It is not unusual for the surf and skate communities to cross over. I had seen these beautiful Frosties Longboards displayed in the Surf Trippers group and made a note to contact their creator, Simon Willis, to find out more when he beat me to it and dropped a line through to Thrill Magazine! Living only 20 minutes down the road, I hopped across to check out what Frosties Longboards had to offer.
Frosties Longboards was born when, in order to improve balance for surfing, Simon Willis created a balance board and this got him thinking about making skateboards, having skated as a youth. He picked up a couple of old skateboards to get a basic shape and made a start. Then, as people saw what he was producing, asking him for this shape or that, things simply evolved.
During the day you will find Simon using his carpentry skills working as part of a team renovating pubs, bars and restaurants and it is here that he sources his timber; offcuts, leftover timber, stuff ripped out. Varieties include the usuals like oak and ash but, because the source is recycled, Simon gets to use Sapele and Iroko hardwoods too. Thin strips of timber are lined up along his workshop wall.
“From this stage”, says Simon, “I just look at it, think what size I want, what thickness I have and how long I can go with it”.
He planes what he needs down to half an inch for separations between different woods or tapers down the ply to nothing to give shape to the board. Simon uses a polyurethane glue, a foamy adhesive which retains a degree of flexibility in order to prevent cracking when the board is flexed, to bond the vertical ply together.
Once dry, the board is put through a planer/thicknesser, shaped and, after 5 coats of varnish to bring out the grain, the board is ready. Obviously, no two boards are the same and any shape, length, width can be achieved. Every board is custom built – you design it, Simon will create it – although he is still working out certain shapes and designs, such as kicks and concaves.
Initially, I’d say these boards were cruising boards for flat days and between surfs. There is no grip tape in sight with just a couple of boards having a smattering of clear fluid grip. All boards are top mounted because the direction of the ply would create a point of weakness to a drop through. Solid wood decks are usually considered weighty so I was surprised at just how light these boards were; even the very long ones. And there was flex!
If anyone can put these boards through their paces, it is the team riders at Smile Longboards. Meeting up at the Brighton Longboard Ladies event last Saturday, Carley Barton and Joe Williams from Smile and Ida Kubisz from SUSkate spent some time having a lot of fun on them:
“The body of the boards are surf inspired, formed and fluid. The asymmetry in boards of such a large size is certainly reminiscent of riding the waves on big boards and creates interesting pockets of varying control with more balance in the nose and power to move from the rear, all adding to the unique ride. These are boards for summer dreams, of fluffy clouds, gondolas and soft ice creams. As we gain more brothers and sisters of the skate, more facilities allow for a bigger family; tempting more casual cruisers, old school surfers and perhaps appreciators of fine crafts.” Joe Williams
“The perk of the boards is definitely the weight – they’re all extremely light given their length and width. The board with the most flex was incredibly suitable for dancing and very responsive to cross steps and spins. Overall, I’d say two of the three trialled are perfect for dancing providing a tad more grip and the longest one is definitely a cruiser.” Ida Kubisz
“The variety of creative shapes were fun and original with the detail in the wood making them very easy on the eye! I certainly enjoyed cruising and doing a little carving around. They are great if you’re looking to ease yourself into longboarding or fancy owning something a little more interesting than a lot of what’s already on the market.” Carley Barton
Even as wall art, these decks are so beautiful.
In true surfer style, Frosties is named after Frosty, the surfer coach to Jay Moriarity, whose story is told in Chasing Mavericks.