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    Research & Development
    Only a handful of people have become famous in skateboarding without actually being a pro skater. Paul Schmitt is one of them. As a designer and manufacturer, Schmitt has had a hand in more skate innovations and more legendary companies than we can list. Of course, just because his engineering and design skills have made him famous, that doesn’t mean that “The Professor” can’t shred as well. Schmitt’s work has always been rooted in his passion as an actual skater. For a company based on creativity, individuality and fun like Street Plant, there is no better partner when it comes to the design and manufacture of our boards.
  • w/ Professor Schmitt. Photo By: Rob Wallace.

    We are NOT content to just pick our Board Shapes from a catalog. Each and Every Board we make has to have a Spark of Inspiration, a Story, a Reason for Existing. We are NOT interested in the mass-identity of Skateboarding, nor in the supply and demand culture of the mass-marketing of Skateboards. To us, Skateboards aren’t some soulless product you buy at the mall. They aren’t just some means to an end. They are an end in themselves. They are Alive and have Spirit. We work closely with Professor Paul Schmitt on Every Board we Shape for the perfect blend of Flavor and Function for Fun! It’s important to us to make sure that Every Board we make comes from Someplace Special, because we know they are all going to Someplace Special.

    Thanks For Your Support!

    Mike Vallely

  • By: Kyle DuVall

    Evolution Of Shape

    Start with his first pro model for Powell Peralta in 1988 and follow history forward to today’s line of Street Plant decks, and it’s easy to see that Mike Vallely has a unique perspective on the last 30 years of deck shapes.

    “I started skateboarding in 1984 and, even then, skateboard design was already behind when it came to the real life application of what us kids were doing out in the streets,” Vallely explains. “In 1986 when I started skating for Powell Peralta, I drilled the nose of my Lance Mountain board back so that I could actually use it for tricks. Stacy Peralta tripped out on what I was doing trick wise and the fact that the boards he was making were too slow to adapt to what we were doing on them.”

    In ’88, when Vallely’s first pro model was released, most “street” boards were still scaled down vert shapes with flared tails and rounded or pointed noses. Vallely was hoping for something different with his debut deck: a real “street” shape. Powell Peralta, however, was not quite ready for what he had in mind.

    “When I put out my first pro model in 1988, the nose was considered big by the standards of the day. I actually wanted an even bigger nose but Powell Peralta saw it as too much of a risk in the market place.”

    vallely-1988_June

    It wasn’t Vallely’s perfect vision of a street deck, but the Elephant was still significantly different from the other big sellers in the Powell line. Not only was the nose longer than the norm by a couple of inches, but it was squared at the end, mimicking a shape pioneered by another street innovator, Neil Blender. The contours also gave the deck a pretty consistent width from tip to tail. There’s no deep inward curve into the rear truck area, no fishtail shape to the tail.

    With the benefit of hindsight, one can even see hints of the most influential deck Vallely ever rode in that less-than ideal Powell deck: The Elephant’s squared nose and blunt tail, its subtly curved but relatively consistent width down the rail are both prescient of what was to come; Shave off the Elephant’s money bumps and tack on more nose and you’ve got something close to the legendary World Industries Vallely Barnyard.

    Slow to react to innovations in the street, the double-tail Barnyard, however, was a board that could have never happened at Powell Peralta.

    “World Industries was smaller and nimbler and more in tune with what was happening in the streets,” recalls Vallely. “And so, working directly with Steve Rocco and Rodney Mullen, we introduced the Barnyard Board in 1989.”

    The Barnyard, which became one of the highest selling skate decks of all time, was not the first to introduce a “double tail” design, but it was the the first board a pro skater was wiling to stake his name on. It was also a slight refinement of the simple “Two tails stuck together” concept of previous “double tail” boards. More rounded tail edges, a slightly ovoid shape through the rails and a slightly shorter nose which allowed more power when popping from the front foot in switch and nollie tricks, all helped make the Barnyard a key step in the future of deck shapes.

    “I was going out on a limb design-wise by putting my name on that board” says Vallely. “There were symmetrical boards before it but this is the one that stuck, that people remember. I rode it hard and proved it to be functional but I never really thought of it as anything but another fun shape. I never imagined it would become the prototype for the industry standard popsicle.”

    Center Spread 1990. Barnyard.

    But by 1993, the revolution kickstarted by the Barnyard really had dead-ended with the standardization of deck shapes into the modern, straight-railed, symmetrically shaped “popsicle”. Alternate shapes became all but nonexistent for the next decade.

    “I continually wanted to remain open and creative with board design but very few brands were willing to gamble,” says Vallely.

    To be fair, the popsicle seemed to work quite well for everyday skaters and for Vallely. Nevertheless, by the early 2000’s, Vallely, and some of his peers at Black Label were beginning to seriously think about alternative deck shapes.

