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Russ Pope has been a part of the skateboard industry since before most of us were born. From the legendary Room 51, to the early days at CCS, to brand work for some of the biggest shoe companies in skating, Russ has had his hands in a lot of amazing projects over the years. His newest project is his own board brand, Transportation Unit. We just got T.U. boards in at CCS so we sat down with Russ to learn a little more about him and the brand.

Interview by Matt Price. All photos courtesy of Transportation Unit.

Russ, at home in his studio.

Russ, can you tell us your full name and if you have a title for yourself could you tell us that too?

Russell Pope, title human.

I know we’re here to talk about Transportation Unit, but I also know you wear a lot of hats in skateboarding. Would you be down to explain quickly about all the things you do?

I have a full time art show schedule, usually one to two solo shows a year and five to six group shows. I make all the art and deal with the team and Instagram for Transportation Unit. I usually give one or two university conversations on art, my life and hustling. I have a small company called theTHURSDAYMAN thanks makes printed goods, books, zines, postcards, pencils, prints, etc. I also have a desk at Converse and work on their skate program.

When did you start Transportation Unit and what made you want to start a skateboard brand with everything else you’ve got going on?

I started it six and a half years ago and did it because I love making and riding skateboards and apparel.

Tell us a bit about the team. It seems like the vibe is based heavily on what you’re stoke on and you’re not really trying to chase industry hot shots, or future olympians like some other brands.

Not chasing industry hot shots, no. That’s not to say the dudes I give gear to aren’t hot shots, hahaha. I give stuff to creative skateboarders that rip, people who’s styles on and off the board I appreciate. Lots of the guys make art or take photos or just have a particularly interesting approach to riding skateboards. They’re all epic humans too.

T.U. rider, Mikey Santillan Frontside Feebles an L.A. bank to wall.

It seems like you’re painting, drawing or making art almost all the time. How many paintings do you make in an average week? Also, this may be an insane question, but do you ever end up having so much stuff you toss any of it out or do you save everything you make?

I don’t toss things out, no. Well, some paper makes it to the fireplace, but most of what I make painting wise makes it’s way quickly or slowly to a good place. I’ve made as many as five or six paintings in a week and other times it’s more of a battle and I make one that I’m happy with. I make several drawings everyday.

How do you decide what of all the art you create ends up on T.U. products? Do you make first and then figure it out or are you making specific things with boards, and shirts in mind as you’re creating them?

I do a bit of both. I make things and I go, oh that’d make a good board or T and I also set out sometimes to make a specific piece of art for a particular shape or piece of clothing, bag, etc.

I’ve noticed you seem to end up in Japan a lot for art projects. Does T.U. have a pretty big following over there?

T.U. Has a good following there, yep. I do lots as an artist there, with shows, projects, etc. I love Japan, it’s one of my favorite places and groups of people.

T.U. rider, John Benton skating some crab pots. It doesn't get more New England than this.

You have quite a bit of history with CCS from back when it was in its early days in San Luis Obispo, CA. Can you tell us a bit about your role and what kind of stuff you were involved in over there (here)?

First I was a team rider and then I worked in the original store after graduating from high school. I was a shop employee originally and helped them start making some of their OEM shop built skate stuff.

I’ve heard rumors that in the old days CCS used to offer skate lessons over the phone, and people could call in for trick tips from skaters that worked there. Can you confirm this? Also what other kind of cool or weird stuff did CCS do back then that sticks out to you?

Can not confirm that, never heard of that one Hahahaha! CCS was originally three surfers from the Central Coast of California who all worked super hard to build a big, successful business that employed a ton of local skateboarders and surfers. Details on cool stuff is long, even if you just look at past team riders, guys like The Gonz, Rick Howard, etc. It was a stacked team for a while. The craziest thing was the sheer volume of product that they kept in stock and how well they took care of customers.

T.U. rider, Paul Collins catches a Frontside Air in Boston.

What kind of stuff is happening in skateboarding right now that T.U. is all about, and what kind of stuff does it not want any part of?

We want part of all the creative, inclusive, fun bits (and there are lots). Not looking for street league champions (although there is no hate felt for them) or me too products. Just want to honestly make the things I’m most passionate about making and hopefully people dig that stuff and want to get down with T.U. Then we want to share those products with friends and team and go skateboarding.

Between all of your duties, how often to you get to skate these days? Do you get out with the team guys very often?

I moved to New England five years ago which took me from five days a week to one or two days a week in winter if I’m lucky and three to four days a week when the weather is good. We have way less spots, but the scene is good and people are great.

What’s on the horizon for T.U.? Any projects you guys are working on?

Making some shorts and pants right now with lots of external printing (not quite all over), a few edits, and we're working on a new round of art for a future season of boards.

Rad! Thanks for the time, Russ!

Thanks to you man! Appreciate the support and love from all of the Transporting Units out there.

Check out our selection of Transportation Unit stuff at CCS.com!

 

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