Posted by:on February 5th, 2007
Bamboo is an amazing plant. You can use it to feed pandas, make flooring, furniture, and even bicycles and saxophones. And yes, skateboards too. The crazy thing about bamboo is that it has a stronger strength to weight ratio than maple, but has been know to grow 4 feet in a week’s time! Think about how many boards in a year that a typical street skater goes through. What if you could make a bamboo board that performs as well and lasts as long as a hard maple deck? There are companies making decks containing various percentages (up to 100%) of Bamboo, but they are mostly carving or downhill setups not meant to take the torture of street or bowl riding. Today I received an email and pictures from a Slovakian company with a Chinese manufacturer of 100% bamboo skateboards shaped like a typical popsicle stick. Even that’s nothing new. Check out some bamboo Skateboarding action after the jump.
A couple of years ago I contacted an Australian company called Bamboo Skateboards (duh!) who appeared to be first to market with a 100% bamboo traditional popsicle stick board. I can’t believe I just used “traditional” in conjunction with “popsicle stick.” Ugggh! I say “appear” because I recall they were very short on actual pictures and specs, and they never returned my emails. Now it appears they have gone out of business or forgotten to pay their web hosting bills.
The Slovakian/Chinese connection
Today I received an unsolicited email trying to get me to buy bamboo skateboards in bulk. The main thrust of the argument was market analysis about sustainable materials and a “better attitude” towards the environement. The prices were cheap, starting at $11.15 for 1000 boards, with screen printing included. Now, I haven’t priced a thousand blank decks in a while, Chinese or otherwise, but it sounds cheap. Strangest of all, the email was from a Slovakian company, and actually contained pictures of the finished product. You can skip to the end to read the email in it’s entirety and see another picture. Click the pics to see them enlarged.
So are these things any good? All Chinese manufacturing issues aside, there remains the most important question of whether or not a bamboo skateboard can perform as well as a hard maple skateboard. It’s possible, you never know. And if it is, then that’s not necessarily bad news for American manufacturers. I hear bamboo grows like weeds, literally. If you plant some in your yard you have to take special precautions to contain it or else it will spread uncontrollably. Maybe they could stop subsidizing corn somewhere in Iowa and plant bamboo skateboard farm instead. Can you make Bamboo paper? Then we could have mile after mile of homogenized bamboo instead of pine trees planted in pretty rows.
Seriously though, it remains to be seen if these boards can take the place of 8 plys of maple. The quickest way to get these guys to stop sending you emails soliciting your business is to ask them to send you a bunch of free samples on their shipping and import tariff dime, which is exactly what I did. If they come through with the goods, look for me at your local skate park. I’ll be the guy giving away bamboo skateboards if you promise to tell me how they stack up. In the mean time, let’s look at some good old North American manufactured Bamboo skateboards.
ALL Bamboo boards
Boards that are 100% constructed from bamboo.
Longboards by Fatboy
Longboards by Fatboy may not have been the first, but they were the first boards I ever saw made out of bamboo. These are total custom jobs that aren’t mass produced. A 100% bamboo slalom deck will run you $80, and bamboo with hardwood stringers start at $100. I thought he used to offer a bamboo street board, but I don’t see it mentioned on the web site.
Sector 9 Skateboards
Sector 9 has a line of 100% bamboo skateboards called, wait for it… the Bamboo Series. The Bamboo Series are either long or short, and none of them are available in a traditional bowl or street shape. These are carving boards or downhill bombers, and one is a “mini-cruiser” so it’s safe to say that you wouldn’t have to worry about wear and tear issues related to street and park skating. They don’t appear to be any cheaper than their other boards so the main appeal is aesthetic and environmental. They have a good catch phrase: “Save a tree. Ride a weed.” You can ride a weed for $60 – $70, deck only.
On the surface, Arbor Sports does not have much differentiation from the Sector 9 offerings. Price remains unaffected, and their models to not appear to be made for high-stress riding. Straight from their web site; “Bamboo is an amazingly renewable, environmentally friendly material. It’s incredibly strong; yet light, flexible, and resistant to compression. The natural bamboo deck-ply improved return and resilience, while adding a clean, Zen flavor.” These decks cost about $80 online. In an unrelated note, I’d have a hard time buying a skateboard from a any company whose name contained the word “Sports.”
Bamboo Composite boards
Boards with a bamboo component.
Loaded Carving Systems
Loaded Carving Systems has a line of bamboo composite boards. In fact their whole line up appears to have vertically laminated Bamboo core, surrounded by epoxy and fiberglass. These decks have the distinction (?) of being nearly twice as expensive as the competing brands coming in at $151-$160. Part of that may be due to the fact that each can be ordered in varying levels of flex. They also appear to be a lot stronger than the others, which I’m sure is due to the fiberglass elements. In the technology section they even show a car wheel bending a fully set up deck to the ground. Impressive? Yes, but not unusual. I’ve seen the same thing happen in uncontrolled circumstances with a regular sized board. I had a friend who had an Uncle Wiggley (Argyle fiberglass epoxy model) that shot out into traffic, got run over by a car and came back completely in shape. It’s much more impressive for a short board than a long board, and this was 20 years ago. Loaded makes a strange fish shaped deck with wheel cutouts that is targeted for bowl riding. Not a traditional shape for that usage by any means. I’ve actually seen one of these (Loaded) in person, and I was a bit disappointed as it didn’t look like it was finished well. The edges appeared to be damaged or coming apart. This may have been due to being knocked around while on display in the shop, but it was concerning nonetheless.
Comet Skateboards has some boards which feature bamboo (vertical laminate) in some of the layers, but near as I can tell they don’t have an all bamboo board in the lineup. They do have several links in the sustainability section of their web site. Comet’s bamboo boards all have fiberglass and some carbon fiber element in them and cost from $85 to $100 for the deck alone.
Cheap asian bamboo skateboards, Direct from Slovakia!
A search on the web turned up this fuzzy picture with some sideways contact information. That’s why I was surprised to get a direct mail from a Slovakian company and a couple decent medium resolution images. Here’s what they had to say.
I am writing to you because we would like to offer you our OEM services concerning bamboo skateboards.
We are a European based company and we have developed with our chinese partner a unique, extremly durable, tree saving skateboard. This alternative to maply ply skateboards is made out of bamboo fiber which is fast growing and easily renewable.According to our market analysis, popularity of bamboo products, skateboards included, are rising and are expected to continue for at least several next years. Therefore a bamboo skateboard is likely to appeal to many customers as it combines the qualities of classical maply ply skateboards but has a diferent look and a “better attitude” towards the environement.
Currently we can produce 30 000 bamboo skateboards per month and we are capable of supplying you with different styles and sizes of skateboards according to your needs, all under strict QC.
The prices for our bamboo skateboards are:
1000 pcs -> 11.15 USD
2000 – 5000 pcs -> 10.45 USD
5000 – more pcs -> 10.00 USD or lower depending on quantity ordered and mutual contract.
These prices include bamboo skateboard and screen printing.
All prices are FOB China.
MOQ is 1000 bamboo skateboards.
We really hope that you will like our offer and we are looking forward to
hearing from you soon
And finally, I leave you with one last picture of a bamboo skateboard from a Slovakian company with a Chinese manufacturing partner.
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