The business of… skateboarding: Saucy Woodz – creating a second life for trees from old skateboards
blunt mag caught up with Cape Town skateboarder and entrepreneur Galen McGee, owner of Saucy Woodz, who upcycles used skateboards to create pieces of art and functional products such as rings, earrings and furniture, to talk about his business and his commitment to the environment.
Interview by Kola Cohen. Photos courtesy Saucy Woods.
What’s your skate history and what’s your relationship like with the Cape Town skate scene?
As a skater from Cape Town, South Africa, my skate history grew the same as a tree grows. Starting late to the skate scene and not even knowing what the “scene” is, just having the love and feeling for skateboarding not even knowing anything, and learning to create from one was an eye opener. Now learning what the scene is and knowing what each individual has to add to our creativity as skateboarders showed me that I have to give back to all people who have the passion and the heart to create art from their passion. I really would like to see the community grow, because we are a country with plenty of gnarly skaters and would love to see us grow and not be in the shadows. I don’t see a scene. I see a community of separate humans all trying to fight for the same cause.
“It hurts to know that trees must be cut down to create a skateboard, but we skaters give back to the tree by being creative and learning to never give up. I love giving back to the life of a tree, because it humbled me as a human to know that I can give back to the one thing that we are killing.”
Would you recommend working in the skate industry? What are the best and worst parts about it?
I would recommend working in the industry only if it teaches you about the truth and facts about what one is doing. Learning how the industry works opened up my eyes fully and taught me so much. As for me, it hurts to know that trees must be cut down to create a skateboard, but we skaters give back to the tree by being creative and learning to never give up. I don’t like that we cut down trees and when we skate professionally, we don’t get appreciated fully for our bodies because at the end of the day the skater played the biggest role. Without skaters, we wouldn’t have this industry. I love giving back to the life of a tree, because it humbled me as a human to know that I can give back to the one thing that we are killing. Knowing a tree is a reason we can breathe clean fresh air, it only makes sense to give back and appreciate the art it has given me.
Where did you learn to do woodwork and how long have you been upcycling broken boards?
I randomly came across the idea to upcycled skateboards, working in the jobs I had wasn’t enough, and leaving a steady income, being comfortable, and the joys of money to stop it all and find what I love doing is what made me decide to plant my seed. And I have to say thanks to Africa Skate, because with their grip tape with the Africa I used that to create my first pendant and seeing how people reacted to it, was the beginning of Saucy Woodz. I didn’t know I would be doing this and it came to me which was a life-changing situation and now I have been doing this for five years. Started in 2018 and never going to stop.
How many employees do you have?
I have two employees who work for me. The one does marketing and the other helps me create. But giving positive to the world gave me positivity in return. Met this one little grom named Kyle and he showed the understanding and knowledge to learn and I started showing him the ropes of how to create and what it is I do. Since then I have learned to teach whoever is willing to learn.
“We need to look at other ways to make skateboards more sustainable, because it is so easy to cut down these trees, but when we wake and see that sooner or later we shall run out of these trees, we will not have skateboards to make.”
What motivates you as a business owner?
To be honest, the biggest drive I have is life itself and creating from a tree. Because we are all connected to trees. The way they grow and branch out is what I can relate to. It is such a blessing to take something broken and create something beyond amazing. It’s like a skateboard trick you try for long periods and eventually land, and it has this emotion that words can’t describe.
Where do you see Saucy Woodz in 10 years?
Instead of seeing where I could be in 10 years, I would rather look at how big I grow this tree of life; how many humans I can bring along with me. Just to grow a bigger picture and learn something new. So I planted my tree and now I am just growing my tree and growing this community. Definitely going to be doing workshops and helping each person in and out of the skate community.
Have your priorities changed since the start of your business?
Yes, change is a must in the life of Saucy Woodz because we can’t be doing the same thing for 10 years and not grow in some way. I am an environmentalist and that helps me create and be more creative now I can give back to our planet. So change and growth is very important.
The manufacturing of skateboards itself is unsustainable. How do you think skateboarding can become more eco-friendly and does Saucy Woodz meet this criteria?
We definitely do meet that criteria, because we love what we do and we appreciate every tree that has sacrificed its life to give us the enjoyment of skateboarding. We need to look at other ways to make skateboards more sustainable, because it is so easy to cut down these trees, but when we wake and see that sooner or later we shall run out of these trees, we will not have skateboards to make. A tree has a life cycle and if we plant and regrow that is where the continuation of life starts. Instead of destroying, we need to learn to create again. If we as skateboarders come together globally we can have plenty of ways to become sustainable. Learning to create a space where we could grow trees to sustain what we do is just the start.
How did you come up with the name of your brand?
While creating these raw products I didn’t think about water damage and all of that so I started looking at ways to make the products everlasting. And that is when I started adding varnish and it when I did that it just made everything more saucy and that is where Saucy Woodz came from.
Any parting words of wisdom to share with somebody who wants to work in the skate industry?
Everything we do is hard work and you don’t need to be hardworking, you just need to love your passion. Also, just like a tree grows, we grow. So plant your seed of knowledge and grow your tree.
Check out more photos of some Saucy products below:
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