One thing that stuck with Chuck Buckley through ups and downs of his life was his skateboard.
Chuck, Bella and Leland
Buckley grew up in Maryland, moved to Hawaii for a bit and then to Northern Idaho to snowboard. Spending three winters in Idaho and three summers in Southern California, he eventually found himself in Tahoe where he finally settled down.
“It was always overcast in Idaho and I was reading snowboard magazines all the time. Every other photo was of Lake Tahoe: blue skies, fresh snow, cold beer,” he says. Eventually he felt like he outgrew the mountain in Idaho and wanted to go where the professional snowboarders were.
“I’m in such a peaceful place on my board;
I loved surfing through the beautiful neighborhoods
of Lake Tahoe with the breeze on my face.
He found a place in Olympic Valley and continued to pursue his passion when his friend, a Z-Flex skateboards sales representative brought over a deck for Buckley to try out.
“This was a modern longboard, a flexi, surfable board. But the problem was that we were snowboarders; the flex was fun but these things were sketchy when you start charging down the hill,” says Buckley.
Soon after, one of his friends brought over some plywood and it set off a spark in Buckley’s head.
“I wanted to make it function like this little thing [the Flex skateboard] but also go straight like a snowboard,” he said.
Chuck surfing the streets of Lake Tahoe
Buckley soon hooked up with Matt Plenge, an old high-school friend from Maryland who also moved to Tahoe. They started making longboards together and called the business Tahoe Longboards, which he recently changed to Tahoe Board Company with the relaunch of his business.
“In 1997, we started buzzing out boards. We made them in Squaw and would take them out until they snapped in half,” he said.
In 2000, Buckley bought Plenge out of the business and started expanding, getting Tahoe Board Company skateboard decks in 125 different retail shops. But then trouble came. Running the rapidly growing company wasn’t easy, especially for someone with no business experience. Buckley says that in those early years he never scaled down the retailers and it got more frustrating as shop owners wouldn’t pay their bills.
“I wanted to snowboard, but this was taking over my life,” he says.
As his marriage started to fail and the business became overwhelming, he made a decision.
“I got on a boat and went sailing in the Bahamas,” he said. “I let everything collapse, but I was free from trying to make a living from something I loved to do,” Buckley added.
When Buckley came back from his sailing trip, he found that his company was gone. His mother stopped talking to him because he walked out on his marriage and abandoned the business. He also found out that she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I had nothing left but my longboard,” Buckley says. “I felt so much guilt and shame, so I decided to ride my board around Lake Tahoe for mom.”
Buckley spent a year thinking and planning out how he would do a 72-mile trek around the lake and coincidentally met local event organizer and friend Curt Sterner, whose mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Together, they decided to skateboard around the lake, as well as work with the Boarding For Breast Cancer organization to plan a 28-mile group skate/fundraising event on bike trails from Sugar Pine to Olympic Valley and back to Tahoe City. “It lifted my spirits,” he says. “It reinvigorated me and brought my mom and I back together again.”
He soon reenergized the business and built Tahoe Board Company back up with the help of saved money, personal loans and by launching a local taxi service. He opened a shop in Kings Beach and bought a house.
“We took it one board at a time,” Buckley says.
Unfortunately, the 2008 recession hit his company hard and, according to Buckley, “It was all going my way and my mom was proud of me and then I lost everything again.”
Luckily this time, he had strengthened his relationship with his mother, who encouraged him to pick himself back up.
“I moved to Incline Village and dug myself out from that real estate hole,” he says.
Now, happily remarried with a 5-month-old son and living in Incline Village, Buckley is still maintaining his taxi business and selling Tahoe Board Company boards, which can be found at sports shops around Lake Tahoe and online.
“With the Lake Tahoe name in them, the boards promote themselves,” he says. “The company is such a part of my being and it’s been a real roller coaster ride. I just liked riding ‘em. I’m in such a peaceful place on my board; I loved surfing through the beautiful neighborhoods of Lake Tahoe with the breeze on my face. It’s surreal.”
For more information, visit tahoeboardcompany.com.