Alabama’s Bear Walker makes skateboards for superstars

Alabama’s Bear Walker makes skateboards for superstars
Skateboard artist Bear Walker shows off one of the elaborately detailed boards made at his shop in Daphne. (Bear Walker)

Bear Walker is a skateboard maker to the stars.

South Carolina native Bear Walker moved to his family’s land in Fairhope to relaunch his skateboard business. Now he has 40 employees and a shop in Daphne where his team creates boards prized by riders, collectors and celebrities. (Bear Walker)

“Game of Thrones” actor Jason Momoa, “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi and singer Billie Eilish all own custom boards Walker made at his shop in Daphne.

He crafts skateboards for Pokemon and the NBA, and made a limited-edition design for the “Godzilla vs. Kong” movie. After pursuing Marvel for three years, he secured a deal to create a limited run of 250 official “Venom” movie character skate decks.

The native of Hilton Head, South Carolina, who now lives in Alabama, started his career in Charleston. His first skateboard venture there failed.

“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” Walker said. “My family is actually from Fairhope. They had lived there, like, 100 years. When I was looking to restart, I moved back to my family land and a little barn, and restarted the company.”

Walker rented space for a while, but when he needed to expand a second time, he bought an 11,000-square-foot building in Daphne. About 40 employees at Bear Walker Industries do all the production there now.

The company averages about 35,000 boards a year, he said, with a price range of $200 to $300.

“I want it to be an item that people covet or save up for, but I also want it to be reasonably attainable.”

Walker’s team crafts the boards using nine-ply maple custom-built in California.

“We do about three hours of hands-on work to each board after that, carving out the design and the grip, hand-painting each one, sanding them and then clear-coating them,” he said.

After getting a patent on the grip pattern, “we’re now using that for stair treads and handicapped ramps and stuff like that.”

His big break was the partnership with Pokemon. To make it happen he used the last bit of his money to create a custom board and flew to Las Vegas to meet with them.

Walker has a deal with “Pokémon Center to create our fifth series of nine limited-edition, 29-inch skateboards,” according to the company website.

Walker, 33, now lives in Daphne, about five minutes from his shop. His sister and father work with him.

“We’re actually making moves to build a bigger headquarters and build a bunch of metal buildings to house and incubate other small businesses in the area,” he said.

As celebrities started noticing the boards, they wanted their own. Walker collaborates with them on designs. The cruiser-type boards aren’t just for collectors or celebrities to hang on the wall.

They are “actually one of the best riding boards on the market,” he said. “The grip is grippier than grip tape.

“I make my own trucks and wheels to match the high-end premium quality of the board.”

On trips to Los Angeles, Walker has met quite a few of the celebrities who admire his work. He played Shazam with Zachary Levi at his house in Texas.

At a recent Comicon convention, he notes, “The crew of ‘Lost in Space’ rode the boards on stage.”

“They’re all over the place,” he said.

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