Shad Spencer has contributed to and influenced Colorado skateboarding more than he likely knows. So, we were super stoked to sit down with our good friend at his family cabin in Southwest Colorado and have a long-overdue chat about life on and off the board, the debut of his latest video project, Cotton Candy, and the inception of his company Lunchbreak Skateboards. When it comes to contributing to skateboarding, Shad is a gift that keeps on giving.
To say Shad has a big heart is an understatement. Back when he was running his own landscaping business, he employed over a dozen homies, including toesman like Greg Knight, Jon Brownlee, Adam Crew, and Tyler Price. He is a loving father to his two kids—Silas and Selah—and is a formidable friend to anyone who is lucky enough to call him so. If you know Shad, chances are he’s got your back, through better and through worst.
Shad is one of the few foundations when it comes to the skateboarding culture in Colorado. Hailing from the remoteness of East Texas with next-to-nothing for spots, he became a pioneer in crafting DIY spots. However, his contribution reaches much further than mere spot-making. Anyone who has skated in Colorado knows that there is no cool-guy bullshit. Everybody skates with everybody, despite your fame level in the imaginary ecosystem of skate scenes. Having been in the game since the 90s, we believe that Shad had a lot to do with that attitude, too.
Front Board - Denver | photo: Roman Chavez
“I despise that, dude. Can’t stand it. Your whole identity shouldn’t revolve around the fact that you know how to skateboard. It’s so lame.”
Before we got into skate talk (boring!), we broke the ice with some trades-talk. Shad is a craftsman who comes from a long history of master builders, so it was only natural that our conversation started there. “This conversation is way cooler than skateboarding anyway,” Shad says with a smile. Immediately, he shot off into a current concept he has for his dream build. “I wanna do some kind of A-frame tiny home, but with maximum open concept. Not huge, just cozy, super rad... maybe even just glass on the entire front. Just totally open.” Being the DIY guru that he is, Shad will not settle for store-bought lumber. “I have a sawmill, too. So, my dream would be to rip all the lumber from logs and frame it out with as much as my own milled lumber as possible.”
While on the topic of building and land development, one of our favorite humans and veteran toesman, Tyler Price, got brought up. Tyler is also building on land just an hour from the Spencer family cabin. Now that Tyler was brought up, we wanted to know what our star athlete was up to, aside from building a home in Southwest Colorado. Tyler and Shad have been close friends for years, and when they aren’t skating together, they’re working together. “It’s funny,” Shad says, “he [Tyler] used to work for my business and now he’s training me... he is my boss. It’s so sick, dude. Super cool, crazy full circle, who’d ever thought.”
Nowadays, the two old friends talk less about skating and more about new interests. “He’s still rollin’ around, just doesn’t give a freakin’ crap about the industry, skates probably 2-3 times a month and still kills it.” Shad pauses in thought. “We have a lot of conversations about how our passions and interests have moved away from skateboarding... and that’s OK.”
Front Feeble | Photo: Bernie Kieth
Shad first stepped on a skateboard in 1990. “I just remember losing my mind,” he says, reminiscing back to when he first saw the movies Thrashin’ (1986) and Gleaming the Cube (1989). Diving into Shad’s early days of skating possibly offers an explanation of how he became the DIY spot visionary that he is today. He grew up in the sticks of East Texas, and when he wasn’t renting VHSs from his local hole-in-the-wall video store—renting videos like Skatefest ’88 and Savannah Slammin’ over and over again—he was skating the one spot he had: a barren 500 square-foot concrete slab.
It wouldn’t be long before he’d get his first taste of metropolitan street skating, though. When they were kids, his brother, William, would take karate lessons in downtown Tyler. So, during his brother’s karate lessons, Shad would skate and explore downtown Tyler—those faraway days holding some of his fondest memories. “While he [William] was ninja-ing it up, I was spot exploring and cruisin’ around.” Now the excitement in Shad’s voice was explosive. “It was like: This is real street skating! Downtown exploring and just super fun and just completely different from the little homestead slab I had.”
Routing the edge of a custom board. | Photo: Ted Menné Heron
Today, Shad’s approach to skating has come a long way. He still enjoys traditional skating, “like flat ground, rollin’ around on transitions... nothing too big or crazy,” as he puts it. But when it comes to filming a trick, that’s where the mad genius comes in. “The things I like to film have gotten a little more weird and obscure.” Sometimes, Shad wishes that he could be “the dude who shows up to a spot, does 15 tricks, and just crushes it.” However, unfortunately for Shad and fortunately for us, when Shad envisions a trick that he wants to do, he becomes obsessed with every angle—not just landing the trick.
Smith grind in one of the many ditches Colorado has to offer | photo: Roman Chavez
“How is this gonna look in a part? Is it gonna come and go? Is anybody gonna think about it 5 seconds after it's done, or is it going to leave some kind of lasting impression?”
