There are people who ride skateboards, and then there are skateboarders. It sounds redundant, but it’s true. A skateboarder is always a skateboarder even when they’re not skating. A true skateboarder looks at the world noticing things like curbs, banks, rails and ramps. True skateboarders are down for life and remain involved in skateboarding even after their bodies or their careers don’t allow them to do it as often as they desire.
Toad is a true skateboarder. Toad’s been around since the “back-in-the-day” days and still skateboards. Toad is the kind of person skateboarders want to run skateboard companies. Luckily for us skateboarders, in the year of our lord (Animal Chin), 2012, we have Blood Wizard Skateboards.
Toad and some friends started Blood Wizard in 2008 in San Francisco on a walk back from the bar. As Toad puts it, “There are a lot of homeless people in San Francisco, and often they end up growing long hair and beards. We started calling them wizards as kind of a joke. One night, we saw a wizard lying in the gutter with some blood on him from shooting up and my friend said, ‘Look at that Blood Wizard.’ We decided it would be a sick name for a skateboard company, and that’s how Blood Wizard came about.”
According to Toad, they ended up running into the original Blood Wizard several times and eventually talked to him. “It turns out his name was Jerry,” says Toad, “and now we have our own wizard named Jerry [Gurney, Blood Wizard team rider].”
From the initial idea to start a company and call it Blood Wizard, things began to take off for Toad, co-CEO Justin Visser and partners Rico Castro and Emile Janicot. “We came up with about 100 ideas of things we wanted to do with the company that night,” says Toad. “It’s crazy to think how time flies. In the last five years I’d say we’ve accomplished about 50 of the original ideas, and we’re trying to keep going.”
Those of us who were fortunate enough to skateboard in the ‘90s might remember the company Adrenalin. Toad rode for this company along with fellow Blood Wizard riders Chris Senn, Mike Manzoori and current Santa Cruz rider Justin Strubing. To older skate rats, it may seem like Blood Wizard has a similar, small company, DIY vibe to it. Toad insists, however, that Blood Wizard is its own company. “The main difference is when Adrenalin was around, we were out skating every day and running the company. These days, we have a team of younger guys doing most of the skating,” says Toad. “Although, sometimes, I feel like it’s just like those days … I find myself saying, ‘Where’s Strubing?’”
Toad also runs his own electrical company and works full-time as an electrician. Everyone involved in Blood Wizard has a day job, even most of the riders. “It keeps things in perspective,” says Toad. “I put a good six weeks into an electrical job and it makes running the company seem to go by much quicker.”
Blood Wizard is so small that everyone does it just because it’s what they want to do. While it doesn’t allow some of the guys as much time to skate, Toad insists the team gives it their all. “We get a lot out of our team,” says Toad. “They give us everything they’ve got and get out there and skate hard. I’d like to think that if any of these guys ever got a bigger sponsor, they would still be as cool as they are right now. They’re willing to work hard and just skate because they love to skate.”
The team is mostly made up of relatively unknown skaters: Jack Given, Jerry Gurney, Rob Mason, Tristan Moss, Wesley Cooper, Aaron Herrington, Chris Senn, Anakin Senn, Ben Krahn, Nich Kunz, Drew Dezort, Toad, Mike Manzoori, “The Mongo Monster” and “The Grom.”
The Mongo Monster and The Grom are two of the most interesting riders. They are creations of Skinner, the artist who is the visual pile driver of Blood Wizard. He is responsible for the Blood Wizard graphic itself, as well as the Mongo Monster and Grom characters that appear on many of the boards. “Skinner is totally awesome,” says Toad. “He has done so much for the look of the company and is just a rad dude who is willing to do anything for us.” Blood Wizard has put out several zines and animations featuring Skinner’s artwork, and the entire look of the company has been influenced by his work.
Recently, Blood Wizard was able to receive a little help from Lowcard Magazine and Heavy Wheels founder, Rob Collinson. Collinson works to distribute several companies, including Lowcard and Think Skateboards, and now helps distribute Blood Wizard. It allows Toad and the team to work on the direction of the company and spend less time making phone calls trying to sell to shops.