Urskog are a Swedish skate brand started by Christoffer Stivén 10 years ago. Formerly a carpenter, Christoffer missed a surf trip due to his workload and so he set about creating a skateboard that could mimic that surf-like feeling.
Fast forward 10 years and Urskog now not only make beautifully handmade eco skateboards, but they also span some interesting accessories categories including organic soap, cedar pines (for keeping clothes smelling fine and free of moths!) and headwear.
Christoffer talks to SOURCE about what makes the Scandinavian way of life such an inspiration and delves into why Urskog’s fusion of skateboards and homewear accessories is striking a chord with boardsports retailers across Europe.
What’s your background Christoffer? What led you to Urskog?
My background consists of about ten years in the bar and restaurant business, while in wood crafts I would call myself an autodidact who has spent a lot of time as an apprentice to one of Stockholm’s best fine carpenters. How I ended up starting an environmentally conscious skateboard alternative is that, about ten years ago, I was unable to follow on a surf trip due to too much work back in Stockholm, which led me to think about constructing a board I would be able to ”surf” on asphalt with. I have always been attracted to new stuff and something that motivates me is to understand how to construct things – how to make things on my own.
So you might call Urskog a D.I.Y brand in its fully meaning.
Anyways after some trial and error I found a shape I liked and then it was all about starting to test out different types of glue, pressing, materials etc. Since I had a lot of experience with wood in general from building furniture and other types of constructions I figured out pretty quick how to make the most of what I had available at that time. Since that day I haven’t really stopped looking for different ways to improve my products actually. Right now I´m testing out some new coating simply because I want my products to always improve.
What makes Urskog different from other brands?
I can’t say really what motivates other brands to keep on going and I don’t feel like I’m in a situation where I can see fully how Urskog is different, but I know one thing for sure, and that is that I strive for Urskog to be in constant motion, to improve but still be authentic to our core values.
Another thing that has become more and more clear since I’ve had the opportunity of taking help from people (my brother Bobo, Art director Henrik Frenne and guidance from artist Peter Jeppson) is that the environmental aspect of Urskog grows bigger every day. This is not something I had in mind when I started; I mostly just wanted a clean and timeless product. Today, in retrospect, I can see that the ECO-thinking was doomed to happen because there is nothing more timeless than working with mother earth and the pure materials she offers us.
What is your best selling product?
Right now our model Gren has been the best selling board. It’s a little bit of a surprise because I didn’t think we had a customer base that were hyped for a double kicked board, but (happily) I was wrong there. Beside the boards I can see that the soap and some cedar sticks are leaving the workshop as well and it’s really fun to see that Urskog has the power to sell more than just boards.
Which is your best selling category?
This is still boards. Hopefully the board category will be challenged by our new range of accessories – time will tell…
How are you working with athletes to enhance the brand and sell more products?
We had a skate team about two-three years ago but today we are not working in those types of channels that much – we don’t put that kind of energy into providing riders/influencers on a constant basis. Lately we have been working with all sorts of people from photographers, to designers and illustrators.
What help are you giving retailers to sell you brand?
We try to push our brand and our distributors and shops through our social media – we should really do more but there is only a certain amount of hours in one day – otherwise we try to update with new material, info about our products and of course have a good, tight dialogue ongoing.
What trends are you noticing in general in longboarding and cruisers right now?
Good question. I can see people are willing to pay a lot more now than they were previously. Pre-orders with Urskog have stayed the same but many of our retailers have reduced the range of other price pointing brands.
Why is Scandinavia such a hotbed of skate brand development?
Maybe it has something to do with the climate? People are indoors a lot during the winter. Being starved of sunshine demands activity in other fronts and so the thinking starts and brands are born. It’s kind of the same as the music industry, Sweden has a great music export business as well.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for Urskog in the future?
I would love for it to keep on growing and to be able to have more smart and inspiring people around me. I would love for our new products to get wings and start a life on their own. It almost feels a little bit like starting a new brand now when I have put in so much time and energy on our upcoming accessories.