Now that we were on the subject of filming, we wanted to know more about his latest video project, Cotton Candy, the laden title inspired by The Nine Club interview with one of Shad’s most revered skate idles, Jamie Thomas. When we went into watching the video, to be brutally honest, we were only planning on watching a few parts—specifically Denver legend Aaron “Sweets” Wheat, Shad’s part, and his brother William's. However, once we dipped in, we couldn’t look away.
Cotton Candy is unique in so many ways, from the crazy DIY spots and wild tricks to the refreshing filming and satirical B-roll. While most of us avoid rolling through a puddle, the Lunchbreak dudes reimagine such a dilemma and actually skate into bodies of water. Dudes skate downed trees and piled up snow while doing quirky NBD tricks that we never even imagined—let alone tried—taking power slides, rail slides, and firecrackers to realms few (if any) have ventured. The video is super fun to watch and showcases fresh ways to think about skateboarding from all angles.
Shad didn’t just film an entire part for his video (he has been filming for this video since his last part in Bucky O’Connell’s classic, It's Always Sunny in Colorado). He also filmed his fellow teammates. Although he had some help from friends like Evan Kuzava, Mark Spencer and Jerrod Saba, Shad filmed much of the video himself. He was heavily involved in editing the video. “I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a total skate nerd to the max... I enjoy that process, too. I guess of trying to figure that all out.” The video has been in the making for the last 5 years.
In this new video, Shad’s duties well exceeded skating, filming, and editing. I mean, we’re talking about Shad Spencer here! This dude has more energy and pumps out more productivity—both on and off the board—than likely anyone else we’ve known. The Cotton Candy premiere couldn’t just be a typical premiere. Shad’s daughter, Selah, is seen in the intro of Cotton Candy serving cotton candy to Aaron Wheat after she focuses his board. Shad actually purchased that cotton candy machine, and being the boss that he is, he knew that such an investment needed to be repurposed.
“We premiered the video at The Oriental,” Shad tells us, pride beaming in his words. “Which was rad. We brought the cotton candy machine to the premiere, and I had Selah and Jared Stoots’ (another Denver legend) daughter making cotton candy and they were handing it out to everyone who wanted some. I really liked that that was coinciding with the name of the video. I like the way it all came together.” We agreed.
“At the end of the day, I just wanted to make a video how I wanted to make a video. If you like it, cool, and if you don’t, cry me a river. It’s not exactly my day job.”
The last thing we wanted to explore with Shad was the inception of his company, a passion project he calls Lunchbreak Skateboards. The theme of the company seen in the graphics, team, and name is unique, to say the least. Ultimately, we wanted to know what inspired Shad to call his company Lunchbreak Skateboards. We could have never guessed what he told us next.
“So, my dad passed from cancer... man, it’s been over 7 years now, which sucks, and I miss him.” Like Shad, his pops “really cared about all the people around him.” Also like Shad, his dad “was very skilled and talented and hardworking. He did a lot in his life with not a lot.” When his dad was living out his last days, Shad and his brothers were by his side in Texas. When Shad’s brother William flew in, he brought a lifelong homie, Micah Hollinger, along with him. “Micah is a good friend, and he was there just to be supportive and hang out with us. It was actually really awesome having him there.”
Six months after his dad passed, Shad was back in Colorado, back to work running his landscape business. Micah was in town and naturally hit up Shad to see how his good friend was doing. Shad remembers the conversation like it was yesterday. When asked how he was doing, Shad told Micah that he and Tyler had “just got done skating.” Shad and Tyler Price went out on their lunch break to skate in between jobs. A lightbulb went off in Micah’s skull. “Dude, that’s the sickest name for a company. We should start a company named Lunchbreak! Makes me think of your dad, cause he was so hardworking.”
At first, Shad was skeptical. He didn’t know if he liked the name or not, and he definitely didn’t know if he wanted to start his own company. But, after Micah “planted it in my brain,” Shad eventually came around to the concept. The first run of boards was all photographed by Micah Hollinger, showcasing texture-rich images of things associated with work in the trades, like fences and brick walls. From there, the rest remains as history tells it.
Today, 5 years later, Lunchbreak continues to pump out board series, now with a full team of rippers. The company just put out its first video, Cotton Candy, and we can’t wait to see more. Shad assured us that his part in Cotton Candy is his “last, last, last part.” But being no strangers to Shad’s dedication to skating and filming, we know (and hope) that this is not true. As Shad gets older, his interests have shifted a bit but his love for skateboarding remains unscathed. Talk of a possible podcast is in the works, a show that Shad and Aaron “Sweets” Wheat will host. “It’s something on my bucket list,” Shad says, explaining that he wants this podcast to exclusively revolve around skateboarding in Colorado. Denver has always been a special place for us—the homies, the skating, the spots... everything. And as fans of Colorado skateboarding, we can’t wait to see what Shad puts out next.
About Travis Knight - Travis is an American author who has spent most of his life immersed in reading and writing stories. As a teenager, he started writing poetry and skateboard blogs while traveling across the US. Later in his adulthood, he began publishing stories through toebock.com and through his own literary collection, knight-writes.com.