The logo for the Longboarding Betties (KOTA's women's longboarding club) is based on the Women Airforce Service Pilots who served during World War II.
(Pictured, left) Hand-cut boards are bundled and pressed to await wood staining.
(Pictured, right) Maloney put his engineering degree to good use while determining the basic designs for KOTA boards. To provide riders a "land surfing" experience, Maloney focuses on camber (arch from tip to tail). The arch in a KOTA board allows for agressive carving and better speed control.
Designs are taped onto the board, and KOTA staff use UV-protected stains to paint them on. After, each product receives a coat of KOTAgrip. "It's the next big thing in skateboarding," Maloney says. The KOTA invention is nonporous, meaning dirt has nothing to stick to, it preserves the art, and, by getting rid of the need for grip tape, it prevents wear on the soles of shoes.
(Pictured, left) Finished boards, made of hard rock maple from Wisconsin, hang on the wall in the Denver shop. Maloney says he often lets the natural grains of the wood determine which design will be stained onto it.
(Pictured, right) At the end of the production line, boards await wheels. KOTA sources an exclusive line from Seismic Skate Systems in Boulder.
A KOTA board in detail.
KOTA's women-specific design is "feminine but not overt," Maloney says.
Bottom of the women-specific design
At 52 years old, Mike Maloney may not seem like the obvious person to start a longboarding company—well, that, and the fact that he was never much of a skateboarder. But his entrepreneurial spirit, honed over years spent as CEO of a clean-tech company, led him to uncover a hole in the market: women-specific longboards. "Many women were alienated by the culture in skate shops," Maloney says. "They deserve the right to have somebody say, 'Here's a product we designed for you."
Those designers are the folks at KOTA Longboards. The Denver-based longboard company–part of a $3 billion domestic longboard market—launched in 2012. The women's boards feature the same technology and sizing as the men's but have feminine styling (a flower design and bright border colors) and the tagline "braver, smarter, stronger" on the bottom. Maloney hasn't been able to keep the boards in stock.
That seems to be a consistent trend for all the company's products. Maloney says KOTA has seen 300 percent growth, quarter over quarter, compared to last year. The company produces various sizes and designs for riders of all ages, with a specific focus on bringing more 30- to 50-year-olds into the longboarding community. The vinyl designs all spring from Maloney's mind, from subtle touches of color to a full-blown Colorado flag. Maloney's military background (he flew F-14s in the Navy) also has a strong presence. (KOTA stands for Knights Of The Air, a moniker for WWI Air Force pilots.) Each longboard style is named after an airplane, KOTA has a full Military Series of designs, and Maloney offers 10 percent off to military members and allows them to custom design boards with their unit insignia.
Perhaps the most important feature, though, is that KOTA boards are manufactured from start to finish in a full-scale production facility in RiNo. It takes about a week to complete each board. (Leftover wood is repurposed into tap handles for local breweries; Epic Brewing Company is the proud owner of a few.) Learn more about the production process by clicking through the slideshow above.
All KOTA products are available solely on the company's website, and the company is planning to launch a soft good line—including softshell jackets and pullover fleeces—in spring 2015. "The skateboard shop is tooled for a 20-year-old male," Maloney says. "[We're aiming for] the action sports person."
In Action: Female longboarders can take their wheels out for a spin with the Longboarding Betties, KOTA's women's longboarding club. Visit the Facebook page to find out when the next ride will take place.
—Photos by Sarah Boyum