At only 21 years young, Bremen, Indiana native, Andrew Huff, already has the hefty title of “business owner” on his resume. His company, Huff and Puff Board Co, specializes in customizable longboards that are being sold nationally. In an industry so big, Huff is set apart in the boarding world with his love for the environment, using only natural and reclaimed wood to create his boards. PATTERN sat down with Andrew and his production manager, Nathaniel, to talk the board building process, apparel, and future goals for Huff and Puff.
McKenzie Price: So what sparked the idea of starting a long boarding company?
Andrew Huff: I’d always been pretty passionate about the boarding industry, like longboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, and that whole scene. I’d also loved woodworking, so the two kind of came together.
MP: So explain the time where you thought, “I want to make this a career.”
AH: I built my own board in high school and at that time I didn’t really take it too seriously as a hobby. I got a couple orders, and then I went to college. During that time, I was like, “I should make a run at it. I should get serious about it.” Then I sat down and really got serious. A bunch of orders came and away it went.
MP: Obviously your last name is Huff, but where did the Huff and Puff name idea come from?
AH: Huff and Puff is a family name actually. It’s kinda cool, my grandpa started Huff and Puff RV Sales way back in the ‘70s. So I had to go with Huff and Puff because it’s so catchy and it fits the longboarding aspect.
MP: When you first started out, what was the hardest thing about running a company?
AH: The hardest thing was probably getting serious about it. I’ve always been passionate about it. I was building boards for about a year and a half before I launched the company, so it just took forever to get everything out there. I didn’t want to be some super small, low key guy that sucked at building boards with a company. I wanted to be this solid, straight up guy.
MP: How did you spread the word about your company?
AH: Social media has been huge. The retail side too, like all the different retail shops that carry my boards. So when somebody walks into a shop and sees my boards, they’ll give me a call because they’ll want a custom board.
MP: When did the shop aspect start and where?
AH: At first it was just in a garage and I couldn’t do that. I did build a couple boards in my apartment too. But then three and a half years ago I moved out to this space.
MP: Do you have any plans to move out of this shop space?
AH: Yeah, eventually I want to hop into retail, and open an actual storefront. Not in Bremen because it’s not an ideal market, but maybe in Indy? Don’t quote me on that.
MP: Give me a day in the life/step by step process of creating a custom board.
AH: Normally it starts with a phone call or email, they’ll give me an idea and then I’ll recommend a shape or style for them. Then I’d start the board, the whole build process. First we glue up the clamps, after you pull it out of the clamps it runs through the planer. The planer takes off all the rough edges, makes it super flat. Once you pull it out, you take it to the band saw, which creates a thin ply. Once off the ply, you run it through the drum sander, creates a super soft edge, basically sands it perfectly. It goes into the hydraulic press, you pull it out and take it over and cut it on a different band saw and rough cut it.Then it gets ran to the board stands, then you’ll use the belt sander, hand orbital sander, template router, and then the normal trim router. Then we spray them all and clear grip them. And in the process of sanding, once it’s all sanded, it’ll go to my artist and spends a week there, getting hand painted, hand wood burnt, or hand carved, basically whatever the customer wants. Finally, it comes back to me and I’ll finish and seal it.
MP: What do you use to create your boards?
AH: The materials are all 100% natural and reclaimed. I’ll use scrap wood, cabinet shop wood, barn wood, whatever I can get my hands on. A lot of the other companies use bamboo and fiberglass. Super unnatural and really bad for the environment. That’s what sets me apart, the all natural and reclaimed aspect.
MP: Why did you decide to go the natural route?
AH: I like that there’s not a huge presence of a natural, reclaimed board that has a performance aspect to it. They’re all just super flat and they don’t perform, and they’re 600 bucks.
MP: Do you do it all yourself?
AH: Yes, but I just hired my first part time employee this summer, Nathaniel Spangle. I do some of the simple artwork and stuff, but I have like four of five artists that I work with too.
MP: Mind if I ask Spangle some questions then? Tell me a little about your experiences with Andrew.
Nathaniel Spangle: My first connection with Andrew was when I was a senior in high school. I loved longboarding, thought I knew it all. My friend from school was like, “Dude, this guy in Bremen is making these sweet longboards.” And I had to have one. I emailed Andrew and I was like, “Your boards are sick, hook me up with one.” So I come up and see him and I think he’s famous. I thought I knew a lot about boarding, he knew so much. He gave me my first board and he said, “If you ever wanna come ride, just hit me up.” I don’t think he thought I really would, but the next week I texted him that a bunch of my friends and I were riding. He drove 15 miles down the road to the next town and came and rode with us. It was crazy because no other business owner is gonna come and ride with five guys. He still hosts rides here too, which is sick with like 40 people riding longboards around. No other companies do that, they don’t have time to do that. They’re out manufacturing and only care about the money. So when you’re doing it for other reasons and giving back to the community, that’s when you know he’s gonna do big things.
MP: What’s your role with Huff and Puff?
NS: I am the production manager. So when Andrew’s out doing stuff I’ll take over in here, basically his right hand man, production doesn’t cease. I keep stuff rolling. He does a lot of the final stuff, so no board goes outta here without his approval, which is one thing that’s gonna help this company so much.
MP: How many boards are you guys making in a week?
Andrew Huff: It’s hard to say because it varies like crazy. Normally, we can produce seven a day. I shoot to make like 20 a week. The winter it falls, but we pick up when school comes back, like right now, everybody wants a board going back to school. Spring is always insane.
MP: Do you just sell locally?
AH: I ship quite a few personally, but I’ve got shops in California, Michigan, along the East Coast, and here locally, that all sell my boards.
MP: People might assume that being in the Midwest is hard for boarding sales because most people see longboarding and the West Coast tied together. Is that assumption true for you?
AH: I get that question a lot and people will say, “Dude, you should move out west, you should be in California.” But obviously there’s such a big void in the Midwest area, we don’t have a solid board builder. Everything’s super mainstream out west. There’s a pretty big hole, and I don’t want to be the mainstream guy that goes out on the coast. This is where I grew up, I’d like to keep a presence in this area. There’s actually a pretty big market, people don’t realize that everybody likes to longboard.
MP: Is there a charity aspect of the company?
AH: We do a lot of the local stuff here in Bremen, like sponsoring little events and donating boards. We did a Riley Children’s Hospital board, a breast cancer board, and other donation boards.
MP: Do you guys offer apparel?
AH: Yes. It started with hats because everybody wanted a flat bill. I ordered like 10 hats and then they were gone. I have beanies, sweatshirts, pocket tees, three quarter tees, and snapbacks.
MP: So then how important is fashion in boarding culture?
AH: The whole branding aspect is huge because not everybody’s gonna want a board, but everybody wears clothes. Obviously, it’s free marketing too. If somebody’s wearing my hat, people are gonna ask a question. I’d say fashion and boarding culture are intertwined.
MP: What would you say is the overall mantra for Huff and Puff?
AH: For riders, built by riders.
MP: Future goals?
AH: Future goals would be to hop into the retail aspect. I still want to be a big manufacturer, but not crazy big. I don’t ever want to lose the handcrafted aspect.