A line of skateboarders from their pre-teens to their 30s queued up this past Saturday, waiting up to an hour for “Professor” Paul Schmitt to saw their 9-ply rectangles of wood into custom skateboards. Hosted by Converse Cons at Chemistry Creative in Bushwick, Schmitt was part of a team that included Brooklyn-based designer Grotesk, and local pro skater Aaron Herrington, conducting a workshop titled, “Making & Designing Skate Decks,” as part of the Cons Project’s free community program.
Having created over 10 million boards, owned several brands, and been responsible for many of the major innovations of decks in the past 30 years, Schmitt, who currently operates the respected PS Stix deck manufacturing company, has earned his nickname of “Professor.” The 51-year-old bounced around the dusty warehouse in a pair of green trainers and lab coat, helping kids calculate measurements and suggesting which grit sandpaper to use, in between operating the cutting station. Schmitt fluidly glided each piece of wood through the blade with surprising uniformity, creating DIY decks that looked ready for the sales rack.
While the industry standard shape has been a basic popsicle silhouette for decades, participants were encouraged to go with a shape that expressed their personalities — a throwback to the signature decks of the early-‘80s, when signature shapes were part of the industry’s branding. So out came shapes resembling lightning bolts, daggers, goldfish, and even slices of pizza. A graffiti artist helped decorate the boards with anything from simple spray fades of color to Twitter handles — because we’re all a brand, right?
Herrington, who’s become a local celebrity since relocating from Oregon, politely fielded questions, in between meticulously sanding and reshaping his own deck, offering insights about the functionality of a board’s actual shape. Funky shapes are a sales gimmick for some, but as Herrington knows, there’s certain advantages to every cut out and curve on a board.
A small street course was set up outside, allowing participants to take their new creations for a test drive, but most stuck to their old decks. As one teen said, “This one’s a wall hanger — I didn’t spend four hours to destroy it in five minutes.”