    “When I started skating for Black Label in ’98 it was an awakening for what was to come,” says Vallely.

    Label Teammate Jason Adams soon began riding the first tapered nose “punk point” boards the industry had seen in a decade. Jeff Grosso’s enduringly popular shovel nosed shape was in the mix. Old innovations were being repurposed. Vallely was taking notes, but when it came to his personal skating, it was not quite time for experimentation.

    “I was in a very high performance mode during that time and completely unable and unwilling to mess with what was and had been working for me, what I had been riding since 1995: the popsicle.”

    However, time on the road observing the broadening demographic of skating at the beginning of the 2000’s convinced Vallely that maybe the time had come for substantial experimentation.

    “When I started Vallely Skateboards in 2003 my intention was to create a line of shaped boards very similar to what I’m doing now with Street Plant,” explains Vallely, “but I hit a roadblock with my partners and my distributor, who didn’t want to gamble on such a concept. When that brand folded and I ended up riding for Element there wasn’t even a conversation to be had… It was a popsicle and you’ll like it.”

    The undercurrents that Vallely had picked up on in the early 2000’s had only grown stronger by the time he parted ways with Element. When he started skating and developing decks for Elephant Skateboards, re-issues of old shapes and “old-school” and “cruiser” boards were becoming common (and profitable) once more. When Vallely created Elephant’s flagship shape the “Street Axe”, it was about more than cashing in on a trend. The Street Axe, even with its 9.5″ width, deep curves and large flared tail was a shape that demanded to be shredded.

    “Originally, it was supposed to just be this cruisey kind of shape,” admits Vallely, “but it had this energy to it, it became something else.”

    Intentional, intuitive, or just coincidence, what Vallely and Paul Schmitt had crafted with that first Axe was definitely way more than just another cruiser. Modified from an old John Grigley shape, the Axe became Vallely’s signature stick. He rode it at the 2012 Tampa Pro contest and in several video edits for Elephant, and, although he was switching from shape to shape at the time, The Axe seemed to personify where his skating and his mindset were.

    Pure, direct, powerful: The Street Axe was the ultimate functional street machine for an alternative movement on the rise in skateboarding. It was a cruiser you could get expressive on.

    With its inward curves at the front and back truck, The Axe, even with its hefty 9.5” width, was tailor made for 8.5” trucks. This meant that it was incredibly agile for a board with a 15” wheelbase. The flared 7” tail gave The Axe the pop of a street board even while rolling wheels big enough to take on chunky pavement. The curves also made it incredibly light for a 9.5” deck.

    That 9.5” width gave The Axe stability and a lot of extra real estate you could keep your feet on when slashing out of a slappy or bringing in a sketchy wallride. The curved rails and extra large size also made it great for one of Vallely’s signature tricks: the boneless. The outward curve in front made for a very comfortable grab, and the width at the forward truck provided a solid landing spot when stomping the front foot back down. It practically begged you to bend down, grab a rail and plant your foot.

    The Street Axe soon accumulated a cult following and it became evident to Vallely that the Axes out on the street were being used for much more than coffee cruising and beer runs. When it was time for The Axe to evolve, Vallely took his cue not only from his own experiences with The Axe, but from the video clips and photos The Axe’s devotees shared with him via social media.

    “The changes to the Street Axe are inspired by the direction skaters were taking it in the street,” explains Vallely. “It’s a response to what I was seeing.”

    One of the biggest changes is in the new Axe’s nose. An inch and a half longer than the original Axe, the new Axe’s nose is big enough to slap into a stable nose slide or twist into a crooked grind. More real estate beyond the front bolts also makes for more comfortable nose manuals, not to mention more forward sliding room for popping and tweaking ollies.

    The wheelbase has dropped as well, a full half inch, from 15” on the original to 14.5”.

    Street Axe 2015.

    “I have always adapted my skating to what I’m riding, and respond to the board whatever it is,” explains Vallely. “But, for me, personally, I felt that a 15” wheelbase was a bit limiting, and making The Axe more maneuverable fits in with where people were taking it.”

    As nice as it felt to have that extra room when coming out of a sketchy wall ride or bringing in a boneless, the full 9.5” width of The Axe might have been just a little too much of a good thing. The new Axe’s 9” width still gives plenty of landing room and stability, but makes the board a little more agile for expressive skating and even more open to flipping. At 9” the inward curving shape at the trucks still makes it compatible with 8.5” hangers. The wide, solid 7” fish tail of the original Axe is tightened up as well, but just a little. The new Axe’s tail is an eighth of an inch shorter and a bit narrower, but still maintains the squared, shape of the original. This means the pop is powerful, and a tiny bit more vertical, but just as stable and dependable when you drive your foot down.

    The new Axe also boasts a different concave with a deeper and more rounded front foot area for more comfortable foot placement and a bit more catch on the side for flicking a kick flip.

