'a' conversation with Side Project Skateboards

May 28, 2015

Side Project Skateboards makes the boards you wish you could ride. Handmade in Texas and vintage inspired, no two boards are ever the same. We spoke to founder Jake Eshelman – who does everything from product design to packaging – to learn more about the new collection and his DIY attitude. 

Alice Made This and Side Project Skateboards

It’s grey today and London has a classic case of the spring showers. I’m speaking to Jake Eshelman, founder of Side Project Skateboards, who is telling me about his favourite places to board in Texas.

The Texas Hill Country is incredible for long, casual cruises,” he says as the sky darkens again. “It’s nothing too steep or treacherous, just very relaxing. For more technical rides, I really enjoy riding in the cemented bayous around Houston. They paved them in decades ago to prevent flooding during the summers, and that generated great spots all across the city where Houstonians have been skating since day one.” 

There is an idyllic notion of freedom and adventure attached to skateboarding - the ability to grab your board and head out into the sunshine. Nowhere and nothing is out of reach. 

Alice Made This and Side Project Skateboards

“I grew up skateboarding, so it’s pretty much always been part of my life,” Jake continues, “but it was only when I started working as a fine carpenter out of college that I discovered my interest in actually making skateboards.” 

It’s one thing to love riding, but it’s another to realise that things don’t have to stop there. After finishing university and following a girl to Houston, Jake landed a job at her parents’ family business as a fine carpenter and bonded with his now father-in-law over skating.

“I’d say that my interest in 60s skate culture is pretty personal”, he says. One of the things that my father-in-law and I bonded over was our shared passion for skating – only he was a teenager before skateboarding was really a thing. He told me stories about what it was like to skate back then, and how he and his friends would go into their garage, borrow their dad’s power tools and dismantle their roller skates to build a board. I was really inspired by that idea – the ingenuity and the honesty. I think there’s an innate beauty in that sort of DIY spirit, and that’s what I try to tap into whenever I’m in the studio.”

The more I talk to Jake, the more I think about how easy it could have been to lose that sense of creativity. To just buy a ready made board and lose that handcrafted skate culture. To lose the pride, the time and the precision instead of learning to work with the materials that surround and inspire us.

The Natural Indigo collection, the new offering from Side Project Skateboards, explores the richness of natural indigo as both a material and a tradition. With nine boards in total, all the pieces are crafted from single slabs of recovered maple. Each board is crafted according to its materials. No two are alike.

Alice Made This and Side Project Skateboards

Alice Made This and Side Project Skateboards

“I lived in Tokyo for a while,” Jake tells me. “That’s where I discovered my first pair of natural indigo dyed jeans and I’ve been looking for a way to work with the material since. I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to pursue it as a wood stain, but as soon as the idea came to me, I knew I had to make it work."

“Because the maple is so light,” he continues, “it acts as a wonderful canvas to highlight the distinct colours of the natural indigo. There’s a great contrast between the two materials and the variety of grain patterns. I’m very attracted to how they work together to create unique and distinctly organic beauty."

At Alice Made This, our designs are founded on materials and processes. We’re refining industry and celebrating honest materials. It’s clear that Jake shares this ethos. Start with the raw materials, use them accordingly and design from there. Jake tells me a bit about his making process.

“It all starts with finding and recovering hardwoods. From there, I cut and mill them down to size and begin to experiment with different compositions, seeing what species work with one another and how I can push the aesthetic character of each board.”

“From there, I ensure that all the edges are perfectly flat and laminate them together. Once everything dries overnight, I’ll shape the board, round the edges, sand the wheel wells and all the final work – all of this by hand. The final step is to varnish and/or stain each board before laser etching the logo.”
 Alice Made This and Side Project Skateboards

Alice Made This and Side Project Skateboards

After a few hours of his labour, and around a week of drying time, Jake is left with a board that encompasses all those stories his father-in-law told him, just 50 years later.

The new collection from Side Project Skateboards transported me from being in a drizzly city centre to cruising in the Texas sunshine. Jake uses the materials he loves, the history he knows and the real origins of skating to create something beautiful. His boards summarise a lifestyle and a mentality. A curiousity and a need to discover. A need to create. 

When he says “life’s too short. Nothing is off limits,” he’s right and Side Project Skateboards is the proof.

Learn more about Side Project Skateboards here

Maker photography: Christian Gideon
Lifestyle photography: Joshua Anderson