For the right person, DIY builds are a challenging, humbling, expensive, educational, frustrating, and rewarding journey, but at the end of it all, you have a killer esk8.
For the other 88% of you, it doesn’t end with sunshine and rainbows.
You see, it takes a unique blend of attributes to pull off a successful first build. You need money, and more of it than you think. You need a plan that you will stick to unless it becomes clear that it’s a dead end. Last but not least, you need the willingness to research known methods, ask intelligent questions, and develop basic skill sets like soldering and drilling.
If this is your first esk8 of any kind, it also takes patience, because if history tells us anything, you won’t be riding as soon as you think. If you’re in a mad rush to build your board, you will start cutting corners, considering parts you shouldn’t, and almost assuredly make painful mistakes.
(For the sake of this article, we’re not talking about deck swaps, escs replaced with vescs, or other upgrade paths. We’re talking about either a full build with sourced parts and some help, or a build where you do everything within reason to bring your esk8 to life.)
So what kind of approach works and what doesn’t? For the sake of simplicity, I’ll break it down into four types of builders:
This shining star comes on the scene armed with his own pyrotechnics and glitter cannons. He announces to one and all that for his first build (often his first skateboard of any kind), he’s going to rock the industry to its very core.
His board will go 75 mph (the current world record is 58mph and change), have 150+ mile range, be operated by voice commands only, and feature a small but effective Cappuccino maker.
He’s going to build the deck, CNC the trucks, pour his own urethane, hand-wind his own stators, and pack his own lithium cells. He doesn’t need help with any of this, because no one is equipped to meet him on his elevated intellectual and artistic plane of existence.
No one has done anything close to what this prodigy is planning, and that’s the issue. He’s all alone in this marvelous quest, and that’s a dispiriting and empty place to be. A lot of really smart people have amassed a treasure trove of DIY experience, and even an aggressive builder will find what they need. But it’s mainly based on what actually works and what makes sense from an effort/reward perspective. That won’t work for our hero in this story, because even though it’s all proven, it’s been done.
How does it end?
With a surprising whimper despite all the grand pronouncements. This guy bottoms out harder than a Dareno at a fortified wine sale. His epic build thread slowly peters out and then he’s off to set the scooter world on fire.
The Question Mark:
This dude comes in with a very specific plan. Unfortunately, that plan is for everyone to leap to attention and give him all the answers. He generally finds an amazing board done by someone on esk8.news forum, and makes that his goal. Which would be fine if he researched all the hard work and inspiration that went into it and followed the build thread that often accompanies it.
But that’s too much work. There’s got to be an easier way, right? So he leans hard on the folks at the forum, asking questions that can be found with even a cursory search, starting multiple help threads, doing little to none of his own research, and wearing out his welcome by being a bottomless pit of need.
His build suffers an endless series of starts and stops because he’s always waiting for someone to show him the way, and the updates he does share show very little effort to think his way into and out of the problems that arise. He accumulates parts along the way, but that just adds to the list of things he’s not prepared enough or motivated enough to approach in the right way.
How does it end?
Sometimes, these guys crawl through the traps they set for themselves and produce a workable but disappointing board. More often, though, these attempts tend to conclude with a mismatched parts sale post titled, “Buying a complete. WTS full build’s worth of stuff.”
The Square Peg:
This gentleman usually starts with parts that he found on sale or received as a gift, and plans to build around them. Never mind that it’s a 500kv drone motor and a Penny deck. It’s what he has on hand, and if he’s working with them, he expects everyone else to work with them as well. If you question his parts, he often gets defensive and deflects to a “help me with what I’ve got” mindset.
And so begins and ends the painful journey of trying to get to a satisfying build conclusion with a severely compromised starting point. One by one, the people that try to help him on the forum drop off as it becomes clear that no amount of advice or enlightenment is going to make him wake up and smell the coffee. Worse, this dude tends not to appreciate or acknowledge the efforts to assist him, and instead adopts a pissy attitude.
How does it end?
Since this is the most stubborn type of guy, it doesn’t. He will remain convinced that if he asks enough people, someone will have a miracle workaround that lets him use his 10A RC car esc as the heart of a truly awesome future esk8 build.
The Swiss Army:
Now we get to the highly-biased, preachy, and obviously manipulative part of the article.
This last type of DIY guy is a rare jewel, and that’s probably the way it should be. He brings an impressive blend of patience, grit, and flexibility to the table. He does as much as he can on his own given the vast resources at his disposal, and depends on himself more than others.
He also often starts with a board to ride. Even if it’s just a budget board, he’s out riding, learning, and developing experience. Yes, he’ll outgrow it, and that’s the whole point of having it: the growth. it shows him what he’s not getting enough of and assists him in planning what will get him there. It also has the added benefit of keeping him from artificially rushing his build schedule because he’s desperate to ride.
Off the board, he thinks things through as well. Only when he’s exhausted the possibilities (this is more obvious than you think, and more appreciated by others than you know) does he start asking for help. The questions he asks are not the obvious things you can answer by pointing him to a dozen easily-sourced instances. This guy gets the most offers of help because he helps himself first.
He is grateful for the help he receives, and takes the time to let people know that instead of just being a one-way street. He handles constructive criticism well, and even if he doesn’t agree/incorporate it, he appreciates it. He picks his parts methodically and carefully, and tries to make sure that they’re matched in specs and complement each other. (A few hiccups here are to be expected, but he handles them like a champ.) His budget is commensurate with his goals, and he takes the hit gracefully when the inevitable overages occur.
Now, if you think this is some idealized composite of a guy that doesn’t exist, you’re wrong. I know a handful of first-time builders that pulled off this approach, and continue to be quality guys on the forums and in the community.
(No, I’m not one of them and fuck you for asking.)
In fact, over the last year, there is one guy in particular who epitomizes this Swiss Army approach.
He came in humble and listening, pre-apologized for his inexperience, and then laid out a list of parts that proved that he had been actively reading, learning, and listening. All of the gear was top shelf, and more importantly, all of it was designed to work well together.
He had an Evolve to ride during the whole process, so he wasn’t rushed by the artificial time pressure of “I want to ride tomorrow.” He built his board carefully, asking questions and appreciating the responses all along the way, handled some brutal tough-luck instances with batteries, and hammered through it all to build an impressive first board.
He then went out and rode it, and reported back with the highs and lows. I like this a lot because in helping a guy, you become invested in his journey, and it’s nice to be able to share the excitement of a guy loving the board that you had a small part in bringing to life.
Out of respect, I won’t put a spotlight on him, because he’s a humble dude. But I think we all know who he is, and what he represents as a builder and as a respected forum member.
How does it end?
Luckily for us, it probably won’t. With a huge win under his belt, this guy generally goes on to build a string of great boards, and cement himself as a guy to watch and appreciate.
I hope to see a lot more like him in the future.