Maki Longboards

Erik Maki is the founder of Maki Longboards, a custom surf skateboard company out of El Segundo, CA specializing in sustainable skatecraft. He has been building boards for about 4 years now, and in that time has been fortunate enough to incorporate some of the most sustainable materials available today. These materials include sustainable hardwoods, natural fiber laminates, and Entropy bio-resin for graphic application and finishing.

Operating much like a surfboard shaper, Erik offers a full lineup of models that can be purchased as stock models or on custom order. Each board is handcrafted from start to finish by me, and so I can easily adjust the color/design, length, width, and thickness to suite the intended rider.

How did you learn to build skateboards? Tell us about your evolution of getting to where you are now.

I think it’s safe to say everything I have done in my life so far has contributed to my evolution as a board builder. It certainly didn’t happen overnight. I grew up in San Francisco, and when I was little I spent a lot of my time in my grandpa’s workshop learning to use old fashioned hand-powered tools to build things from scratch. When I was in high school I taught myself to whittle and carve wood in my spare time because there were no wood shop classes available. I never gave it much thought, it was just something I wanted to do.

When I moved to San Diego for college I was introduced to longboard surfing/skateboarding, and I immediately wanted a skateboard that looked and rode more like my longboard surfboard. I tried out all kinds of longboards but couldn’t find one that fit my idea of “surf skate”, so I decided to build my own. At that time I didn’t have the experience or skills to make it happen, so I took my first and only formal woodworking class at Mission Bay High School during my senior year at UCSD to learn the basics of power tools and safety. The experience for that class helped me land my first job at a home-decor company where I carved wood and foam prototypes and learned to work with resins and casting materials. I quit after a year because I was worried about the long term health effects of the resins and chemicals I was using, but I had gained my first real hands on experience with shop tools and resin work.

Like I said, it didn’t happen overnight – it took me 18 years to accumulate the knowledge and experience to build my first board in 2007. Since then I have experimented on hundreds of boards with new techniques, construction methods, and materials to find the one process that is right for me. I have been using the same process for about a year now, and I am finally happy with the results. I’m sure the process will continue to evolve, but most of the groundwork is already in place.

What is your inspiration behind the craft?

Surfboard shaping and longboard surfing. My first boards were all modeled after the old-school Balsa surfboards because the outlines and craftsmanship were just so impeccable. To me a shaper’s job is to translate the wants and needs of a surfer to their board. I that regard I consider myself a skateboard shaper because I take my customers’ preferences into account when I build their boards.

How are your boards sustainable? What materials are you using? What methods are you using to ensure that these boards are as sustainable as possible?

The materials I use and how I use them play an important role in my day to day life. I choose Hardrock Maple and Red Oak veneers for their strength, durability, natural beauty, and sustainable forestry practices. I press my own blanks using a water based adhesive that is a better alternative to the glues commonly used by large scale skateboard manufacturers. Finally, I use Entropy SuperSap Bio Resins for all my finishing work. I use their Pine-sap based epoxies for everything from applying my resin tints and pinlines to the top grip finish.

At the same time, I am always looking for new and better methods to cut down on material waste. I constantly look for ways to recycle and reuse waste material – recently I started crafting key chains from scrap wood left over from old boards and projects in my shop. I think these are the little things that set me apart from other skateboard companies. I’m in my shop every day, so I have an intimate knowledge of everything that goes on in my operation from the ground up.

It seems like being a custom skateboard builder is a pretty unique idea. Why go about it this way as opposed to just mass producing a few models?

When I built my first board I had the opportunity to create something specifically for me, and I remember thinking “everyone should have this opportunity.” That’s the reason I set out to design a full lineup of shapes that can be customized to a desired length and width. After all no two riders are exactly alike, so why not cater to those differences? I would rather take the time to hear what a rider has to say and build a board accordingly than waste my time trying to convince them to buy something that’s not.

How long does it take you from start to finish to build a board?

The process takes 4-5 days, but I generally build 10-15 boards at a time.

Skateboarding and surfing certainly have deeply intertwined roots. How do you feel your skateboards help to further bridge that gap?

Skateboarding started out as sidewalk surfing, but has since evolved to accommodate new styles of riding like downhilling, sliding, and freestyling. Maki Longboards are designed for surf skate, which is the modern equivalent of sidewalk surfing. The decks are flat with a finer grip, allowing riders to cross-step and perform other maneuvers barefoot. They are also heavier than your standard board which gives a feeling of stability and allows for insane nose rides. I don’t know of any other board that allows for such a direct translation of surfing maneuvers to land, and I hope this bridges the gap and allows surfers to enjoy a whole new level of stoke on land.

For more on Erik’s boards, check out his website at www.makilongboards.com

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