Belfast Telegraph

Riding the wave of popularity with his boarding success

By Jamie Stinson

As its deadline gets closer, one Northern Ireland skateboarding firm is on a roll to meeting its £10,000 crowdfunding target. Hand-crafted wooden skateboard manufacturer Deadline, based in Helen's Bay, Co Down, has been set up by Oli Edgar (21), who taught himself the highly technical woodwork required to make skateboards.

He said he is looking to Northern Ireland's heritage of craftsmanship, which he feels has been lost in many modern products.

Oli said that he wants his product to stand out for its quality in "an industry dominated by mass manufactured, machine-made goods."

Skateboards have been his full-time preoccupation since he left his university studies in Coleraine after just a few months.

He began building his own homemade skateboards while growing up in the country.

"I grew up in the countryside and was not able to travel to any skateparks, so spent most of my time outside building my own ramps to skate, making tree houses and bows and arrows and things like that," he said.

Oli has spent the last few years refining the craft, learning from his mistakes as he went along: "I am a self-taught wood worker. I've spent the last three or four years learning the trade, learning each and every stage of the manufacturing process through trial and error and building custom machinery specifically for skateboard manufacturing.

"I picked up bits and pieces from online research but there really is not that much information out there for what I do. Other manufacturers keep their processes under lock and key so I have taught myself, spending years tinkering with custom machines and fine-tuning my process."

He has been building skateboards - as well as some surf boards - for the last couple of years, but has now turned to crowdfunding website Kickstarter to raise money for the project.

He said that the main factor holding the business back has been lack of funding, so if the crowdfunding campaign is successful it will contribute significantly to growing Deadline.

"The money will allow me to expand and develop the business mainly, which would include getting new machinery. Also it will allow me to put more money into development and marketing."

He has a few stockists for the boards, but it is currently "on a very small scale".

"We are supplying retailers but it's still very local and small. The Kickstarter campaign will give it boost to take it to the next level," he explained.

Crowdfunding websites, such as Kickstarter, have been an increasingly popular way for people to set up their own business. These websites allow wannabe entrepreneurs to have direct access to potential customers who can donate money to help the projects get on their feet.

The reward-based crowdfunder Kickstarter has an "all or nothing" funding model which means if the target funds are not achieved within 30 days all the people who invested get their money back and the project fails.

Therefore Deadline must reach its target of £10,000 by April 3.

While skateboarding may not be as popular as it is in other parts of the UK, support is growing throughout the province, Oli said. "The popularity of skateboarding has definitely increased in Northern Ireland over recent years. It is still more popular in the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK, so that is where my main market will be.

"But it is definitely growing in Northern Ireland, particularly with the new skatepark in Belfast."

Skateboarding has played a major role in his life since he first stepped on a board at the age of five.

"It's been always something I'm really passionate about. I've been skateboarding and surfing my entire life," he said. It was three or four years ago that he made the move to follow his passion and turn it into something he could try and make money from.

"I've been making boards for about three or four years, but I've only been supplying boards for about two years," Oli said.

"I got into doing this because I really love skateboarding. I really want to have a go at this and really want to do it."

The skateboards generally sell for between £60 and £150, but customers can also get a custom board made for £500.

However, despite a lack of business experience, he is undaunted by the pressures of running his own company.

"I guess I've just had to learn as I went along. I suppose it's been a learning curve, I just love making skateboards and surfing, and I'm just determined to make it happen," he explained.

As well as a love of skateboarding, he has a love of surfing, a sport for which the waves off the North Coast have won many fans. The two sports share an intertwined path, as surfing evolved in 1950s California into skateboarding. Oli said: "I do a lot of surfing - I go up to the North Coast at least once or twice a week."

He has begun to look at transferring the skills he has learnt making skateboards, and transitioning that to the waves.

"I have already started designing hollow surfboards out of wood. It is definitely a path I will go down in the future," he added.

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