On board

Thomas “Paul” Speier

Photo By David Robert

Thomas “Paul” Speier owns and operates the newly opened R&T Boardsports near the intersection of Robb and Mae Ann drives. R&T sells skateboards, snowboards and apparel. They also have several terrifying looking machines to make your snowboard into a knife-edged mountain slicer. Although Speier has worked with snowboards and skateboards for most of his life, R&T Boardsports is the longtime Reno resident’s first stab at owning a business. For more information, call 747-6333.

How did you get started skateboarding?

I was about 9 … my father was stationed out at Treasure Island, and he brought home a Grentec board, which had the first urethane wheels on it. A couple years after that, I was probably 12, the boards started getting better, and the bearings started getting better. Around 13-14, I had a [sponsored] stint with Rector Skatewear. My dad then got a job with … Thrifty Drug, and that’s when we moved up here. I was pretty much landlocked, and there was nowhere to skateboard at the time. There was one skateboard park in the early ‘70s called Flow Motion at the end of the airport, but it was for BMX bikes. There was no place to skate because the pavement just ended. One thing led to another, and we started making snowboards.

How much money did you spend to start this place up?

It took me about 8-9 months working with the small business administration to set things up. It ended up being less than a half million. I’m pretty stretched thin right now, but I have enough [saved] to pay my employees for 6 months. Now I’m really getting my marketing going. I’m going through KRZQ; I’m doing direct mailing; I’m doing everything I can do cheaply.

You do a lot for cancer research.

We do Boarding for Breast Cancer, Run for the Cure, the Heart Association. One girl who works here, both her parents have cancer. My mother has had cancer. But Boarding for Breast Cancer is pretty big.

Everybody around Reno has a skateboard, but there are only a few skate parks.

There’s three. There’s a lot of kids. Las Vegas just opened their 24th skate park. The parks around here, they’re not good parks. Inside entities of Reno are designing these parks, and there’s companies and foundations that’ll come in and do designs for almost nothing. There’s two city ordinances that won’t let you skateboard. Ordinance 3049 says you can’t skateboard on the sidewalk downtown, and then there’s an ordinance that you can’t skateboard on the street downtown, and then everybody gets mad because there’s nothing for the kids to do.

If Reno is so anti-skateboarding, why open a shop here, why not Vegas?

Skateboarding is a really quickly growing sport. Skateboarding sales actually passed baseball five years ago, and I think that if baseball were played on skateboards, nobody would have a problem with skateboarding. Once we get situated here, we’re going to lobby the city and try to get a skate park up here.

What’s the appeal of skateboarding?

The difference between baseball and skateboarding is that baseball is a team sport, whereas skateboarding is individual. You can hop a curb anywhere.