    Photo: Mark Nisbet.

    Photo: Mark Nisbet.

    For the new Street Axe “Engineered For The Streets” is not just a slogan. Trimmed of the previous version’s affectations and made more functional, the Street Axe is now leaner, meaner, and more focused; A board that merges expression, inspiration and innovation. It’s the “Barnyard” of shaped decks: a radical shift inspired by where skateboarding is going and where it has been.

    Where are you going to take the new Street Axe?

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

  • By: Kyle DuVall

    Kristian Svitak’s journey in skateboarding reads like a cross section of the last 30 years of skate culture. In ’88, he was a squeebed out kid on a Per Welinder street board joining the influx of post-Bones Brigade Midwestern groms who found themselves searching for Animal Chin on whatever bits of scabby concrete they could find. In the middle of the 90’s, he was part of an underground movement in street skating that set aside high-tech for speed, aggression and style. In the 2000’s, as part of the “Label Kills” era Black Label team, he wasn’t just part of the changes in skating, he was helping to engineer them. His skating added momentum to trends that eventually resulted in the wide-open, anything goes atmosphere of today’s skate culture.

    Svitak 1989

    Now, at age 40, Svitak is part of another seismic shift in skating: the demographic shift. Svitak shows no signs of coasting on a legacy. He’s charging and filming and pushing himself however he can, finding his place in a world where veteran shredders, for the first time in the history of skating, are having more than just a behind-the-scenes impact.

    “I want to rip as hard as I can and do as many things that I’ve got in my head as I can before I physically can’t,” Svitak asserts. “There’s going to come a day when I’m going to say: ‘It would be awesome to do that, but I’m 55 years old, or I’m 60, and I can’t’.”

    Svitak: 40

    Charging and putting his skating out into the world is still very much a part of Svitak’s identity as a skater, and age has only intensified his sense of self motivation.

    “For a couple years in my mid 30’s I had this spell where I didn’t film at all, I just went out and skated for fun. That was fine with me but I found myself just thinking: ‘I’m not done’ I feel like as I’ve gotten older, I’m a better skateboarder now than when I was younger. I’ve learned so many new things, what I’ve lost a little bit is that ability to jump down big handrails, but I’ll still jump down a rail… The thing is I’m more up for skating in other areas, it’s like I feel more skilled in more things. It’s really interesting.”

    “I’ve still got sponsors. Filming is my job. I want to represent them the best I can, but I’m not filming because I force myself. It’s for me, for my skateboarding. Filming really gets the best out of me, it gets me to really push myself to progress and do things that I think about and want to happen. That’s how I’ve always thought about it even way back before I was sponsored.”

    Doing things for his own reasons has worked out pretty good for Svitak so far, even in times when “his own thing” wasn’t fashionable.

    “I was 18 years old when the early 90’s came in, and I tried really hard to keep up with the Nollie Flips and Switch Tricks. I was learning it all because it was new and exciting, but it came to a point where I just thought: I don’t feel comfortable. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the tricks, I just didn’t like doing them, they didn’t feel good. I remember around 1994 just thinking to myself: This just doesn’t feel good, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to get sponsored, and that’s okay. I’m going to skate the way I want to skate.”

    In that era, ditching the tricks everyone else was fighting for actually put Svitak way ahead of the curve, and positioned him to have a big impact in the era to come.

    “Skating the way I wanted happened to be skating fast, Ollieing big things, going hard at handrails. I liked blending old tricks from the 80’s in with what I was doing, and lo and behold, the ironic thing about it all is that that is the kind of stuff that got me sponsored.”

    The outcast soon found himself unintentionally representing one of skating’s stylistic trends. “This was when the whole phrase of “Hesh” was being thrown around. People over the years have said: ‘Oh you’re Hesh dude!’ I’m like: ‘What the fuck is Hesh?’. I’ve never even thought of that. I’m just some skate rat. I wear flannels because I grew up in Cleveland and it was cold and I was punk rock. I wore a trucker hat because I have a huge head.”

    Svitak eventually wound up on Black Label, an ideal fit for a young skater who not only had a reverence for his skate elders, but also actively paid homage to them with his own skating.

    Label Era Frontside Feeble. Photo: Matt Mecaro.

    Label Era Frontside Feeble. Photo: Matt Mecaro.

    “I was never one of those kids who wrote off the old pros, or wrote off history,” Svitak recalls. “I remember telling people ‘I’m going to ride for Black Label! John Lucero! Jeff Grosso!’ and they’d be like: ‘What? Who?’ People can go around all day and say ‘We were always down’. Bullshit. I remember when you dudes didn’t give a shit. I always hated that in the 90’s. I remember my friend being like: Why is Label giving all these old dudes boards? I would get so defensive about it, ‘I’m here because of these guys’.”

