Tom Atencio is a dude who has seen some shit. A skateboard nostalgia fanatic, dripping with knowledge that has built up with over 2 decades of skateboarding under his belt. Basically, Tom encompasses everything we aim to celebrate and unearth from skateboarding's golden, dead past. If you have gone skateboarding in Boston, visited True East (RIP), Orchard, or any of the various local shops that have come and gone in between over the course of the past 15 years or so, chances are you have run into "Apple" Tom Atencio, and been greeted with a friendly smile or handshake. What you may not know however, is that Tom has one of the most insane board collections East of the Mississippi (probably the whole world, but we'll keep it conservative). What you're about to read is a conversation with Tom about this collection, his views on board collecting, and why sentimental outweighs monetary value every time.
*Note: All pictures were taken by Tom himself. These ain't no archival photo sets from the Spring 2001 CCS. Really think about that.
When did you first start collecting skateboards?
I first started collecting boards about 11 years ago when I got my first steady job since graduating from college, but I’ve been obsessed with skateboard decks since ‘87 when I first saw a professional quality skateboard deck. It was a Sims Kevin Staab with a pirate, parrot and treasure on it. The graphic, the colors and the feeling it gave me when I saw it are burned into my memory. Part of the reason why I started skating in the first place and continue to skate almost 30 years later is that I think skateboards themselves are the coolest things ever. When looking in magazines or watching videos growing up, I would always notice the way peoples stuff looked and would gravitate towards a skater if I liked the way his boards and gear looked. Sounds kind of silly, but that’s what always stoked me out about skating. Not necessarily the tricks or the spots, but the skateboards themselves and the gear of the skater. Skateboards are the ultimate toy and just to ride around on one and look down at it and get stoked was/is the best feeling ever to me. When I was growing up, I generally only got new boards twice a year, one for my birthday in August and the other for Christmas, so I had to choose wisely. But I can remember every board I’ve ever gotten for either of those two occasions. I always told myself growing up that when I could afford boards on my own, I'll get a new one whenever I want, but I missed a lot of rad boards that came out during my teenage and college years that I didn't have the means to acquire. A major part of my reason for collecting is getting those boards that I always wanted and also hunting down some favorites that I did have to keep the stoke alive. After 25+ years on the board, you gotta keep that fire burning and collecting boards is a major fuel source for my continued love of skateboarding.
How many boards do you have in your collection?
I have about 100 boards in my collection, but i would like to reduce that number quite a bit. I used to just grab any board that piqued my interest, which is why i have so many. Now, it's more about quality and I've been trading multiple boards for rarer single boards to make the trades even while simultaneously thinning out my collection. There's a lot of rad dudes on instagram trading boards and we've become a close knit community.
What is the oldest board you have in your collection?
The oldest board is a Foundation Ronnie Creager from 93. It's pretty rare and even Ronnie doesn't have one. He and I have been communicating a bit as he'd like to have it in his collection and I'd love a board of his from the 20 Shot Sequence or Trilogy era of bLind, so it'll be win/win.
Favorite board is the Co-Exist 3 Brian Wenning board. It's not super rare but what it reminds of is priceless. Alien/Habitat/Seek were my favorite companies from 1999-2006 and rode nothing but those brands. In 1999 I had just got my first job since starting college and had some steady income. I went to my local shop, which was 12 Fingers in Hebron, CT and owned by the raddest dude John Biase. Anyway, he had a steady shipment of Alien boards coming through and this is when Pendleton was just coming into his own at Alien. Those graphics looked to sick on the wall and Alien was pretty much an East Coast company at the time, so it felt right to support that brand. The shapes, the stains, the graphics, the team, the ads, the t-shirts, the videos... No one is as rad or ever will be as rad as Alien Workshop was at that time. Don't get me wrong, I was all about Rocco brands in the early through mid 90's, but the cohesiveness of Alien as a whole at that time was undeniable. And Wenning was just that dude and showed us all what plaza skating could look like. He was "it" on a brand that epitomized rad skating so this board will always take me back to those days. It also has the raddest 7.56 shape, super clean screen printed graphic and Wenning rode this board in a lot of his iconic footage from those days. This board is never leaving my possession.
Care to divulge what board’s worth the most? How much is it going for?
Anything that's collectable has a monetary value, but it's only worth what someone is willing to give you for it. I have a blind Lavar McBride board that's pretty rare, Keenan's last pro model, a Guy Mariano from 94 that Mike Carroll is riding on his SOTY Thrasher cover and Josh Kalis's second pro model. All are rare and have huge potential monetary value, but at the end of the day the sentimental value far outweighs any monetary one. That's why I prefer to trade rather than sell/buy. It just feels better.
"I was joking with a friend that I sometimes feel bad for robbing these boards of their intended lives: being shredded out on the streets. My life for them is like a prison sentence!"
Would you ever skate any of the boards in the collection? Some of those shapes are super sick.
I was joking with a friend that I sometimes feel bad for robbing these boards of their intended lives: being shredded out on the streets. My life for them is like a prison sentence! Hahaha. I would like to skate some of them; the late 90's Girl boards have such awesome shapes and are super flat, but I have a feeling that close to 20 year old boards wouldn't hold up too well though.
What board has your favorite shape? Favorite graphic?
Favorite shape would have to be the Wenning Co-Exist 3 or the Guy Ferrariano board, they pretty much have the same shape but the Guy is a lot flatter. I reshape every board that I ride these days and have been doing so for a few years now. I use those two boards as templates when reshaping my boards. My favorite graphics are a toss up between all the boards in the Rocco brands photo. Those graphics are timeless and the legend of Rocco is alive and well in those boards.
What companies are out there today are you psyched on? Do you have a year limit on what can make it in the collection?
As I mentioned, I reshape all the boards i ride. I do that because I feel that current shapes are bland and too similar on each end. I get that most skaters these days are very comfortable skating switch, so a symmetrical shape makes sense, but I prefer boards with a shorter, tapered tail and a long pointy nose. Most boards had some variation of that shape from 93 through about 2007/2008. Then boards started moving towards 8" or wider with a true popsicle stick shape and now I'm suprised to even see a board under 8" anymore. I like 7.625 or 7.75, so I usually have to order one as finding one in person can be a hassle. As far as graphics go, Boulevard has some really awesome series boards that remind me a lot of early Habitat stuff before they turned into a hippy company. And I like what Primitive is doing; they have a lot of cartoon graphics that look like they could have been on an early Rocco brand deck, but their boards have too much concave for me and the shapes are not to my liking.
Is there a board out there you’ve been looking for that you’ve been unable to track down?
I have a few boards that I'd love to have in the collection for sure, but they're so rare I don't get my hopes up too much. They'd be a Blind Lavar McBride board I got in 94, it had his name written in a script across a black background and leapard print on the nose and tail, a Menace Eric Pupecki from 94 that was a mock up of the King Edward cigar logo, a Blind Keenan Milton from 95 that's a hand reaching for a basketball and finally a World Daewon from 97 which has a dolphin in an oval with flowers around Dae's name. There's quite a few more from more recent years, but those 4 stand out.
Shout outs/Thank yous?
I'd like to thank you Rob for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and collection, my parents for always thinking skateboarding was cool and getting me some rad boards back when I wasn't able to get them for myself, my girlfriend Alex for supporting me and my passion for collecting boards & hanging them all over the house, Matt Gannon for being a great friend and skate buddy when most of my friends have moved away or moved on, Jonah Miller for being the raddest dude on the planet, John Foster for being an inspiration to shred into my 40s and beyond, Evan Collins for being a part of my favorite skate memories and Dan Taylor & Simon Hooper for keeping the trade circle flowing.