Graphic Designer. Squirrel hunter (sort of). Strong disliker of hot drinks. We spend the morning with the Ditch Skateboards co-founder.
“I don’t really eat breakfast. It’s cold green tea or apple juice, like a little kid. I hate hot drinks.”
“I move pretty slowly in the morning,” Winston Tseng tells us as he strolls towards his computer. He smiles. “That’s one of the perks of working for yourself, I suppose.”
On a scale of hyperactivity, Tseng outwardly registers a minus five—he’s a very relaxed fellow. He’s a talented graphic designer whose work showed up on Enjoi Skateboards and t-shirts for the past eight years before he set out—along with a few buddies from college—to start Ditch Skateboards, a brand that aims to open up riding to a broader audience and get as many people skating as possible. “You see all these people commuting on boards around the city,” he says. “The opportunity is there.” Ditch’s cruiser boards are retro-inspired, but with updated details—trucks and wheels, for example—to suit the needs of today’s rider. As for his own skating career, Winston knew early on he wasn’t going to be a pro. “I wasn’t trying all the same stuff my friends were,” he chuckles. “I was basically a big wuss.”
On this morning, like every morning, Winston drinks apple juice. “I don’t really eat breakfast,” he says. “It’s cold green tea or apple juice, like a little kid. I hate hot drinks. My girlfriend makes fun of me.” Winston lives in a ground floor East Village space with a light-filled backyard. We stand outside admiring it for quite some time. A Red Rider BB gun over his mantle commemorates a past of protecting that yard, fending off unruly squirrels trying to pull up his plants. “For those who haven’t experienced it, shooting BBs at them would seem inhumane, but they’re vicious.” Morning light slaps everyone across the face in the way only light from downtown New York can. Winston’s apple juice looks tasty.
On the average day, he wastes no time getting to his computer – usually straight from his bed every morning to check emails and coordinate with the Chinese factories that work with Ditch. He showers an hour later or so, shaves with an electric razor and brushes his teeth with Crest Complete (I went to buy my usual toothpaste recently, and accidently picked up a tube with the words all in Spanish,” he tells us. “It tasted horrible. So sweet. If you see that stuff stay away from it.”) All day, NPR plays from his speakers. “I know I’ve sat at the computer too long when NPR will replay the earlier broadcasts at night and I’m listening to the same interviews.”
Winston got into the skate business by going to skate shops in his native Redondo Beach, California and offering to do their board or t-shirt designs for free. “At that point I was so eager to see my work on anything, even a sticker.” Now almost a decade worth of commercial work lines the walls, fills the fireplace, and stacks up outside his door. As with many self-employed individuals, work and life have kind of melted into one.
“Skating in New York is kind of like survival in New York.”
Winston tosses on a t-shirt, black jeans and Vans. He grabs his jacket and his board and we head outside – he’s off to run errands: the Post Office, meeting with his accountant, and the gym (Crunch on Lafayette Street). He hates driving, and has no interest in moving back to California. He stays local and goes everywhere on his board. “Honestly, it’s tougher than I’d imagined out there,” he gestures towards East 3rd Street. “Skating in New York is kind of like survival in New York.” Like everything else he’s said this morning it comes out easily. Without much effort. We doubt his pulse spikes for even a moment as he pushes off and heads down the street.