Check Out: Black Dog Longboard’s Nate Braks
Living in Vancouver, I have spent considerable time traveling South to Washington State and Oregon, and often their riders come this way. With the generally free and liberal exchange between Canada and the USA (lets hope it stays that way!), I have had the utmost pleasure meeting Nate Braks, brand manager and many hat wear-er at Black Dog Longboards and shop denizen at Motion Boardshop. Like most of us in this ‘longboard game’ we have to do a lot of creative thinking, and hustle, to make a life out of what we love and Nate is doing just that. With an incredible energy and friendly smile, Nate can be found spending whatever time he isn’t earning his daily bread giving some of it directly back to the community, and otherwise just skating till the wheels fall off. Nate is the kind of skater that keeps me stoked and inspired to just get out and have some fun. Check him out!
Hey Nate! Stoked to do this interview finally. Can you give us your full name, age, location and what colour socks you’re wearing?
Hey Les! Stoked too! My full name is Nathan Braks. I am 23 years old. I am currently chilling at my apartment in Lake Stevens. I have no socks on. Rocking the red footy pajamas!
Footy? Damn. I need some with footys, I’m missing out. Where you at? Where you from?
I am currently living in Lake Stevens Washington, which is about 30 minutes north of Seattle if there is no traffic. Though most days it is more like an hour. I was born in Fort Collins, Colorado but moved to Spokane, Washington at the age of four. Spokane is where my hometown hills are.
Like most of us in skate you have a few hats (and helmets), what are some of the things you do with your skate-work-life?
I work full time at Motion Boardshop by day, am the Brand Manager for Black Dog Longboards by night, and plan events / film videos with The KillBillies on the side.
Check out the KillBillies:
How long have you been working with Motion Boardshop? What’s the day to day like there?
I have been working at Motion for almost exactly a year now! You have to be willing to learn a lot of different skills there. Some days you end up mostly doing all the menial stuff like weeding stickers web maintenance. But the next day you might be hosting an event or filming and editing videos all day. And of course you have to balance answering tons of customer questions, online and in shop, on top of all of the sticker weeding, web maintenance, video editing an event planning. For example, I had to set up a little kid with their first board ever while the Rayne Chop Shop was going on in the store! That was pretty difficult and exciting. Having to explain to a parent the difference between square lip and round lip wheels while yelling over jigsaws and belt sanders definitely keeps things interesting!
Motion used to be grom central, now they are grown up, ha ha. How’s working with Jackson?
What do you mean, “used to be”? Jackson is still there! But in all seriousness working with Jackson is a hoot. The guy has been working there for forever so he really knows the place like the back of his hand. He is also just a super funny guy to work with. I can always count on him to come into work with a new funny story from earlier in the week.
Black Dog and Motion are in the same building right? Are they connected?
Actually Black Dog used to be in the back of Motion way back in the day. But that was way before my time at either Black Dog or Motion. All of our boards have been made in Duane’s home workshop in Kennewick, Washington for quite a while now. For those of you who don’t know where that is, it is about an hour and a half from Maryhill!
So what’s the Black Dog role like?
Basically as the Brand Manager my job is to get Black Dog out there. This means I spend a lot of time on putting together content for social media, editing videos, filming, customer service, talking to shops, and managing our skate team. It can be a pretty interesting juggling act at times.
How do you balance all the work vs playing skateboards?
Well I will be the first to admit that balancing the work and play aspects of the job is a lot harder than I expected going into it. I tend to find myself working on my days off more often than not. But that is partially because the line between work and play can be a bit blurry at times. For example, I will find myself filming or editing video on a day I intended to skate or just hang out pretty frequently. Filming and editing can be really hard work, but I also love doing it. So it is easy to set out to play and end up working. I find that occasionally leaving the camera at home and the cell phone in the car helps me get some skate time that is just my own. Also, having things on the side like KillBillies where you can film and edit at your own leisure helps keep things fun. That is what it is all about right?
Definitely good to keep fun a priority. How long have you been skating? What’s your first board story?
Well I first started skateboarding when I was 6 years old. My first board was a Dragon Ball Z board from Toys R’ Us with plastic trucks. I didn’t get into longboarding until I was about 13 or 14. So it has been about 17 years total, with about 9 years of that time being downhill. My first real downhill board was a first generation Landyachtz Chinook. That deck was so sick! It was a graphic misprint that had the old Drop Hammer graphic on it instead of the Chinook graphic. I am looking at it right now. I have it hanging on my wall. I remember I bought it from Jordan Huotari, who later went on to manage RipCity Skate, at a shop called Mountain Goat in Spokane.
Are you more a one board kinda skater or do you have a quiver? What’s your go to setup?
I go back and forth on this one. Right now I am definitely a quiver guy. My go to DH setup right now is the Black Dog Battle Dog, Cast 180mm 45° Arsenals, and Cloud Ride Storm Chasers. That is probably the Setup I have put the most time into dialing in. For Freeride I have been rocking the Black Dog Shallow Drop, and for wrongboarding / sidewalk slarving stuff I pretty much always use the Black Dog Spacko. It is really hard to pick one board when you work with a company that makes so many different rad decks!
