Transcending Skateboard-dom: the Healing Power of Liqwood Longboards
by: Tim Frenchcampbell
The wafting smell of fresh cut maple and curing lacquer assaults my senses again as I walk in the front door. I'm drawn like a moth to flame to stare through the reflective clear coat as if for the first time at the warps and weaves of the exotic wood grains. Laser details dot the fabric and wood of the beautiful veneer. My finest new longboard is one that I never ride, but it sits in the utmost place of honor in my home. Usually I find peace of mind through riding my various decks. Skating is my passion, my freedom, and my escape. But this board brings me that peace in a different way, just by sitting right next to my front door.
My brother-in-law always marched to the beat of his own drummer. Hell, to push the metaphor, he made his own drum, started a new style of music, and hired his own band to play it. He was a prolific tattoo artist, skater, surfer, father of four, and unique soul. We lost him this Summer under tragic and obscure circumstances. In his mid-40's, he left behind a beautiful family with four children ranging from a recent college grad to a three-year old. Most of his kids were too young to fully understand what happened. All of us were in shock. As hard as it was to lose him so suddenly, it was even harder since we really had no chance to say a proper goodbye. His remains were scattered at two separate, unorganized “services”, and a day-long music festival was held in his honor. In some ways, the spectacle and chatter of the events surrounding his passing was a mirror of the rocking, rollicking way he lived his life. However, for those of us whom he left behind, it felt like there was no real closure to this final chapter of our time with him. We wanted a quiet, intimate goodbye with the inner circle of family and friends all gathered together. We wanted a fitting tribute to his awesome, gnarly life.
Enter Aaron Frary. I had gotten back into skating this year to exercise my half Rhodesian Ridgeback pup, who demands weekly runs for his overactive energy. My dog runs led way to Long Disatance Pumping adventures and freestyle longboard dancing. There are just a handful of independent American builders who still hand craft boards for these unique disciplines. My search led me to Liqwood Boardsports with the seemingly simple intention of obtaining one of Mr. Frary's exquisite, handcrafted dancing masterpieces.
In case you are not familiar with the contribution, Liqwood pushes the boundaries of board construction with inlays, veneers, and other woodworking tricks and treats 'til your board resembles something closer to fine art than mere transportation. I basically told Aaron to “hit me with his best shot” as a builder, staying within my budget and with some very vague ideas about what I'd like out of the board (“bears are cool”, “I like nature”, and other such erudite statements were issued on my part). During our conversations about the board, Mr. Frary mentioned that he was experimenting with adding fabric to the veneer of boards, like his “lumberjack” inspired board below. That struck a chord with me, so I asked “if we're going to do fabric, could we use some fabric that has some meaning for me?”.
With the addition of that word to our conversation - “meaning” - the board took on a whole new life and importance. I ended up sending Aaron two pieces of fabric to inspire his work: a batik fabric that I picked up in my travels to the stone gardens in the capitol city of Zimbabwe, Harare; and a blue swaddling blanket that all three of my kids have used as infants. The Zimbabwe fabric was covered with hand-dyed panels of brightly colored animals, while swirls of pirate skulls adorned the deep blue swaddling blanket. I asked if we could make the board a kind of tribute to my family, and more specifically to my brother-in-law, who we had just recently lost. Lastly, I asked if we could incorporate his tag as a tattoo artist and painter - “yes love” - somewhere into the design.
You see, my brother-in-law always had tattoos on his fingers that said “no love”. His first child asked him what the words meant when he was about two years old. “It says 'no love',” he would say, “I don't give love to anyone else, and I don't want their love”. His child would get an angry, confused look on his face, shaking his head and saying “Yes Love, Daddy, Yes Love!”. The message was clear; clear enough that the father began signing all of his tattoos and artistic works as “Yes Love (stylized with “yes” and a heart shape) to remind him of the lesson his son had taught him with two simple words.
The final board and the design of the individual pieces of artwork that comprise it are all from the brilliant mind of Mr. Frary. I am lucky that he was inspired by my fabric and concepts to create this intricate deck with very little additional input or instructions on my end. The layup is 8-ply hard rock maple with a carbon fiber bottom and more carbon fiber hiding in the kicks. Sexy hips, concave, and rocker lock in the rider's feet to the clear sand grip, showcasing the design elements on the top of the board. On top, the swaddling blanket composes a cool evening sky over a mountain range veneer of exotic wood. A California bear is inlaid in the mountain. On the bottom, the “Yes Love” tag floats in purple-dyed curly maple on another two-tone exotic veneer. The entire tag rests atop of a section of the Zimbabwe batik. You can shave in the mirror-like finish on the board, if you can stop staring at the mesmerizing design long enough to focus.
While the board is beautiful on an objective level, and it's easy to appreciate the craftsmanship and visual appeal, the impact to my family is immeasurable. This is our fitting, lasting tribute to our brother. This is our chance to say a solemn goodbye while keeping a constant reminder in our field of vision of who he was and what he meant to us: to remember to say “yes” to love, life, and adventure - to remember to drop our “veneers” and to let people in to our hearts. That's why the board brings me peace of mind: even if I never ride it. I'm reminded daily when that welcoming mix of lacquer and wood reaches around the corner and draws me in, better than that fresh first cup of coffee, to the start of each new day.