I remember as a young kid seeing the skate culture starting to really blow up around me in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC. I still remember the day I got my first skateboard and rode it up and down the dead-end street that I grew up on. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that great. But I certainly was impressed with what many other friends were able to do. I have always been impressed with skate culture.
Growing up in Vancouver also exposed me to the incredible coffee culture of the city. Never did I think that these two worlds would collide like they have through someone I have had the opportunity to get to know over these years of sharing about coffee here on my blog & Instagram. This is where I met Justin LaRose, and what he is doing to bring together his love for skateboarding & coffee is unlike anything else I have seen. So I knew I had to reach out, chat him up a bit, and get the chance to share his story with you!
Hey Justin, it’s great to get the chance to connect up like this. Can you share a bit about yourself with our readers?
Home for the last 19 years for me has been Long Beach California but I am originally from Marlborough Massachusetts. I have been recycling skateboards since 2014 and it has been my full-time work for the last seven years. Before doing this as my full-time gig I was a carpenter/cabinet maker for a company that would make displays and trade-show booths for the action sports industry. Previous to that I had refinished antique furniture in Massachusetts. All of the furniture work I have done has come from learning and understanding basic woodworking concepts and scaling up.
You mention having worked in coffee several years back, what was that experience like for
I do have a rich history in coffee. My first official job was at Dunkin’ Donuts when I was 14 and later on in the late ’90s learned how to use a proper espresso machine. I continued working in coffee as a Barista off and on as well as working different woodworking jobs in Massachusetts and Long Beach just so I could afford to live and skate. I really enjoyed coffee and woodworking so I did whatever I could do in order to enrich my education in both. Never did I think I would be able to smash them all together to recycle skateboards with the woodworking skills to make coffee tools until years later when I was actually a roasting assistant for a company in Southern California. I had never seen coffee tools made out of skateboards, so I knew what I had to do… lol. It was almost even like a little hack where I could actually get paid to use skateboards if they were my coffee tools, ha!
There’s no questioning your love for skateboarding. How does coffee culture & skate
culture relate to one another?
I feel coffee culture and skateboard culture are super related. They are both based upon what you bring to the table as far as craftsmanship, understanding, and, quality and require you to be present in the process in order to achieve the desired results. The community is relatable as well. They are both progressive and proactive in the development of their own skills as well as the supporting their peers and their desires to grow as well. If a skater sees another skater trying something, they will usually cheer them on and support them and I feel the same about Barista‘s. Both groups know what it’s like to try to step up and so both offer that support when they see another engaging in the process. This is one of the biggest reasons I love both of these communities.
How did the idea come to you to create custom coffee accessories out of old skate decks?
I was working on repairing an espresso machine at the roaster I worked for, and I thought if the machine cost $10,000 plus, it can sustain having espresso machine handles made from skateboards because of the overhead of producing them is a little bit on the higher side. This would also deliver awesome sustainable recycled wood to the coffee community in which sustainability is such a hot topic. Whether it’s the sustainability of coffee plants or using sustainable materials in the construction of new coffee shops. Recycled skateboards on coffee gear also makes for a very unique difference in materials which brings an awesome colourful dynamic to the personalization of coffee gear which will always result in a unique product that is conversational and eye-catching.
Can you share a bit more into the actual manufacturing process for how you make each of
these pieces? Where do you get all these old decks?
The production process is a little bit longer than typical things made out of wood because you have to collect skateboard decks and clean them up to even make the wood before you make the product. I’ve skated for the last 30 years so I’m lucky to have good resources but I have teamed up with four local skateboard shops and they collect and donate the broken boards left behind by skaters getting new boards rather than throwing them in the trash as traditionally done. The broken skateboards then go through a process where I clean them up and make them into bigger blocks through laminating and then use those blocks for the desired project.
How important was it to you to help reduce waste and help decrease your environmental
footprint by diverting these old decks from the landfill and turning them into coffee gear?
Initially reducing waste was not my main goal but has been an awesome effect of this process especially seeing how popular recycling skateboards has gotten. Normally after a maple skateboard is broken it is useless and thrown into the trash. Even if it’s not broken but it has lost all of its pop or function it would be switched out typically. Maple is a really nice hardwood and it would be really expensive typically if you were to have a bed set made out of it. I knew because of these attributes it would be a perfect hardwood to recycle to yet another function or product. These days it’s awesome to be mindful towards sustainability within coffee or skateboarding so I’m stoked to develop the products I do with such awesome material which has already lived such an rad and amazing life.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I think that pretty much hits all the points but if there’s anything else you can think of feel free to let me know.
How can our readers find out more about the work you do and get their hands one some of
Readers can find out about my daily woodworking tasks and projects through my Instagram, and they can find my products when available through my Etsy Shop. They can DM or Email me for inquiries or custom commissions.
I want to say a HUGE thanks to Justin for giving me the chance to share his story. I am not shy about my love for coffee gear, and you gotta admit the gear that Justin is hand-crafting is some of the most gorgeous gear & accessories out there. So check out his work and add some of it to your brew-bar!