The story of Black Cat skateboards.




Although Cumberland-based Black Cat Skateboards is a relatively new entity, its founder’s love of skateboarding began long ago in the parking lots of his hometown of Norwich, England. Ian Bowles’ first board was your standard sports-store issue: cheap, shapeless wood on low-quality wheels and trucks. He and his friends would head to local skate spots and watch the older kids landing impressive tricks while they sheepishly attempted basic ones at the periphery of the locale. That spark would eventually ignite Black Cat Skateboards.

Fast forward two decades, three countries, a career, and now a family, and Ian’s passion for skateboarding hasn’t waned. But between his day job and raising a toddler with his wife, Christina, free time—his window to get out and ride—is in short supply.

But, after moving to Cumberland in 2020, he found he had more space—and a bit of time in the evenings to use it. That’s when he started pressing and shaping boards in his garage.

It turns out that there’s more to making a skateboard deck than cutting a piece of wood and drilling holes in it. First, ultra-thin veneers of hard rock maple are ordered from Ontario and assessed by Bowles on arrival: “Not every piece of veneer is going to arrive perfect. So I inspect each one to ensure there are no cracks or irregularities. I want every board to be as strong and ride as well as the last,” he says.

Then, Bowles coats seven sheets of the wood in glue and layers five of them nose to tail, with two across the grain. He then puts the glued wood into the press, where a mold pushes roughly 18 tonnes of pressure through it for 24 to 36 hours. Next, the pressed veneers are placed on a rack to cure for up to two weeks before Bowles cuts them into shape using a router. He finishes every deck with meticulous hand sanding, a water-based clear coat, the application of graphics, and an oil-based clear coat.

CVC Vol33 18 BlackCat Gallery
Before selling any boards, Bowles sent a few prototypes to a small group of friends and shop riders with one request: do your worst. The feedback was encouraging. One rider on Nanaimo’s Vault Skateboards shop team told him, “This thing’s a tank!”. Others said they loved the board’s solid feel and offered notes on subtle changes to the deck’s shape.

Since then, Bowles has fine-tuned and expanded Black Cat’s offerings, which are now available to the public in a range of shapes—a popsicle shape in three different widths, an 8.75” classic pool shape, an 8.85” egg, and an 8.9” shovel nose pool shape. He has also collaborated with Cumberland artist Sham Sandhu on a limited run of 40 decks featuring her design.

Going forward, a new mold will allow him to press boards with a slightly shorter wheelbase and deeper concave, so he can make boards that are friendly for smaller riders. He’s also experimenting with British Columbia-sourced big leaf maple veneer to keep the end product as local as possible.

Despite this, Bowles is hesitant to call Black Cat a company. There’s no business strategy or key performance indicators. It’s a labour of love, and a way to stay close to skateboarding even when he can’t often make it down to the skatepark. “And if I’m being honest, simply making the decks and seeing people ride them has made me love skateboarding more than ever.”

Black Cat skateboards can be found at Moon’s Records in Cumberland, or by contacting Ian Bowles directly via Instagram.