When we happened upon Jesse Watson’s skateboard shop, housed in the back of a bakery/warehouse on the waterfront of Lahave, Nova Scotia, it became apparent that there could be no better example of hands-on, quality, local craftsmanship. Homegrown Skateboards is located on the third floor with a small work space, a showroom and counter space, a vintage record player, and their very own skate bowl.
Jesse grew up skating in this space that has now become home to his livelihood, saying that a big part of his inspiration for building his own boards came from this place begging to be filled with creative enterprise.
In 1996 the Homegrown name was born out of a carjack press that made the first decks and still sits on display in the shop. Nowadays each deck is individually pressed and shaped by a purpose designed machine.
Homegrown came at a time when skateboarding was becoming more commercialized and production was starting to centralize around a few major brands. Like fashion, it was becoming more about the name and less about the quality of the goods.
Jesse saw that some of the best skateboard making materials were being sourced from right outside his hometown and started up Homegrown as an anti-brand of sorts. The idea was to go back to the basics and build an excellent skateboard, away from the logos and labels.
From start to finish, Jesse and his small team are involved in every aspect of design and production. Due to the cold winters, Canada’s Atlantic provinces make some of the best trees for skateboard use. Jesse uses 100% hard rock maple that he picks up directly from the mill. The only way he could get closer to his raw materials would be to grow and cut down his own trees.
He then shapes, glues, and presses each deck one-by-one to create the perfect flex and stiffness. Each deck is individually numbered so he can track and improve upon the process. He says it is also interesting to see how many of his boards end up as wall art rather than with the intended use of being shredded on pavement.
I don’t skateboard and I’m pretty sure it is not something I am going to take up later in life, but I was tempted with the desire to own one of these purposefully crafted works of functional art; Homegrown’s map deck is especially striking.
As Jesse stated, it is amazing that so much care and effort goes in to creating something that is essentially designed to be destroyed. I cannot speak to the unique qualities of a skateboard as I’ve never spent much time on them, but I can say that there is plenty of devotion and craftsmanship that goes into each Homegrown deck.