You helped put out one of my favorite articles of the year with Black Dog – why so serious? What’s with skating right now? Why do you think there seems to be some fire and competition?
Thanks Les for the kind words Les! Honestly I think the vast majority of us in longboarding as a whole are focusing on the wrong things right now. If you want a detailed account of my personal feelings on the matter read the “Why So Serious” article, because I could go on and on about what I think all the wrong moves are. The highlights for me though are that we need to return to focusing on creativity over “gnarlieness” in media (both in skating and filming) , focus on fewer big events and more small local ones, and stop trying to find money in skateboarding and bring money from outside into it. Shout out to Joey Bidner from Kebbek. The dude pretty much sums up the whole problem in his interview with Downhill From Here. I have only talked to him on the phone at Motion but I feel like we would get along. You should probably go listen to that podcast.
What’s your approach to skating like? Can you describe a typical or ideal NW session?
While I am definitely a downhill oriented skater I am a pretty big believer in the “skate everything” mentality. Doing different kinds of skating often keeps it fresh and fun, and fun is the entire point. So I guess for me an ideal NW session would be getting to do everything in one day. Start off with some sidewalk slarving on the UW campus or North Seattle alleyways. Do some DH somewhere with some drifts like Interlaken. Then maybe hit up one of the many freeride spots in the Seattle area.
You’re kind of a Maryhill rat. I see you there all the events. Do you go hike it as well? What is it about Maryhill?
I grew up in Spokane, so I was only about 3 hours from Maryhill if you drove real fast. So I ended up hiking Maryhill with buddies pretty often. I love events like FOS (Now Showdown at the Loops and soon to be Wind Walker) and the Freerides, but there is something really special about going there with a small group of friends and earning your turns. I really can’t think of another road that is engineered quite the same way as Mary. You shouldn’t be able to grip those corners but they are banked just right. It is just a special place.
Any other favorite spots? Or go to spots for you?
I have skated all over Washington, and the whole state has a lot to offer. It is hard to pick just a few. My hometown, Spokane, has an overwhelming amount of epic hills to skate. Bellingham, where I went to school, has tons of great hills jammed into a small area. The Seattle region has a huge breadth of runs in different areas. I honestly can’t pick one! There are too many good hills to skate!
Who do you skate with most?
My coworker at Motion, Forrest Anton-Erik, is probably who I skate with the most lately. We live pretty close to each other. I also end up skating with the rest of the team 1738 guys since they are close by too. I have also been skating with the Sk8 Stevens guys a bit more lately. I basically skate with everyone I can that is North of Seattle. It can be hard to get out of your area sometimes because the whole Seattle region is broken up into little pockets by lakes, ocean, and mountains. That makes it a beautiful place to skate though. Oh and I of course skate with Katrina Vogel a lot too!
What’s the scene like in Washington / Seattle generally?
Well Seattle is definitely the hub. It has the most people and a varied geography with many ideal places to throw little local events like bike paths and parks. Anywhere West of the Cascades you better know how to skate in the rain. But I feel like people don’t realize that the east side of the state has a lot to offer. Spokane has a small scene, but it is vibrant and the terrain is awesome! Central Washington is mostly flat but there are some real gems out there if you look hard enough and are willing to blast some chunder. Overall Washington is an extremely diverse state geographically, so it has a ton of different hills to skate! I have been skating here most of my life and I still have tons of new hills to find!
Everyone likes to complain about 2016. How was your year?
Well, while I too am not wishing for 2016 to stick around, I am really happy with the year overall. 2016 is the year I started working at Motion. I have wanted to work there since I was a little kid. Black Dog arguably did more than ever before this year. I also met tons of new amazing people in the skate scene that I have learned a lot from. To top it all off, I probably worked on more photography / videography in 2016 than the rest of my life combined. So personally, I can’t complain too much about 2016.
Big plans for 2017?
Yes! Unbelievably stoked to move forward into the new year! Pretty much on all fronts! Don’t really have any specifics I can give out at the moment, but you can definitely expect some cool new things from Black Dog and Motion respectively in 2017! Maybe one specific I can give is that the bottoms of Black Dog decks are going to get a little more interesting.
Shout outs? Last words? Sponsors? hi Mom?
Well of course shout outs to my sponsors. The continued support of Black Dog Longboards, Motion Boardshop, and KillBillies is extremely appreciated. I have been afforded so many amazing opportunities because of these companies and groups of awesome people. Also big shout out to all of the Spokane homies I grew up skating with! The truth of the matter is though, I have only gotten where I am today by standing on the shoulders of giants. A lot of people have helped and supported me in my skating throughout the years, and I am extremely grateful to every single one of them. So thank you everyone! You know who you are! Oh yeah, and HI MOM!!!