Signal Snowboards Founder Dave Lee On “Every Third Thursday” Web Series

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Looking to avoid falling into a monotonous cycle of cranking out board after board for production, Signal’s founder Dave Lee dreamed up Every Third Thursday, a monthly web series that allowed Signal’s production team to flex their creative muscle.  “I really wanted to create a show that took us completely out of our comfort zone and allowed us to try all kinds of new materials and ideas,” says Lee.  “A show that basically brought everyone through the production process so they could enjoy it with us.”

In June of last year they put the project in motion, starting with a visit to Fountain Valley’s TKO Records to snag up some vinyl for the first episode, Record Release Party.  The idea was to build two boards, one with the vinyl records as the topsheet and one with the record sleeves as the topsheet.  “I just thought, I am way into music and wouldn’t vinyl records just melt into the topsheet?  It’s enough heat, I remember being a kid and some of my records melted in the sun.  It made sense in my head,” says Lee.

When the boards were taken up to Timberline for some riding, the vinyl topsheet held up just fine while the board with the album sleeves had already begun to fall apart, but any perceived success or failure of the project is really irrelevant.  What shone through most in their first episode was the attitude Dave and everyone else involved was bringing into the show-more of a “let’s just pick a design and charge it” mentality, than a cautious “we need to make sure everything is perfect so that we look good.”  This loose attitude is pervasive throughout each episode, both in the board design process and in the construction.  While a great new technique for board building may be uncovered in the process, it is clear that discovering the ultimate snowboard is not really what they’re getting after.

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Dave Lee and Marc Wierenga scoping topsheets

“Marc [Wierenga, Signal director of marketing] has said that now with the show, our R and D at Signal is for the world to see,” says Lee.  “Most people hide their R and D and don’t want to share anything and we are like, ‘Hey, we have never tried this either, let’s show the world how it goes.’  There is a lot of thought that goes into the idea, but we truly do just try to build it in one day.  For us it’s the connection and excitement we all feel when we’re building something new and we hope others by watching will feel more connected to how their boards are built and what’s possible as well.”

Each month since Record Release Party, the crew has gathered in Signal’s 7,500-square-foot factory in Huntington Beach, California to piece together a snowboard for the next episode. Without a camera crew or a script, the episodes have a pleasantly voyeuristic feel, catching the guys in production mode, rather than posed for the camera.

Workin' on that UK base
Workin' on that UK base for the bull's-eye board

“We want the whole team involved in all these builds, but they are not planned out,” says Lee.  “We usually tell everyone in the factory last minute. We know who will be involved because we know the role they will play in the show, but they literally come in for a couple seconds and go back to work because we still have production boards to build every day.”

As the season progressed, the board designs became more adventurous, building cores with everything from basswood to beetle kill and topsheets with beer cans and dartboards.  Experimentation and originality are always top priorities, even if it means messing with traditional snowboard functionality, as was the case with Dave’s favorite – the Vans shoe, a board with two different sidecuts.

Dave Lee presents the Vans shoe boards to Van's Steve Van Doren
Dave Lee presents the Vans shoe boards to Van's Steve Van Doren

“On the right shoe the sidecut on the heel was totally mellow and the sidecut on the toe was super sharp,” says Lee.  “Your toe turns were really tight and awesome and then when you go heel you have a slow draw to the left.  It was two completely different feels, like having two snowboards in one. I just thought they were so creative and loved the fact that the boards actually worked.”

This past April, the Signal team took a 10-day trip to Japan to do some riding and visit with friends and distributors there.  Shortly after their return to the states, Japan was struck with disaster.   Looking to assist in relief efforts and demonstrate their support, they teamed up with Linkin’ Park’s Chester Bennington, who has long been a friend of the brand, for an impromptu build to help raise relief money.  Inspired by their first build – the vinyl board for Record Release Party – they decided to have Bennington come to the factory and build a board with copies of Linkin Park’s latest record pressed as the top sheet.  The board was then signed by the entire band and auctioned off, fetching over $2000 for Music for Relief’s aid project.

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Linkin' Park's Chester Bennington laying down some vinyl

“It was amazing, he completely got into it.  He was like, no messing around, gloves on, let me lay this thing out,” says Lee.  “I barely had to do anything, it was just a really special build.”

Standing in stark contrast to the tragedy that surrounded the project with Bennington, the latest Every Third Thursday, the building of the Terry Kidwell board, was a new high point for Dave and the show and an excellent opportunity to bring some history into play.  “If there was one board I could say would be my dream board to build.  It was definitely that one,” says Lee.  Looking to recreate the original Terry Kidwell pro model, the crew brought in legendary skateboard builder Paul Schmitt to create a board with a genuine 80’s feel.

“We wanted to show the difference between making boards then and now,” says Lee.  “Today, once you have all the machines set in the factory, it’s like clock work. Going back and making one in the garage the original way was completely new for me and to do it with Terry and Paul, you could not pick a better scenario.”

From introducing seemingly unthinkable materials into snowboard design to working with the legends and techniques of snowboarding’s earliest days, Lee has found more success with the first season of Every Third Thursday than he imagined.  “This year at the tradeshows, I had people coming out of the woodwork telling me that they enjoy the show,” says Lee.  “We all love what we do here and it’s very authentic.  It’s cool to hear people are feeling it through the show.”

For more on Signal visit:

Signal’s Website

Signal’s Facebook

View all of this season’s Every Third Thursdays