Tunnel Founder Mitch Haake at Signal Hill in 1977
Mitch Haake on his Triumph
The man who invented the wheel, Mitch Haake

Mitch Haake, Tunnel Founder

Mitch, where are you from? I was born in San Francisco but raised in San Mateo. In my early years, I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, Hawaii and Mexico. All those places are cool, but in my heart, I’m a NorCal guy.

Are you a surfer or skateboarder? Both. I started surfing when I was about 11 years old. Growing up in Northern California, we had longboards and we’d hit all the spots from Santa Cruz up to San Francisco. Let me tell you, that water is cold. Butt cold. The good news is, if you learn to surf in that frigid water, then most other warm water places like Hawaii and Mexico are easy in comparison.

How about skateboarding? I started skateboarding when I was a little kid, in the ‘50s. I lived in San Francisco so we had a lot of hills. We took old rollerskates and would hammer the wheels and trucks on a 2 by 4. I guess this is the “true” beginning of Tunnel – metal wheels and a 2 by 4!

Why did you started shaping surfboards? I started shaping surfboards when I couldn’t get the kind of board I really wanted. I made them pretty much by hand. When I went down to Mexico for a couple months, I crashed in a house in Ensenada. So to earn some money for beer and rent, I shaped boards for friends. Pretty soon, those friends told their friends, the business grew, and I stayed in Mexico for 5 years. Got up, went surfing, ate lunch, went surfing, shaped a couple boards, then drank a few beers with other surfers around a barbecue on the beach. Let me tell you, it was the closest I ever came to heaven.

Beginning of Tunnel Products

Mitch, tell us about the beginning of Tunnel. In 1975, I was back in Northern California. There was a drought and we were always looking for places to skate. We found spillways and dams, concrete pipes and tunnels. I started Tunnel that same year, and named it after the concrete tunnels that we skated.

What were the first Tunnel products? The first Tunnel product were skateboard decks. I started to work with my friend Mike McCreary who was in the surfboard business but was selling a lot of skateboards. At one point, we got back-ordered, so I said screw it, I’ll make my own boards. I got some templates, bought a band saw, got some fiberglass, laminated the boards, sawed them out. We sold out in less than a week.

How about Tunnel wheels? Why are they so famous? I thought all the early wheels weren’t that good. They were made to look cosmetically perfect but they didn’t work that great. So I came up with a mold and the urethane. The Tunnel wheels were a hit. We made the original Tunnels, Tunnel IVs, Tunnel Vs, Tunnel Hollands, and of course, the Tunnel Rock.

Of course, the Tunnel Rock. Why do you think it has become so legendary? ‘Cause the wheel was awesome. Everyone wanted those wheels. Some of the Tunnel guys like Ray Flores and Rodd Saunders took them down to the Dogtown guys, and then they were all skating the Rock. It was one of the first fast, hard wheels. That’s how I named it the Rock. Someone once asked me how many of them I sold. I said, as many as I could make. Which is true.

And the new Tunnel Rocks?
Once again, we’re making the best wheel available. Anyone who knows skateboarding knows there’s no wheel like a Tunnel wheel.