by Britt Chester

As the spring months are approaching, you might begin to notice more and more people cruising around the town on their skateboards. And some of those skateboards might have a much more local tie than you think.

Matty Garau, a 14-year old skateboarder who lives in Winston-Salem and attends Reynolds high school as a freshman, is gaining traction within the skateboard community thanks to his art. Garau is in the early stages of starting a small business that falls right in line with one his favorite activities: skateboarding. Nerd Grip, Garau’s company, is changing the typical view for skateboarders by painting custom graphics and stencils onto grip tape.

“I painted one on my grip tape one day, and then one of my friends asked me to do it to his and then another,” Garau said. Garau, who said he wasn’t always an artist and didn’t really have much interest in it until he started on grip tape, happened upon his talent randomly.

“I wasn’t really interested in art, but now I’m looking at taking some graphic design classes,” Garau added.

Stencil work has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years with artists such as Shepard Fairey and the controversially popular Banksy spearheading the movement and propelling it into the mainstream. But for Nerd Grip, it just sort of felt like a cool thing to do to grip tape.

Garau’s various stencils are covered in paint, as are the handful of decks he brought along to the interview. Some are psychedelic images of Frank Zappa, Bart Simpson (“that’s the most popular one,” Garau said), Beavis and Butthead and other pop culture icons from the past 50 years.

Garau started Nerd Grip by purchasing some sheets of grip tape from Winston-Salem’s Exodus Skate Shop. He would then paint them and sell them at Exodus for a couple dollars more. A blank sheet of grip tape runs you around $5, and when Garau adds his flavor, it jumps up to about $10.

“I was buying, like, all the sheets from Exodus, so they just started giving them to me and buying them back for a couple extra bucks,” Garau added.

He is currently trying to get more supply by purchasing a full roll of grip tape and just cutting his own. If he’s able to do that, he’ll be in the position to sell Nerd Grip at more locations.

“Right now it’s just at Exodus and Above Boards (in Greensboro,) but I’m working on getting it into Paradox,” he said.

What he’s trying to do is to work with Paradox, an already established grip tape company based out of San Diego, California, so that they are actually printing the grip tape and selling it, rather than him having to custom paint every single sheet.

It’s a big step for a 14-year-old to take in managing a business while trying to focus in school, but Garau just seems excited about the prospect of seeing his art all over skateboards around the country. !


To see more of Nerd Grip and Garau’s work, visit Exodus Skate Shop located at 2051 Silas Creek Pkwy., Winston-Salem. Or you can visit Nerd Grip’s Instagram page by following @NerdGrip.