Tyler Bignell has a biomedical science degree and was going to sit the Gamsat to study medicine and become a doctor, but he chose naturopathy instead, which is what he does four days a week. But it’s what he does in the other days of the week that piqued our interest.
Tyler makes skateboards from reclaimed and eco-salvaged timber. Like many GC creatives, he says it’s something that started out as a rainy day kind of hobby.
“I used to live in Brisbane with mates, we had an old house and we were all surfers,” he told me. “We decided to have a go shaping surfboards. They were pretty ordinary, but we decided to call them Worthy Surfboards.”
From there he moved to the Gold Coast and made a few more surfboards, which he insists “weren’t really very good” before exploring skateboards instead. “My brother in law is a cabinet maker and has a woodworking shop in Bundall and he was throwing away bits of timber. I started to muck around making timber skateboards and riding them around here. It’s basically just built on that.”
He said he’s had a good response from people who really click with the concept and that while he’s had opportunities to grow, he’s hesitant.
“It’s still a hobby,” he said. “And that’s how I kind of like it. I really like being a naturopath and I studied so long to do that – I feel like I owe it to myself to put brainpower into that and give it a proper go.”
About half of Tyler’s skateboards are made from reclaimed timber, with the other half coming from eco-salvaged sources; from things like logs or trees blown down in cyclones or washed away in floods.
“I’ve been like that for a long time, wanting to reuse things and I like second hand things – everything has a lifespan beyond what it’s been used for. You can always salvage things, especially timber. There’s a real satisfaction using an old piece of timber from a salvage yard: you spend hours planning it and sanding it and you’d never know that it’s reclaimed.”
I ask Tyler whether he did woodwork at school or was self-taught when it comes to his craft, and he said it’s the latter, but with some inspiration and guidance.
“My dad did do timber work – he loved making furniture – but I never had an interest in it at that age,” he said, and then added that he always loved the things that his made. So is his dad extra proud, then? That his son came good and picked up the tools?
“He’s actually really stoked,” Tyler told me. “When I first started making boards, I didn’t show him any for a long time. In the first couple of years – I’m such a perfectionist I wasn’t happy with how they turned out.”
“These ones in Trav’s shop,” he said, pointing to Board Culture Surf Shop where we met for coffee, “they’ve been here for six months and I think the ones I’m making now are even better than these ones.”
“But I think the real solid timber skills I’ve learned from my brother in law. I just watched him do a lot with salvaged timber and he gives me a lot of tips and pointers.”
Tyler’s boards are stocked at Board Culture on the GC Highway at Mermaid as well as at Apparel Collective in Palm Beach. He also stocks a surf shop in Fremantle called Three Stories. And of course, like all modern-day craftsmen, he has a website too.
On average, Tyler sells one board a week. “One week I’ll have a coffee and be pumped up and make four boards in a day and the next week I’ll get smashed at work and can’t lift a finger and nothing gets done for the next two weeks. Other days I’ll get dressed for work and then duck out to the garage and be spraying coats of varnish on the boards. I think I’m a bit happy to just do it when I feel motivated,” he said.
I asked Tyler how we went about having his boards stocked at Board Culture and other places, and he said he was reluctant to even ask them for a long time because he didn’t think they were good enough.
“I wasn’t proud enough of them to take them to a shop,” he said. “And deadset, I brought one in and Trav said “mate, how many have you got, how many can you bring in?”
He says Apparel Collective in Palm Beach are similar to Board Culture in that they stock local photography and clothing, locally shaped surfboards as well as cottage skateboards. When Tyler met them for the first time, their response was the same. While Tyler didn’t think his boards were worthy, it seems these independent retailers did.
So what’s next for Worthy Skateboards? Travis said it’s all about the wheels.
“I’ve been contacting a company in the States that makes these environmentally friendly skateboard wheels from a mixture of plant oils and recycled plastic for the inner,” he told me.
“They haven’t really taken off, I don’t know why. But I have a friend who’s a designer and she’s done up a design for a Worthy Wheel,” he said. So a bio-wheel could be next on the cards.
We say, keep your eyes peeled for all things Worthy.