When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Features / Stuff Meets…Evolve Skateboards’ Jeff Anning 

Stuff Meets…Evolve Skateboards’ Jeff Anning 

Evolve’s founder and director on bringing his electric skateboards to market, that endless wave feeling and his Tesla powered VW Combi…

Jeff Anning

This interview sees us have a good ol’ chinwag with Jeff Anning, Evolve Skateboard’s founder and director. His journey from working as a structural landscaper who just wanted that endless wave feeling through to becoming the driving force behind the only electric skateboard company with global flagship stores and regular community events and competitions is nothing short of inspiring…

Evolve is born out of my love of skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding and also thanks to a chance sighting of a guy on an early electric skateboard… 

I’ve been skating all my life, I started when I was 8 years old. When I was about 10, I watched The Search for Animal Chin – a legendary skate video featuring the Bones Brigade and then I was hooked. I wouldn’t say I was a serious skater though; it was always just for fun. At 14 I got into surfing too and surfed all summer. Life took over a bit then – I went to an all-boys school and cricket became my new passion, I even came over and played three seasons of cricket in the UK. I discovered snowboarding late in life, when I was in my late 20s.

I found you can go down mountains and carve for twenty minutes at a time – it was like an endless wave for me. And then came back from my first boarding trip with this bug and after a surf I saw a guy skating on the flat but not pushing – I wasn’t sure how he was doing it but on a closer look I saw it was an electric skateboard… hadn’t even known they existed until then, but I instantly knew with one of these, living on the Gold Coast where it’s sunny all year, I could skate all the time. 

I didn’t set out to start a company – I just wanted a decent electric skateboard to carve. 

As soon as I’d seen that first electric skateboard, I knew I wanted to ride one. I brought one and while it was a lot of fun, it was rubbish quality and there was no authenticity in regard to longboard or skateboard design. I decided I wanted to take the electrics off this board and put them on a proper board. At the time I was a Structural Landscaper, so no background in electronics but I did have a vision for a concept. It wasn’t hard to work the board out – I needed to attach a motor to a truck…

I made a template for the design from a baked bean can and some cardboard and took this to a local fabricator who set to work. The hardest bit was that I knew I needed a special gear and this would lock into the wheel. I took Sector9 97mm wheels from a board I had already and went from there. 6 weeks later I bolted it all together and it worked – it was so much better than the board I originally brought. 

A production deal with Billabong was on the cards but I sold my house to fund production instead when they said they were out…

When my surf mates saw the board I’d put together, the 5 of them all asked me to make them one. I’m good at getting sh*t done, so got started straight away. The first hurdle was getting enough Sector9 wheels, so I called Billabong, who own the company, and asked if I could get ten sets at a wholesale price. I couldn’t believe it when they invited me down to their HQ and said they wanted a look. Sector9’s Brand Manager had a go on my board and thought it was the best thing ever. I met his boss, and they were all frothing at the mouth. I was a landscaper and knew nothing about meetings like this, it did however force me to find electrics on a bigger scale and look at the numbers – they wanted to get costs down and setup a license agreement with me! 

It was a big kick in the guts when they decided they weren’t ready to take it to market as a Sector9 product. I called my wife to say Billabong weren’t in and said what do you say we do it ourselves? I was struggling with landscaping at the time, and we had a mortgage and car payments we were struggling with. My wife suggested we sell our house and use the money from the sale to buy the moulds I needed. There were a lot of start-up costs, but we battled through, got a brand name and made some dodgy YouTube videos. We started selling but there were hiccups along the way, and I borrowed 30k from my dad for batch two. Batch three saw us get our first wholesale sale and everything just got bigger and easier from there. 

Evolve Onirique skateboard

The drawback to the UK electric skateboard scene will always be the weather, but there’s still a growing market of passionate skaters. 

The electric movement in the UK seems to be expanding quickly – I’ve found the market in the UK for Evolve to be very seasonal though, in line with British weather. We have an Evolve shop in Olympic Park and run rides through the summer months – start at the shop, round the park and then a few beers in the pub next door to the shop – it’s pretty cool. There’s also track days one a month at Hogg Hill in Ilford, where we hire the bike track and have great fun doing laps. We were also running a race even called the UK Open until covid hit, which we are hoping to get back up and running for 2024. 

Jeff Anning's electric VW Combi

Making stuff is in my DNA and I’m a fan of all things electric, from my electric Combi van through to our next product…

I drive an electric VW Combi – it’s a 1955 split screen that I’ve fitted with Tesla batteries and it’s just mint. We make our own stuff, it’s just what we do. Riding an Evolve board is all about fun and being in the moment and any future products will have the same ethos. You can expect a new product to be announced soon, two wheels this time – we are just so excited about it. 

Profile image of Rachael Sharpe Rachael Sharpe Commissioning Editor, Stuff magazine

About

Rachael is a British journalist with 19 years experience in the publishing industry. Before going freelance, her career saw her launch websites and magazines spanning photography through to lifestyle and weddings. Since going freelance she’s sloped off to Devon to enjoy the beaches and walk her dog and has contributed to some of the world’s best-loved websites and magazines, while specialising in technology and lifestyle. It was inevitable she would graduate to Stuff at some point.

Enable referrer and click cookie to search for eefc48a8bf715c1b 20231024b972d108 [] 2.7.22