Photos by: Tyler Mate and words by: Phillip Richardson 

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of accompanying the Iron Claw skate team around the city of Richmond; the NY based team had just finished a filming trip consisting of prominent East Coast skate meccas like Baltimore D.C. and Philly. We met by chance at local d.i.y. spot Texas Beach; a transition filled gem tucked away in Randolph, a Suburban neighborhood right on the outskirts of downtown, we skated through some of the most grueling weather the city had endured this summer. It didn't take long to realize how undeniably genuine the boys were, so much so, we ended up later meeting downtown and sharing a session for the rest of the day. "Lurker Lou" and Ty Mate have been running Iron Claw together for the past five plus years, unlike other contemporary micro brands that oftentimes rely upon contrived gimmicks and fashion cosigns, the brand has kept its focus on embodying East Coast skateboarding and its truest forms. Lou and Ty were gracious enough to discuss their brand and share some insight on skateboarding culture and longevity. 

 State your names, where are you originally from

LL: "Lurker" Lou Sarowsky Dennisport, Cape Cod Massachusetts

TM : Tyler Mate, originally from the Jersey shore, moved to NYC at 18 in 2002.

 What was the skateboarding scene like there when you first took interest? 

LL: The skate scene was pretty solid; lots of skateparks and a proper skate shop. I had gone through a few skate crews until I met Zered Bassett and we still skate together.

TM: The Jersey Shore is a weird place. There aren't really any spots and it's a bit of a cultural void. Skated mostly grocery store parking lots, homemade boxes and there was a miniscule bank at the basketball courts in my town but other than that it sucked until I could drive. I was an hour and a half from Philly and an hour and fifteen from NYC, so once I got my license it was on. Had maybe 2 or 3 friends that actually skated and we would drive to Philly one weekend and NYC the next until I realized skating was a lot less of a hassle in New York. In Philly we were constantly getting our (fake) names taken at City Hall and getting hassled at Temple, and no one ever bothered me in New York. I might get kicked out of a spot but I could just go back in a few hours. The city was so dope when I first moved here, ABC skateshop and the TF, skate Union Square every night. Met Lou that Fall when he moved into the Zoo apartment on Fulton. I was going to Pace right down the street and was skating everyday with Brian Brown. 

 What has kept you passionate about skateboarding throughout the years?

LL: What keeps me passionate to still skate is my friends that I've been skating with for the last 20 years. As well as older guys still doing their thing and not complaining about age.

TM: Probably going on trips, getting to skate new spots. Sometimes I get burnt on the spots in my immediate neighborhood so going on trips get me excited.

 During your trip to Richmond did you notice any differences in the lifestyle and skateboarding compared to where you are currently residing?  

LL: I noticed everything is cheaper and they have dope DIY's. DIY's can't really exist due to the price of property in Nyc. Also less cliquey in Richmond.

TM: It's certainly slower than New York but that's a good thing. A lot of times visiting cities like Richmond makes me question living in NY and paying so much money to live here, but then I get back here I realize I love it.

 When did you first start Iron Claw and what was it like initially establishing yourself as a brand? 

LL: We started it in 2011. At the time I had quit skating for coda and was not hyped on any brands out there. So it only made sense to work with a close friend like Tyler to start something new. 

TM: We didn’t do too much actual establishing, Lou and I have been skateboarding in the NYC area for a long time so we know most of the people who own shops and companies. We hit up Chapman and once they were down to make the boards we knew it was on. Just started skating and hooking some kids up with boards and here we are.

From the production of boards to the marketing aspect, how much of the process do you oversee? 

LL: I oversee all of it. We keep things small and I'm pretty easy going in what Tyler produces and likewise. We have the same taste in things so it always works out. There was an offer to buy ironclaw, but it would of been turned into some shit like diamond if we did.

TM: Iron Claw Skates is a two man operation. Literally everything from graphics to ads to shipping to sales is all done by us. It's a lot of work but it's ours and we make sure it keeps going.

What're some of the challenges of owning a small business, especially in a market as saturated as skateboarding? 

LL: I would say the challenges are giving up everything else I'm into to shove the brand down people's throats. If I quit my job and stopped making art I'm sure I could live a poor lifestyle of cold calling shops and making cliche trendy graphics.

 For the past decade umbrella companies have shaped skateboardings persona, not until the ”internet part era” has this paradigm made a shift and you've seen an emergence of smaller companies like yourself; what would you say have been the key factors in this change? 

LL: I think the key factor is skateboarders are sick of company owners making bad choices and forcing riders to go along for the bad ride.

TM: Well we started in 2011 right before the massive small board brand thing started popping. It's definitely helped us get some coverage and stuff but overrall I think it's pretty whatever, a lot of board brands are out right now but not many of them really interest me. Things are way too copy and paste these days, I'd rather see a Marc McKee or Sean Cliver board than a picture of Steve Urkel on a skateboard. 

That being said, what adaptations as a brand have you made? 

LL: The adaptations are mostly giving the guys I sponsor room to work on other projects with companies that sponsor them. Basically not forcing them to do things they don't want to do.

TM: To be honest, not very many. We've always wanted to concentrate on skating, going on trips and make boards we like. We're not a brand that cares about fashion too much. We make stuff we would wear and don't worry too much about soft goods. We like making skateboards.
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