Founded around three main passions: creativity, having fun outdoors and protecting our environment, Jungle Longboards creates beautiful handmade boards to order from locally available and sustainable wood. The Jungle Longboards story as told by creator Sam Simpson-Crew:
A Bit About Me:
A lot of my childhood was spent growing up in Hong Kong, which I think plays a key part in my love of longboarding. Hong Kong has two things in abundance: concrete and steep hills! My first skateboard was a hand-me-down from an older girl in the village, I was probably about 5, and I started out by sitting on it and bombing down the big hill by our house. This opened a door to a lifelong love affair with extreme sports, whilst establishing my riding style: as fast as possible with minimal control! I broke a lot of bones as a kid, but I was hooked. (My Dad and I were such regulars in one A&E room that we got to know everyone on a first name basis!)
I graduated from The CASS in Whitechapel in 2013 with a degree in Fine Art and a slightly harebrained scheme of using my artwork to get my foot in the door at a skate company and working my way up from there. Instead I ended up working as an artist’s assistant and illustrator for 3 years. I love the creative process and can’t imagine working any other way. I came to the realisation that the best way to keep this going was to start working for myself.
I still occasionally work as an illustrator, but am very pleased to say that the shift towards making boards full time is well underway! I am also learning that setting up a longboard brand does not necessarily mean you can go skate whenever you want (or be making boards for that matter) – it is a lot of work! Although, of course, hugely rewarding.
The Birth of Jungle Longboards:
Jungle Longboards started out as an idea to build a brand around the core ideals of creativity, environmentalism and having as much fun outdoors as possible. I have always loved making things and have been saying from about the age of four how I want to make things out of wood. First, I told my Mum she wouldn’t have to buy furniture when she was older, then I wanted to make toys, and after getting briefly distracted by foam and fibreglass in my teens (made my first wakeboard), I settled back onto wood and decided longboards would be the way to go.
The environmental side of the business was largely inspired by my fiancé. When we first got together she was an aspiring wildlife photographer and conservationist who wanted to learn how to longboard, and I was a longboarding artist who wanted to run away into the woods to be a wild man. We made a deal where I would take her out skating and she would take me on amazing adventures (I think I got the better end of the deal as she ended up in hospital with concrete-to-face related injuries), and it was on one of these adventures into the Costa Rican jungle where I properly started scheming about how I was going to build my company.
My concerns stem from the fairly well-established fact that the skate industry is now one of the leading causes of Maple deforestation in North America and whilst the Canadian Maple itself isn’t listed as a threatened or endangered species, the effects of deforestation are more far reaching than the effect on one particular species. When you couple this with the findings of a 2009 study by Botanic Gardens Conservation International showing that almost a third of all Maple species face the threat of extinction in their natural habitat, it made sense to look into finding alternative materials to use. Having a multi-billion dollar industry almost entirely reliant on one material didn’t seem sensible to me, environmentally or otherwise.
I began looking into different European and preferably locally grown wood species (didn’t want the carbon cost of importing supplies from halfway around the world), checking for properties that would work in a board and cross-checking against the CITES and IUCN databases to ensure that the species wasn’t in any way threatened or endangered. I researched for almost a year, whittling down my potentials, before I finally started building.
My boards are built from a combination of European Ash, English Oak and non-toxic wood glues.
To give my boards something a little bit special, and to highlight the natural beauty of the materials used, I create marquetry face sheets from decorative veneer offcuts. All of the wood used in the production of the boards is either FSC certified or reclaimed from a local source, keeping the environmental impact of my products as low as possible.
In terms of manufacturing, there is nothing particularly high-tech or cutting edge, but there is an extremely high focus on craft. Each and every board is bespoke and entirely handmade – they are individually pressed to ensure they have the maximum pressure at this crucial stage, before being cut, shaped, sanded and finished with maximum love and borderline obsessive attention to detail. Due to the nature of working with offcuts, there is no guarantee what wood I will receive for the face sheets, so the designs are put together to make the best possible use of the materials received and to compliment the shape of the board.
Finally the boards are finished with a protective outer coat, before being given a layer of clear grip, keeping as much of the wood as visible as possible.
Current State and Future Plans:
As things stand I am just over a year into the set up of the company. It has been a long process of research and planning, coupled with enrolling onto The Prince’s Trust’s year long Enterprise program, providing support and guidance as I gear up to officially launch in just over a month. Although I now knew a lot about making boards, my knowledge on all other aspects of the business wasn’t that strong so this support has been essential!
In terms of boards, I have reached a stage where I am confident enough in my processes and finished products to start selling and have launched a Crowdfunder campaign which people can use as a pre-order system for the next month. If this campaign is successful it will allow me to continue with my work and provide the necessary sales data for me to complete my business plan and go to the Prince’s Trust launch panel.
Moving forwards, I have many schemes and ideas of how I want the brand to develop. The first on the agenda is to focus on the production of a pressed deck made entirely from reclaimed wood without the use of fibreglass or any plastic-based resins to reinforce it – I love the idea of being able to create a board without a single tree being felled, and for it to have all the pros of a ply deck over a solid wood board. In order to do this, I will have to re-saw my own veneers from reclaimed wood and then test the products extensively before releasing them on the public! As such, I don’t anticipate being able to start building these boards until I have been up and trading for at least a year, as I anticipate it being a costly process (in both time and cash).
Further on down the line I would love to turn my attention onto another environmental concern I have, which would be finding a way to recycle waste plastic into a product that would be useful for my brand. Given the sheer quantity of plastic rubbish out there floating around the ocean it would be great to contribute a little to the effort of clearing it up, and I have been truly inspired by the huge leaps in both the gathering and recycling/3D printing technologies. It turns out most plastics can only be recycled once, so I’m thinking I would have to turn it into something durable that isn’t going to end up in the bin a few months down the line, maybe risers?
However, due to the costs of converting waste plastic into a 3D printable filament and then designing, printing and testing the products this is still very much in the “pipe-dream” stage of planning.
Words and Pictures: Sam Simpson-Crew
Crowdfunder Page: Jungle Longboards Launch