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Comet Skateboards: Jason Salfi Interview

Once in a while we like to switch it up a little and throw in something that’s not strictly about surfing but still relevant in the context of our overall mission. This week we bring you an interview with a true sustainable business in every sense of the word. Comet Skateboards makes skateboard decks in Oakland, California. But they don’t just make skateboard decks; they make decks using sustainably harvested woods (including bamboo) and water based paints. Aside from that, Comet is committed to having an energy efficient factory and above all to making boards that retain their pop.

Comet Skateboards - JM Duran charging downhillHowever, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this company is that they are heavily involved with the people in their immediate community. Together with other partners they help to put on a yearly festival called the Hood Games. The games feature skateboarding, music, fashion and more and attract Oakland residents of all ages and proclivities. Comet has been featured in articles in Ode magazine and countless web resources for their innovative business model. If a company were looking to become more sustainable, Comet would be an excellent role model. We contacted Jason Salfi, one of the founders of Comet, for an interview. Enjoy.

Q. You started Comet by making your own longboard to replace your worn out skate. Tell us a little about your DIY spirit and the birth of Comet Skateboards.

Jonathan Reese and I started it. We were skating Mount Tam in Marin a lot and having fun cruising old Sims pure juices and skating all the pools left over from the Oakland hills fires. One thing led to another and here it is. We had some wild times… factories all over the bay area…a lot of time spent building tools and just doing it for the pure reason of trying to make a better board and skate.

Q. I recently attended the 2007 Global Micro-Credit Summit in Canada and it was encouraging to see some of the exciting advancements in small business and entrepreneurship in the developing world. Can you tell us a little about your own experience with micro lending and your decision to build your factory in Oakland?

Micro lending is a huge asset to communities. It helps the grassroots entrepreneur see their vision to fruition. It allows for innovations from the people for several types of industries to provide goods and services to local communities in need. This provides local jobs, and ideally spurs a local economy by which capital within a community can grow and help lift impacted neighborhoods from their troubles. You should check out There is a study charting the course of your dollar as it’s spent with locally owned business versus large chains. For example, for every dollar you spend with a large chain like Wal-Mart approx $.10 stays in the community and the rest is sent off to an anonymous corporate head quarters / investment portfolio, while upwards of $.60 can stay directly in the community if you shop local. This is especially relevant to the skate, surf, and snow industries which are dominated by small locally owned retailers.

In our case, micro-lending has provided a direct line to city government, which is allowing our grass roots efforts to build a 60,000 sq foot youth athletic and community plaza at Jefferson Square Park in downtown Oakland. Included would be 30,000 sq ft of skate terrain, community garden, basketball, art and all sustainably built. Projects like this take a lot of effort and a reputation with the street, local business and government. I believe that the city of Oakland and the Oakland Business Development Corporation taking a risk with a couple of skateboarders is going to pay off big in the long run, not just for the youth but for the community at large.

Q. The skateboard industry has always been quite dynamic. Do skaters accept your green approach? Do you get a lot of questions about the products, the process, and the assembly?

Skateboarding is filled with iconoclastic free thinkers. Skate is art and freedom. Going green fits right in. Since 2005, more and more people are finding us based on that ideal.

Q. One really cool aspect about Comet is the social responsibility angle. You guys are behind the successful Hood Games project and I see on your website that you even have a condom. How do you go from ollies to social development and safe sex?

Comet Skateboards - Jeff McDonough Well you can’t have sustainability with out including all walks. Skateboarding is in every aspect of kids’ lives. We think relating more than skating to youth inspires more free thought – a lifetime of independence. Skateboarding as a platform for creation is totally cool too. There is no preaching involved just being. We are totally inspired by the skate community here too. Tons of independent great skaters in the bay skating hills, pools, and street all over, DLX (anti hero et al) is in town holding it down and while they are not advertising the eco approach that crew is community oriented. I don’t feel like we are the only ones at all but just starting to put words to it. You should check out ASEC (action sports environmental coalition). The cat in charge of that (Frank Scura) is really making strides to unite the surf / skate / snow industries around a sustainable platform.

For us the Hood Games is a natural extension of what it means to be conscious. My partner on that K-Dub is an Oakland High School art teacher and mentor to all his kids. And he is a skater. He and Karl Watson came up with the idea and invited me in on it to get it rolling. 7 or 8 events now… check One might be surprised that inner city youth are interested in sustainability but the truth is that they have the most to gain from a more holistic approach and they take nothing for granted like you might find in other groups of kids. Our deal is really appreciated and it makes us keep stepping it up.

Q. How about the factory? You guys use solar energy, low VOC glues and paint, bamboo, a lot of cool stuff going on there.

We are in a lot of transition right now. We really figured out how to make strong boards that last and we are trying to take it to the next level. The solar power is a part of the cut out process but we have a way to go until we are fully dialed in there. We hope that by bringing attention to clean energy we can help spur more market demand and make that type of power more available through the power companies… not everyone can afford to buy solar panels and the successful transition to less impactful energy usage globally, totally hinges on broader adoption by the big players, thus making it accessible to the masses.

The glues that we are developing right now are going to revolutionize our board production. We are just about to launch a soy protein polymer board with natural fibre and grass core. Effectively, creating a board that could grow from sprout in one season and be skated and then bio-degrade when it breaks and grow again and again. The street prototypes have the POP and durability of a maple street deck and our long board prototypes are really smooth and have all the flex and spring you need. Now we just have to get them ready for production. We have made a lot of our previous designs less available and are getting ready for a total re-launch.

Q. What’s in the future for Comet Skateboards?

Comet Skateboards - Nat Russell board artworkOpening up a new factory in central NY to take advantage of an amazing partnership with E2E materials, the soy resin genius crew. If all goes to plan well have a totally closed loop manufacturing process using a bi product of BIO diesel to build your decks. In the long run, we could see growing everything and processing decks all the way through and taking back broken boards to compost and grow new ones – organic skateboards that rip.

By the way that link that you sent from the kid asking about the pandas related to bamboo harvesting is totally insightful and proves the point about the Hood Games. You can never just believe the hype, when someone gives you the story about bamboo this and that. It all has to be done right or the community and land will suffer. Humbly, I think that we have a long way to go as a company and the more people get into this the easier it will be for us all to reach our common goal. So if you are reading this email us and hopefully we can work together… We are totally re-launching the OEM side of the business this fall.

Q. And for myself I would like to ask if you could keep posting the crazy downhill clips on your site.

Totally, we have a bunch of stuff in the closet ready to get out there soon. JM has been living in Hawaii and is headed off to Brazil to go for the world speed record and Patrick is up in the Mysto Mountains of CA. David Price has been charging as always in New Mexico. Be on the look out….peace!

• Category: board construction, diy, environment, interviews,, skateboarding

2 Responses »

  1. WE LOVE THIS STUFF. I meet the Comet Crew a few years back, they are RAD, and they have come a long way towards developing their sustainable operation. Keep up the great work guys and we would be stoked to work with you. Please contact us at your earliest convenience.

  2. Good stuff.
    Sweet Nathaniel Russell graphic!