Handcrafted skateboards ride the vintage vibe and the maker movement
It all started during Adam Crump’s childhood.
Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Crump would often build skateboard ramps so he and his buddies could catch some air. They’d watch Powell Peralta videos, then go into the street and try to emulate their skateboarding idols. Crump’s favorite skater was Danny Way, who (for what it’s worth) once jumped the Great Wall of China using a megaramp.
For Crump, a Gen-Xer who now lives in Hendersonville, the construction of those makeshift ramps represents the convergence of two passions still present in his life: carpentry and skateboarding. As the owner of Atomic Boardworks, which launched in 2018, Crump uses his craftiness to fashion a variety of handmade boards both practical and artistic.
His customer base is split 60-40.
“Sixty percent want to hang them up on the wall,” he says. “The other 40 percent want to actually ride them. Personally, I don’t care what they do with them, as long as they’re buying them.”
A glance at Atomic Boardworks’ Instagram page reveals why board enthusiasts love to display Crump’s creations. His work is sleek and polished, evoking feelings of nostalgia and an endless summer. The boards Crump creates — which run the gamut from surf style to traditional and everything in between — call to mind a slower pace of life, perhaps one in which a salty breeze is blowing.
In a way, the boards’ slow-burn sensibility mirrors Crump’s creative process.
For nearly a decade, Crump — who has a Bachelors in set design from Virginia Commonwealth University — worked on entertainment scenery for casinos in Las Vegas. The work was fast-paced and mechanical. He’d sometimes spend six months on a project that, once used, was often thrown away. Says Crump: “I did a lot of work with MTV, and they have so much money they don’t even blink about tossing out $100,000 worth of stuff.”
“I can’t go back and show people what I built during that time period, because it’s all gone,” he says.
Atomic Boardworks is an antidote to that throwaway culture, as it were. Crump handcrafts his boards, usually two at a time, from salvaged wood, as well as exotic wood from local vendors. The process takes two to three days from start to finish. He begins by drawing the desired shape, which he does by letting “the wood speak to me, as cheesy as that sounds,” he says.
From there, he squares up the wood and runs it through a shaper. Then it’s time to reinforce his product and glue it up. After letting it sit for a day, Crump completes the final shaping by hand, sometimes using steel reinforcement pins — a process he says he developed himself. “I try to avoid power tools whenever possible,” he says.
After that’s done, it’s time to apply the finish. He’s still deciding which product works best.
“I’m trying to figure out if I prefer lacquer, stain, or fiberglass,” he says. “It’s an ongoing thing.”
Crump sells his work at The Garage on 25, a community artisan venue in Fletcher that features creatives who hand make their products out of repurposed goods. He admits he’s still trying to pinpoint his market; he’s currently working mostly by word of mouth, considering his minimal online presence. “I made a custom board for my godson, who’s in high school. I’m hoping he tells his friends about it,” he says.
Like every business owner, Crump aspires to grow his brand. But the last thing he wants is for Atomic Boardworks to become a mass-production operation. The beauty in each of his boards, he says, lies in their singularity — the way they’re born out of thoughtful nuance only human hands can provide. “I always want them to be handcrafted items. I want to make sure they retain that rarity and uniqueness,” he says.
So picture Crump as a kid in Richmond, fashioning a skateboard ramp with his father’s tools so he and his friends can take their love of extreme sports to the next level. Now see Crump as a grown man, graying a bit, but still young at heart. He’s hard at work in his shop, perhaps with sweat on his brow, fashioning a couple boards that one day may be used by the next generation of Tony Hawks or Danny Ways — or indeed, Adam Crumps.
“I’d love to be walking the street one day in Asheville and see a kid bombing down a hill on one of my boards,” he says. “That’d be pretty cool.”
Adam Crump sells his skateboards at The Garage on 25 (3461 Hendersonville Road, Fletcher, 828-376-0198, garageon25.com and on Facebook). See Crump’s work on Instagram: @AtomicBoardworks. The artist can be reached at email@example.com.