Don Tashman is Founder of Loaded Boards and has been producing innovative skate products for over 20 years. Based in Southern California, he’s built a team of people who have their fingers on the pulse of the skate community. They are behind the scenes making decisions that ultimately turn into boards and wheels for just about every sort of purpose. We spoke to Don about the newest product drop and how he keeps things fresh at Loaded.
Chairman of the "board" Don Tashman - Photo: Chris Mortenson
Let’s start right away by talking about the Fathom. Why this board and why now? How does it fit into the marketplace from your perspective, your customer base and with the rest of the Loaded line?
Loaded’s approach has always been to expand the boundaries of skateboarding. We aren’t looking to build things that are already on the market (there’s lots of great skate gear already out there), but rather to expand the skate experience by creating unique and important new gear.
Many years in the making, the Fathom finally dropped in July 2023.
For the Fathom, we actually started the collaboration with G/Bomb back in 2006 but then put it on hold due to bandwidth. With G/Bomb’s newest bracket design and our increased manufacturing capabilities the time is now finally right.
Additionally, the Fathom was created to address two of our major current interests:
Soulful commuting. We’re very passionate about micro-mobility and see this board asa fun and highly functional addition to the alternative vehicle landscape.
Making skateboarding more accessible. Due to the big wheels, low deck height and ease of turning, the Fathom is arguably one of the easiest boards to ride. We think it’s super important to get as many people as possible comfortable on a skateboard for numerous psychological and social reasons.
While the Fathom is not intended as an LDP board, we also do see it as a gateway board for those interested in LDP. We think LDP is fascinating and hope to consider exploring and promoting LDP in the future.
The affordable and versatile Zee Bracket is what really sets it apart from other offerings. Tell us about the potential of introducing brackets to a mainstream audience? (DIY, upcycling, Big wheels unlock bigger distance, easier, safer)
Thanks! We think that providing a DIY product like this will create more engagement in skate experiences and will also open the doors to fascinating creative exploration. In just the past few weeks we’ve already seen some interesting things. We don’t claim to have a monopoly on great ideas and want to encourage tons and tons of creative exploration. The Zee Bracket is a relatively inexpensive tool that allows for all kinds of new, fun and functional skate products that can be built with relative ease. We’re excited to see what this goes.
Prior to this Gbomb partnership, Loaded collaborated with Pantheon and Carver in 2022. This seems counterintuitive for most, but seems to be a winning strategy for your product development. Tell us a bit about your process for bringing new products to market?
Designing around skate gear that we find interesting has always been important to us and is a win-win strategy that allows us to expand on things we find to be interesting. We’ve done it with many brands over the years, most notably Boosted and Unlimited. We have learned that our expertise lies on the mechanical end designing ergonomic and functional decks and wheels and that’s what we are interested in focusing on. We have extensive R&D capabilities in house and are able to design and iterate decks and wheels and a pace we never could have dreamed of a few years ago. This lets us work through shape and construction challenges quickly and helps us build much better gear.
We’ve been friends with Neil and Greg at Carver for 20+ years and we’ve carried and ridden their trucks for about 15 years. When they approached us about a collab board we were honored and stoked. That’s been a super fun and successful project and I think we’ve brought a new and unique spin on surfskate with our decks, wheels and bushings.
With Pantheon, we were actually designing a double drop board but kept going back to the fact that we felt that Pantheon had nailed the basic deck concept. We’ve always liked Jeff and when he approached us with the idea we felt that we were able to collaborate on construction and aesthetics. We’re pleased with how it went and I won’t be surprised if we do more with Pantheon in the future.
Our current efforts with G/Bomb are another case in point and we look forward to many more collaborations in the future.
The Loaded x Pantheon Trip quickly became a LDP favorite.
Anything coming down the pipe you’d like to tease?
There’s a ton. Right now we’re shifting focus back to our traditional composite decks and will have a few of those on the market in the next 6-10 months, including a 21 year anniversary Vanguard deck and a dramatic update for the Pintail/Fattail. We’re also working on a bunch of new wheel stuff including race wheels and lots of new urethane formula testing. We’re going to continue to explore collaborations as mentioned above and are also creating new products (including with the Zee Brackets) to expand the use of large wheels. Much more info to come.
As one of the biggest manufacturers in the world we have to ask. What kind of trends are you seeing throughout the world? Any hot spots across the world?
From what we see, there are more events today worldwide than ever before. Obviously this is a post-covid phenomenon but it’s exciting. Here in LA there’s 4-5 events weekly! Dancing, downhill, cruising, carving, surfskate and eskate all seem to be having much higher participation than in 2019. The industry is struggling a bit due to supply chain and inventory challenges that were caused by Covid. However, that seems to be cleaning up and we’re starting to see some interesting new brands emerging and some new technologies and ideas which is super exciting.
