Iris Skateboards are a San francisco based skateboard company who create unique, handmade, one-of-a-kind skateboards from recycled decks. Here’s everything you need to know about them before you order yourself a work of art.
In his story South of the Slot, Jack London tells a tale of a man with a double identity: a San Francisco academic who basically slums it with the working class for research. As an academic, he is conservative, boring, and chilling, financially. As a working stiff, he gets as hammered as the next guy, falls in love with this fly labor organizer, and is generally a way sweeter dude. The story ends with him stumbling upon a strike in the middle of Market Street as his professorial, rich-ass self, but he’s unable to suppress the party boy within. He hops out of his carriage, dips on his boring ass fiancée, and joins in: cracking scab skulls and fully transforming into his way more awesome blue-collar self. Why? Because being at a desk is fucking boring, money’s overrated, and doing your own thing is mad fucking fun.
I went to San Francisco for thirty hours and all that anyone could talk about was its high cost of living. I get it. It’s a desirable place to be. The bars are lit, the ‘dro is bottomless, the food is insane…not to mention the hills! Yeah, if I was some new money billionaire I wouldn’t want to be tied down in some tepid-ass valley either, though I’m sure that for the people I know—the skaters, the people just trying to mellow out in Dolores Park while irie merchants offer edibles and dirt-cheap blackmarket champagne—the heightening prices are an increasing bummer. What do you think? Will San Francisco go the direction of other modern cities? Is it getting to be so expensive that, within a few years, everything cool and creative will get pushed out of it? Hell no! Case in point: George Rocha, founder of Iris Skateboards.
Originally from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, George has been in San Fran since 2004. He’s been building ramps and working with wood for as long as he can remember, but has done it professionally for the past sixteen years. He’s the dude who built Double Rock. He started experimenting with repurposed cruisers in 2011, and in 2012, after some tinkering, Iris Skateboards became an actual business.
Iris is one-of-a-kind, in that the each board is made entirely out of repurposed materials. They are custom-made, one at a time, out of his garage. George has a few sources, shops and distributors, who give him drop-offs, tests, and rejects. Apparently, there’s no shortage.
What’s done with this, well, trash, is that it’s stripped of its grip tape, paint, glue, and whatever other shit they put on the outside of boards. Then, the boards are placed in a hydraulic press with a layer of epoxy between each.
Once that is done, the block is re-cut into all new cruisers. Repurposed crushed glass is held on with epoxy to create a top layer of grip, and the end product is fucking beautiful.
Monday through Fridays are spent building parks, while nights and weekends are dedicated to Iris. I had the chance to catch George and his buddies on a Sunday at his house in the Sunset, where I got to see how the whole operation works. We shot some photos as George worked on an insanely-difficult seeming custom-ordered kicktail, then we got some pizza and skated his backyard bowl.
It’s a remarkably difficult thing to work for one’s self, especially in a city like San Francisco. There is no question that what George does, between the parks and the wood, calls for hours and hours of labor a day. The average skater’s “fuck a nine-to-five” disposition versus the toll of existing in a capitalistic society come together in all sorts of interesting ways. Skilled labor, valet, set building, freelance writer…but, here’s one of the most unique, creative, and sustainable solutions I’ve seen.
Iris’s overhead is minimal and its waste is near to nothing. Its owner dug out his own chasm on the face of his city in which he gets to create, do shit on his own terms, and be the man he wants to be. That shit is so chill to me. Be sure to get a board at their website, follow them on Insta, and do whatever it is that you’re into!