Jason Salfi is the founder and owner of a radical skateboard brand called Comet Skateboards. If you haven’t heard of either, this is your chance to get in the know. If you have heard of Comet Skateboards and of this Jason Salfi character, this is your chance to learn even more about a skateboarding visionary and his forward-thinking Comet Skateboards.
We recently traveled to Ithaca, New York to skate and hang out with Jason and the Comet family. It was a mind-blowing experience with multiple skateboarding sessions, various nature meanderings, and many coffee-fueled conversations. The following is a pictorial and textual reflection of our time spent with Jason. Please enjoy.
Yo Jason—stoked to be doing this interview with ya, man! What’s the word of the day my brotha?
60 degrees on the east coast in December. Just skateboarded all day. Loving life.
Sweetness! So how long have you been riding useless wooden toys and how long have you been doing Comet Skateboards?
I’ve been skateboarding since 1977. Actually, the first one was plastic (the Sizzler. So rad I still have one). I probably got my first wooden board in the early 80s. I made my first board in 1995 it looked like it was made in the 70’s—been doing Comet since 1997. Time warping is my specialty.
In one sentence, what is Comet Skateboards?
We are a growing B Corporation made up of skateboarders, artists, designers, engineers, and movement builders.
At Wheelbase, we think skateboarders owning their own skateboard brands is extremely awesome—we fully support it. That said, you yourself are a ripping shredder—no question. I’m sure being a skater and a business owner comes with its fare share of pros and cons, but how much does being a skateboarder actually play into owning and managing a skateboard brand?
To be a skateboarder is to be an iconoclast. Being a skateboarder inspires me to push boundaries, question everything, challenge, and sometimes obliterate old & tired paradigms. Skateboarding is a state of mind. If I was not a skateboarder, I could not be doing what I am doing. I know how strong a skateboard needs to be, what it needs to feel like, look like, and how it fits into the continuum of skateboarding heritage. I spend a lot of time running the business and making sure that the mission of the business is thriving. Sometimes I get to skate—I am very thankful for the team of riders and people who work at Comet daily. We are all very passionate about skateboarding.
You have a strong vision of growing Comet as a more socially and environmentally sustainable skateboard brand. Can you please tell us a bit about that vision?
Humans making stuff for profit only has seriously wreaked havoc on our communities and planet. I believe business must be responsible for stewarding the planet’s finite resources and take care of people, proactively. That is pure logic. What if companies, in the course of doing business, cleaned water, grew forests stronger, did not pollute the air, accumulated no waste, and enriched communities? First, you must have that intention.
Local: Use local banks and credit unions. Comet supports locally owned independent business first – http://www.livingeconomies.org/ Forestry: Comet is using sustainably harvested maple and we are working with our wood suppliers to go beyond industry standards in order to guarantee the financial success of forested areas and preserve bio diversity forever. Material Science: We use the safest and strongest glues, paints, and inks available today. We are working with university laboratories and companies to develop better glues that are even stronger. Closed Loop: In our own production, we have a line of products made from scrap being developed for 2012. Over the next year, whatever scrap cannot be used for products will be turned into clean burning, high efficiency pellets for heating our space and presses. People: We are a small company that offers health insurance and paid vacations. For 2012, we are finalizing our employee ownership program and plan to be living wage certified http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/ . We work with the local community on projects ranging from school composting to events. I humbly admit that we are not perfect but the list goes on.
What is your response to those that would say such ideology is impractical in real-world applications?
You have to ask yourself: “Whose real world?” At Comet, we are co-creating the reality that we believe in along with our strong and growing community of riders, fellow B Corporations, and other visionaries. The market place is already demanding accountability and this is just the beginning. People all over the world see the need for a change in business as usual. Just look at the Occupy movement. When you ride Comet, you are a part of something big. When you spend money you create demand; demand more Good and reality shifts in that direction. This is a take over.
Radical! So you just spent some time down in Brazil and spoke at the SWU symposium about Cradle to Cradle. You’ve also been working towards getting Comet Skateboards certified as a Cradle-to-Cradle product for some time now. How did that all come about?
I was presenting at SWU, a huge music festival in Brazil. There were musicians ranging from Snoop Dog to Megadeath to Peter Gabriel. There was a “sustainability” symposium during the day and the goal was to reach millions of people with a message that a better world “Starts With You”, thus the name: SWU. Cradle-to-Cradle is a design paradigm that eliminates the concept of waste by providing a framework that guides companies around social fairness, safety, water stewardship, and material utilization www.c2ccertified.org, built on the vision of architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart. Comet is devoted to creating standards for other businesses to follow in order to make this wild world a better place. Affiliation with organizations like B corporation and C2C is necessary to maintain transparency and guard against “green washing”. We are finishing our Cradle-to-Cradle certification in 2012 for our skateboard decks. It is a huge honor. I read Bill and Michael’s book called Cradle to Cradle while sailing across the Pacific Ocean in 2003. The book was a perfect match for the ethos on which Comet was founded.
Recently, more and more skateboard companies are making both long and short boards for use in a wider range of applications. Comet has been making performance downhill, street, and pool boards for a while now. How long has the “ride everything” ethos been a part of the Comet brand, and what do you feel about the larger industry now shifting in this direction?
The name of our company is Comet Skateboards. A skateboard comes in many sizes—It is totally natural. Skateboarders are into diversity right now and it is important that we (skateboard companies) continue to innovate and contribute new ideas to keep skateboarders excited. Monoculture never endures in nature, so why would it in skateboarding? I respect the decision of all companies to keep innovating new shapes for their lines, especially when their teams and communities ask it of them—whatever style of skateboarding your company is rooted in.
Who are your top three favorite skateboarders of all time?
Mark Gonzales, Pete the Ox, and Dennis Busenitz.
What is the gnarliest thing you’ve ever done on a skateboard?
Frontside grind over a death box and breaking 50mph for the first time.
So what can we expect from Comet in the coming months, years, and millennia?
We are focusing on the team and filming a lot right now, so good videos. Stoked to innovate some new shapes with team and community input. Look for one of a kind boards, new art and new products. Longer term, you will see some super tough and clean material science innovations. We will continue to co-create a business model that can be replicated by new and existing companies that want to be a part of the solution to a more prosperous and fun society. Just trying to leave this place better than how we found it. Someday, I will return to my home dimension on the Comet that I rode in on.
We look forward to all that cool shit. Well, I’d like to thank you or getting involved with the Wheelbase Movement and for sharing your thoughts and ideas with our readers. It was definitely great skating and hangin’ with you and the rest of the Comet family in Ithaca. We’ll skate again soon. Let’s wrap this puppy up with your closing comments and/or “shout outs” to the peeps.
Comet is only possible because of the people that are part of it. I am eternally grateful. Comet has a life of its own. To Kadie and Lucia, the entire Comet crew since the beginning, e2e, family and friends that have been there over the years, and the skateboard community that has supported Comet. Live long and prosper.