Pantheon’s Summit Series includes the Nexus, Gaia and CHiller Pro made in a new, high-tech composite construction developed in tandem with World Tree Workshop.
The construction features two pieces of vertically laminated poplar to form the core. The core is then wet laid with carbon fiber when pressed. The result is an incredibly strong and light deck. You’ll get snappy feedback, easier pushes up the hill and more resilience to curb smashes with the Summit Series – rugged sex appeal.
Follow along as we get into some detail on this new series with Pantheon.
Pantheon is constantly striving to create the perfect decks, whether that be small changes to concave or construction, but what are your typical R&D methods and how did that help you achieve the new Summit lineup?
Typical R&D method starts with a design concept in the head. Sometimes this step takes a lot of time. Sometimes I’ll have an idea and start working on it and I may not come back to it for weeks or even months, or at all. But at some point, a spark of inspiration hits and I feel compelled to act. Generally I don’t act on anything until the project calls me to do so. I’ll halfway make it through some projects and not pull the trigger if it doesn’t feel right.
As far as the Summit Series is concerned, that’s been a LONG time coming. I’m not going to pretend to have come up with the idea of a soft wood core with carbon fiber and urethane bumpers. So, that we’re making them is more of a reaction to the market than it is an innovation in it. We want to be in the conversation–if not the subject of it–when it comes to the absolute pinnacle of longboard products, in both shape as well as construction. But I’ve been talking to Sage at World Tree Workshop about making this construction for about two years, at least, and basically I told him that when he was ready to do solid wood cores, we’d be ready to pull that trigger. A recent manufacturing move for him really solidified that. Basically we are running out of maple there and I just wanted to help him work through his maple order before we asked him to buy a bunch of poplar.
Combine that set of circumstances with the fact that we are really solidified on at least a few of our molds to the point where I don’t think we can improve on the shapes. It’s been 4 to 5 years of tweaking. I know that we have these shapes like the Scoot and Gaia totally finished. At this point, material and construction refinement is all that’s left.
The new Summit lineup features a poplar core, with nose/tail urethane bumpers all wrapped in carbon; what benefits will riders see switching to this new construction? Did you run into any issues designing this new lineup?
The main benefit riders will see is far lighter and incrementally stronger construction when compared to the maple/carbon builds we were doing in our last runs. The bumpers definitely can take a beating, which is especially useful for our downhill racing team when they’re on the road. I don’t want something happening on the race course and all of a sudden Chase or Andy aren’t able to ride their deck. I’m sure there could still be extenuating circumstances, but risk factor has been further reduced. I anticipate that the decks will remain more intact over a longer period of time, as well. If you look at some of the old maple builds that Chase has ridden in the past, for example, they are absolutely beat to shit. I take pride in that, for sure. I love seeing a beaten deck. But equally, I want him to be riding a whole deck whenever possible!
Issues? Sure. It’s complicated. We have produced some super nice prototype decks and are just starting to kick out production models to customers. There is only so much one can do at the prototype stage, and I am completely open, now that we are moving into production, to making any small changes necessary to further refine a product. If there’s one thing you ought to know about Pantheon, it’s that we are never done and always looking for any opportunity to improve.
Seems like Chase and Eric were key members in helping test the Summit boards, what kind of testing do you do by yourself and with the team?
These guys skate A LOT. I couldn’t ask for better testing ground than our team. After that, the only better testing ground available is the larger skate community. You really don’t KNOW everything until it’s on the market. You do as much as you can prior to releasing a product, and then you have to stay flexible and react accordingly once the sample size is increased. Any manufacturer that pretends otherwise either just doesn’t know better or isn’t telling the truth.
Pantheon has already put the new Summit Scoot, Nexus and Gaia on their site for pre-order, but you’ve mentioned that you are making some changes to the Seed. Could you share what updates that are coming to the Seed?
