97. Ritual Skateboards

April 13, 2023
April 13, 2023 Will Mackie

Welcome back to Comacan questions, this week we take a deep dive with a company we found through a Skateshop that we both have our products carried in. We caught a glimpse of their graphics and were instantly interested and wanted to know more. With that being said our favourite part of these interviews, along with getting to know companies/artists and individuals better, is allowing people to share their stories about why they do what they do and a little history of how/ why they do it. All in all, we are stoked to share these stories and are thankful that we get to. Without any further delay please enjoy this week’s interview with Ritual Skateboards.

What inspired you to choose the name Ritual Skateboards?
Our founders, Adam Bauer and Adam Ferguson came up with this name back in 2008. Ritual Killers was a concept that floated around before it was Ritual Skateboards, but I think the art direction for a brand named “Ritual Killers” would’ve been too explicit. The very first Ritual Skateboards graphics were Ganesha and Buddha, with Buddha being the first 50 decks printed. Every religion is a ritual in some way or another, so I think it’s easy to draw inspiration for designs because of this, whether or not you actually practice a particular belief. I don’t want to speak too much on Bauer’s behalf, but I do think he was interested in Buddhism and Eastern Religion at the time.

On the evil end of the spectrum, our Torture Deck (circa 2008) was a really brutal design now that I’m reminiscing on everything. This artwork was probably inspired by the story of Simon the Zealot’s death, but Bauer told me he saw this artwork at a torture museum in Italy and took a photo of it. Basically, the story goes that Simon was crucified and sawed in half starting at the groin, which may have occurred sometime during Roman Emperor Trajan’s rule from 98-117 AD. Adam had said this form of punishment was reserved for anyone accused of having an intimate relationship with the king’s wife during medieval times, but I could only find information related to Simon the Zealot online.

From 2008-2010, Ritual also did collab decks with stoner metal bands such as Ironweed, Torche, Weedeater, and Zoroaster, which was a cool direction to go in my opinion. We just recently did a Weedeater x Ritual Skateboards Deck a few months ago and the band is selling it exclusively right now, so it was awesome to pay homage to what Bauer and Ferguson did back then. We’ve also done a collab deck with Tejon Street Corner Thieves, which is arguably the most successful band from Colorado right now.

I think we really would’ve ruffled some feathers in 2008-2010 if Ritual was a bigger company because Adam just did whatever he wanted. We released the Religion Deck back then, which had nine of the world’s major religious symbols all on one graphic. I remember the explanation for it being, “All of you are f*cking crazy, here you go…” as the deck was pointed out when I first saw it. To me, this deck could be seen in infinite amounts of ways, but maybe it’s intention was to offend you if you were of the extremist type, which is mainly seen with Christianity or Islam. Colorado Springs is predominately known for being a conservative/religious city, so I think this could’ve played a role in wanting to create a concept that opens the door to philosophical discussion.

To try to answer your question of what inspired me to choose the name Ritual Skateboards, I had to take it back to when it was first started because it’s not my idea. What Ritual means to me today is probably more akin to habits and routines we all perform within our daily lives, whether it’s something as simple as making yourself a cup of coffee every morning, putting your kids to bed, or telling your loved ones “I love you,” to the more complicated activities such as creativity, skateboarding, working, etc. We all are performing rituals in some form or another whether we realize it or not, and whether you’re non-religious or religious. It’s such a good name for a brand, which is why it’s finally trademarked now.

As far as our current art direction, we’re open to almost anything, as long as it looks good and will sell. Having been born and raised in Colorado, I really like working with artists who can reflect the beauty of our surroundings out here. Dom Frankmore is a landscape artist who we like to work with in particular. We have his canvas paintings photographed and laid out professionally on decks, usually leaving any branding/lettering off of the bottom graphic to add emphasis to his work.

