Aaron James Draplin

Aaron-James-Draplin-portrait Aaron-James-Draplin-carve

When did you start skating?
1985 Was the first summer, and mainly, just how to tic-tac out in front of the house. I was more into freestyle bikes that summer. I had a Haro F.S.T. freestyle bike! That thing was the world to me.

What was your first skateboard?
An orange Makaha with green wheels. A late ‘70s model! So sketchy. With the killer lowercase type logo. That would’ve been the first one. My first wide board was some no name brand. Broke it pretty quick. Summer of 1986. Then I got a Variflex with rails! That lasted a bit and I snapped that one. My first real board from a skate shop was a Brand-X “X-Con.” I remember mom taking me down to get it. Clear grip tape, even!

Aaron-James-Draplin-HSportrait Aaron-James-Draplin-fingerboard

When did you stop or slow down significantly?
About 1997? There was one slam just outside of Vegas, on the way down to the Hoover Dam in those drainage ditches! I was just carving in one and caught a tiny pebble. I went down hard, out of nowhere, skidding in the dirt and dust. Elbow still hurts form time to time from that one. That might’ve been it. Or, like, where I would still session a curb or ride a mini-ramp. That’s a long time. I still have an old Tom Knox “Everslick” with big, soft Kryptonic wheels. Just for cruising.

I snowboarded from 1987 to 1998, with the whole experience of learning on the molehills in Michigan, moving out west, learning to ride the big shit out west in Oregon and all over the west. So thankful for that trajectory. We lived it.

But to be clear, I don’t skate or snowboard anymore. It’s been a long time. Skateboarding just got a little sketchy, and snowboarding, that turned in a boring orbit. I jumped out in 1998 and focused on design full time.


What do you do for a living?
I’m a Draplin Design Co. in Portland, Oregon.


When you are not skating, how often do you think about skateboarding?
I’m making a book right now, and going down memory lane daily, looking at shit from high school and growing up. Skateboarding was number one. It’s been fun to find all the little goodies from growing up.

How did skateboarding affect the direction of your life?
It taught me how to think for myself, especially with the art. First it was Jim Phillips’ Santa Cruz stuff. Then Mark Gonzalez’ eclectic stuff. Then all the mid-90s fuckery brand logo riffs and stuff. It was us, and completely ours. You could feel it was made by some scrub a couple years older than you. That meant a lot, as it inspired us to make our own zines, stickers, grip tape art and skate trips.

I miss skateboarding. It was a big part of my youth. It shaped us. I grew up in a small town and experienced the whole “jocks/meatheads yelling shit at us from a Camaro window” thing as we rolled around town. It was dangerous then. It took guts.


What is the connection between skateboarding and creativity?
It teaches you how to make something out of nothing. A curb. A bank. A shitty little ledge. I miss summer nights doing slappies behind my high school pizza job. That shit kept me out of trouble and in my own little world. When I made friends in the scene, it taught us how to go skate other towns, make friends and see bands. The cool stuff!


More about Aaron James Draplin
Draplin Design Co., Field Notes, Ted x Portland: Making it in the Little Leagues

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