Bellingham, Washington is pretty much the happiest place on Earth. Anyone you meet from the tiny Northwest town will confirm that moving there was the best decision of their life. B-Ham is full of Bernie-supporting, Kombucha-drinking, Birkenstock-wearing happy hippies. And tucked away in this liberal haven is the young Boardworks Tech Shop. Although the small Boardworks shop is easily mistaken for one of the espresso huts that line the PNW streets, it’s proven itself to be a pretty great spot.
A visual representation (art by author)
After a two hour drive up to B-Ham, I was nervous to step into Boardworks. The last time I checked out a shop for a spotlight article (back in the February issue), I found myself in the middle of a hostile standoff, trapped between a paranoid store owner and his illicit business partner. So when I walked into Boardworks, I was relieved to be greeted by a young friendly face. Nate Braks, the young dude manning the shop, was eager to find out what I was looking for.
Clockwise from lower right: Nate hard at work; the storefront; Nate, geared up to get down; Claudia’s seal of approval.
I expressed to Nate that I’m a pretty inexperienced skater: I have a pool board, but I want to be able to street skate like all of my much cooler friends. Nate was beyond helpful! Instead of pointing me straight to a board I should buy, Nate started by explaining how boards are set up differently according to the type of skating you’re doing. He explained the hardness scale used for wheels and how board shape is oftentimes more for style than function. My poolboard, for example, may simply be wide and directional, but that doesn’t mean it’s exclusively for cruising. This brings me to the first of three “Claudia the Intern’s rating scales.”
Per Nate’s request, I brought my board in from the car. In his opinion, the board was a little stylized, but it would be perfectly fine to try to get into transition skating. He pointed out some fancy trucks and new wheels that I might be interested in, but ultimately suggested that I stick with what I had. “Man, I wish I could sell you something,” Nate joked. Not only did he not push product on me; he proceeded to recommend a different skate shop nearby, which would have a better selection of wheels if I changed my mind. While some would call this a dumb business move, I saw it as a sign of a good skateshop: one that values people as skaters first, and sales opportunities second. This brings us to my second, thoughtfully articulated rating scale:
Nate also pointed me to some cool skateparks around town, including one on the nearby Lummi tribe reservation. This one, Nate said, is usually pretty empty. “Great!” I exclaimed. “I don’t like to skate at a busy park. I’m pretty bad, so I feel like there’s judgement, or like I’m in the way.” I laughed, expecting Nate to agree. Busy parks are intimidating! And skate culture can feel pretty exclusive at times. But Nate looked surprised, and in a moment of grandfather-level wisdom, said, “I wouldn’t worry about that. All skaters were at that stage at some point.” This brings me to my final scale:
Although they have their fair share of conventional skateboards, Boardworks Tech Shop specializes in splitboards and longboards. If you don’t already know, splitboards are cool as hell. (Nate Braks will confirm this.) Boardworks has a YouTube channel showing off their downhill skate team as well as their workshop. If you check it out, you can watch Johnny Lupo, the shop’s owner, explain how he cuts snowboards in half to create custom splitboards.
Boardworks puts out a ton of video work, ranging from in-depth product reviews…
… to event and team rider videos…
… to full-length promo videos. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy…!
So if you’re in town, check out the skateshop that’s doing its part to make Bellingham an even cooler place. They’ve got Claudia the Intern’s stamp of approval.