    The ethos of the Black Label team created an atmosphere where Svitak and his teammates, Mike Vallely, and Jason Adams, could make a pretty powerful statement about the state of skateboarding in what has become known as the “Label Kills” era.

    Kristian, Jason and Mike. 2001: Alaska. Photo: Miki Vuchovich

    Kristian, Jason and Mike. 2001: Alaska. Photo: Miki Vuchovich

    “I still get e-mails about that video, Its the one people always want to talk about. It’s had a big impact over the years. Lucero had real foresight about pushing things in the videos. Guys would be like: Don’t put that in the video…. And he’d say: ‘No, that’s cool, leave it in’. It was very important at that time, we were just coming out of the 90’s… What people saw in that “Label Kills” video is straight up what was going through my head in the 90’s.”

    Svitak’s attitude about skateboarding and life in general made it inevitable that he would branch out on his own, and when he created 1031 skateboards in 2006, he found himself, once again, ahead of skateboarding’s trend curve just by doing what came naturally.

    “I started my brand in 2006 when it was not cool to do a little brand,” Svitak recollects. “I remember when I started 1031 people asked ‘Who are you out of?’ I would say: ‘No one.’ It’s just me and my buddy doing it out of a garage. They would look at me like I was an asshole. If you were not out of Deluxe or Tum Yeto or NHS, you weren’t shit.”

    Along the way, Svitak also started Regulator Distribution and co-founded Landshark Wheels. As Landshark became more successful, and independent board brands began to flood the deck market, Svitak found himself on the wrong side of the small company gold rush.

    “There’s a million board brands right now. Board brands are like toilet paper. Now, wood shops make boards for anybody. Anybody can have a board company.”

    “Going into 2015 I just knew something had to change with 1031. It was such a life drainer… I loved it but It was taking away time from my daughter, and taking away time from Landshark, which was doing really well.”

    Watching what his friend and mentor Mike Vallely was doing with Street Plant eventually helped influence the fate of 1031.

    “The first skateboard video I ever saw was Public Domain. When the guy with the shaved head, fingerless leather gloves and with the two different colored shoes came on skating New York City and Washington DC… I didn’t even know who he was but I was like: ‘That’s who I relate to, right there’. When the Barnyard double kick came out I actually took two of those skateboard keychains they used to make and I cut them in half with a saw and then took the 2 tail ends and taped them together so I had a double kick.”

    Admiration developed into friendship once Vallely and Svitak became colleagues, and even when the business of skateboarding threw curveballs at their mutual endeavors, Svitak and Vallely have remained friends and allies.

    Kristian and Mike. Dortmund, Germany / 2000.

    Kristian and Mike. Dortmund, Germany / 2000.

    “Mike’s always had my back over the years and I’ve always had his. When Mike was talking to me about expanding Street Plant, what was literally going through my head at that moment was what a strain 1031 was becoming. I had been doing it for nine years and put everything I had in it. I cared about it dearly, but he was telling me about Street Plant and I’m telling him: ‘Mike this sounds so good’. He never asked me to stop doing 1031. He just said: ‘Do what you need to do, I just want you to be a part of Street Plant in whatever capacity makes you feel comfortable. The next day we skated and I was like: ‘You know what Mike, this is just what I needed. I need to stop 1031, this just makes so much sense to me.’ What a great reason to get back together with my friend and do something.”

    So Street Plant picked up its first rider, not with intense contract negotiations, back room deals, or piles of cash, but with a skate session between two old friends. In fact, Street Plant wasn’t even looking to recruit riders.

    “Everything with Street Plant is very organic, there is no plan to make a team, if people come along, Mike might put them on, but this all goes back to Mike and I being good friends for so many years.”

    With that sort of motivation, it hardly matters to Svitak whether Street Plant becomes ‘The Next Big Thing’, or just one more project in a string of inspiring projects he has been a part of.

    “I give credit to Mike for always trying things. Just because something doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean shit. There’s a lot of people who just don’t try shit in their life, then they ridicule other people because they try something and it didn’t work out. It always makes me think of that Minor Threat song… You know, ‘What the fuck have you done?’

    Kristian, Emily, Paul and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Kristian, Emily, Paul and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    “Fail, fail, fail until something works. You try things, you go for shit. It’s just like skateboarding. Go for the trick over and over until you get it and, you know what? Sometimes you don’t get it, but you tried.”

    “The companies that he started and ended, I don’t see them as failures, the things he fucking went for… As a fan and a friend of Mike’s, I feel like what Mike is doing with Street Plant is the best thing he’s ever done.”

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

Paul Schmitt
Date Of Birth: September 28, 1963

Hometown: Tampa, FL

Current City: Costa Mesa, CA

Skating Since: 1973
@ProfessorSchmitt
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