A Third Foot: Spotlight

with owners Joel and Ken
By Ralph Lloyd-Davis 11/14/2005

One of the first skateboard videos I ever saw was Powell Peralta’s “Public Domain“, and during the intro the viewer is taken on a guided tour throught P&P’s manufacturing plant. The scene is dusty and noisy as hordes of little underpaid immigrants sand away at the next hottest shape. I was too young to know for sure that I would one day work within the skate industry, but I knew for certain that I didn’t want to be one of those poor sods!

Skateboards today are manufactured by only a handful of factories- most of which are bickering over scraps since the fantastic Chinese Manufacturing Coup- so it’s surprising to hear about an outfit in Britain that does it too. A Third Foot was the brainchild of Ken and Joel who have worked long, hard hours since 1997 to bring top-notch product onto the market. Understand that ATF is a hands down unit that prefers quality over quantity when they follow a skateboard process from 7 raw plies to a finished product. The team consists of Kris Vile, Ben Blake, Tom Brown, James Woodley, Rich Lewis, Norm, Bob Sanderson and Damon Levanthal.

Please state your name, age and what you do for a living?

Joel, 34, & Ken, 33. We make skateboards

When did you start A Third Foot?

1997.

Why?

We were always interested in deck production as skaters, and we wanted to have a go for ourselves.

Did you have any previous knowledge of skateboard manufacturing before you began?

Some – bits from magazines here and there.

How difficult was A Third Foot to start up?

It wasn’t too difficult. We had to go to the Prince’s Trust, submit a business plan and get awarded some funding. Then we had to get some fairly crude early presses made, buy some tools, find a premises etc and get started.

How has competition reacted to your manufacturing techniques?

Our techniques don’t differ much from anyone else’s, so we don’t warrant a reaction.

Do you know of other European companies that make their own boards?

As far as I know, there are, or were, factories in Spain, Italy, Germany & Switzerland, I think.

How has the China situation affected A Third Foot?

I suppose it has to some extent. We may have a few more bulk Customers, but at our size it’s hard to gauge. We weren’t really competing directly with US factories anyway.

Who/what inspires you in your production of boards?

Just to make the best decks we can.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to manufacture their own boards?

Go to China, or somewhere with even cheaper labour.

Will skateboards always be made of wood?

For the near future-Yes. Some experimentation will go on, and someone might find something that works. Who knows?

If you weren’t manufacturing skateboards, what would you be doing?

Making more money.

What are the good sides to running your own company?

No fat fuck to tell you what to do, doing art, talking shop, new projects, buying new toys-tools, and having days off.

What are the bad sides?

It’s damn hard work! The fumes, the splinters, dry skin and of course the team getting hurt.

Your team contains some hidden talent (Tom Brown, James Woodley…)- How do you spot it? Are there any requirements to make the team?

The team’s organic: people come and go but it always maintains a high standard. The team picks itself…

Do you feel a certain affinity with those poor Mexican sods sanding down endless piles of wood in the ‘Public Domain’ intro?

Sure do! It could be worse…

Were there any other names floating around before ‘A Third Foot’?

No, the name fitted like a sock.

If the skateboard manufacturing industry ran a Miss World comp, what would be your pitch?

Just look at my hot curves, my make up is perfect, and my holes have had a good hard drilling!

Go to www.athirdfoot.co.uk for more info…