Rockin’ and Rollin’ on the Boards

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – June 23, 2005

Skateboards: new buttons of the punk world?

“One thing skateboarding has in common with rock ‘n’ roll-both achieved perfection in the 1970s.”
~Steve Palmer, singer & guitarist, The Setbacks

What do you get when you pair up a 15-year-old music fan with his 16-year-old skater friend? You get Kevin Kockler and Craig Wheeler, two Kanata youths who have just started a business called Mi Skateboards, painting skateboards on the cheap with customized artwork of your choice. Check out

Combining a love of music, skateboarding and art, these dudes just finished painting (known as “branding”) a skateboard with the fabulous naked lady album art off the One Track Mind CD from local garage rockers, The Setbacks (

And speaking of wicked bands, I may hit them up to paint me a Lindy-themed deck next. If you visit, you’ll see the 10-foot tall Canadian music lord stretched across his home page – I fear we may have to cut off his Pumas to fit him on a board!

You may think it’s cheesy to pay homage to the rock gods by inscribing maple with images of their apostles, but hey, if you can’t date ’em, paint ’em. And stop laughing and admit it – there’s more than one of you who contemplated tattooing the Bad Religion logo or P.J. Harvey’s face across your chest until your mom said “No.”

So fuck you too, nerd.

E-mail the guys at and they’ll get your passion on a deck, instead. Show all your friends, ride it, mount it, make it your cousin’s wedding gift or use it as a tray when you eat your shawarmas or cut your rock-star cocaine. So many options.

It’s affordable, too. Skateboarding is not a crime but the prices associated with it can be. With the price of pro-decks at about $80 and up, Kockler and Wheeler knew it would be cheaper if they designed their own.

So, for between $15 and $80 can you get whatever you want? “Pretty much,” Kockler said.

“If we have to supply the deck, it’s about $60 and it goes up depending on the graphic,” Kockler said in a phone interview from his parent’s house where he lives in air-conditioned comfort with a pool in the back-which is filled with water. (No scrapin’ the bowl for Kockler, but Wheeler, as his name suggests, is indeed a skater who’s been at it for three years.)

Here’s what happens: The boys transfer your image of choice onto the computer, print it out, then Wheels draws it onto the deck, and they paint it. “For the base coat, we’re using paint that has a bit of lacquer in it. Then we use Varathane for the final coat,” Kockler says. Both credit their artsy-fartsy uncles’ genes for inspiration.

I asked Melanie Harris, manageress of Top of the World on Rideau Street, what she thinks of this enterprise. She says branding decks is a “hard market to get into.” There’s a lot of competition, not to mention the hurdles of copyright law.

As for what constitutes classic skate graphics, skulls are still as big now as when, Harris reminds me, bands like Suicidal Tendencies dominated the skate scene. And even though Kockler and Wheeler are too young to remember bands like Anthrax and SNFU, they are still one with the skulls. When I caught them on a Friday night, they were painting “a signature skull with a tribal background on it.”

What is it about ratbones, skulls and skateboarding? “I guess skateboarding is more into punk music,” says Kockler, “and the skull is like the signature of skating and music and it all goes together.” (Hint: it’s a Bones Brigade thing).

Despite so many skate styles to choose from, including “surfer, hip-hop, and punk origination,” Harris told Shotgun, it’s definitely the dirty-punk, long-hair, trucker-hat, tight-jeans style called “hesh” that is currently most popular. And more skull-like, according to Kockler.

The new nekkid chick Setbacks deck speaks to this scene. And Steve Palmer, lead singer of the gritty rocker band, considers decks the next generation of band merchandise. “It’s just like bands that have their logo on belt buckles or cock rags at their merch table,” he said.

“We’re thinking of a series of Setbacks skateboards-one deck design for each member of the band,” Palmer said. Sounds like something KISS would do. “That way the kids can try to collect all four,” he added.

“But it’d be real tricky,” he admitted, “because we wouldn’t actually make one for Chris, our drummer. Nobody would buy that.” So he won’t be making it into the rock gods hall of fame because of his looks?

Judge for yourself if Chris deserves a deck on June 26 at 9:30 p.m. as the smartass Setbacks headline Zaphod Beeblebrox’s Cisco Systems’ Ottawa Bluesfest talent showcase series. Catch The Setbacks at Zaphod’s again on August 5.

– Sylvie Hill