A snapshot of Eric Pinto’s collection, featuring three boards designed by influential skateboarder Mark Gonzales. The surrounding setups are Vision skateboards, a team Gonzales also rode for in the 1908s. (Emily Vance photo)

Vancouver Island home to one of Canada’s largest private skateboard collections

Eric Pinto owns hundreds of boards, spanning multiple decades

Inside a Qualicum Beach home rests one of Canada’s largest skateboard collections.

Eric Pinto owns approximately 400 boards, with the oldest ones dating back to the 1950s, complete with squeaky metal wheels that threaten to cut into his kitchen floor on a trial run.

“It’s just a hole, an axle, and a wheel. That’s it. Pretty sketchy,” he says with a laugh. “It’s still fun, though.”

The walls of the home he shares with his wife and daughter are lined with boards set up as ‘completes,’ meaning mounted with trucks and wheels, ready to ride. Pinto has ridden most of them, just to get the feel.

He says the styles all feel a little bit different.

‘I like the character of a used board. … I like to set them up era-accurate. So the trucks, and the wheels, all the components are from the same year, and usually to what the pro rode,” said Pinto.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach man advocates skate park redesign, relocation

“I know a few people that have larger collections than mine, I do. But I don’t know anyone that has completes like this.”

Each wall is organized by teams, and his collection is carefully arranged, a monument to the rich history of skateboard culture. They’re organized by brand, or team – legendary names in the skate world like Powell-Peralta, Alva, Santa Cruz and Skull Skates, to name a few.

“These teams were solid teams for years. So it’s like the beginning of these brands that are still around,” said Pinto.

A collection like this is a long journey in the making. Pinto has been skating since he was in Grade 2, and collecting decks for about 16 years.

In the beginning, he was buying about one deck a day, searching for them on eBay and finding gems back before skateboard collecting was really a thing. A collection of this nature doesn’t happen overnight – the hunt for the exact era-accurate components can be time consuming.

“It takes a while. Or there’s different parts that you get, different skateboards … it’s all interchanging. Sometimes you’ll find trucks that are on a board that’s 10 years later, or something, and the skateboard will be inexpensive but the trucks are what you really want, stuff like that,” said Pinto.

The setups line the walls and snake down the hallway into the laundry room, where piles and piles of decks are stored. Each board holds multiple stories: from their original riders to the teams they represent, to back-story about the designer, to how Pinto came to acquire them.

By playing the role of collector, Pinto becomes the de facto keeper of all those tales. He pulls out his favourites from the stack and the stories spill out.

READ MORE: All-ages punk show in Coombs to support skate, surf, snow culture

“It’s a little bit obsessive. But I think it’s important to share the history, and it’s important to preserve the history of skateboarding. This time definitely won’t be repeated again, and it’s like the evolution of the sport,” said Pinto.

Notable members of the skate world like pioneer Mark Gonzales and Anti Hero founder Julien Stranger have gifted him boards to add to his collection.

Needless to say, Pinto owns a number of boards with great personal meaning, to others and to himself.

“Most collectors would probably say a grail to them is getting their first board back. And I have that – and that’s a hot pink Powell-Peralta Lance Mountain. That means a lot to me. As far as rarity, I have a lot of pro’s boards, pro’s first model boards, that are pretty rare, and I have a lot of pro-ridden boards, boards that were ridden by the pros themselves back in the day,” said Pinto.

“I think most people when they initially get into it, they want to get pieces of history that they had when they were younger. … My first board was in 1989. I was looking at magazines for maybe three years before that happened. So ‘86 on is all my nostalgia. I’ve never stopped skateboarding, so it’s all very nostalgic to me.”

Pinto is relatively new to Qualicum Beach, moving to the area with his partner Illana Hester, executive director of The Old School House Arts Centre, and their daughter.

An artist himself, his garage is filled with abstracts and projects from years past. A stack of T-shirts on display in the garage reads ‘Qualicum’ in the font made famous by the brand Supreme. He’s also in the beginning stages of opening a framing shop.

READ MORE: VIDEO: The Art of Surfboard Making

He’s also wasted no time getting involved in the local scene. Pinto helped out with Qualicum Beach group Pacific Board Culture’s last event, an all-ages punk show at the Bradley Centre in Coombs, and he already sees room for improvement in the local skate community.

“I’ve been talking with Jerrett Vanstone, and I’ve been getting involved with Pacific Board Culture. We’re trying to get a new park at Qualicum Beach. That park is grossly outdated, and not very safe. It’s essentially – it’s slanted. It’s like they built a basketball court on a slant. A lot of people say ‘oh, well if the park is bumpy and at a slant, that should make it more challenging. And you would like it more as a skateboarder,” said Pinto.

“It’s more dangerous, and unpredictable. … I think if we had a park that was more accessible for people of all ages, and it was more open, you would have … people of all ages would use that space a lot better.”

The days of skateboard culture being an underground sport have passed, although the DIY ethos of rebelliousness and thumbing your nose to authority still remains. No longer a fringe activity, the sport has worldwide acclaim, and its influence on popular culture is not to be overlooked.

“I think having a strong skate community brings the community together. I think it’s a great activity that you can do year-round here, basically. It promotes all of these wonderful things, like determination, self-confidence, self-awareness,” said Pinto.

His voice quiets as he talks about the feeling of rolling down pavement, which he still does almost every day.

“I like that it’s, it’s freedom to me. You can skate whenever you want, there’s no rules. You can be as creative as you want,” said Pinto.

He’s offering private tours of his collection for those interested in a rip through the history of skateboard culture.

Find Pinto on Instagram @professor_pintossible or reach him via email at ericpinto3000@hotmail.com.

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Eric Pinto at home in Qualicum Beach. (Emily Vance photo)

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