“I just think there’s so much room for more self-expression in skating, more be-the-person-you-are.”
In a world of big-brand, big-money skating, our latest beardsman, Billy Donaldson, has managed to keep it real with Furor Skateboards. Donaldson is currently a one-man shop based out of Cincinnati, Ohio who handcrafts and hand-paints boards in his garage. “They’re all hand-painted. And it’s going to stay that way. I use very little automated machinery. It’s entirely hands-on.”
Donaldson began skating at age 6. When he was a sophomore in high school, he started picking up sponsorships. It was then that Donaldson started noticing a big problem in the skating world: It was taking a sharp turn away from the aspects of the art that inspired him in the first place – creativity, innovation, and individual self-expression. “When I was in high school, I rode for a couple brands under some sponsorships. I didn’t feel right at any one of them. I felt like I didn’t fit in. That shouldn’t happen in skating.”
Donaldson saw that skating was becoming trendy in a big way. Big money was pouring into the sport and a lot of big brands formed out of this growth. As a result, he saw that skating was becoming more standardized and polished, a trend that has continued to this day. “Now, we have Street League, which is the professionalization of skateboarding that you see on ESPN. There’s contests with a scoring system. It’s amazing stuff, but when you see it, you notice everyone’s playing it safe, for the most part, because they’re trying to get consistent scores. There’s not much room for innovation. The lack of variation in tricks is nowhere like the ’70's and ’80's.”
On top of this, Donaldson also sees how the internet has changed the level of skating. “Nowadays, when a kid wants to learn a trick, they go on YouTube. This breeds, like, insanely good kids because they have all the info they need. But as advanced as they’re becoming, they’re also becoming standardized. And I say, ‘That’s not you. You need to go adopt a style that’s YOU.”
Not one to hold on to negativity, Donaldson quickly turned his discouragement into fuel to start building his dream – Furor Skateboards. From his garage and with the help of the internet, his bare hands, and a couple friends, Donaldson set out to create a skateboard company to offset the big-brand thinking that he saw as being harmful to the art form he loves so much. “There’s no “theme” to Furor. I sponsor two guys who don’t look or skate the same. I don’t want everyone to look like a robot out there. They need to have their own thing. Other companies highlight the brand. Furor highlights the rider. I don’t want the brand to outshine the individual.”
As for his next big thing, Donaldson is set on making a skate video – something he’s wanted to do for some time. He’s been compiling a list of tricks he wants to showcase for years now and he’s eager to get it out to the world.
In skater years, Donaldson knows how old he is, and he wants to produce his video before his body limits him. “I started skating when I was 6 years old. I’m 22 now, and I’ve never sustained a serious injury. As much as I consider myself very lucky, there’s a downside. Because I haven’t sustained a serious injury, the most I’ve gone without skating, in all the years I’ve been at it, is a couple of days, max. All that falling and putting pressure on your joints jumping down stairs and things like that takes a toll on your body even if you’re not hurting yourself that bad.”
As far as the bearded life goes, Donaldson is a huge fan. The same things that pulled him towards skating when he was a 6-year old grom are what he loves about being a beardsman – unique style and individual self-expression. “I like hairstyles and anything men’s grooming, really. I have an appreciation for it. I can rightly say, ‘That dude right there – that dude’s got some sick style. He’s making an effort.’ It’s derived from skating. The identity thing is pretty huge.”
Donaldson claims that what got him hooked was when he watched Urban Beardsman’s very own Eric Bandholz’s videos. “When I had stubble, I remember watching some of Eric’s videos, going, ‘Oh my god, I get this so much. He’s just so… Right. Maybe I should grow a beard.’ One of the things he said that got me was when he said a beard just grows on your face. Like, you can’t really get rid of it, it just grows right back. It’s part of your face. I started wondering what my face looked like. Most people think of their face as the clean-shaven version. But, all things aside, your face wouldn’t look that way if you didn’t shave. What am I supposed to look like? It was a profound way of looking at it for me.”
On his favorite beard products, Donaldson continues, “That Four Vices Beard Oil, my god man, that’s amazing. I remember looking at it on the website for the first time, looking at the ingredients, going, ‘Man, you just nailed the scent I want. Killed it. Why isn’t this a cologne, a body wash, a shampoo, a toothpaste?’”
Billy Donaldson is a man who confidently marches to his own beat and rocks his very own style – one of which is almost absent in the skating world. Not in a pompous way, but in a very enthusiastic, self-aware way that’s infectious and uplifting. “It’s really weird, I don’t know how I acquired the taste, but, I really like stuff from the ’40s and ’50s. Both the style and the music – Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Andrew Sisters, etc. That stuff, if you threw that in a skate video, you’d have something so cool to look at. Go on YouTube, you just won’t see it out there. You have your hip-hop, thrash metal, stoner rock, and all that, but that’s really all you see. I just think there’s so much room for more self-expression in skating, more be-the-person-you-are.”
Keep an eye on Billy Donaldson. We’re forecasting big things from his corner. He’s a beardsman with a unique mission and an enthusiastic drive to make huge waves in a small, powerful way.
Photos by Curt Reisinger