Tomo is the real deal. She's on her grind with Tomo Skate Co. and the hustle is real. Tomo has been putting in an enormous amount of work building up her brand while keeping it real on the streets. She has also dealt with her fair share of trials and adversity while pursuing the American dream, not to mention almost dying from a recent skate related accident less than a year ago... And still she picked herself up and got right back to work. Tomo represents all that is great about the spirit of skateboarding, creativity and entrepreneurialism. We're backing her and you should expect to see big things in 2020 and beyond from this young lady!
When and how did you discover skateboarding?
When I was in the 4th grade, my sister who was in High School inspired me to skate. I remember watching her VHS tapes of skaters back in the day and watching her skate outside or skate home into our backyard from school. It was so cool to see her pull up, I thought it was the sickest thing! My first setup was from her, a 7.5 Zero board with Venture trucks, Spitfire wheels, and Lucky bearings. I remember how I taught myself how to skate. I used to practice in our backyard and the local park near my elementary school.
How did Tomo Skate Co. come into existence?
I love creating art. When I was 17, I would hand paint grip stickers for fun. A lot of SF heads were interested in the art I did and told me to continue making grip stickers. Eventually, I was drawn to creating full sheets of grip and 5 years later, here I am now!
What is it that attracted you to start drawing on griptape?
Whenever I made art, I would be drawn to creating it on different supplies and pieces. I remember I used to paint on my clothes, walls, film photos, and canvases. Since I was already skating, I thought, “why not paint on grip?”, and eventually I was hooked on painting grip. I thought it was so sick to skate my art pieces, and my friends were so hyped to skate it as well!
Have you considered getting into skateboard or apparel design?
Most definitely. It has been my dream for the longest time! I plan on dropping boards and apparel this year. I recently started talking to Babylon Burning, a SF screen printing manufacturer, and I plan on working with them. For boards I’m really interested in Bareback/Generator and PS Stix, but I still need to continue researching all the other manufacturers so I thoroughly understand my options.
It's been rad to see more and more women gain notoriety in the skate scene. Have you found it challenging working in a largely male dominated industry?
Not at all, I've been feeling nothing but love and support in the skate community and industry. Right now, I even have shops that are run by men support and carry my grip. Also, when I first started making grip as a teen, men inspired and pushed me to grow my art into a company. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be at this level. Nothing but love and appreciation for all of them!
Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
Ever since I started, I’ve been interested in creating designs I was personally drawn to or designs related to major events and people I’ve experienced. Every year my design styles, influence, and inspiration changes. I remember when I was 18 and first getting the hang of my grip company, I was really into creating pink grip because it was my absolute favorite color. Weird enough, I was wearing full, crazy pink outfits while having hot pink hair during that time. As of now I’m attracted to making simplistic or minimalistic designs on black grip. My two favorite sheets right now are the Rose and Red Broken Hearts grip.
What's the future hold for Tomo Skate Co.?
The goal is to keep on growing my work and myself to the next level, continue to travel internationally and talk to skaters and shops out there, and contribute positivity to the community.
I love making people happy with the art I make, it feels great! I often donate grip to the SF skaters and SF youth at SoMa West Skatepark, teach them about human kindness and inspire them to chase their dreams. I remember one kid was asking me for advice on how he can grow and run his new skate company. Made me so proud to hear how he’s chasing his dream.
When I was 19, I went to the developing countryside in San Pablo, Philippines where my mom grew up. While growing up she had a really rough life, she didn’t own shoes or slippers, she’d climb trees to trade her classmates fruit for paper, and would use potato sacks as blankets. Her misfortune pushed her to support her family and community since she was 14, now my cousin is the first in their side of the family to be in college. My mom taught me nothing but kindness, generosity, and to not give up on growing.
When we visited her hometown it was really fun, I socialized with a bunch of people who wanted to learn how to skate while they taught me how to ride motorcycles. While I was there for almost a month I had a very pink mini ramp built in our front yard and donated a couple completes to the community. I remember I ended up teaching elementary kids, high schoolers, and college students how to skate every day. I really want to go back and continue to teach and support the community and area my mom grew up in. The high schoolers, college students, and I wanted to create a skate club while I was out there, but I had to go back to the US so we didn’t get to finish our plans. Hopefully when my mom and I visit this year we can complete that goal!
Aside from that, to get to the next level I plan on dropping apparel and boards. I also plan on traveling to Europe again and have more shops out there carry my items. I remember traveling to Europe solo and meeting up with Arthur Giat, a French skater I sponsored, in Barcelona, Spain. We went to FTC Barcelona and I was talking to one of the owners, Julio Arnau, about how I sponsor Arthur and how I have a grip company. He later messaged me on Instagram and asked to carry it! I was seriously so happy and honored. The first skate shop to carry my grip was one outside of the US, it was crazy.
Additionally, I want to find more people to sponsor that skates street and one day go on a big trip with the team to film their part for a Tomo video. I also want to learn how to shoot photos again and film better. I used to be a photographer, but skating spot to spot with heavy digital supplies was too much to handle for me.
If you could have coffee with any artist dead or alive who would it be and what one question would you ask them?
It would've been so legendary to have a meeting with Pablo Picasso! Whenever I go to Barcelona and Paris I'd visit his museums. I'm impressed and admire how when he was so young he'd create detailed, beautiful work. Him creating art at such a young age till he was an adult is something I can relate to.
I'd ask him: What's your secret to creating successful, visually inspiring paintings that are admired by many people?
Anyone you'd like to shout out?
I'd like to shout out my close homegirls for supporting me and having my back for years, the whole SF community because they supported me the most when I started my company and after I had my hill bomb accident, Boogie and Oliver for calling me their skate mom, Jesse Yamada from DC Shoes for being so kind and hooking me up with my favorite and cleanest OG Lynx and OG Legacy shoes, Rob and Sean from Lowcard because they’ve been great inspirations and supported me as well since they heard about my hill bomb accident, Mike from Atlas Skate Shop for having the first skate shop I’ve ever been to as a youth and for carrying and supporting my grip, Justin from Low Key Skate Shop for carrying my grip and advising me on how and where to make graphic designs for clothing, Chris from Create Skateboards for carrying my grip, Arthur Giat for being the first person I ever sponsored as well as being a kind and supportive friend since the day of me starting Tomo Skate Co., my entire family for supporting my dreams and I during the 6 months of my healing after the hill bomb accident, and Will Turner from Artform! He’s one of the kindest, chillest people I know in the skate industry. It was also seriously a huge honor to do a collaboration with Will and this amazing company.
Where can people find and support you?