These two men have taken the art of traveling on four wheels to a new level.
Two years ago, Ocean Township resident Mike Castellana and business partner Ben Nagy founded Raintree longboards to satiate their passion for longboarding – similar to skateboarding but made for cruising rather than stunts, with an extended board that measures approximately 42 to 44 inches in length – as well as stellar design.
Castellana, a Monmouth University Art History graduate and graphic designer teamed with Nagy, a decades-long professional woodworker, to create what longtime boarders and newcomers say is the “best ride with less.”
I spoke with Castellana about their boards and walked away with a new appreciation for skateboarding and longboarding.
TBP: How did Raintree come to be?
Castellana: I walked into Ben’s apartment ten years ago and saw all these longboards. I was taken aback by how beautiful they were. So I admired his work and then ultimately wanted to join forces with him to bring the art of longboarding back to basics.
TBP: And the result was something special.
Castellana: We wanted to create something beautiful that was exceptionally functional. We do not believe in over-saturating our boards with overdone, overworked art. Our boards are 100% handmade to be simple. Less is very much more.
We do not cover anything up with paint. Ben and I chose a clear waterbourne finish for the boards so you can see the beauty in the quality solid and ply woods we use – maple, mahogany, walnut and birch.
The all-wood boards have clean fades, pronounced shapes and are made of the absolute best materials that we tested over and over again. We could easily outsource and get veneer sheets for the boards but we do not want to muddy anything.
And that is basically the philosophy we use with everything. We tried out the cheaper wheels and trucks but from the beginning we wanted longboards that we would use ourselves. Ben and I want to splurge on the ride so it means something for a long time for our customers.
Every part of our board has been tested and re-tested to precision. Ben knows precisely the best shape and materials for the best ride. Raintree has been around for two years but Ben has been making boards for twenty. We ride our boards. Our friends and family use our boards. Everything about the boards have been street-tested.
TBP: And now your longboards have a cult like following.
Castellana: Customers send us videos of them riding on our longboards which is the greatest compliment. We work so hard at making a great board and are so happy when people tell us they like it. We just had a customer buy boards to hang on his wall which was fantastic.
My wife Stephanie is now riding our Copycat board, which is our most popular and sold at Lightly Salted on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. She started riding when she was thirty years old.
That is another reason I like longboarding so much – because you do not have to be a great athlete to do it. Longboards are also good to learn on and have a smoother and more controlled ride than a skateboard.
I love feeling the road and getting outdoors on a longboard. It is a rush going down a nice hill and something most anyone can do.