Chaska’s Northern Pine Longboards Skates to Success

Chaska’s Northern Pine Longboards is quickly making a name for itself in Minnesota and across the nation.

Published in Southwest Metro Magazine, July 2011.

Minnesotans have a knack for bringing their favorite wintertime activities into summer contexts: skiing begat waterskiing; ice skating begat inline skating; and, for Northern Pine Longboards in Chaska, snowboarding begat longboarding—and, eventually, a business manufacturing and selling them.

The idea for the business was planted when John Dahl grabbed a longboard from Bryan Williams after the two met at a snowboarding weekend. “I really enjoyed it because it really felt like snowboarding to me,” Dahl says, “and so it filled this gap in the summer.”

Williams suggested Dahl buy a longboard. Dahl, who is an iron worker, responded, “Maybe I could make one.”

And so he and Williams made a longboard. Then some of Williams’ friends started asking if they could get a custom board, too. Soon they made a few more and got them into some local skate shops.

Today the company consists of three men: Adam Perry, Dahl and Williams. Perry is a mortgage banker and he keeps track of the financials and marketing for the group, Dahl — the union iron worker—is in charge of design and manufacturing and Williams is the salesman and board designer. But, like any small business, as Williams points out, it’s all about teamwork: “We all have our niche area, but we all overlap in each other’s work.”

It should be noted, these are not just some novices drilling store-bought wheels to a hunk of driftwood—that could not be farther from the case. Everything, from the number of plies to the wheels themselves, is custom made for Northern Pine. The standard turnaround time for a longboard is 21 days.

So what makes longboarding different from skateboarding? Since longboards are longer, they are significantly springier than skateboards, and that give provides a smoother ride. “You’ll be able to float over sidewalks and small rocks without even batting an eye,” says Williams, which is an improvement over the ride of a skateboard. Since each bump is not as noticeable, longboards are being used more and more as methods of transportation, in addition to recreation. “A neighbor of mine works at Target headquarters,” Perry says, “and someone he knows rides one almost every day, into work at Target downtown.”

This is indicative of the demographics they have been seeing in their customers, Perry notes. “We’ve had customers from 9-year-old boys to 40-year-old women. There’s a broad range of who buys our boards.”

Still, longboards are more than just luxurious planks for getting you to work. Experienced riders can do totally sweet tricks like shove its, manuals, and power slides on a longboard. Longboards are also good for doing big spins. A big spin, according to Williams, is, “Where your body spins 180 degrees in one direction while the board does a 360 shovit in the other direction.”

Though their customer base is widening, the Northern Pine crew has certainly not abandoned the longboard diehards. Northern Pine sponsors professional longboarders who compete in contests across the country, and their first official sponsored rider was Hunter “The Salamander” Swanson, who competed in a longboard race in Omaha, NE, and the International Gravity Sports Association race in CA, both in 2010.

So far, Northern Pine is seeing significant sales. They have longboards in stores in everywhere from California and South Dakota. “But we try to keep it local,” Dahl says. “Because we like to have the interaction with the shops and with the riders. We really want to get feedback and see how we can improve our boards.”

The trio is even considering opening their own storefront, which Williams would operate. But they made it clear they would stay in the southwest metro, favoring towns such as Eden Prairie and Excelsior for possible locations.

Find Northern Pine’s longboards at Cal Surf, Erik’s Bike Shop, Pinewskis, The Alt and, among others.