Lake Living Magazine Article By Laurie LaMountain
Denmark, Maine, just got way cooler, thanks to the recent arrival of Linden Longboards. Owner Charles Linden moved here with his wife, Suzi, last fall and set up shop repurposing vintage, trick waterskis into longboards, which, for the uninitiated like me, are cruiser skateboards that are meant to get you from point A to point B. Shortboards are for messing around in confined areas, like skate parks.
When asked how he came up with the idea of turning trick waterskis into skateboards, Linden has this to say: “My parents had this guy living in their basement who was a trick waterski champion of Sweden in the ’60s. He gave me this pair of trick waterskis and every time I tried to ride them I got hurt because they had no fins! Several years later I found them in the closet and I asked my wife, ‘What should we do with these?’ and she said ‘Those look like skateboards.’ And I was like, oh, that’s brilliant! So it was kind of a combination of, she says they look like skateboards, I’m gonna put wheels on them. The first ones were pretty much a failure because when you put trucks [the hardware on which the wheels are mounted] and wheels on a board that wide, the wheels bind grabing the board and you basically stop on a dime. It’s like putting the brakes on.
“ After consulting with a skate shop owner in Maui who makes skateboards that look like mini surfboards and are wider than most, Linden learned that the secret to peak performance is spacers, risers actually, that lift the wheels about an inch off the board. From there, he developed a template for fabricating his own risers out of red oak that he mounts between the boards and the trucks. The very first thing Linden does, however, is remove all the hardware from the skis and repair any weak seams by sanding, gluing and clamping them. He refinishes all of his boards with shellac and sometimes mixes it with a bit of beach sand for grip. He then attaches the risers to the bottom of the board, using a template he created after a good bit of trial and error, that allows him to precisely position the trucks. “Getting everything to line up is tricky and I’ve gotten really good at it,” says Linden.
The hardware is top-of-the-line and sourced through Paris Trucks and Powell Peralta for which Linden is an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) distributor. The wheels, complete with “Bones Reds” bearings, are mounted on Paris Trucks and are the last thing to go on. Black is his preferred color.
It took roughly a year for Linden to get the logistics of turning trick waterskis into skateboards and when he finally got it down he took them on the road. His first show was a Maker Faire at Georgia Tech. The beauty of selling his boards at shows is that people have an opportunity to try them out. He notes that a few people who’ve taken his boards for a test drive have disappeared for quite some time, even eliciting offers of help to find them, which is when they usually show up. One can only assume they were having so much fun they lost track of the time.
Asked if he’s a skateboarder, Linden responds, “Sure, I used to have a little plastic skateboard when I was a kid in California. It was just how we got around. Living in Atlanta later on, I did a lot of waterskiing and wakeboarding. It’s all kind of the same thing. Paddleboards are this whole new thing coming out of Hawaii and now I’m making poles to use with my skateboards that allow you to go for miles and miles over greenway trails. It’s great exercise.
“ Boards from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are lined up in Linden’s shop and no two are alike. It’s important to note that trick waterskis are shorter than traditional waterskis. A Cypress Gardens Trikmaster is made from a 45” ski from the ’50s and it’s beautiful. The Hustler is a 41-inch board from the ’70s. Other boards include Cut n’ Jump Larry Penacho T-360, Ricky McCormick Masters Champion Board and Western Wood Mike Suyderhoud. Stickers with the name of the trick waterskier who owned them sometimes grace the boards. Linden endeavors to keep as much of the original, now vintage, details as possible. While he plans to open the doors to his shop (barn, really) to the public this summer, he is realistic about his somewhat remote location along a dirt road in Denmark. Most of his customers are those he meets at shows or on-line through Facebook, Etsy and his own Web site. They are a varied lot that range from kids and teenagers to 40 and 50-something-year-olds who are lured by the nostalgia factor.
“It brings you back to your childhood in the ’70s, when things were safe and fun and you played outside all the time, so my main audience is people in their 40s and 50s,” says Linden. “I think a lot of Gen Xers are a little disgruntled with the way things are now. They’ve worked really hard and don’t necessarily have pensions anymore to show for it. They’re kind of looking back to when they were the happiest and usually it’s when they were kids and they had skateboards and bikes. It’s this whole reminiscence of being younger. And as adults, they really appreciate the inlaid woods and the beauty of the boards, so it kind of hits them on two levels.”
A third possibility is that they’re channeling Busby Berkeley, an infamous and eccentric Hollywood movie director and musical choreographer who brought trick waterskiing to television viewers across America back in the heyday. Think Esther Williams and insanely daring displays on water.
Linden points out that the advent of wakeboarding put an end to trick waterskiing and it’s now getting harder and harder to find trick skis. He tells of a lead he had tracked down in Cypress Gardens that, it turns out, had a big bonfire with the mountain of skis he had in storage. These days Linden uses the Internet and word of mouth to connect with people who have old skis in storage they might want to unload.
Linden Longboards sell from around $150 to $300. Because he repurposes all of the skis himself, Linden isn’t selling a ton of boards, although he envisions eventually milling his own from scratch, using three or four of his best-selling, best-riding boards as patterns. At that point, he hopes to employ people for the production. ”
The best compliment I ever got was at a show in Atlanta from a customer who, back in the ’70s when they were reinventing skateboarding, was doing longboarding. He told me my boards brought back a flood of memories of ‘back in the day.’
“ Now, even if you don’t have those memories to reflect on, Linden Longboards is here to create them anew.
-Laurie LaMountain, Lake Living Magazine