By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / director: Joel Forrest
Producer: Charley Sutton, Michael Muncer
Editor: Ian Phillips
Owner Todd Huber has collected over 5000 skateboards and claims his collection is now the largest on the planet.
He said: “There are some great collections but I am claiming to have the biggest and best - and if I am wrong call me out on it. But nobody ever does.”
The skateboard mega collector estimates he’s spent over $100,000 on boards and related memorabilia – although recent valuations of the collection are more than five times Todd’s original spend.
Todd said: “Over the years, I have spent probably 100,000 bucks on skateboards, which seems like a lot, but recently we had the collection appraised at 550,000 bucks. So, a board that I bought in 1991 for two bucks could be worth 2000 dollars now.”
The 51-year-old, originally from San Francisco but now living in Simi Valley, California, had been keeping his collection in a one-car garage - much to his wife’s dismay.
But since 1997, the 5,000 skateboards have been housed in a 30,000 square feet warehouse, which also includes a shop, indoor skatepark and, according to Todd, 'the very first skateboard museum ever in the world'.
Todd said: “Before Skatelab opened, I had a one car garage. It was completely full of skateboards.
“My wife was so happy when Skatelab opened because I got to clear all the ‘crap’ out of the garage.”
The collection includes the first ever skateboard Todd bought: a $20 dollar Surf-N-Suzie board, picked up at a flea market in Ventura and Todd’s most extravagant purchase: a downhill skate car bought for $12,000.
Todd said: “It’s upstairs in the museum. Back in the 70s there was a genre of skateboarding called the skate car, which is basically like a rolling coffin and this was the most famous one called the White Lightning.
“It was a lot of money but it’s kind of the centrepiece of our collection.”
He added: “The hardest skateboards to acquire are the ones that come from the Soviet Union. I didn’t realize until five years ago that the soviet made some really unique skateboards in the 70s and 80s and you would never find one here. Never ever.”
Through his contacts in the international skateboarding community Todd has managed however to track down some boards from this era via a skateboard museum in Belarus.
Skateboarding has been a part of Todd’s life for almost as long as he can remember.
He said: “I have been skateboarding since I was five years old. I took a skateboard to the kindergarten and showed it to my teachers and everyone wanted to play with it and I remember my teacher said, ‘Don’t ever bring that back again’ and I think that’s what got me intrigued upon it!”
However the skateboard enthusiast didn’t start collecting until later in life.
He said: “I was a heavy smoker. After quitting the habit of smoking, I started collecting skateboards as something to do.
“I had all the extra time and energy, and I turned what was a negative thing for me – smoking - into a positive thing of collecting skateboards. That’s why I am here today.”
Alongside the vintage skateboards and memorabilia in the museum is a shop selling modern skate boards and an indoor skate park.
Todd said: “Because it’s indoor that means it doesn’t matter how hot or how cold it is, it’s always seventy five [degrees] in here. Sometimes we have the air conditioning on, we crank up the tunes and we have some amazing events here.
“Celebrities like David Beckham - he and his kids come all the time. They are such a cool family.
“I love my job. I couldn’t imagine to work at the bank. No offence to anybody in the bank but that's not me. I’m a creative person, I need creativity.”
With no limit to the number of skateboards he can collect, Todd plans to keep on growing his collection.
He said: “The collection will never be complete because you can’t get every single skateboard, so there’s no end to it.
“I am proud of what I have accomplished as a collector. I really never thought I’d go this far. But I am proud of it.”