More specifically, Asia continues to be interested in dancing and surfskate. In the past two years we’ve seen much more interest in dancing and LDP in North America. Europe seems a bit tough now due to economic conditions and the war in Ukraine, but there continues to be strong skate communities there in all disciplines. We are starting to see some growth in skate interest coming out of the Middle East and are excited to see where that goes.
Finally, it seems to me that the downhill community is struggling with figuring out its direction at the moment. However, I’ve seen tremendous maturity from the leaders of that community and I expect we’ll see a lot of growth in that discipline over the next few years.
Aside from making awesome products, what other kind of projects does Loaded try to get involved with? Any projects our readers should be aware of (any community initiatives, CSR, sponsorships)
We’ve always tried to give more than we take. We support events worldwide and are stoked that there are now so many great events either coming back or starting from scratch.
We also support numerous community initiatives like Stoked Mentoring which use action sports to mentor underprivileged kids. We give them space in our LA office and they are doing incredible things.
STOKED collaborates with schools, community organizations, and a network of dedicated mentors to bridge the opportunity gap for low-income youth, and prepare them for a vibrant, fulfilled life after high school.
This year we opened our doors to Bike LA. They are an advocacy and education group focused on making alternative transportation safer and easier. LA has a long way to go in this regard and is relatively far behind other major cities.
BikeLA in action.
However, building healthy, soulful transportation options is a major passion of ours and we think that if we can help make an impact here at home in LA it could have a positive impact on the world at large.
You’ve been making skateboards since 2002. What are some of the most important boards in the company’s history?
It’s a bit hard to pick as every board we make is intended to create something new and important. In my opinion though, these five are some of most notable and have had the most impact on longboarding.
- Our first board,the Vanguard, was launched in June of 2002 (after two years of development and over 10 years of tinkering. At the time it was a radical new design approach and was our first effort to employ snowboard technology and style to skateboarding. The Vanguard continues to be an important part of our offering and that shape and style are now relatively commonplace. It was also the first board (to my knowledge) to use a vertically laminated bamboo core.
- The Dervish, which we originally launched in 2007 is the board that put us on the map. It was the first flexible drop thru board in history (I believe). We’ve redone it twice and changed the outline shape and added nose and tail kicks.
- The Loaded Dancer (2008ish) followed shortly by the Bhangra v1 (2011), were our first dancing boards and the major tools which have allowed us to inspire and grow Longboard Dancing. Today there is a strong dancing community and many brands making great dancing decks. We’re proud to be the primary catalyst of that discipline.
- The Icarus (2016) is our flagship carving board. It’s built on years of creating complex contoured skate decks and is our highest performing carving machine. It’s a challenging deck to build and we still haven’t seen anything comparable on the market.
The Fathom (2023): It’s too early to say, but I think that this board has the potential to inspire a new generation of skateboard as transportation and to get many more people skating than ever before.
The board that started it all. The Vanguard still holds it's own in the Loaded product line.
Tell us quickly about your team and how things run day to day?
We’re blessed and grateful to have such an amazing team. From engineering to design to sales to marketing to operations to tech to logistics to warehousing, I’m surrounded by some of the smartest, hardest working and nicest people on the planet. Most of the team is based here in Culver City, CA. We do initial ideation here and our engineers will build prototypes in house (right now 3-5 a week!) that we can test and thrash. We then send these out for manufacturing with one of our great vendors (most of whom are within a three hour drive of us). The decks and wheels come back here to our warehouse where they are assembled and shipped out worldwide. Aside from great people and great vendors, we also work with amazing shops and distributors worldwide who embody stoke and spread it worldwide.
Putting in werk at Loaded's Culiver City HQ.
What are some of your proudest moments from the last 21 years?
I’m not sure about moments per se, but my proudest accomplishments are seeing people involved with Loaded grow and flourish. Usually within the brand but there have been a number of great people who have left Loaded to become major drivers in the longboard industry and community. I’ve been doing this for over 23 years and the past three years (despite Covid) have been the most fun period for me. It’s generally been fun, but I’ve learned a lot and have been able to surround myself with great people whom I challenge and who challenge me back. The level of creativity here has never been higher.
Bonus Question: What was the most memorable skate session you’ve ever had? OR Bucketlist skate spot/trip?
Arguably my favorite event of all time was the Monterey Longboard Festival (the MILF) in Mexico. It was an amazing hill, an incredible setting and also combined skating with an awesome music festival. I hope to see more events of that nature in the future. That said, my favorite skate sessions are actually just me on my own or with a buddy cruising parking garages and getting lost in the flow.
Win A New Fathom Complete From Loaded
To celebrate the Fathom's arrival we've been generously given one to give to one of you! Follow the instructions on the Insta post below to enter.
Loaded is a Brand Partner of SkateIDSA
Edit by Scott Zee