to figure out why on Earth some of these boards were so ridiculously expensive,” she said. “The materials that are used in making them range from wood to carbon fiber to fiber glass. It all kind of depends on the type of board I want [and what attributes it has like flexibility or sturdy]; basically I wanted to form the perfect board that would coast well.” Hsu has sold two homemade boards, both during her sophomore year.
Another way Hsu has made money off of longboards over the last year is by revamping damaged longboards found on Craigslist.com. “Generally, if I spot a longboard, which is selling at a much lower than expected,” she said. “I find that the issues with the boards are mostly because of low maintenance and can be quickly and easily fixed.” So far, Hsu has made a hefty profit which allows her to tinkering with different aspects of building her own longboards.
Caressi’s start in the longboard business was simple. “I didn’t have enough money to buy a longboard and I also didn’t really like the shape of the longboards from the companies,” Caressi said. “I had a friend who was making longboards for awhile and he had sold quite a few. He offered to teach me how to make some boards, and that’s how I started.” He has sold five boards, each ranging from $150 to $180.
Caressi typically uses one-eighth inch Baltic-Birch, wood glue, fiberglass sheets and resin/hardener for the deck of the board. He buys the hardware, such as trucks and bearings, separately. “One-eighth Baltic-Birch is the only wood I use because it is flexible and pliable but remains strong, so that it can carry the weight of almost anybody,” he said. It takes approximately seven to 10 days for Caressi to complete a board. “Most of that time is just waiting for things to dry,” he said.
Rohman has experimented and tested different board shapes, varying lengths, and an assortment of designs to find the build for the perfect board. He uses a variety of woods in the makings of his longboards; maple, black walnut and purple heart are among his most used. However, he often does specialty woods as well upon request, such as rosewood and ebony. “My favorite [hardwood] to use by far is purple heart because of its natural purple color,” Rohman said. “Although, the wood itself is difficult to work with.”
Depending on the intricacy of the board itself and the materials used, Rohman estimates that a longboard can take from a week to two months to glue, shape, spray and polish. Like Caressi, he says most of the time in the actual process is due to waiting for dryness. He has sold decks from $100 to $400 a piece. “Just for the record though, I do occasionally give a friend or hot girl discount,” he said.
For Hsu, Rohman and Caressi, building longboards has become an economic passion and hobby. “On the path I’m going, if I continue to make longboards instead of buying them,” Caressi said. “I think I can probably save hundreds of dollars that I can use to make even more boards.”
Hsu and Caressi have decided to take a temporary hiatus to focus on school, but look forward to continuing this hobby in the future. “I hope to jump back into business after my college applications are finished,” Hsu said. “Plus, I’ll have a lot more time to make some as a second-semester senior.”
Caressi recommends that students try out a longboard, especially anyone who is willing to take the time to learn how to ride. “Depending on the board, it takes some time to get used to the stability of the board as well as riding it,” he said. “You never know, you might fall in love with it like I did and decide to make your own board. I fully encourage it, it’s an enriching experience.”