Story by Sheila Sarhangi
Photo by Ryan T. Foley
“See those nunchucks?” says Daniel Young, pointing. “I made those when I was eight. There are a lot of memories in this place.” “This place” is a warehouse in Halawa where Young’s parents, Robb and Tish Young, have been making custom furniture for twenty of the thirty years they’ve been in business.
At about the age when Young mastered Okinawan weaponry, he asked his dad for a skateboard. Robb gave him two choices: Make it or buy it. He chose to use his hands. “I made a board out of an oak plank,” he says. “It rode OK, but people used solid wood for skateboards in the ’50s, not these days.” It didn’t matter; the kid from Kailua was hooked. He started to make thinner boards so they had flex. He experimented with cruiser shapes, the type that ride like surfboards and can send a daredevil barreling downhill.
In 2006 Young set a goal to make eighty skateboards. “I wanted to start a side business,” he says, “and I wanted try to make the boards in a different way than I had before.”
That’s how he arrived at his current style. Young veneers his boards with woods such as koa, mango, ironwood and purpleheart. He places stringers—bands that run from nose to tail—between the woods to highlight their individual characteristics. He never dyes or stains the boards; it’s the wood that he wants to feature. “If I want a certain color, then I have to find that wood,” he says. Instead of putting grip tape on the deck for traction, he uses sand, mostly from Waimea Bay.
Earlier this year Young posted a project on Kickstarter, the online funding platform. His goal was to earn $35,000 in five weeks. He reached his goal with a week to spare, allowing him to buy a laser engraver to carve his logo into the deck so that he doesn’t have to sully his boards with vinyl stickers, which crack and peel.
At $320 a pop, Young’s boards are for the more affluent skater punk, but that doesn’t mean he wants the boards to just sit pretty. “Fifty percent of people don’t ride them,” he says. “I appreciate that they see them as art, but I just love to see my boards with dents and scratches.”