Raoul DeSoto is another artist based in Colorado who does amazing work and has been very fun to work with. He did a Krampus Deck for us that sold really well, and seemed to be popular around Christmas time at skate shops. Paying homage to Ritual’s 08-’10 era, he also did the Yuga Series for us recently, which was a four-deck series consisting of very abstract artwork inspired by Hindu cosmology. Dvapara Yuga, Kali Yuga, Satya Yuga, and Treta Yuga had their own unique decks, which all had a sort of metaphysical element to them.

A good portion of our art direction tends to have a more gothic/heavy metal or occult-like inspiration, which is usually handled by artists such as Cory Bowman or Samuel Mills (AKA Defame). Cory Bowman did a board series for us known as “Lord of Bearing” and we still get requests for a re-release. Defame has really been killing it with our designs lately, and we’ve been working with him more frequently as well. Since the skating we do is hardcore, and our team is no joke, it makes sense that the artwork should reflect this effort.

Keep an eye out for The Damned Series, which is a three-piece apparel and board run by Samuel Mills, set to be released mid-May.

Photo by: Dustin McWethy

Why did you start a skateboard company?
Ritual Skateboards was originally founded by Adam Bauer in Colorado Springs, CO in 2008. I (Ryan Heier) was the first skateboarder to start riding for the brand back then. Chad Coker, Jayme Lobato, and Josh Worley were also added to the team shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the company had to be dissolved in 2010 due to the growing responsibilities associated with Adam’s granite fabrication business.

In 2012, I started working for Adam’s granite shop after purchasing his camcorder. He gave me a flexible working schedule so that I could get out during the day and film with local skateboarders. Andrew Bonner, Bobby Hebner, Dominic Morgan, Dustin McWethy, Jayme Lobato, Jonny Palmer, Jordan Rommel, Justin Richards, Mike Bargas, and Sebastian Hoffman were the core group of individuals who I skated with regularly.

Eventually, one thing led to another and he gave me the company in 2016 because I felt like there was a lot of unrecognized talent in our area and I wanted something to support this talent. The first board graphic we produced was the Shrunken Head Deck, which would’ve been the next graphic to be released in 2010 had Adam been able to continue. We also used some of the OG artwork from back then for the first apparel lines, which seemed fitting because we sort of just picked up where we left off six years prior.

For me, the reason behind all of this is a desire to see skateboarders riding for Ritual succeed and gain the recognition they deserve. We’ve released four full length films since Ritual’s rebirth in 2016 and this continuous effort of video production is what separates a core skate brand from being just any other company in my opinion. Producing quality products and working with many talented artists is a strong motivating factor for wanting to stay in business as well.

Photo by: Dustin McWethy

Where are you based out of?
Ritual is based in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, CO!

What products do you sell?
Ritual produces top quality apparel and decks. Most of our boards are made by South Central, which is one of the few US board manufacturers in existence. We have collaborated with the following artists: Anthony Shane, Barrett Skul, Beau O’Connor, Cory Bowman, Dom Frankmore, Jerry D, Nicholas Campbell, Raoul DeSoto, Samuel Mills (AKA Defame), Seth Lockard, Steve Bauer, Troy Sedlacek, and Tyler Gibson.

Photo by: Dustin McWethy

What products do you sell?
To view our online shop, please visit www.ritualskateboards.com/shop. For a full list of stores carrying Ritual, please visit www.ritualskateboards.com/dealers. If your local skate shop doesn’t carry, please ask them to stock Ritual!

What does skateboarding mean to you personally?
Skateboarding is all about defining your environment, rather than letting your environment define you.

Photo by: Dustin McWethy

What has been your favourite part of owning a skateboard brand?
Traveling with my team has been my favorite part about owning a brand. Building positive relationships with skate shops is of equal measure to me. Those two aspects are all we need to keep this going forever.

Anyone you’d like to thank?
I’d have to list hundreds of names if I were to thank everyone who has helped me, so I will just say thank you Comacan for letting me answer a few questions. Thank you, Grand River Skateshop in Caledonia, Ontario for carrying Ritual. Thank you to all of the skate shops in the US who carry and continue to carry Ritual. Thank you to everyone who currently rides or has ridden for Ritual. Thank you to all of my friends and family for the support over the years!

Photo by: Dustin McWethy