Skateboarding News

Gettin’ Wood with A Third Foot

Words and photos by James Brewer and thanks to Tom Gillespie

A Third Foot are a company I have been surrounded by since I first started skateboarding 9 years ago. Growing up in the Black Country/Birmingham scene it was pretty much impossible to miss them but this isn’t just your standard ‘local board company’, they’re a company that has been on the UK scene for many years now and has nurtured some of the UK’s finest talent including the likes of Olly Todd, Kris Vile and Ozzy Ben.

Not only that, but they have always been more than ‘just a board company’ as they are the only wood shop the UK actually has to offer. They have printed boards for a lot of your favourite companies and probably your local shop.

There was actually a spotlight interview on them on this website in 2005 where it was pointed out how there are only a few wood shops in the world, and a lot of them are fighting for work thanks to the mammoth production rate from China. So for myself, seeing a few blokes from Birmingham making top quality boards is refreshing- to say the least.

The company is all about quality over quantity which has shone through with not only the goods they produce, but the edits they bring out once in every blue moon. Most notably the recent ‘Summer Vacation Tour‘ which saw Ben Blake, Tom Brown, Woody, Doug McLaughlan and flow bro’s Phil Shore and Jason Caines get freaky up North.

This is a company that I back hard, and it’s not because I am from the same area, it’s because I know how hard these guys work and know how much love they have for skateboarding. The past couple of years has seen a couple of ‘Guerrilla Jams‘ organised by them in the back streets of Birmingham. The last jam was in the summer of 2009 at Birmingham’s hot spot ‘Demo’ – A3F owners Ken and Joel put together a series of ‘ghetto’ flatbanks, kickers to drums, rails and ledges and then were happy enough to leave them at the spot for locals to session (unfortunately these were soon destroyed by the local council).

I went down to their factory to have a chat with the owners behind the project Ken and Joel about how the current credit crunch has affected them, and to actually find out what goes into making a board in the UK…

So let’s start with your history. A Third Foot has been around for nearly 13 years now, with a lot of companies struggling to a point where they have to call it a day: how have you managed to stay around and stay prominent for so long?

I think the key difference between us and any other UK board company is that we’re the only manufacturer. With the income from both our A Third Foot boards, and the boards we produce for other companies from our wood shop, we’ve managed to stay afloat for all these years. We’ve also hooked some some undeniably great skaters throughout the years – Kris Vile, Olly Todd, Woody.

How did A Third Foot initially start and how did the name come about?

We were fed up of America ruling us with it’s wooden fist! We were influenced by the D.I.Y punk scene heavily whilst growing up skating, and we decided to have a go for ourselves. We started the company with some Princes Trust start-up money and used it to have a hydraulic press fabricated. Back then, we were pretty much out there on our own. There was no manufacturing guide or help websites to turn to! Occasionally you caught a glimpse of a press in a skate video. At first, we kind of made it up as we went, learning how to use the machinery properly to get the shapes and concave that we wanted. The initial challenge for us was to produce a board that was of the same standard as the American wood everyone was used to.

As for the name, Joel’s ex girlfriend thought of it. It implies that the skateboard is part of the rider. Skating down a street fast. Not even tricks, controlling the board as if it were your foot.

Talking of D.I.Y, what’s the idea behind the infamous ‘Guerrilla Jam’?

The Guerrilla Jam was intended as a bit of a wake up call to skaters. We wanted to show how much potential fun you and your mates could have out of some scrap wood, nails and a bit of effort. Don’t wait for someone to come and build somewhere to skate for you. Do it yourself. I think the first Guerrilla Jam cost us about £5 to put on. The entire budget was spent on screws. The rest of the materials we acquired from skips and cobbled together! We then dragged them round to a quiet street behind the factory and held a competition. No permission, no rules, and certainly no energy drink sponsors in sight!

Over the past few years the whole economy has gone into crisis, this has had a big impact on a lot of companies throughout skateboarding. How has the economic crisis effected you?

It hasn’t really effected us much, as we’ve been in crisis since day one! The falling dollar has helped us if anything, by making it even more cost effective for people in this country to buy British rather than head to China for their wood. We held our prices, and picked up some more business.

Has it ever been difficult to run a skateboard brand while running a wood shop at the same time?

Yes. Apologies to all the people who buy our boards and want to see a full length video. We want to see it too! The brand should be so much more in the public eye. We’d love to be able to employ a full- time team manager. The team past and present all deserve to be paid and go as far as they can within skateboarding with us. We have barely done any marketing which is pretty much all the other brands do. We’re too busy making boards!

The majority of the team are now heading towards their 30’s. On top of that, with the recent departure of Ozzy Ben, does this mean you guys will be looking out for new riders?

There’s more sponsored people in the country now than there’s ever been and we take our time whilst choosing team riders. Usually, the team bring a skater to our attention who we investigate further. Unfortunately being in the wood shop all week doesn’t really allow us to get to all the events or parks to scout for talent ourselves. Our message to people who think they’re of sponsorship standard is: don’t find us, we’ll find you.

You have taken part in two Big Push events, how did you find those?

The Big Push is probably one of the best events that’s been run in this country. It’s a fool proof plan, having all the best skaters in the country going on road trips and competing with each other for the best team award. For us, we found it brought the best out of our riders, who when faced with a deadline pushed themselves to the limit for the cause! We’re well up for the next one Sidewalk if you’re reading this!

You’re always coming out with new shapes/concave for your boards: are there any secret plans we can reveal?

We are planning to copy Anti-Hero shapes any minute now. Also, water down our shapes so they look like every other Chinese board you see. Seriously though, we got our shape dialed perfectly from day one. NOT!

Which is your favourite graphic that A Third Foot have put out over the years?

Both the “Chain” board and the “Flogging a Dead Horse” board are favourites of ours because they mean something to us outside of skateboarding. The Frank Lentini board is special to us because it was all done by hand, we didn’t use a computer on that one at all. All the films were made by hand and then they were screen printed. Also, any of the artwork Chris Bourke has produced for us over the years, he’s a very talented guy and we’re stoked to see his work being used by other companies now. The “Tribute” series are also close to our hearts as we based them on bands and records that we grew up listening to.

What’s your most memorable experience you’ve had running the company?

One day we got stoned at work with Stu Banner and nearly decided to close the business!

What’s the weirdest board shape/graphic request you’ve had to deal with?

We got a request from a guy years ago who’d never stepped on a board in his life. He asked us to create a 3 wheeled monster with a shopping trolley wheel stuck in the middle for traveling sideways. He swore it would revolutionize skateboarding forever! Also, some twat asked us to copy an Enuff shape once!

And finally, the obligatory thank you’s.

Everyone who’s supported A Third Foot over the years. All our past and present riders who’ve represented us, and all the magazines and industry bods that have helped us out. Thank you all.

Keep up to date with A Third Foot on the interweb at and explore their Spring 2010 Catalogue featuring all of their new decks pressed right here in the UK and their Factory Outlet Sale. This ‘Summer Vacation Tour’ filmed and edited by Tom Gillespie says it all, get involved.

A Third Foot Skateboards – Summer Vacation from Tom Gillespie on Vimeo.