The hills and vert ramps were alive with the roar of crowds, the grind of urethane wheels, and the slap of wood as over a hundred skaters ollied and fliptricked their way to gain and/or pain at Wakestock ‘07’s RGX Skatepark.
Most of the seven-ply wood knocking against ramps and pavement was Canadian maple – preferred for skateboard decks because of its strength and durability. Maple is harvested across Canada, including from the Carolinian forests of Southern Ontario where hundreds of old-growth tees make their home. Forests in general are important for pulling down CO2 and releasing clean oxygen to the atmosphere, cooling the air and serving as habitats for a multitude of species, such as the many rare, endangered songbirds of Southern Ontario. Old-growth forests are extra important.
Old growth forests support the greatest variety of both animals and plants, and they spread this diversity to younger forests, which improves the ecological health of all our woodlands. This is why non-profit groups like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and WWF Canada are busting their chops to change logging and land use policies to make sure that old-growth forests are protected.
Miles away from Ontario, in California, skateboard companies are coming up with tree-friendly approaches to making boards with gnarl. For example, Oakland-based Comet Skateboards is committed to only using wood certified as sustainable by the FSC, which are assembled in a solar-powered factory shared with Glissade Snowboards. Comet uses non-toxic and environmentally-safe glues and finishes, and have also teamed up with scientists at Cornell University to develop soy-based resins for their products.
Comet Skateboards is even looking at options beyond wood for their decks, such as carbon fibre and bamboo. Bamboo happens to be stronger than maple, which is no slouch for what’s basically a species of grass. Bamboo also grows back at a rate of four feet a week. What tree can beat that?
But Comet Skateboards isn’t the only company working toward good. Sector 9, a San Diego company, has their own line of beautiful 100% bamboo skateboards. The Gear Guys website calls the Sector 9 Bamboo Surf Camp Pintail Longboard Skateboard 46” Complete a “downhill demon,” and “a natural speed freak.”
It looks like planet-friendly decks can deliver, but what are the skaters doing?
Meet Jen O’Brien. She was the first girl to skate at the X Games and the first winner of Transworld’s best female vert skater award. O’Brien, along with two other skaters – Damon Way and her boyfriend Bob Burnquist co-founded the Action Sports Environmental Coalition (AESC). AESC promotes earth-friendly behaviour among skaters, snowboarders, and other extreme sport warriors.
ASEC has tackled some big projects in its short history, such as greening up the X Games. The LA-based event is now all about recycling, solar-powered music stages, and carbon offsets (hint, hint Wakestock). ASEC has a program for donating skateparks built with FSC-approved lumber to inner city kids called Good Wood for the Hood.