Innovator promotes self-made skateboards

The TTC isn’t the only rocket young Torontonians ride these days.

High-quality, handcrafted, 100 per cent Canadian maple skateboards can be seen zipping around the streets of East York. Thanks to Toronto’s Roarockit, however, kids aren’t just riding skateboards anymore; they’re building them as well.

Roarockit, at 131 Sunrise Ave, offers materials, tools and technology — making it possible for anyone, from beginner to expert, to design and build skateboards. Fans say the boards, which can be made in a variety of shapes, are just as good if not better than those available at local skate shops. Complete from beginning to end with guided, step-by-step instruction, the workshops allow participants to ride away on skateboards entirely of their own creation.

The workshops build a school curriculum and summer camp program entirely around skateboard deck building. Including technical education, prototype, physics, math, hand tool woodworking, graffiti, street and stencil art, the programs incorporate a variety of educational yet enjoyable lessons.

Co-owner Ted Hunter was asked to teach a class of teens in wood shop, while working as a professor and artist. He was faced with the challenge posed by the students’ ages, unsure of what to teach such a young group. At the suggestion of his wife and Roarockit co-owner Norah Hunter, he decided that building skateboards would incorporate his wood-bending skills, something he’s used often in his sculptures and is well-known for.

Using a completely innovative and original technique to make the boards, Ted was able to create a process, free of heavy machinery, making it accessible for kids.

Norah explained that Ted’s intricate knowledge of wood-bending led to the formation of the new technique.

“He figured out a way to do it by using a vacuum which is very low on the risk scale compared to machinery,” she said. “We use a one-sided mould and the vacuum pump which has proved to be very effective.”

According to their website, Ted and Norah spent the next year refining the process and created a kit to make the process and materials accessible to builders all over the world. In the fall of 2002, the Roarockit Skateboard Company launched both a street deck and a pintail long board kit. They have expanded the available kits over the years, and now offer a wider range of board types. 

Schools in several countries use this system as part of their mentorship programs and as after-school programs — sometimes with at-risk youth. These groups can benefit from the original, creative and hands-on nature of the projects, keeping them engaged in the curriculum on a consistent basis.

“We want to encourage other people to make boards,” Norah said. “The process is so doable that we want people to come in and create their own brand. After learning the steps, really, anyone can do it.”

Roarockit board-building summer camps run in July and August; call 416-422-5487 to book an appointment for a drop-in session.