Different type of board: Aidan Essex with one of his Slide Jam Longboard works in progress. Picture: Penelope GreenWITH his long, sun-bleached locks, Aidan Essex passes for just anothersurf and skate-mad Novocastrian youth.
The difference is that when he’s not in the surf or on his skate board, the 17-year-old is slowly buildinghis home-grown business, Slide Jam Longboards.
To the uninitiated, longboards are skateboards that are longer than standard and built for tricks but above all speed that is best gained rolling down a hill.
Slide jam is the term skaters use for when they gather at a hill to see who can do the longest slide. The pastime can be informal but also competitive.
Aidan got the longboarding bug two years ago.
The problem was, he couldn’t find a longboard that he was completely satisfied with. He used second-hand boards because new longboards are costly because they are made in China, shipped to suppliers in the US then sold into .
So Aidan decided he might as well try his hand at making one.
Converting the 1880s-era outhouse in his parent’s city home and utilising their garage, Aidan assembled a make-shift hydraulic press and various bits ofmachinery to learn his craft.
Sourcing planks of Canadian maple, he glues nine layers of it together then slots it into the press. He then takes it out and leaves it to dry for a week or so before shaping it with a bansaw and putting truck holes in it to attach an axel and wheels.
“It’s really satisfying to do it,” he says, adding that he did a lot of research prior by talking to skate shops and those in carpentry.
It takes Aidan about two and a half hours to make each board, which he sells via his website.
His first board is the classic Blueberry Jam, the second prototype is dubbed Green Eggs and Jam –a smaller board designed for hard-wheel or technical skating, yet another niche skating market.He’s also got another prototype for a cruiser and is also making custom-made boards for the fussiest clients.
He’s slowly getting the Slide Jam brand out by givingsamples to a few respected Sydney riders but for now, money is not the prime motivator.
“I’m just keen for it to take off and get people riding boards made in and not China,” he says.
Aidan’s passion for his business is enabled at his school: he attends Cooks Hill Campus, an annex of Newcastle High thatuses the so-called Big Picture framework to allow students to follow their creative passions as part of their HSC.
He’s also got the full support of his parents, Greg and Debbie: “He is absolutely driven when he has a goal,” says his mum.