Can hemp penetrate a $4.8 billion skateboard market?

With over over 11 million skateboarders across the globe, skateboarding is still a highly popular sport for teenagers and athletes in neighborhoods and skateparks all across the United States. Yet, in this aging sports market, innovation has been slow. Skateboards released in 2016 are not that different from skateboards that were developed in 2010. Skateboards have conventionally always been built out of a wooden frames. When you include longboards, snowboards, and even skis, that’s a lot of trees being cut down to fuel our entertainment.

But what if we could eliminate the need to cut down trees to enjoy these activities?

That’s the question Nick and David were trying to answer as they were brainstorming ways to combine sustainability and skateboarding. After 3 years of prototyping and development, they found the answer through hemp. By using hemp to build the frames for skateboards, Granny Smith Sports has been able to develop a skateboard that’s not only sustainable, but also lighter and more durable.

The implications of this is huge for hemp. Especially with skateboarding added as an official Olympics sport in Tokyo 2020, the popularity of skateboarding seems likely rise in the foreseeable future. In addition, when you consider the fact that the technology used to make hemp skateboards are directly transferrable to different sports and products, such as snowboards and skis, the opportunity seems limitless.

We sat down with David to learn more about his skateboard brand and where they plan on taking it from here.

Let’s start from the very beginning. How did you guys even come up with the idea of making a skateboard with hemp?

Nick and I were eating dinner one night just brainstorming on a sustainable concept. This was right around the time the Fukushima nuclear disaster [2011] happened. I was in a fit because I thought the entire coast of California was going to be toasted with radiation. Being a surfer, this was a big scare.

For us, that pretty much sparked a frenzy between us. That’s when we decided to try to develop a sustainable product to at least step foot in the right direction for preserving the planet.

So you decided to use hemp for sustainability reasons. How did you choose skateboards?

Our first idea was to make trucks out of hemp, so we contacted several universities and organic chemists to pick their brains without revealing what we were trying to make. Most people familiar with organic composites were saying that such a process did not exist, nor did they think it could be done. [Note: To learn more about cars made with hemp, check out our featured post on the Cannabis Hemp Car]

By fate, we found our current partner, Greg, online and reached out to him. It was like hitting lightning in a bottle to find someone who has such specific and similar special interests with us. He said trucks were possible, but for moneys sake it would be a lot easier to start with something smaller. Since we were passionate surfers and skateboarders, we decided on skateboards.

One non-disclosure agreement and 3 years of work later we launched.

Sounds like an amazing journey! So tell us a bit more about the skateboards. How are they actually constructed?

It’s a patented compression molded with two simple ingredients, Hemp and Resin. The ratio is 80% hemp fiber and 20% plant-based resin.

In terms of sustainability, how is this compared to conventional wooden skateboards?

A regular skateboard is typically made out of maple wood. When you consider the amount of skateboards sold across the world, this is a big cause of deforestation, especially in Canada. When you add to this the toxic adhesives that are used to glue all the parts together of a skateboard, the environmental impact is sizable.

Hemp completely eliminates this harmful practice. We’re using a crop that can be grown in 4-6 months and using plant-based resin instead of toxic glue.

Does hemp make the it more durable than regular skateboards?

“One night, it got ran over by a car downtown dead in the center than again on the nose. Even with all this, the board did not break.”

When we made our first prototype over three years ago, our initial thought was, “Ok, is this even going to work?”.

But when we received the board from Greg, initially I was blown away by how similar it was to a standard wooden skateboard. We put it to the test by thrashing it pretty hard and taking on wall rides and banks to see how it did. Surprisingly, it didn’t even budge! Finally one night it got ran over by a car downtown dead in the center than again on the nose. Even with all this, the board did not break in the center but only chipped on the nose! We were so shocked on the strength of the material. So yea, I’d say it’s more durable than regular skateboards.

Are there any downsides to the board being made from hemp?

From a manufacturing standpoint, yes. The process is definitely more labor intensive because they are all hand made and materials cost a tad bit more than glue and maple. We also pay more for our materials, as we are committed to staying 100% plant-based.

But for customers, there aren’t any downsides. The board is light in weight (24oz) while also being completely water resistant. We’ve tested our products’ durability and can guarantee a longer life span than a plastic cruiser or other wooden cruisers. Wooden boards tends to swell and stretch over time, which causes it to lose strength and de-laminate. Cheap plastic chips away and breaks over time.

Let’s shift gears a bit to your brand. “Granny Smith Sports”. What’s the origin or the meaning behind your name?

We wanted a mark that was memorable and an identity that spoke of our company mission, which was to have all plant-based products and promote good health. To us, Granny Smith Sports embodies that.

What is the long term vision that your company has?

Our goal is to be known and to have an undeniable reputation for making the highest quality products while not sacrificing our conviction of being 100% plant based. We also aim to make all sports products possible out of our bio-composites. That means we could replace hard plastics and other harmful materials from pretty much any sports products or gears.

Where do you get your supply of hemp? Was it difficult for you to get the hemp raw material?

All of our fibre and hurd comes from the United Sates. We also use a small amount of woven hemp cloth that is sourced from other countries overseas. That’s mainly because it is unavailable in the US. We do encourage more hemp farming in the United Staes for industrial use because we see there will always be a demand for it.

How have customers responded to your skateboards?

It’s been awesome! People love the boards. A lot of people are shocked and can’t really believe it’s made from hemp. It is a branding process and an entirely new product that many people are not familiar with, so there is work to be done there.

Anyone who rides them loves them!

How can our readers try out Granny Smith skateboards? Where can they find you?

Check us out at www.GrannySmithSports.com. We have an online store where you can directly buy completes and decks. For these first few months of our launch we are putting a discount on the boards, just to help get the products out there.

We will also be on Amazon.com next week and are in the process of getting in to local surf and skate shops through out the US.

We also love to share customers pictures and videos of them riding on our Granny Smith boards! Check out more pics on our Instagram or Facebook.