By now you may have seen something. We’ve made some changes to the mold. The shape has stayed the same. I just stood in our first prototype yesterday. It feels pretty incredible. We brought the tail forward, so now, instead of a tail, it’s more of a wedge. The goal is really to make an out-of-the-box product that doesn’t require modifying. Pretty much everybody is riding foam wedges on their boards now. I think that’s fine, but there’s a certain purity in getting the concave right without all the extra stuff. I mean, that’s basically my job.
Furthermore, we added a W-concave bubble right before the wedge starts, and it just feeds into the wedge and then disappears. It’s a really sick concept, and it came out really nicely. You feel W on the ball of your foot feeding into the inside of your arch just a touch. By the outside of your arch and into your heel, the W-concave is gone and you’re just resting on the tail. So you get all the benefit of the W-concave with zero discomfort.
And just as an update, we decided not to continue the Nexus at World Tree Workshop. Sucks that our prototyping went well but production run turned up too many blems. Preorders will be filled but we can’t afford to make blems at the rate that it took to fill the order, so that project is on hold. We are seeing what we can do about it. Might try to test a few more things more slowly here and also looking into overseas production. If they can make it, it’ll make more sense to bring it there, and it’d allow me to sell to shops far more easily too.
Should we be expecting any more boards to join the Summit lineup in the future?
Yes. I suppose you’ll see this soon enough. It won’t be a secret for too much longer. We are bringing the Sacrifice back. I stood in that last night, too. I’m super stoked for it. I’ll be riding the Seed eventually, because that’s just what I’m liking the most nowadays, but I rode the Sacrifice for a year, and just standing it was like coming back home. It’s a great deck. Part of why we held off making it for a year was because I didn’t know how to improve it. While that’s a good sign, I’m glad I held off until now, now that we have taken the leap into this new construction. Now, it’s crystallized.
Are we seeing a permanent switch to the Summit construction or will we see a comeback of either the maple or carbon/maple construction?
All our local manufacturing will be the Summit Series. We changed all our molds to make this happen. It requires an entirely new process, and we are geared up for it. I don’t see any reason to go backward. Those maple/carbon builds are fantastic boards, though. I don’t count anything out for the future, because you never know how things are going to pan out, but for now, this is our path forward.
We are working on some overseas constructions for more reasonably priced decks that will suit our shop model better. My goal has always been to support shops and build the community from the ground up. Local shop involvement is like the base of that community. So while we are going to offer our Summit decks to shops, we want to optimize at least some of our decks for the shop model, offering appropriate margins and value, and put out a message through our graphics. This has been important to me since day one and continues to be now.
Anything else you’d like to share about the updated Pantheon lineup?
Not really. I think I was overly verbose already!
I’d rather take a moment to congratulate our team right now. Joe Mazzone is, until someone takes him down, the best distance skater in the world, as far as I can tell. And at this very moment, after Gravity Fest and before Killington, once the IDF updates their point standings (maybe they’re holding off until after the NorAm circuit?), Chase Hiller and Andy Atchison will be 1-2 in the world on the downhill circuit. Will that hold through Killington? I don’t know. It matters, and it doesn’t. It obviously matters to them!
Most of all, what they are representing to me is this incredible will toward bringing their goals to life. All these guys have worked the entire off-season, skating nearly every day, getting their gear dialed, and working the day jobs to save up to make this happen. It’s crazy…you know, back in 2011 when the “longboard industry” was really peaking, these guys would have been pulling significant cash to make all this happen. Maybe we’d be selling 5-10x as many decks and we’d be the ones fronting the whole thing.
But obviously times have changed, and this is currently in a “passion-sport” stage. Well, we are making better boards than ever, and the top guys are skating harder than ever, records are being broken, and we are all just doing it for the love. I mean, I think there’s an incredible beauty in that. I’d certainly love to see us be turning a million dollars in sales and able to provide more support, for sure. But this is still such a beautiful space to be occupying at this specific time, as well. I’m happy to be here, and I’m thankful to these guys for their support and for Pantheon’s ability to be a part of their journey. I would’ve never guessed we’d be in the position with our team back when I started Pantheon 5 ½ years ago. It’s awesome.